2.5
February 23, 2011

Waking Up (There’s an App for that).

Photo: Lisa Plummer

“If there was a better way to go then it would find me. I can’t help it, the road just rolls out behind me. Be kind to me, or treat me mean. I’ll make the most of it, I’m an extraordinary machine.”~ Fiona Apple

Okay, so I am writing my very first blog, for a couple of different reasons. The first being I would like a record of my life changing journey, so that when I get to where I’m going I can review what has happened. The hard part is that I have no idea where that is, which leads to my second reason for doing this: I am hoping that organizing my thoughts, and life’s events, will help free some of the clutter in my head.

Right now my mind is a mess of online self-help sites, yoga videos, meditation apps, healing books. You get the point. I am slowly weeding out what works for me, but there are only so many hours in the day. Thing is, I don’t have any idea why I am doing all of these things. It’s like something inside me I have no control over is pushing me forward. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s the best way I can describe my actions right now. I can assure you though, crazy I am not (I hope).

It’s funny: that thought—my being crazy—is really what sparked all of this. Bear with me here.

Once upon a time… no, it isn’t a story like that at all…

I had a fair share of difficulties during my adolescence and teenage years. I have moved passed all of this—this blog will not be used as a weapon full of accusations and angry words. In part because I am not angry, and because my “waking up” as I have been referring to it, has lead me down a different path. The path I was on was full of those semi-automatics, and I have to say I am glad I am wandering without barriers now.

Photo: Hyoin Min

I am 27 years young, and up until maybe two months ago my life was an emotional revolving door. From a much too early age I had bounced around from doctor to drug dealer, from institution to having no home at all, as often as rabbits make babies.

Each person I encountered had a different opinion than the next of what was wrong and I was diagnosed with everything from bi-polar to ADHD (which thinking about it now, I realize are two completely opposite ends of the spectrum, yet often dually diagnosed-things that make you go hmmm much?). You can imagine the laundry list of medications I was prescribed, and well, not prescribed. Of course lots of things happened in these years, but again, that is a detour I would much rather take when I am feeling good enough about myself to talk about it objectively.

Obviously before I was deemed an adult, I had no control over any of this. Yet even in adulthood, the answers I sought out for every single problem I had landed me opposite a prescription pad, or chasing some ridiculous high. Okay so, 2 months ago, on a normal day, a comment was made to me which I opt out of mentioning for the sake of the people I love, and it had a ridiculous ripple effect on my life. I am a mother of three, and a housewife now. Though at that point I was still on mood stabilizers and anti-anxiety medication, I had given up on dime bags and ecstasy years and years ago. Those things were only band-aids and when they were ripped off it stung like hell.

I like to think of my home as a stable environment for my children. All three of them are bright and well adjusted, so I feel as though I am doing my job right. The day after this comment was made my first thought was “I’m not crazy”. Now I know that may seem like an insignificant thought to most, but for me it changed every single tiny detail in my life. Imagine being taught the sky was purple, and then finding out the joke was on you because obviously the sky is blue.

I voluntarily swallowed the opinions of others because it was all I heard about myself for years and years, for as long as I can recall. Medications that alter the chemistry of your brain were given to me at a very young age, without anyone even stopping to consider that maybe I was either a bratty, damn-the-man type of kid, or hello, maybe the medications were doing the talking and walking for me. I mean isn’t it a known fact that anti-emotional (how I now refer to them) medications can have adverse affects on those who shouldn’t be taking them?

So all of this information hit me like a ton of bricks, and I was left with a lot of what-ifs. For a while I walked around like a bomb of anger, and sadness and all that jazz, waiting to go off on the first person who gave me a reason. Which, by the way, wasn’t helping me convince anybody that I wasn’t nuts. I made a huge decision and decided to give life a go un-medicated. That being said, it’s very hard to make a case about your sanity when you are coming off of all sorts of medications meant to numb your senses. It’s been a while now and I have my days where I feel like a roller-coaster of raw nerve endings, but for the first time in my life, I don’t feel like it isn’t normal.

Photo: Casey Muir-Taylor

So what does this have to do with yoga and meditation? Everything.

My goal here is to experience the utopia most commonly associated with the latter. At some point after my day of looking at things differently, I stumbled across some readings about a Guru, and an Ashram, and one thing lead to another. I gathered as much information — which turned out to be quite a lot — as I could and I dove in. Except it wasn’t the perfect swan dive I was hoping for. In fact up until yesterday, I felt more lost than ever. Spiritual searching, is really draining. Especially when you aren’t having the same side effects as the people sprawled across the front page of The National Enquirer.

So what happened yesterday? I lied actually, yesterday is when I started this blog. A few days ago is when I stopped stocking up on Podcasts, and Apps, and books, and videos — and started using them. Which brings me to the real reason I am now lying naked for all to see on the internet. No, not without clothes.

I really do believe that we are an overly medicated society, with too strict a belief system that is strangling us, making us seek out the answers that I am pretty sure lie within. It’s too easy to get an anti-depressant, and its the lazy American way of putting band-aids over deep gashes in our culture. I am not saying that for certain people, meds are unnecessary; I am not a doctor, or even a college graduate. Nothing I say is anything more than my opinion. And in my opinion, there aren’t enough alternative resources out there.

The light bulb went off in my head and I decided to document, every step, every leap, every failure, every heartbreak, and everything that has nothing to do with any of it. Thus my blog was born. I want people to know what worked for me and what didn’t. Even if it inspires one person to take a trip with themselves down a road less traveled, I will be unbelievably happy. Since this is the internet, the beauty is I really won’t know if I have helped anyone, so I will believe I have, and that thought makes me happy in an indescribable way.

I haven’t figured out a method to the madness of this blog so it will change a lot, probably with my mood, and for that I apologize.

Apps

Getting back to utilizing the tools I have found: I started out by committing myself to trying to meditate, or at the very least relax. I have a few apps downloaded on my iPhone, but for those of you who don’t have an iPhone, you can find guided meditations all over the internet. I started with the app called “Relax with Andrew Johnson.” I did it at night lying in bed with headphones in my ears, and woke the next day feeling..something. It’s still too new to label. I have been using faithfully for the last few days, The Gratitude Journal, Deepak Chopra’s Stress Free Meditations, and Mindfulness Meditation.

I have also been doing Yoga. I have the app Yoga Downloads, amongst others I have yet to try, and the Bonus App Class: Gentle Hatha Yoga from Thursday, October 28, 2010, has been on repeat for me. I also enjoyed Episode 45a: Power Vinyasa. I will add to this list as I find the things I like best. Bear with me please, I am a wife and mother of three small children, so trying to find time for these is not easy, but I am learning to make it happen, for me, because I need to, and for the first time ever, I want to.

I apologize in advance for the manic manner in which this may be written, and I ask that after reading the above directions you realize my path here was not an easy one — it involved unpaved roads indefinitely. Back to my fog, and I assure you it would have put London to shame. It seems I have a problem finishing what I start, and while this has always been an issue, only recently has it had a negative affect on my day to day life. If you remember, a few months back I jumped off the medication ship in search of a happy life. While this sounds good, for me, the whole not following through part of me was not accurately assessed before said rescue mission.

Though I had, and still have, every intention to eat well, meditate, practice Yoga, find God, etc., I didn’t think about what would happen if I didn’t do those things, while not having my benzo-induced haze to fall back on. The outcome has not been productive at all. It doesn’t matter how many reminders I set or how many in app alarms I have, it seems there is an eternal snooze button. Before, my belief was that when I found the right thing, what works for me if you will, I would superglue myself to it. I am starting to realize that that isn’t entirely true. I never realized how hard it was going to be to undo a lifetime worth of thinking. I know that sounds incredibly naive but it really did take me by surprise, it was kid of an “oh…wow” moment.

Photo: Todd Fahrmer

One of the self-help (such an ugly term) books that I got half-way through reading recently is “Steering by Starlight” by Martha Beck. A lot of what she has predicted has been happening to me very recently. What she coins “the ring of fire” seems to be where I am comfortably seated. Wouldn’t you know thats where I put the book down too, when really that is a part of it. Briefly, the ring of fire is a stop on your journey where you are open, exposed, and uncomfortable, sometimes so uncomfortable that it is easier to stop, go back the way you came and never return. The question is, how to step out of the center of the ring in the right direction? I have no answer yet, so for now I will have to endure the heat.

Pranayama!

In yoga, it is often translated as “the control of the breath”. Breathing is a necessity so I have never given it much thought, yet I have heard some miraculous things about this practice. I downloaded the app Pranayama Breathing for my iPad, they also have a corresponding website Saagara.com. As a beginner, the app is very facilitating. There is even a log with which you can track your progress. I have only used it a few times, but so far I am enjoying it. While I haven’t had any hallucinations, or other dramatic affects, there is an eerie sense of calm at the end of the exercise. Certainly it would be useful before or after meditation, bed, or even a mid day break. In fact, it may have proven useful when I was about to throw my iPad against the wall 🙂 My goal is to couple this with at least one Yoga session, and one meditation per day.

Meditation Oasis also has a useful app called Relax and Rest which I enjoy because there is an option to go to sleep after the meditation, and since sleep seems to be outside of my grasp, when I do fall off I do not enjoy being woken up. I have also decided to read The Bhagavad Gita, with the hope that it will aid me in my spiritual walk. I have never been a very spiritual person, so I am not sure where I am headed, but I know I will get there, that much I can feel.

Hopefully next time I post I can focus a bit more on this. I would also like to touch base on self-hypnosis, and what has and has not worked for me. For now though I would like to leave you with a question that I have been needing a sufficient answer to for some time now. I absolutely need an answer to this to go further with my trip here:

What is one thing that only a human being can do, that we should be grateful for the ability to do?

It is not easily answered, and it has to be specific. I know it is impossible to find something everyone within our species is grateful for, but generally speaking there has to be one thing that we should all be morally grateful for, so for arguments sake let’s talk majority.

[ed: You are invited to please leave your responses in the comment section below!]

Peace and Love~
Jenn

Jennifer Cusano

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