Travel, I am told, expands the mind, horizons and acceptance of other ideas, cultures, religions. When I ask what the time limit is in any area visited or travelled through I have been met with blank stares and a sort of puckering of the lips that makes me think of a fish trying to form words.
Travel may expand our romantic idealism.
Living in a country does not.
There are exceptions of course, there are those that I met in Asia who considered “living in a foreign country” to mean spending as much time in the Club by the pool or at some or other function, lunch or breakfast and shopping. But if you’re like me and not a peopley person, you seek out the underbelly of any country and poke at the fabric to see what it’s made of. In Tokyo my escape was to hang out in Aoyama Cemetery, I used to joke that my favourite Japanese lived there because for the most part the Japanese viewed me as a despicable foreign whore, I was spat on, ignored by waiters in cafes where Japanese would move seats so as not to be near me, chased off a subway by an angry granny with an umbrella, threatened with a beating from random strangers, oh it was fun times. Why? Oh, I look remarkably like one of their favourite foreign porn stars.
Uncanny resemblance apparently.
(When I first discovered the root of my woes in Tokyo I was devastated, called one of my oldest and dearest friends in London, who pretty much slammed the phone done in his race to China Town to check it out. Took some detailed researching apparently but he reported that it was in fact true. Ah, friends.)
All of this is by way of arriving at Buddhism and Shinto-ism.
I’ve met the ladies who yoga, who namaste and granola. Keep the Buddha in their “quiet space” and believe it to be all love ’n’ light without having read much on it other than the handy dandy book of mindful quotes they got themselves at Starbucks the other day. Has it struck anybody as odd that these individuals have a cognitive dissonance when faced with Buddhists massacring innocents in the news? So much so that I’ve noticed in Canada none of the liberal press report on it, I think for fear of upsetting the granola yogis living here.
I have spent my fair share of time in downward dog, have briefly taught and granola isn’t so bad as colon cleanses go. But the whole attraction of the fake namaste left me cold. The precepts of both Buddhism and Shinto-ism are as entrenched in brutality as any other rigid ideology, religious or other. Oddly enough, however, yoga has its roots in Hindu faith not Buddhism: it never ceases to amuse me when a yogi gets those mixed up with an elephant faced Buddha with twelve arms sits smoking joy sticks in their quiet space, I giggle happily.
No religion is without its darker side. Sikhism for instance was, up until Trudeau’s dress up party in India, my favourite of all global religions other than Christianity (not the evangelical variety). I follow a number of Sikh thinkers, philosophers and teachers. But just like that my idealistic views of the Sikh ideology was blown up right beside the passenger airplane Canada failed to protect. Ah people. It made me sad because for the most part those who are neither Sikh nor Hindu had, until that farcical Trudeau prance around India, no idea what Sikhism was or stood for. Now say the word Sikh and it is linked inextricably to murder, terrorism and extremism. If Trudeau ever offers to help you with something you care about, run away. Run far, far, far away.
Buddhism appeals to the yogi because at its heart they believe it is an idea of “acceptance”. Of living happily in the maelstrom of pain, frustration, all that crappy life stuff and being “content”. They completely miss the actual point: disassociation. Disassociation from the world, outcome, relationships, all that disharmonious rubble of life. The Buddhist ideal of the monk living happily on the end of a pole: living on nothing but air and patiently enjoying the discomfort of the pole up his bum as he waits for the nirvana of rebirth, is a bit of a clue.
This is why the other day when I trundled into the Golden Ears Provincial Park for Spring Break with my girls to the campsite we had booked I was met with an extremely angry, screaming clearly granola eating yogi who took high offence that we intended to park our rather long r.v. in the camp next to the one she had chosen to commune with nature. She was clearly in crisis. Unhinged and crashing like a wounded beast against this thing we call life.
The problem with holding on to wafer thin ideologies that you haven’t researched deeply or studied is that when life hits you in the face you have zip to hold on to. Nothing. I can be as calm as a monk up a pole if I give up caring, if I disassociate from everything and everybody. In fact, I have the perfect brain for it. But the moment you start to care about an outcome, a person or a thing you’re going to fall off that pole and there’ll be nothing at the bottom but rocks and derision.
You can read that little book of inspirational quotes all you like you will still be in a bad place with zero support. As the screaming banshee was standing there throwing her stick collection in my general direction and over using her middle finger clearly demonstrated. Later on the ranger caught up with her (she had screamed abuse at a six year old a little further on from us) and in his quiet way found out that she was in the middle of a relationship crisis and was indeed, lost.
How do you protect yourself from ending up in the middle of a provincial park screaming abuse at children and random strangers?
Not ideologies. Pure and simple, well understood and clearly defined boundaries.
For yourself and others you decide to keep in your life.
A well researched, carefully studied little survival book of Mindful You. A lot is written about Boundaries in relation to others and their treatment of you, but what is there about Boundaries in relation to how you treat you, how you treat others? Not much in our world of rights without responsibilities. That’s not going to work out well.
Boundaries for self should start with but not be limited to these.
Inner voice: the various voices we use to speak to ourselves needs to be studied and acknowledged. Changes made if that voice is your mother’s or an abuser from your past. The voice should be yours and kind, always, kind.
Body awareness: your body, your choice. You are in control of your body regardless of what challenges we face in life whether social, financial or health. A lot of us are trained not to hear our bodies and we ignore its instinctual reactions. Stop ignoring it. Listen to it, learn to hear it and learn to understand it. Equally, your urges and desires need limits and awareness of how your needs are impacting those around you. You are not the only one that matters.
Feelings/Emotions: “feelings matter” … no, no they really don’t. They matter to YOU but they hold zero sway in the world at large. Acknowledging your feelings is important but so is reigning them in especially for those of us with PTSD. Our feelings lie to us a lot. We often feel like the world is ending, our thinking goes to black/white and we fail to access our rational frontal lobes. To create pause, time and a modicum of rationality boundaries are needed to contain our emotional outbursts and overwhelming choking feelings.
Situational Awareness: we are all aware of our surroundings all the time whether we are tuned into it or not. Those of us with PTSD are crushingly familiar with the other sensitivity of our highly tuned sensors. That’s a good thing. Situational awareness even the kind that has us on high alert and avoiding crowds keeps us safe, allows us to see through the masquerade that people put on straight to the heart of who they are and what they want. Use it, value it and over time you will control it. Listen to it. Allow it to create healthy boundaries for you rather than keeping you locked in your basement, start at a cemetery like I did in Tokyo with folk that don’t move around too much.
Pain: a lot of us live in constant pain, so much so that we have found a way to turn it off. What happens when you do that is a gradual decline in all our systems: physiological and psychological. Pain has a source, I know what my sources are and I know who and what to avoid to stop the spiral. It’s not always successful but it’s put me back in control of me, it’s created healthy boundaries for me and I live with a lot less pain and a lot less pharma help.
Self-care: grooming, pride in dress, washing. They might seem utterly pointless but they are extremely important. Taking time to take care of you and spend time caring for you is golden, it creates a sense of well-being on a cellular level and MUST be part of your boundary routine for a better life.
Clean Clear Living Space: junk, jumble, noise are destructive. I have a rule that if I haven’t used or worn an item in a year it is given away. I need space to breath, I require cleanliness and I require order around me. That doesn’t mean sterile or non-kid friendly, far from it. Each of us will find our happy compromise: but be honest with yourself, many of us find “content” in purchasing things, surrounding ourselves with them in a vain attempt to buy happy. It won’t work.
Create everyday: each day do something creative. That can be a walk in the woods where you simply take time to notice the tree barks or the way the light comes through the canopy. Creating allows our bodies and minds to relax, unwind and heal.
Kindness: practice kindness towards others. Listen to yourself and your interactions with others, judge them on the basis of “kindness”. I fail regularly on this one, but I get up each morning and try it all over again.
Finally, I’d set a boundary of self-reliance first before all else. Trusting me has never been a tough gig as I’ve only ever had me to count on. I see in others a disturbing lack of self-trust, a belief that “I can’t” instead of “How bad can this go?”. Yesterday I had to haul the r.v. to the Husky to do a sani-dump, fun stuff of camping! The truck and r.v. are about 50ft long all in and to get out of the Husky I had to back out onto a highway. Perhaps it is my lack of rational thought that allows me to hum to myself and slap it into reverse with the thought “Well, how bad can this go?” but I’d far rather that than feel incapable or vulnerable. Self-reliance and self-belief are incredibly important to learn, practice and strive for.
And if you ever end up in Tokyo looking like a porn star with clothes on: smile, sign the autographs and walk on head held high. Life is going to throw curve balls at you, the only thing that’s going to pull you through is a straight back, chin up and step off the line. When you get beaten down onto the mat, take a deep breath, collect and get back up again. Sitting on a pole waiting for the nirvana of rebirth isn’t as fun as advertised, the nitty and gritty of surviving life, however, is.
This piece of art I’ve used is a perfect example of how having solid boundaries can help me weather any storm. I know I’m going to get kicked, I know I’m going to be in pain but I also see the beauty in between the clouds. This is a painting I did freezing in the hail and storm on the rocks of Alloutte Lake. The waves crashed, the mist covered the mountains but every now and then brilliant colour would flash.
I do not fear the storm, I fear captivity.