Sunday, September 30, 2018

Tending the Fire

Once in a long while,  I have to just sit down and pay attention to something without doing much else that engages my brain.

Tending a brush burn is one of those.   I have to be with the fire in the field, but I only add wood a few times an hour.  The rest of the time I just have to sit. Or stand.  Always with an eye on the breeze and floating ash.  Eventually the pile of wood is gone and I get to spend a few more hours just watching it burn down until nothing but embers is left and we can douse it.  It's a lot of time for my brain to wander.

I have a busy brain.   It reminds me of all the things I want to do but haven't.  Or need to do but haven't.  It reminds me of things I did wrong or could have done better. The things that I tried that didn't work out.  The time I wasted doing it.  It pulls up uncomfortable feelings about things that have happened and tells me that if I'm uncomfortable, then I must have done something wrong and so I should fix it. Then it goes round and round trying to find a way that I could have done things differently.  If I remind it that it's too late to change anything, it invites shame and guilt over for a play date. If it comes to the conclusion that the problem lay with someone else's choices, then it goes round and round and round to make sure, searching and searching for the mistake that I must have made.  It compares me with my favorite people - pointing out all the ways I am not like them.  It tells me I am stupid.  Lazy.  Unattractive.  Repulsive. A failure.  It tells me that there is no way I'm going to accomplish the goals I have and that the goals I've already achieved don't mean that much.

It will go on as long as I let it.

This is the main reason I work so hard and multi-task so relentlessly.  Working and juggling multiple tasks are my coping mechanism for giving my brain something else to think about besides telling me how rotten I am. 

It's a very effective strategy.  Except for the burnout.  Also the reluctance to make lasting relationships [with awesome people who I'm not at all like].  Also the reluctance to go out socially [great situations in which to make lots of mistakes].   And don't forget the depression and anxiety. 

So basically, what  I have finally acknowledged is that my tried and true methods for coping with my busy brain have some pretty nasty side effects. 

This year I spent some serious time and study finding new ways to think so that my brain isn't always beating me up.  I read some great books.  My favorites were Rick Hanson's Hardwiring Happiness,  George Pratt & Peter Lambrou's Code to Joy,  and Danielle La Porte's The Desire Map.    Each one gave me a new way of thinking about why my brain does what it does, how to teach it new habits and how to choose a life based on feeling good. 

So last weekend, when I was sitting, tending the fire for hours and hours and hours, I found things for my brain to do other than beat me up.  I spent a lot of time expressing my inner music instead.

With time and the right care, healing happens.

How does your brain treat you when you have nothing to do but tend the fire? 


  1. Robin, I am so glad you are finding new ways to help re-program the talk in your brain. I hope you are able to play “positive” tapes over and over in your head and renew your emotional strength. My problem is finding time to “tend the fire!}

  2. OMG this speaks to me. I also have a harsh resting brain. I use positive self talk to steer away from the guilt and shame. I am smart, things are ok, the kids are ok, life is good. You are wonderful. You are accomplished. You are doing good things!! I love you!

    1. 'Harsh resting brain'. Yes. If only it WOULD rest. Sending much love and more positive talk right back to you! You are wonderful! You are accomplished! You are doing great things! I'm so glad I have you! I love you soooo much!

  3. Hi Robin, really appreciate your honest and mindful words. Keeping my negative thoughts from spinning out and replaying over and over again is REAL. Why do you think we choose to do this? I am working on letting go of trying to control thoughts, and focusing more on raising frequency, letting go and gratitude. Lots of "oh, well." seems to be the inside message lately.

    1. Hi Jen! I understand! According to Rick Hanson [and a lot of others], we do this as a safety measure. It's programmed into us to pay a lot of attention to dangers of all kinds and allow the positive [and thereby non-threatening] stuff to be ignored. Some of us had extra reason to be vigilant so we developed hyper safe behavior. The trick is to recognize when we no longer need those safety mechanisms and allow ourselves learn new strategies that are kinder to ourselves. It's the hardest work I've ever done.


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