Monday, April 13, 2009

Personal Development When Your Person is Lying on the Couch

Pretty bad flare today.  Any kind of movement is really bad.  Just rolling forward to get off the couch hurts a ton.  Or leaning, or twisting, etc.

I tried eating peanut butter again over the weekend.  I guess I forgot that it really hurts me.  Did it really hurt this bad last time?  I don't even know if that's what it is right now -- I think the pb did jack my pain up a bit, but now I'm in some even more elevated zone and I don't know why.

I'm thinking nuts (by name) are out in general.  I ate a Cashew Cookie Larabar the other day and felt immediate netherly burning.  It was really obvious.  So no nuts.  But maybe tomatoes, which isn't a bad exchange.

This is the most boring blog post ever, but if I don't get it out of my head I won't be able to move on with my day.  There's something to SAYING this stuff.  You poop it all out of your brain and then you have room for other things.  That's why it's so hard not to tell someone you just shut your thumb in a drawer or you have a sore throat.

Here, here is a more interesting thought so you're not completely wasting your time.

I read a lot of personal-development stuff, on the internet but I've gone through some good books too.

The thing about personal development is that it's written for the normal mind.  The normal mind is not mentally ill, and it's not lying on the couch by bodily mandate.

Personal-development advice still applies when you're, let's say, inhibited in some way, but sometimes it can be hard to implement.

(Not that it isn't hard to begin with.  If it weren't, none of us would have to develop, and lo and behold, all of us do.)

Steve Pavlina is my favorite personal-development blogger.  He is probably a major reason I'm able to eat like I do.  But even he says some stuff that's unreasonable when you're starting from a place of bipolar disorder and crotch pain.  Here are some examples from Twitter:
  • The only traps are those you set for yourself.
  • If you're depressed and whiny, maybe you should try not being depressed and whiny for a minute or two. See if you like it better.
  • Do you pour your heart and soul into each day's work? Or do you prefer heartless, soulless work? Either way you chose it.
  • If you aren't having fun, stop resisting your reality. It's not so bad once you learn to accept it.
I completely agree that we are in charge of how we see the world.  However, transcending pain is basically what Buddhist monks spend their entire lives learning to do.  So if you're asking me to get into a better frame of mind, I'm totally with you, but I've got this canker in my crotch that's going to keep flipping my switch whether I'm with you or not, and it's going to take some practice before I'm completely in charge of the controls.  Probably a lifetime of practice.

Same with any mental illness.  I can be 100% for personal development, but that doesn't change the fact that my psychic self seems to have gotten up to no hot water, found her refrigerator dead, found her car bashed in, missed the bus, forgotten crucial papers at home, gotten fired, gotten sprayed by a mud puddle, almost choked on a chicken bone, gotten dumped by her boyfriend, and had the cat puke in her favorite shoes all before I woke up this morning.

I think that's why I'm so motivated to develop personally -- because I have a rocky inner life that can't be cured.  Being bipolar doesn't have to equal chronic unhappiness, but the only way to get around it is to improve as a person.

So the most recent personal-development thing I've been reading is A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle.  Oprah loves this book (is the reason for its success), and I think everyone on the planet should read it.

The interesting thing about the book is that Tolle isn't saying anything you didn't already suspect.  The premise is that the ego (self) is the reason why humanity sucks.  The ego identifies with things and thoughts -- nations, cities, sports teams, music groups, political groups, illnesses, perceived attributes (witty, smart, bitchy) -- in order to separate itself from other people and harden its existence.  But the ego doesn't actually exist; in Tolle's language, people are Beings, and we are all the same as one another.  It's because the ego is an illusion that it's so hungry to identify with things and draw another line marking itself apart from other people.

One major way the ego draws that line is by declaring itself "right" and others "wrong."  That simple need is why we war, why we fight, why Democrats and Republicans can't get along, why we love it when celebrities dress badly.

It feels so good to read this book because, as I said, it's something you (I, and I'm assuming I'm not alone) have sensed all along.  Go forth and be as you want to be!  You didn't want to fight before, and now you know you don't have to.  Now you know why you feel fine admiring Britney, Bjork, and Bach all in the same breath: because none of them is WHO YOU ARE.

The book confuses me a lot, though.  IS aesthetic sense possible to separate from the ego?  WHY would I choose any particular coat and not just the first one that wasn't too small?  WHY would I date any particular person and not the first person who came along?  HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO MOVE FORWARD WITH MY LIFE, ECKHART TOLLE?

Thankfully, I'm not done with the book yet, so maybe he'll answer my questions.  I just got to the part where he's talking about peace, and this is my thought for this blog post: peace isn't something we achieve; we choose it.  Any moment, any of us has the ability to choose a peaceful state of mind -- to NOT think that our circumstances are horrible, to not worry about the past or the future, to not be bothered that we are splitting infinitives.  Which is what Steve is basically saying too, and what I've tried loudly and sometimes hoarsely to tell myself, now hammered home from a different angle.

So I'm choosing peace.  My pain will still be pain.  My moods will still be moods.  Everything is what it is.  There is only the amount of time that there is.  The things you can do are the only things you can do.  For my pain, I can only do what I can do, and if it lays me down on the couch, that's what it does.

Back to the monks -- monks pain themselves to repent, hair shirts and self-flagellation.  They also pain themselves as a test, fasting, hours meditating, self-deprivation.  Sometimes it's part of a protest, like when they set themselves on fire.  My pain makes me feel like a firewalker.  I imagine I'm standing on coals, letting them sear my skin and start in on my muscle and bone.  It may seem a gruesome image, but somehow it makes it easier :)

There.  I pooped out my mind.  NOW I can go have a day.


  1. This was really what I needed to read right now. Thanks :)

  2. Oh, you're welcome! :) Hope you're doing okay.