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Closet Fascination

A blog about a journey, smoking, not smoking, vaping and everything in between

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nature

Challenge Day 18: Joyful memories

Describe a memory: Think back to childhood to the most clear joyful, playful memory you have – whether it’s with a friend, a toy or playing a game. How did you feel? Can you think of a way of bringing that emotion into your life now?

I have a few. They all involve being outside, frolicking in nature. I’ve always liked being outside. I made my mom camp all the way across Canada as a kid because I love being outside. My mom hates camping. I was eleven, so I’m sure she could have said no to me.

My first joyful memories of being outside are swimming in the lake at my aunt’s cabin. One summer, my friend and I practically lived in the lake. It was a neat place because my mom could just let me wander around the ‘neighborhood’ (really just a bunch of dirt roads with cabins) with my friend unsupervised and it was totally safe. Most of the time, she knew where to find me. I was at the lake with my best friend. I loved going there. We went every other summer from when I was 5 to when I was 14.

My next memories involve walking home from school with my two best school friends. We would walk through the park home, every day. One time in the spring, the creek was melting and I remember we ‘surfed’ on the ice floats. It was probably a bit dangerous, but I guess that is what made it exciting. It was so much fun.

Around the same age, perhaps a bit younger, I remembered that my friend and I found this ‘mud cave’. It was just an area in the land where water had eroded out a ‘cave’. It was sooo muddy, we came back covered in mud. About a week later, my friend came over again and my  mom said, “Don’t get all muddy, okay?”. I think this is the first time I willfully disobeyed my mother. I said ok, knowing that we were definitely going to the cave. It was fun. My mom was disappointed, but it wasn’t the end of the world. I think isn’t much different than when my dog decides she is going to lie in a mud puddle.

I guess I’m a bit of a risk taker. A bit of an adrenaline junkie. I love the rush. I think that I get the same joy/ some of the danger from trail running and hiking. Trail running gives you the rush from running and I get to enjoy the beauty of nature. Hiking it is the thrill of being so far from civilization. The rush of amazing views after a hard climb.

I think that I tried to get this feeling from smoking, then vaping. I worked at first, but then tolerance happened. Then it was mostly about relieving the anxiety of withdrawal. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to smoke. I had the opportunity to smoke what used to be my favorite type of cigarettes yesterday. Menthols. Cigarettes you can no longer buy in my province. The thing is, I didn’t want to. I didn’t get this far to ruin it with a quick thrill. In the past, I would have said no- not because I didn’t want to, but because I didn’t want anyone to know that I wanted to. My co-workers all know about my smoking/vaping. So I actually didn’t want to smoke. No desire again.

I think I’ll stick to my healthy ways of getting rushes in my life. They don’t come with strings attached.

Meditation: The Tree

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Challenge Day 1: Places that make me feel whole

So in the interest of branching out, not sounding like a broken record and maybe even for those of you that have been reading awhile to get to know me better, I’m going to blog on a different pre-chosen topic everyday. There are lots of these sorts of challenges out there, but I didn’t love all the questions in any of them so I made my own out of a combination of websites. I created a page with the topics and links to each of these posts.

Today’s question was: Name three places that make you feel whole.

This is a tough question for me because in spite of a few insecurities I have, I almost always feel whole. I feel whole whenever I’m not on autopilot. So the where is anytime I’m being present, I feel whole.

I’m going to unpack that a bit further because I have a feeling that isn’t a super satisfying answer.

The place I feel the most present in my life and thus the most whole is outside in nature.

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This one of many pictures taken by me on the many walks I take with my dog during the week. Nothing makes me feel more present, more whole or more alive than going for these walks.

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The mountains aren’t near my house, but I love hiking in the mountains. I love the stillness of nature, the sounds and of course the sights. Being in nature fills me with awe, something going to church never did.

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I picked three pictures to represent three places, but really there aren’t only three. I bring my wholeness with me.

I’m also going to pick a different meditation to do each day. Today I chose Blue Sky- Meditation for Inner Stillness and Silence. I thought it fit with the theme of this post as well. I liked this one. I find using visualizations during meditation helps me focus and also helps bring me back when my mind wanders.

I found that focusing on self-care rather than the anxiety I’m feeling at times is more helpful than obsessing about feeling anxious. I find that meditation is often the best way to do this.

I’ve started exercising more regularly again as well which helps keeps the moods up as well. My friend asked me to do a 10 km race with her and I thought what better way to motivate myself to get back into running. I completed day 14 of my program today and was happy to see my running fitness is quickly returning.

Technically, it is a half-marathon training program, however there are built in 5 km and 10 km race days so my plan is to do the plan up to the 10 km race day and then maybe continue on. I like the half-marathon distance. It is sufficiently challenging without your life becoming only about running. This is the first time I’ve followed a training program that does time rather than distance and I’m liking it.

Until tomorrow…

Pondering My Spirituality

Back when I started this blog in 2008, I posted about religion . Since then, I think my beliefs have become more solidified. When you do the work I do, you become very clear on your beliefs. My students challenge my beliefs everyday whether I share them with them or not. Today, I got thinking about religion and God again because we watched a TED talk called the , “The Happy Secret to Better Work.” One of the last slides in Shawn Achors presentation  has a list of ways to increase happiness in one’s life. The first thing was: 3 gratitudes. Make a list of three things you are grateful for everyday. To which one of my students states, “Sounds like prayer might be the best way of doing that first one.” I replied, that prayer can be one way to express gratitude if you believe in God and went on to say that gratitude can be expressed with or without prayer. He didn’t like that answer. He again insisted that prayer might be good even if you aren’t religious. For some reason, today, I couldn’t leave it alone and I repeated: yes, if you believe in God.

Which got me thinking: for a long time, I’ve maintained that I’m not religious but I still believe in God. More recently, I decided upon doing some thinking that I am probably more agnostic than anything. I don’t think you can prove God’s existence nor am I convinced that an absence of proof, proves God doesn’t exist. The reason why I maintained a belief in God for a long time boils down to one feeling that I’ve always attributed to ‘God’. This feeling is awe. What is awe? The dictionary defines awe as a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder. I feel this feeling when I enter a beautiful cathedral, but the one place that always inspires awe in me is being out in nature. I don’t think the feeling of awe proves God’s existence, but it is the core of my spirituality.

Spiritually doesn’t have to involve belief in a higher power. The definition of spirituality is :”almost any kind of activity through which a person seeks meaning,”(Wikipedia) In essence, I have been practicing spirituality since I started questioning my religion to this very day. Perhaps people can find meaning through religion, but that wasn’t how it was for me. Church always felt like an obligation, something that I did because I was told to, even when I was young. I remember visiting the church in my father’s community and being scared by a ‘Fire and Brimstone’ esk sermon. The church in my community was never like that. It was warm and welcoming. My favorite priest growing up eventually left because he believed that women should be able to become priests. At the age of 11, I agreed with him and I think that is where the questioning began. By the age of 14, I was reading about all sorts of different religions and started meditating. I didn’t keep up with the meditation, but it was through meditation, not through any experience at church that I had my first experience with ‘awe’. I’m glad I’ve rediscovered meditation. I think it is the number one thing, perhaps tied with exercise that keeps me sane.

For me spirituality does not require connecting with a higher power, if one exists. For me spirituality is connecting with my values and beliefs. What are these values and beliefs? I was reading the wikipedia on humanism (something I want to learn more about) and this quote stood out to me:

Contemporary humanism entails a qualified optimism about the capacity of people, but it does not involve believing that human nature is purely good or that all people can live up to the Humanist ideals without help. If anything, there is recognition that living up to one’s potential is hard work and requires the help of others. The ultimate goal is human flourishing; making life better for all humans, and as the most conscious species, also promoting concern for the welfare of other sentient beings and the planet as a whole.The focus is on doing good and living well in the here and now, and leaving the world a better place for those who come after.

This pretty much sums up why I do anything in life. Why I do the work I do. If I didn’t believe that education could help my students better their lives I wouldn’t do the work that I do. There is an inherent reprogramming aspect of my job that I don’t like. I mean I don’t believe anyone can change unless they want to and sometimes the people I work with aren’t ready to change. They aren’t done with the drugs or the lifestyle and that is ok. It is why I believe wholeheartedly in harm-reduction for people that aren’t ready to quit. I’ve never done hard drugs, but I understand not being ready to give something up.

It is why I challenge the black and white thinking some people have when it comes to religious beliefs. I don’t believe in conversion, I believe that everyone is entitled to believe what they want to believe so I challenge the idea that many people have regarding their religion: that their religion is right, the truth, the only way to see things. I believe that more than one truth can exist. What is right for me isn’t necessarily right for another person.

When I share my beliefs, my lack of religion, my agnostic views on god there is a few ways people take it. The first way, they figure if I don’t follow a religion, am agnostic about God then I must believe in nothing. They figure. if my values don’t come from religion, I must not have any. I think this brand of black and white teaching comes a little bit from some religious teachings, that people that haven’t found the religion are lost, need saving. Thankfully, I don’t run into many of these people. Most people are tolerant of my views as I don’t attack their views.

I guess my whole point behind this whole post is spiritually doesn’t necessarily involve God. To me spiritually is a journey you take, where you get clearer on how you want to live your life. There is no one right way of doing it or at least that is how I feel about it.

For me, spiritually is also living in a way that connects me to nature. Any time I spend time in nature I feel that awe feeling. Nothing compares to me. So I’m going to keep doing what works for me. God or no God, nature has always been there for me.

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