July 6, 2017 (Thursday)

by Yule Heibel on July 5, 2018

I set myself this task, during meditation, as a kind of experiment. It’s about strengthening my ability to stay focused on the breath and not letting my mind wander too much. When I relax my face, my mouth naturally droops at the corners. Lately I’ve noticed the lines this creates getting more etched. So I thought, “What if, instead of basically frowning, I made a slight smiling movement?” Some of the Buddhas, the ones you can see at the MFA for example, almost smile. My experiment was also prompted in part by one of the reflection questions in the Motivation pack, which I finished three days ago. On day Eight or so, the question was, “How does it make you feel when others share in your success” or something like that. Strangely, it wasn’t people cheering me on who popped to mind, but Jigger, my dog, whose love was unconditional. Most of the time, I was just his god (goddess?) and everything I did was grand. It made me smile broadly when I thought of his unconditional joy and love, and as my face changed I realized how much my expression had been a sort of half-frown, a droop.

So I decided to start experimenting with a counter-movement (literally). If not a complete full-on smile, at least an activation of those muscles in the cheeks that tend to pull the skin away from from the droop. I realized quickly that it was another means of focus – equilibriated focus, much like counting in- and out-breaths. Or maybe sitting still, not fidgeting. It could be a distraction (“Smile, don’t forget!”), but it could become almost automatic, a habit. Of course thoughts keep coming, bubbling up, even with this added focus point. And the thoughts have to do with different words for smile, different conditions for smiling. Like rictus, for example, the death smile. When I observed that thought, I had to also think, “Well, I guess I’m a writer.” I can’t stop describing, finding examples, making connections. Another thought just occurred to me, though: I’m quite allergic to “creativity” exercises where you’re supposed to generate lists, examples, etc. I don’t exactly want to shut that sort of thing down, but I usually feel that if I’ve found the right example – and I can feel it’s propelling me further properly – then finding substitutions is a distraction.

W. and I are still sick with this bug, although I feel a lot better this morning. However, any real effort (even meditation) reminds me that I still feel very weak, am still weak. The sweating starts (profusely), the coughing – it’s still lodged in there, but I’m kicking it. Yesterday morning W. had such a huge sweat attack in his sleep that pillow and mattress and everything was soaked. So I had to rewash everything, lay the duvet into the full sun for a couple of hours, ditto pillow. I hope this morning is not a repeat, nor that I do it tomorrow. (Sick of all this laundering.)

In the media world, it’s very interesting what’s happening to CNN. They’re being trumped [sic] thoroughly, and it’s like a populist revolt against corporatist media. Obviously I support the populist side, I’ve distrusted the mainstream media for decades now. Used to make fun, from a left-wing position, of the MSM as a propaganda arm (“the nightly evening news, direct from the Führerhauptquartier“) way before the right-wing got a hold of that idea.

Meanwhile, back in meat space, it’s another beautiful, temperate day. Such a shame that W. has this week off and we’re both feeling so much under the weather. The traffic noise on E.-Street is getting daily more intolerable. I dream of moving away, but also grab on to the possibilities of home improvement right here. Contradictory.

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