Broken Record Syndrome

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It is a bit surreal that I am writing about records on a blog — and hopefully most of you know what a record is or if not can imagine what one might be — because the last time I played a record I had no vision for sharing stories on the Internet. Writing was a more contemplative, intimate process as it was assumed that much of what I wrote would not make it any further than the pages of one of my notebooks.

Now I feel a sense of responsibility to share what I write, at least those thoughts that are somewhat comprehensible and complete, if it might help someone else in some small way. To deprive the world of my writing, and the insights contained therein, when it can be so easily shared would be cruel and unfair. My audience of one has grown to a nebulous group of unknown proportions.

This has changed the tenor of my writing. It has forced me to step outside of myself and look more broadly at my feelings, circumstances, and experiences as I describe and seek to understand them. I have evolved, progressed, and transformed in response to a rapidly changing world. And I, as well as others, I hope, have benefitted.

But in many other areas of my life, I have not so easily and gracefully progressed. I have become stuck like a broken record, caught up in a fractured groove that plays over and over again. These grooves represent both thoughts and behaviors (or lack thereof). And the symphony of simultaneously repeating tracks is poorly orchestrated, resulting in an agitating undertone of dreary reputation with no end in sight. Despite my best efforts, I — like millions of others — suffer from broken record syndrome from time to time.

Broken record syndrome occurs when we have recurring thoughts or exhibit repeated behaviors without intention or purpose. Over time, these automatic repetitions become background noise; we become accustomed to their presence and accept them as normal. They become our ingrained biases and our habits. They greatly impact our lives; yet, we are largely unaware that they even exist. And when they do float in and out of our field of awareness, we forget that we have the power to transform them into something more useful and more importantly, more beautiful.

So the first step, then, is to be open to noticing the little snippets of thought and behavior which we experience so frequently, and with such subtlety, that they typically escape our attention. And once we have discovered them, and realized the nuisance and monotony of their perpetuation, we can begin to understand the purpose they have served in our lives. They have protected us, and made us feel safe, in an uncertain world. They have given us something upon which we can rely when everything else seems to slip through our fingers. But it is not enough use these incessant beasts as a crutch, and we deserve better.

We can, instead, offer ourselves freedom from reliance on things that are actually hurting us, by leaning instead on something stronger. Something more meaningful. Something transformative. Something of our choosing and our design. We can replace the cracks which cause us to trip over ourselves again and again with ideas and actions that more deeply resonate with our heart of hearts. We form new habits and develop new ways of seeing the world. And these continually evolve, in response to our changing world and our own self-growth. And through this process we discover more happiness, fulfillment, and peace.

Emotoxins

toxin

Every day we ingest and absorb environmental toxins. They are unfortunately in the ground, in the air, and in the food we eat. They are also often in the clothes we wear, the cosmetics we apply, and the cleaning supplies we use. We have, as a society, created a world filled with unavoidable toxins.

These noxious chemicals contribute to a climate where toxicity is the norm. On any given day, we are exposed to many unnatural substances which can potentially cause us both immediate and long-term harm.

We sometimes also create inner worlds where toxicity is abundant. Our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and values can become tainted when our natural harmony becomes distorted. Fear, anger, sadness, and the other ‘negative emotions’ are not necessarily toxic; they only become so when they no longer contribute to a transformative process in our lives. This is a fine line which, in the midst of healing, can be difficult to concretely define.

There is an interactivity between external, material toxins and those that are internal and intangible. Certainly, exposure to unnaturally formulated and superimposed chemicals can impact our cognitive and emotive function. But we also, consciously and subconsciously, influence how these emotoxins form and take hold in our brains.

We can create natural barriers to prevent exotoxins from becoming a part of our systems. The first necessary barrier is an emotoxin radar. We need to be able to sense and recognize emotoxins before they creep in too close. Because emotoxins have their appeal — they create a false sense of security which makes us feel safe in the short run — we might feel tempted to let them in and try them out. If they do approach our protected personal space, we need to let them bounce off of us, fall away, and dissipate before any damage is done. Perhaps the best barrier is to create an emotional environment where emotoxins will fail to thrive. These natural barriers are strengthened through awareness, understanding, contemplation, and by actively choosing harmony over imbalance.

But sometimes these barriers fail to protect us from emotoxin invasion. When emotoxins throw off our internal balance, we can flush them out just as we drink water to remove chemical toxins from our bodies. Emotoxins can be flushed through cleansing and purification rituals, meditation, prayer, sharing and making sense of our feelings through constructive talking or writing, and exposing ourselves to sensual joys (I keep frankincense and bergamot oil nearby and use both to balance my mood accordingly).

Just as we aim to reduce our exposure to toxins in the environment, we can also minimize emotoxin pollution. And when emotoxins find their way into our minds and our hearts, we can open up to let them go, letting in more love, light, and inner peace.

Carpe Diem

People have been seizing the day since Horace offered this delicious phrase to the world in 23 BCE. Yet over time, we intuitively fall into a flow of anticipating the cycles of seasons and days. Habits are established. Life loses its pristine novelty, too often without capturing our notice.

I sometimes wonder, worry really, if I have fallen into an intermittent willful resignation. My life sometimes feels pre-scripted. Other times, it feels like a play I have repeatedly seen. Sure, I uncover additional nuance with each performance, every viewing, but there are empty seats awaiting me in the theatre down the street — not to mention across the country and around the world.

About eight years ago, a psychologist told me that I was bored because I had adopted a conventional life, one that contrasted greatly with that of my past. Being able to manage my emotions and behavior to achieve my life goals, even to maintain stability in my life, has been useful. But sometimes it just isn’t enough. It doesn’t fulfill and excite me. I feel dull, numb, and nearly half dead at times.

For me, there is a constant tension between carefully controlling my life so that I am able to function and fully living in, and appreciating, the moment as it occurs. Perhaps everyone experiences this phenomenon, but my loss of control could potentially be destructive, devastating, and disastrous. I suppose this is true for most people, to one degree or another.

Learning to reconcile this tension in a healthy way, and to live a naturally integrated, complete life is an ongoing process. With time, I continually discover my own cycles and rhythms to complement the harmony I wish to create in my life. There are no shortcuts to realizing authentic wholeness, and with both patience and practice the moments I feel that level of connection — with myself and the planet — will surely grow in both frequency and duration.