Freak Alley

On a recent solo road trip I took to visit a friend in Salt Lake City, I stopped in Boise as an interval to break up the long drive. I had never been to Boise, I honestly wasn’t quite sure what to expect except for maybe a lot of potato references. There was actually no mention of potatoes my whole time there. Instead, I met a handful of joyful and friendly residents of Boise, some of who showed me the beautiful culture of the city. One friend brought me down a road called “Freak Alley” which is a whole alleyway dedicated to graffiti art drawn by local residents. As we strolled down the alleyway, I got absolute chills (it helped that a group of three young men were in a circle in the middle of the alleyway serenading us with jazz tunes–one on drums, one on guitar and one on the trumpet.)

I went back the next afternoon to snap shots of all the art that moved me. I had been feeling pretty lonely during a lot of my solo road trip and this art work I came across touched me in a way that I needed it to the most at that time. I realized that this is the beauty of art–these artists, who knows where they are right now, but they were with me that night and day that I viewed their work. Kindred spirits, all of them. Check out their amazing work below:

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No Cell Zone

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They’re everywhere.  They’re standing in the middle of walkways, at the grocery stores, at shopping malls, walking down city sidewalks, they are your own friends that you haven’t seen in months sitting across from you at the restaurant booth.  They are all doing that familiar thing, that incredibly common sight this day in age.  Come on…you know what I am talking about by now, right?  I am talking about that human with their head faced down and that far away glaze in their eyes as they look down at a tiny screen on a gadget that fits ever so perfectly between their hands.

I’m guilty of it.  You’re guilty of it.  Anyone that owns a cell phone, whether or not it’s a “smart” phone is guilty of it.  I guarantee that in your time of owning a cell phone you have either tripped over uneven sidewalk, ignored your friend, or blocked someone’s way in a store aisle because of cell phone distraction.  I absolutely guarantee it, we are glued to them.  They hold the whole world inside of them.  We feel naked leaving the house without them.  With the push of a button we can find newer and better of anything: cars, houses, lovers.

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A few weekends ago, I decided to have a cell phone fast for one day.  The battery on my phone had died the Friday evening before and I decided that I would just not plug it into a charger until Sunday afternoon.  To my surprise, as soon as I set the cell phone fast as an intention, I felt incredibly at peace and had a sense of relief when I realized I wouldn’t have to respond to anyone or anything on a tiny screen until Sunday.  I became excited at thought of not having to feel guilty in not responding to someone.

I caught up on so many things that I had been putting off for so long.  I finished chores around the house, including the two loads of laundry and washing the pile of dishes stacked like a Jenga tower on my bedroom desk.  I finished a library book that had been racking up an over due fine for well over a month.  I went on a two-hour nature walk/jog and locked eyes or smiled with a few other passersby.  I caught up with two of my roommates who I have had more interaction with on Facebook messenger than in real life.

Call me crazy but, I imagine a world where we smile when we have low batteries
Cause that will mean we’ll be one bar closer – to humanity

–Prince Ea

I have realized that my addiction to my cell phone has become just as bad as any other addiction that I have ever had.  It is just another distraction keeping me from what I really want or should be doing.  It has become a way to numb my brain out from thinking about thoughts that I don’t want to face.  It is another way to avoid facing up to things that are hurting me or things that I need to heal.  There are so many options and possibilities of things to do on my cell phone, it’s like being at a virtual amusement park for adults.

I understand that there is the other side of the coin.  I know that cell phones are devices of convenience and helpful in many aspects.  I know that it is part of what is able to connect us to everyone and everything.  Someone in another country might be reading these very words I am typing out right now and that is absolutely amazing.  But what gets me, what really gets me is this: what if it were all to crash tomorrow?  I mean truly, everything changes and nothing stays the same.

I just want to be more alert and aware of when I reach down for my phone, what is it that is drawing me there?  What is it within me that is feeling so uncomfortable with my own thoughts that I need to distract my mind with external validation from technology?  I want to change my ways.  I think I want to dedicate a time to look at it, maybe instead of first thing in the morning, I can look at it briefly at my lunch hour and for a set time after work: thirty minutes or less and that’s it.  I just want more moment-to-moment awareness and connection, how about you?

Upping the Ante

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I was sick of always feeling rushed.  Of the rat race.  Of feeling as if I were just going through the motions of life as if it were meaningless and pointless, just something to get done with.  Meditation helped me with this.  Meditation helped me to actually stop and observe, to giggle at the baby that was trying to wear a Tupperware lid as a hat or to actually taste the casserole that I rushed through my evening to make.  Meditation helped me to look at life in a different way, each breath created a whole new rich moment to feel.

In starting this blog and my original challenge of dedicating twenty minutes of my morning to meditation, I wanted to see what kind of changes would come about within me.  And what a glorious four years of change it has been. In the first couple years of my 20-minute per day meditation, my life was smooth sails and all of the people, situations and stories that came to me were all amazingly synchronous and magical.  I was able to feel situations out more with my heart than my head, making things come about effortlessly and without force.

But something interesting (and frustrating, grrrr) has happened.  I have reached some sort of plateau.  I’m resorting back to old habits, to old anxious ways, and old patterns.  In the last year I have noticed something, I have become stuck.  And everything within my life, my world right now seems to be at a standstill.  Life for me lately has felt as if I am a hamster in a cage just spinning on a wheel, popping off it a few times for maybe a nibble of food or sip of water.  I have been trying to control things that are completely out of my control.  I have most definitely been more in my head, scheming out how I can create the exact life that I want instead of being more open to letting things move in and out of my world as they ought to.

I named it “Ilona’s Meditation Challenge” for a reason, I wanted to document the challenge I was giving myself in meditating for 20 minutes daily.  But I think it is time to up the challenge, I am going to challenge myself for the next 30 days, 6/28-7/28 to meditate for 40 minutes daily.  Once in the morning for 20 minutes and once in the evening for 20 minutes and we shall see how it will go.  Coming from working in the medical field for nine years, I am doing exactly as a doctor would with a patient’s medication after they have built a tolerance, I am upping the dose!

Also, to further the challenge, I am going to try my hardest to log in to this blog every week to write a little something about how the experience is going.  That was what my whole intention with this blog was from the get-go and I got so wrapped up in my mind chatter that I forgot.  I am excited to see where my mind goes next, hopefully I’ll lose more of it as I integrate more into the heart.  Thanks for joining me on the next leg of this journey, it will be a challenging adventure, but one that is calling for me.

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“Prayer, meditation and contemplation do more than just calm the mind or open the heart.  These also steady the body.  Many physicians now prescribe meditation and/or regular non-competitive exercise (like brisk walking, yoga, jogging or swimming) for patients suffering from hypertension, over-reactive nervous systems or digestive problems.  Even hyperactivity in children is now being treated with meditation rather than drugs.  There is no neat mind/body split.  What helps the mind gain rest from its constant seeking, grasping, worrying, must also help the body.  Many researchers have documented the physiological benefits of meditation.” –From the book Ordinary People a Monks and Mystics by Marsha Sinetar

What Your Soul Sings

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Don’t be afraid, open your mouth and say, say what your soul sings to you.
Your mind can never change unless you ask it to. Lovingly re-arrange the thoughts that make you blue.

The things that bring you down only do harm to you and so make your choice joy, the joy belongs to you.
And when you do, you’ll find the one you love is you, you’ll find you love you.
Don’t be ashamed no, to open your heart and pray, say what your soul sings to you.
So no longer pretend that you can’t feel it near, that tickle on your hand, that tingle in your ear.

Oh ask it anything because it loves you dear. It’s your most precious king If only you could hear.
And when you do, you’ll find the one you need is you, you’ll find you love you.

–Massive Attack

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“What if all the world’s inside of your head
Just creations of your own?
Your devils and your gods
All the living and the dead
And you’re really all alone?
You can live in this illusion
You can choose to believe
You keep looking but you can’t find the woods
While you’re hiding in the trees”

–Nine Inch Nails

“What if all th…