Tag Archives: anti-zen

Anti-Zen: Quiet is for Wusses

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Doesn't this look calm and peaceful?

Doesn’t this look calm and peaceful?

So in my stupid and doomed attempts to do things properly I have never taken the time to try and do breathing exercises, or meditate because there are too many kids around, or I don’t have enough time, or I am hungry/sick/tired/horny and that will be distracting, or it just isn’t quite enough.

Guess what—my life will never be any of those things. There is no perfect moment for me. Those moments are for special people, like those without children, or who get abducted by aliens.

So the other day I was doing yoga while the kids were eating breakfast and getting ready for school. I don’t use a tape because I am constantly interrupted and I find it easier to stop and go back when I am doing my own things.

ANYWAY

I decide to try and do a breathing thingy. I don’t know why, inspiration struck. So I sit on the floor, cross my legs and start counting as I breath. I stop to answer questions. Focus back on my breath. Stop to make sure that yes he did brush his teeth. Focus back on my breath. The vacuum is turned on, I keep focused on my breath.
When I was done I felt more centered and calmer. I didn’t need quiet, incense, a special place, or a fancy round cushion. I just needed to do it, kids, noise, interruptions, and all.

At this point I think if I was in a totally peaceful and quite environment I would completely freak out. I’m sure quiet is lovely, but we are hardcore anti-zen—we don’t need your stinking quiet.

So quiet, so scary.

So quiet, so scary.

Anti- Zen I’m living in the Now so stop asking me what we are doing next!

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Alica Mckenna Johnson, Zen, anti-Zen

Photo by h. koppdelaney


In my job (I am a house parent for kids removed from their homes by Child Protective Services), things can change in an instant. I can have three empty beds, then get a knock on the door and be full again. I can have calm kids who I would happily take anywhere,something sets one of them off, and I’m watching a two-hour fit. I can be hugged and cussed out by the same child in a matter of minutes.

So I have been forced to live in the NOW. Not the serene place of being in the moment and focusing on what is happening and what you feel without thinking of the future. No its more of a ‘I am trying to get through this moment in time, so I won’t tell you what is coming because everything could change’ moment.

Example:We are eating breakfast.

Kids: Alica, what are we doing today?

Me, grabbing the syrup from a toddler who screams in rage: I have no idea. I’m just trying to get through breakfast.

I never make promises, and I almost never tell the kids what is coming up. I might have visits scheduled on my calendar, but I don’t tell the kids until minutes before they happen because people get sick, cars break down, parents fail drug tests and everything changes.

I usually have a plan in my head, but planning out a day and setting up all my ducks in neat little rows, that was beaten out of me.

Alica Mckenna Johnson, ducks in a row, Zen, anti-Zen

Photo by Tim Green

I’m not sure I would call it flexibility, because I don’t really have anything solid to move around. I try to keep my days, plans, and expectations, minute by minute and free form as possible so I can be and do what is needed.
So what about you, do you live in the Now? Did you achieve it through deep spiritual focus and personal growth or did trying to plan in the middle of chaos finally wear you down enough to give up and let go?

Armed and Dangerous

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Photo by halseike

First I owe everyone apologies- I have been in a funk, and hiding under my covers reading – well we won’t discuss what exactly 🙂 Because of that I wasn’t answering comments the way I should and I don’t have an edited post for you today. But I have things to say- so welcome to the crazy world of my thoughts without Kilian to save me from myself!

When life gets overwhelming I pull out my Cozi to-do list and try and breathe and work through things one manageable task at a time. When this doesn’t work, I hide. I grab my computer and crawl under the covers and read. I do get work stuff done- things that other people will hold me accountable for, but things on my list- yeah not happening.

In-case you were wondering items on my to-do list don’t disappear while I hide. I am hopeful every time I do this, but nope they don’t move. However they do seem to organize, multiple and arm themselves. As of writing this I have yet to open my Cozi to-do list, as I will need to put on protective eyes gear and grab a shield first.

Photographed by RachelH_

I have learned not to fight these down times, even though the getting back up might involve blood shed. When I fight, my self talk because really horrible and I hide from the world a lot longer than normal.

This time I had a work activity to bounce me back. I drove my five work kids (including a 2 year old) 6 hours North to ride the “Polar Express”- yep just like the book/movie. It was super fun! The kids were great, and I survived drive in rain and hail- I HATE driving in rain. It scares the crap out of me. When I’m home if it looks like it’s going to rain hard I don’t go out- not even for chocolate!

Once we got home- which was much later than I was planning due to the van doors being frozen shut, and having to stop because the kids wanted to use the bathroom and eat- so rude! I had a pout attack. I wanted to go to this Science Fiction/ Fantasy/ Horror writers conference, which I had won tickets too, but two of the panels I wanted to see were already over, and I wouldn’t get there until noon.

So I sat and pouted and checked my email trying to decide what to do. I was tired and bitchy, and hiding and reading was looking good. But then shocking came a piph (not a full epiphany just a piph) of anti-zen- I was waiting to WANT to go, I was waiting to FEEL like going, and that wasn’t wasn’t going to happen. I could stay home and read or I could go, but I would start either of them in a bad mood. So I sprayed on some perfume – you’re welcome- and I went.

I had a great time. Not sure I learned a lot, but I got to have fun, I have a few new plot/ character ideas germinating in my brain, and I got to talk to adults and writers.

Photo by elfidomx


One thing I would like to say to my fellow geeks, you CAN have social skills. Really it’s okay, you can keep your ultimate geek of the universe card and not ‘talk’ to the panel as if you are sitting down having a one on one conversation with them. Really, social skills are our friends- even Sherlock can fake them 🙂

Anyway- wild rambles, not sure if there was a point, but I had a good time, learned stuff about myself (like I’m an idiot trying to plan a tight schedule with a 2 yr-old) and got myself out of my funk 🙂

How was your weekend? Did you do anything exciting?

Be careful what you wish for, you might get a two-year-old!

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Or How the Universe helped me to do only one thing at a time.

Photo by Danilobu


A while back I was venting/complaining/sharing about how I multi-task constantly!

At this point I’m more likely to read on my laptop than my Kindle, because I can knit while reading on my laptop! Seriously the multi-tasking has gone too far.

Anyway, I guess I inadvertently “asked” the universe for help with my multi-tasking issues, because I now have a two-year-old. It is very difficult to multi-task with a two-year-old around.

I have never taken care of a child this young, and typically we aren’t licensed for under three years old, but with the foster care crisis in Arizona, we got special permission. And now I have a two-year-old.

He is very sweet, and smart, and I adore him, and he is “helping” me break my multi-tasking habit. Well, at least tone it down. Now that he’s been with me a while, I can do simple things while watching him, but most of the time I need to focus on him.

Part of me is happy to have the forced break. Of course, my writing routine is shot to hell, but I am working on a new one.

Now to help you all avoid the dreaded “Be careful what you wished for you just might get it,” I offer my standard procedures before praying/visualizing/asking for ANYTHING.

I sit down with pencil and paper. I state very clearly and out loud. “This is a rough draft. I am not asking for anything at this time.” Then I write down what I want.

Photographed by Gerard Warburg


“Dear Buddha, I would like a pony.”

I look it over, is there any way this can bite me in the ass? Do I have a sick relative with ponies? If he dies would they be left to me? Can I care for a pony? Do I want a pony or just the stable boy?

All good questions. Once answered, re-write, still in pencil and stating that this is a rough draft only!

“Dear Buddha, I would like to be able to ride horses more frequently. I want to find the time in my current schedule, and I would like enough money to be able to pay the rental fees. I ask this for my good and the greater good of those I know.”

Yes, yes, it is spiritual/ metaphysical legal speak, but trust me, it’s important.

Once you have written and re-written your request, have someone else read it over. This should be someone who loves you and doesn’t want a horse trailer to crash into your house in order to fulfill your wish.

Once you have a final copy, write it on nice paper in pen, then pray/meditate/visualize what you want. Add it to your vision board, altar, scrap book.

Good luck. And remember: be very clear about what you wish for and what you are willing to give up in order to get it!

Superwoman Crazy

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I frequently have posted deep, personal, reflective things about myself and my life. This usually happens during the darker, depressed part of my Eccentric Artistic Process. So today, while I’m all Superwoman Type A, I thought I would share with you what a typical day looks like. I can’t have you thinking I sit around in the dark, bemoaning the bleakness of my soul all the time 🙂

I wake up because I have to pee. The sky is light enough, so I know my alarm will go off soon. I don’t want to get out of bed. I roll over, ignore my bladder, and close my eyes.

5:45 My alarm goes off. I think, as every other morning, that I really should change the radio station to something I actually like. I get ready for the day, pee, put in contacts, brush teeth, throw on work-out clothes, and braid my hair.

6:15 Put soap in the washing machine, set temp, wake children, have kid whose day it is to do laundry strip the bed and put sheets and blankets in the wash. Wrestle two-year-old into a clean diaper and clothes. Must put on his shoes. He always has to have his shoes on it’s a bit obsessive.

6:30 Set up breakfast. We have it brought in, so we just set up the trays and get it ready for staff to serve. Listen to two-year-old child screech at me while I put out food. He wakes very hungry. I guess sleeping is hard work.

6:40 Serve breakfast, set timer for kid who needs to leave by 7 a.m. to catch bus, turn on washing machine, or yell at remind child to put the sheets in the washer!

6:43 Do 30 minutes of yoga with kids who want to join me. Desperately try to find inner peace with giggling, goofing off, and (you guessed it) two-year-old screeching.

7:20 Feed rest of children while I eat fresh fruit, which my husband makes me every morning (otherwise I would eat something covered in cheese), fill out paperwork for the work kids (I have to report behavior, contact with family, etc.) Must not add opinions, voice, or style.

7:45 Brush two-year-old’s teeth. I sing the ABC Song twice to make sure we brush them long enough. I tidy the house, make sure everyone is ready for school, switch laundry to dryer, sort, spray, and wash kids clothes. Wow, I sound really functional!

8:00 Make sure kids are with the staff. Three walk to elementary school, and one walks to day care. I take the kids who leave later to my house.

8:05 Sit and write while ignoring endless chatter from eleven-year-old.

8:20 Stop writing and send the middle school kids out to be driven to school.

8:30 Check word count, close up house, get stuff for gym.

8:40 Check in at office, gossip, find out what stupid things The Powers That Be are doing now, and escape the black hole that is the office to meet up with my gym buddy. If you don’t have a gym buddy you should get one. Without mine I would never go to the gym!

9:10 Work out. Today was 30 minutes of cross training on elliptical. I went 2.4miles and burned 347 calories while talking with Amber and checking out the others at the gym. Look! The Guy Who Should Smell His Age is here again.

10:15 Home, make protein shake, take shower before drinking it. The frozen fruit makes it too cold to drink right after working out. Check emails, because I’m addicted and can’t stay away from the internet for long without withdrawal symptoms.

11:00 Drink shake, check email again, do a quick check of Facebook and Twitter. Spend FAR, FAR too long goofing off. Shut down internet and finish meeting word count goal of 1000 words per day.

12:00 Make lunch, eat while checking Facebook, Twitter. Yes again. Stop judging me! Read some blogs.

12:30 Do dishes, start another load of laundry, and begin prepping veggies and such for dinner. Ha ha ha! Fooled you! I’m still on the internet!

12:45 Feeling guilty, so I do some prep for dinner.

1:15 Nap. I love naps.

2:10 Freshen up for work. Check email.

2:30 Work. Check work email and calendar and go to office.

2:40 Bring kids back to the house and feed them snack while asking about their day and seeing what they have for homework, and do the next load of the kids laundry.

3:00 Send kids to the learning center, a blessed place where there are tutors to help them with their homework. Read to and play with two-year-old, fold laundry, do book blurb class homework, and read email and blogs.

4:20 Kids come back. Check their homework, make sure they did their reading, then let them play outside on the playground. I will either read, knit, or push the two-year-old on the swing. Talk to my two personal children when they come home from school.

5:10 Add four more kids to the playground while another staff preps dinner.

5:30 Dinner

6:00 Do last of kid’s laundry, bathe two-year-old, send others into showers, have them tidy rooms and do a chore.
6:45 Bedtime snack for those who are hungry. Two-year-old is always hungry 🙂

6:55 Teeth brushing, and I make sure kitchen is tidy.

7:00 Everyone in bed and tucked in, lights out. I read to kids.

7:30 I sit down and eat dinner hubby made me (I’m vegetarian and allergic to gluten, so I can’t eat what is brought in) and watch So You Think You Can Dance. I’ve missed the first half hour, so during commercials, I check YouTube to see if people have uploaded the routines I’ve missed, then check emails, Facebook, and chat with hubby. Maybe too much multi-tasking? Set my computer aside to knit while watching TV. Hey, I can’t be idle. Cry when they send two dancers home.

9:00 Check on kids, lock doors, turn on alarm, get ready for bed, do belly dance isolations and shimmies while brushing teeth.

Boy child comes downstairs. Why do teenagers want to talk only between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m.??

Midnight: Finally get to bed. Dear Lord, I’m going to be tired tomorrow!

And that is what a Superwoman day looks like in my Cycle of Eccentric Artistic Process. A depressed day? Take all the productive stuff not involving the kids and replace that with reading smut and sleeping, LOL.

If only I could harness this! I must admit I can keep my days looking more like this when I eat right, sleep well, and exercise! Of course knowing this doesn’t always stop me from sleeping all day and eating yummy fried things covered in chocolate.

Do you have cycles in your life? Have you ever written down what you do on a “good” day or do you only judge yourself by your “bad” days?

Anti- Zen and the art of going within

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Photographer- HaPe_Gera

Sometimes we all need a break, time to regenerate, delve within, leave the world behind and become clearer about who we are.

In Zen one realizes the importance of meditation, self-care, and just being, so you schedule time to do this. Which is odd that we have to schedule time to ‘just be’ when we don’t have much of a choice anyway.

Every four months I would go to a weekend retreat, workshop or ashram where a wise person, who glows just a bit, leads me in meditations, self-discovery, and great connection to the Universe.

Eating simple meals prepared by spiritual people who meditate as they work my body is nurtured and infused with positive energy.

I sleep peacefully in a small bare room, the gentle breeze and soft chirping of crickets singing me a lullaby.

Doesn’t that sound lovely.

Unfortunately I live in a completely different reality. I am ruled by Anti- Zen which takes a different direction.

My 14 year-old self slides into the Captain’s chair while I get up to get something to drink.

“Pizza,” she squeals and suddenly food I have been ignoring for months smells fabulous.

Photo by Foodies

I try and stay calm and reason with her. “No we don’t want to eat that. Gluten makes us sick, dairy makes our skin freak out, and we don’t eat meat. That’s for the work kids.”

“I don’t care I want it!”

My body goes to get a plate. I have been here before, in the past I would rant, yell, and fight with my 14 year-old self. This would cause a huge downward spiral of depression and self-hate, the 14 year-old would take over while my current self would be wallowing in pity and despair. The teenager would have control for a lot longer and the recovery period would be longer.

So now I try compromise and if that doesn’t work giving in. There is a lot of giving-in with Anti-Zen, it’s the opposite of letting go which is part of Zen philosophy.

Anyway, I start by offering chips and salsa- yummy, no gluten or dairy. It works once. The next night she wants Nachos, with cheese. I manage to put on a layer of real cheese before she adds some plastic American cheese to the mix.

When I go out to eat with a friend I give into temptation and eat wheat- it s baklava and who can resist baklava?!?!
Now I am lost, the 14 year-old is fully in charge. I’m staying up until midnight reading fan-fictionwa and eating foods that I’m too embarrassed to mention in public. I wake up each morning with a food hangover. Thankfully I manage to drag myself to the gym and keep one of the essential three daily activities to keeping sane , okay sane-ish.

photographer frankjuarez

Now while the voice in my head have a multitude of theories as to why we do this, the unfortunate result of reading far too many self- help books, the result is always the same, total immersion in myself.

My mind is blank, my brain doesn’t work under these conditions. I retreat into myself- which means I don’t answer emails, phone calls, I stop blogging and reading blogs, and other social media is dropped.

I can’t write, as I have a constant headache. And when I stay up until midnight I am alone in the quiet.

As I wallow in myself, the lack of sleep and disgusting diet allowing for nothing else I begin to self-analyze. While most of my conclusions are crap, at least that’s what my hubby says, I do manage to find a few kernels of truth. Somehow out of all of this chaos I manage to learn something about myself, at least something more than my 14 year-old self is an amazingly selfish, lazy, brat.

After a few days, if I don’t fight, I get bored. My teenage self goes to her room and falls asleep. Thankfully like most teenagers she can sleep forever. I am left to deal with a week or more of body ache, pimples, migraines, and other stuff I’d rather not share this publicly.

As my mind clears, little bits of intuition pop up: a new twist on a story, better clarity about a problem in my life, and a deeper understanding of myself and my goals.

It’s not the most graceful, mature, reasonable, or focused road to enlightenment but such is the way of Anti-Zen.
Maybe I could keep my teenage self-quiet longer if I gave her a tattoo or let her pierce something?

Photo by frankjuarez

Anti-Zen lesson 2

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When I wrote my first post on Anti-Zen I didn’t realize I had more bit of wisdom to share.

Today’s lesson is about feeling free to be yourself.

In Zen philosophy you should detach yourself from others’ opinions. As you allow yourself to be free you inspire others to be free.

Isn’t that lovely? It never helped me, not once.

I have writer brain. This means that I can get to a place where I am imagining all the different inner dialogs strangers could be having about me. Of course they care about me and what I’m doing. See how the universe spins? That’s me in the middle. Yep, right there.
So how did I overcome my fears? Well honestly I haven’t but I do have an anti-Zen saying that helps me.

No matter what I do, someone will hate it, think its stupid, or laugh. I can’t control this, but I also don’t have to live for that person because if I’m standing and watching others dance or on the floor getting my freak on (I have several friends who are now banning me from using this phrase BTW) someone will be judging me or wondering why it is I’m doing something. I can’t control this so I might as well have fun.

I must admit I really only have to worry about other writers. In conversations with my normal friends, i.e. non-writers, apparently they don’t stand in line at the grocery store and wonder why someone is wearing that outfit. They also don’t watch body language and create intricate relationships for strangers at restaurants.

So maybe my new anti-Zen philosophy should be, as long as there aren’t any writers nearby no one cares what you’re doing, so go and have fun. And if there are writers, have fun anyway you might inspire a character in their next novel!

Today’s music is another Eurovison Song Contest Song

Wishing I was a 1950’s Housewife

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Several weeks ago I made a big mistake at work. While I knew I was going to be in trouble and maybe reprimanded on Monday when the boss came back in, I was assured by my friend, who gave me a heads up that I wasn’t going to be fired. While this should have calmed me down, it didn’t. For two reasons: I’m a writer, and my brain took off creating the worst possible futures; second, I was sick with a fever, which meant those scenarios morphed into nightmarish scenes full of my family living under a bridge with Zombies snacking on our flesh because we were too weak from hunger to run away.

I don’t wait well.

The whole point of this is that right now my job supports my family. My husband is self employed and works hard, but I make more then he does, and our apartment is part of my pay. I live where I work. This means if I lose my job, we’re homeless. I hate it. I don’t like being the main bread winner. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and the fact that I can support us, but I hate having that much responsibility. I think I might be happier in pearls and pumps ,vacuuming the house and not worrying my pretty little head about such things. The poster child for feminism I am not. LOL!

So to all the breadwinners out there, I feel your pain and stress. I understand why you bend to your bosses wishes, and why you work late and bring work home. I understand that you would rather be home with your family, and you’re willing to sacrifice that family time to make sure they have a home to be in.

Have you thanked the breadwinner in your life lately? And if it’s you, do something nice for yourself but not when you’re on the clock.

Oh and no worries, I’m not under a bridge, my boss rocks, and we got everything worked out without my bursting into tears.

Surfing Life, crap it’s another wave!

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I used to think that achieve balance was like walking a tightrope. I did everything I could to get all my ducks in a row. I made charts, lists, graphs, and so many schedules I could have ran the entire world, if the world worked that way, unfortunately it doesn’t.

No matter how much effort it put in or how many different colors I use in my schedules, there is nothing I could do to make my world be static enough to find and achieve balance.

Balance requires flexibility, strength, humor, and Matrix like reflexes.

My husband’s new favorite quote is “The wave is coming: are you going to let it pound you or are you going to surf?”

I am trying to figure out how to surf. I’m not gifted with this level of flexibility. Have I mentioned I like all my ducks in a row? But I am getting better at this. One thing I do is avoid over planning. Instead of a schedule I have a list of what I need, want, and hope to get done. This creates a basic form, a surf board, to help me guide myself and family through each day. I breathe and take things as they come as best as I can.

While I am better about letting stuff go, those things I’m still holding onto, those few ducks I have super glued in place, when those are messed with, when my attempts at balance don’t work, well then you get pouting, bitchiness, and another moment of anti-Zen.

Today however I’m surfing and in my mind I look very graceful and hot too!

And for today music I have Seth Lakeman “White Hare” I don’t think I’ve posted this song yet. I adore him and if I lived in England I would so be a groupie.

Anti- Zen Enlightenment from the Sewers

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To say my life is frustrating does not convey the daily restraint required to not commit acts which would require some friends, shovels, and a six foot hole.

I can feel a breakdown coming soon. It might involve Mojitos and there will be crying. But then I hope to achieve a moment of anti-Zen.

“But what is anti-Zen?” you ask. Let me ‘splain.
Zen is about detachment, things are what they are, and about being in the moment. You seek, and so I’ve heard, gain these qualities in quiet contemplation and meditation. What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Anti- Zen is when I have a hissy fit. I scream, cry, rant at the world, and the unfairness of everything. And near the end of this epic emotional purging I give up (not letting go as in Zen) but give the bleep up. I can’t change this. I can’t fix this. I simply can’t. In that moment I give up my desires for things to be different because what is, is, even when it sucks bleep. I give my hopes of it changing or controlling it.

Then I collapse on the floor in in heap, making those pitiful gasping hiccups people do when they’ve been crying. And I feel better. I’ve let it go, and I can go on with my life and my routine. I know it sounds really bad, but I have no time or space for quiet meditation and I couldn’t get my mind to shut-up even if I wanted too. You creative types out there know what I’m talking about.

Have you even had a moment of anti-Zen? Have you ever reach a space of enlightenment through the sewer instead of the temple?