Self-Help

The Power of the Mind

Posted by on Sep 16, 2017 in Self-Help | 0 comments

There is no question, fantasies that forecast the future and memories that fish the past have the potential to profoundly influence how we feel and act in the present. The following examples aim to shed light on the fluid nature of one’s current reality. (Defining “fluid”: a substance that has no fixed shape and yields easily to external pressure.)
Each example presents two scenarios:

Example 1:

  • Imagine that it’s a late October evening and you’re hanging out with friends playing truth or dare. You choose dare. Your friends whisper and snicker as they craft your challenge, finally presenting to you that your dare is to go outside in the freezing cold… in your bathing suit! You slip on your swimwear and only after a full five minutes of psyching yourself up, you push open the front door and make the brave step out. You would likely feel the temperature hit, identify it as cold, and tense up. Your shoulders would scrunch and mentally you’d fixate on the discomfort. You would be in a state of distress.
  • Imagine now that it’s a late October evening, this time, you’re attending a gathering at your friend’s cottage. You hear the group call for you to join them in the hot tub. Sporting only your bathing suit you exit the house to make the relatively long trek down the hill to meet them for a very welcomed, warm bath. Walking at night, in the fall, with so much bare skin exposed you’d surely feel the temperature. You’d note that it was cold, but it likely wouldn’t affect your actions in the same way it did in scenario one. In anticipation of the hot tub your body would remain fairly relaxed. You might even walk tall. To an onlooker, There would be no apparent discomfort. 

The external, physical setting in scenario one and two do not differ. It’s the same body, in the same temperature, for the same amount of time. The set for both these scenes has been built to match, the only difference – a thought about the future. The prospect of relief from the hot tub did not change the air temperature, but has the mind, and therefore the body, responding differently.

 

Example 2:

  • Imagine that you’re sitting in your living room alone. This means that beloved family member X is not in your physical presence. They have left for a cruise vacation and aren’t even contactable at this time. You catch a glimpse of them in a framed photo on the mantle and think of them fondly. In this moment, you’d likely be content. The absence of this person wouldn’t greatly impact your feelings.
  • Imagine now, that you are sitting in your living room alone. Beloved family member X is not in your physical presence, this time however, it’s because they have passed away several months prior. You catch a glimpse of them in a framed photo on the mantle. You’d likely be sorrowful. You’d be all-consumed in thoughts of how this person won’t be involved in your future. Your current state would be sadness and despair.

The external inputs for scenario one and two do not differ. This is the same person in the same room with the same lack of company. These sets have been built identically, and yet because of the dissimilar internal dialogue, they play out entirely differently. In one, an onlooker would observe a person at peace on the couch, maybe even perusing a magazine. In the other, they might see someone collapsed in tears on the carpet.

 

Example 3:

  • Imagine that you’re walking home from a long day at work. There are hunger pangs in your stomach. You’d likely identify them as bad; you’d feel uncomfortable, maybe annoyed and stressed. There would be anxiety as your thoughts would strain over the decision of what you’ll have to cook upon arriving home; they’d pain over the idea of having to make anything at all.
  • Imagine now that you’re walking home from a long day at work, this time, with an order of takeout in your hands. There are hunger pangs in your stomach. You’d feel them, but likely wouldn’t be bothered. You’d be accepting, maybe even relaxed and excited. You’d identify the hunger as good. You’d savor the experience of the pangs and appreciate how your strong appetite will welcome your takeout once you get home.

These scenarios are twin physical experiences. The same hungry stomach walks the same route home after the same long day at work. The set has been replicated. In the second scenario however, there is an expectation of being sated in a sooner future moment than in the first. This changes how the hunger is interpreted and thus what dominates the emotional state.

 

Example 4:

  • Imagine that you’re part of a Weight Watchers group. You started at 160 lbs and today you’re going in for a weigh-in. You get on the scale and it reads “140”. You’d likely be thrilled to have hit this number. All day you’d be in good spirits. You’d feel confident and be inspired to don your favorite attire all week.
  • Imagine now that at the following weigh-in you see that you’re down to 130. Woohoo! A few weeks later you arrive for your third weigh-in. You step on the scale and today it reads “140”. You have gained 10 pounds! You’d likely be devastated. Your spirits would be down the whole rest of the day. Self-conscious, all week you’d dress in large sweaters to hide your body.

In both scenario one and two the same body exits the same clinic at the same weight. The set for both days are identical, but the way it plays out is drastically different. One stars a happy, confident, 140 lb character; and the other, a sad, shy, 140 lb character. The only difference between these two days – a thought about the past. There is a comparison to a previous-self, an assessment of being better or worse than, and a conclusion that has a dramatic impact on the present feeling state.

 

What Can We Learn from These Examples?

All feelings and ways of being are accessible in the present moment. Our mood is not inherent to our situation and we are often not reacting to our surroundings but to the thoughts in our head regarding what has come before and what has yet to be. The takeaways:

  • A. We can be empowered in knowing that our mood doesn’t have to be victim to our life circumstance.
  • B. Proceed with caution and awareness – Careful in how we allow ourselves to be influenced by our thoughts.

 

A. In each set of scenes we were shown how varied one may act given the same external circumstance, but differing past and future stories.

If our stories dictate our emotional and physical state, and our stories can be rewritten, wouldn’t we want to author them ourselves? Are you the creator of your thoughts, or is much of what you spin a parroting of others’ opinions?

If our stories dictate our emotional and physical state, and our stories can be rewritten, ideally, wouldn’t we want to leave a page blank for this moment? Wouldn’t we want to put down the book long enough to spy the field of daisies beyond the brim of our binding to which we’ve felt bound?

 

B.
Much of the time we are unknowingly suffering by the hand of our thoughts. Often, these thoughts are not even a pure processing of the present, rather, they are injections of past and future moments. They offer comparisons and possibilities that adulterate our experience of the now. One way to find freedom from these thoughts is to remind ourselves of their hollow nature.


B. i)
Looking Forward
Keep in mind that there is no future fantasy that is guaranteed to materialize. Our body may be relaxed as we feel security in the anticipation of upcoming relief, however this security is an illusion. That hot tub we’re walking tall towards, when we arrive, we may find that it’s actually broken.

Walking home our body may be tight as we anticipate the upcoming task of having to make dinner. However, this idea about a what a future moment may look like is just something we’ve concocted. Our hungry-self may actually arrive home to find a warm casserole on the counter. Looks like our spouse had prepared extra with us in mind! All that worry for nothing.


B. ii)
Looking Back

Memories are illusions as well. It is not possible to retain a remembrance of EVERY single aspect of an experience, and none of what we do recall is truly objective. Also to note, these memories often arise as opportunities of comparison for the present. However, too many factors vary between then and now. From time and place we have access to different resources and are subject to different influences. Therefore, no fair comparison exists, rendering any effort to do so as futile.


B. iii)
Looking Now
When we stop and analyze our thought patterns around the past and future we can easily see how silly they are. We know practically that they are not real. Anything that isn’t this moment, exists entirely in our head as a mere thought-form. It is an interpretation or an imaginative depiction of an event.

To investigate one level deeper, I’d like to expose the vacancy of our present-time thoughts as well.

  • “That person doesn’t like me…”
  • “I’m so talented!”
  • “I don’t deserve this gift…”
  • “There is something wrong with me…”

Even regarding current events, we have a habit of creating stories and believing them to be true. We end up fabricating much of our reality.

 

 

In Conclusion: What does this all mean? 

  • Reality is not objective.
    There are infinite angles from which a single scenario can be viewed. To come closer to truth we must do the work to mitigate our inborn bias and to grow the diameter of our perspective.

    To do so we may choose to focus on:
    1. The observation and investigation of our thoughts.
    2. Entertaining and honoring the thoughts of others.
    3. Letting go of all thoughts.
    4. A meditative mind will leads us to the only truth in existence – the present moment.
  • There is choice with how we respond to our circumstances.
    Often we think we are reacting to our circumstance, but really, we are reacting to a thought about our circumstance. At any given time we have access a multitude if thoughts and emotions. Example one through four demonstrate the malleable nature of our mind and how we continue to subject ourselves to our memories and fantasies. In B. iii) we look at examples of more present-oriented thoughts and see how though these too can be false, in the absence awareness, they can still illicit corresponding emotions.

If we can remember the true, hollow nature of our thoughts we free ourselves from their rollercoaster and return to ground ourselves in the equanimity of the present moment.

 Like this post? You may also enjoy Future Unknowns or Missing the Past.

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Negativity

Posted by on Jun 21, 2017 in Self-Help | 2 comments

We’ve all felt some version of depression. And, it’s okay, it’s part of life to have ups and downs. It’s part of life to have passion and motivation that waxes and wanes. The trouble is when we settle in a place of apathy and negativity and then root ourselves there.

The trouble is when our stories eclipse the truth of our reality. One can be sad without the drama of judgement and fear. This drama is a the roller coaster that is neither healthy nor sustainable.

Self-care is all about building a foundation that can support us through these difficult times. If we aren’t practicing healthy habits and proceeding with a positive outlook, we set ourselves up for real suffering. How are you taking care of yourself?

Going to yoga; growing friendships; eating healthy; choosing not to intake toxins like cigarets, alcohol and processed food; painting, playing in the ocean, prayer, talk therapy with a focus on healing old wounds; listening to music; finding things that make you laugh; gardening; reflecting on gratitudes; dancing; journaling… these are all examples of ways we can nurture our being.

All the things you do to address the elements of wellness in your life, these are all the things that strengthen your foundation & decorate your home into it’s fullest beauty.

I say that your life is like your home in the sense that you are responsible for its blueprint and its maintenance. Granted it’s work, but in this you’re also gifted the opportunity to create — to play in the design of it and craft this house into the most fabulous piece of art!

So be sure to avoid the passive route, because nothing gets built & nothing gets maintained.

And two, avoid the negative route, because that toxicity corrodes strength & tarnishes the beauty of life.

For more on this topic, watch “Living with Depression and Negativity”.

 

 

“…When I’m depressed I just take a long nap cause normally there ain’t much around to keep me company but I don’t blame my male friends cause I find it difficult to share my problems and the cause of depression with guys…
Meantime I have a question like ain’t getting over depression like running away from it like you try to divert your mind towards something else to get over it. Ugh this thing really confuses me…” – SD

 

I appreciate your honesty. I’m sorry you don’t have the support you are looking for right now. On that point I would invite you to try out being a little more vulnerable with some of these friends. Perhaps they are in the same boat you are — desperate for support and genuine connection. (We are all human remember!) It might open open the door for them to share some of what’s been hard for THEM lately. OR, they also might not be ready for that kind of intimacy and that’s okay. I’ve found for myself though, that the more authentic and vulnerable I am, I start to attract those same kinds of people into my life.

This is a great question regarding: getting over depression, is it like running away from it? It makes sense that there’d be confusion around it because there is a fine line here…

Sometimes we feel low, in need of rest and perhaps sad – these are simply the emotions that have drifted our way. To not run away is to BE WITH THEM in acceptance and non-judgement. “Okay I feel blue today, isn’t that interesting. I’m just going to take it easy.”

AND SOMETIMES what we are experiencing as depression is just a conjure of feelings that stem from the untruths we tell ourselves. “I failed at my job, I’m useless… I’m ugly and I’ll never find a partner… I’ll never be successful… I suck at life… The world is an evil place… I’m broken… Grrrr….”

We can then get into a habit of mental thinking and daily rituals that further fuel these false stories. We’ve now repeated them for so many years that we couldn’t even guess at their genesis. What we’ve done is create an identity for ourselves and a seemingly solid reality of our life.

I’m not a supporter of running away by any means.

Sometimes what we do need to do is STEP AWAY from our THOUGHTS. This brings us into the present moment where we can truly honor what’s going on. Stepping out of these thought patterns also empowers us to direct our life in the way we’d like, rather than just being a victim of our depression. When we come to the present we come to a place of choice. We can choose negativity or we can choose gratitude; we can choose pessimism or we can choose trust; we can choose resistance or acceptance.

This message is also what is behind my “15 Ways to Get Out of a Rut” video. 

_____________________

“Sometimes depression isn’t about ‘not doing enough to pull yourself out of it’. You speak a lot of balance and I love it. We as humans can be grateful AND sad. Wellness and depression both exist. Self care gets really shaky when depression gets terrible.” – Sage

 

Thanks for that input Sage. I do agree, sometimes depression JUST IS. It’s a cloud that just is. What I think is common for a number of us, is that the cloud has either been self-created or there is a negativity by which we judge the cloud – rather than just being with it, observing it, and maybe even finding gratitude for the shade.

It’s not always as simple as “pulling oneself out of it,” but while we are in it, it’s important for us to ask:

How are we judging ourselves? What is our internal dialogue around life?

I want us to come back to our power! I want us to remember that our interpretation of life and therefore our experience, is within our control.

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Missing the Past

Posted by on May 15, 2017 in Self-Help | 0 comments

Simply put, we all want to feel good. Depending on where our balance lies, feeling good will mean accessing different resources at different times. In one moment or another we may be in search of comfort, joy, connection, stimulation, rest, inspiration, purpose or safety, for example.

 

If we aren’t in this present state of feeling satisfied, we can catch ourselves not present at all, but rather off in a past or future fantasy world.

 

We think back to a time we once felt fulfillment, and want for it.

“College, those were the good old days!”

“I remember my job as a summer camp counsellor, that was the best!”

“That vacation to Europe last year was absolute bliss.”

“I was so happy with my last partner.”

 

We put the highlight reel on repeat and in missing that experience we start to wonder…

“Maybe I should go back to school.”

“Maybe I should get that job back.”

“Maybe I should move there.”

“Maybe we should get back together.”

 

We project our rosy past onto our blank future and imagine an effortless replication of that experience.


Certainly, there are going to be times when it’s appropriate to return to a previous relationship, environment or occupation, but more often then not we are forgetting that there was a valid reason that that chapter ended — a reason which may still be relevant.


“You can never visit the same place twice.”
– Maureen Johnson


In making return trips I’ve often found that the place, person or thing I was visiting had changed, or simply that I had changed and would now be looking at it through a new lens. There was no recreation to be had.

 

self help relfection depression anxiety worry thoughts

 

From Destructive Distraction to Helpful Tool

None of this is to say that to miss the past is “bad” or that it is a waste of time. In fact, if we know how to work with it, it can be incredibly useful!

There is a reason the mind wanders. It does so, in part out of habit, and in part because it’s seeking. If the mind is repeatedly conjuring up a particular memory from the past, this can reveal to us what may be lacking in our current situation.

Though it may be painful, to recognize the presence of emptiness in one’s life is invaluable information!

Our mind identifies a problem and in search of a solution, roams in fantasy.  We roam also to escape from the dissatisfaction of the present moment. This is when we can loose ourselves in memories. It becomes a productive exercise though, when we are able to find ourselves in them. If we are thoughtful and inquisitive, this otherwise passive daydream can be utilized to our advantage.

To forage fruit from your trips down memory lane, follow these 3 steps:
1. Observation
2. Deliberate Exploration
3. Dissection, Extraction & Pursuit

 

Observation

→ Which memories continue to arise?

Deliberate Exploration
 → When I fully immerse myself in that world, how do I feel?

Dissection, Extraction & Pursuit
What needs were being met at that time?
→ Which of these needs are not being met in my present life situation?
→ Where might I get these needs met?

 

eflection contemplation self help depression worry

The honest question to ask oneself is:
Do I really miss that situation, or do I miss what it provided for me?
It’s useful to catch oneself in moments of nostalgia because we can work to pinpoint exactly which needs were being fulfilled at the time we are dreaming back to. These give insight to one’s deep desires for the present, thus providing a direction for the future.

 

Examples:

😩 I miss college! → Or, do you miss the community, the autonomy, the mental challenge of creative projects, the gregariousness, the motivation from peers, the mentorship from elders, the stimulation of new surroundings?

😩 I miss being a camp counsellor! → Or, do you miss the time in nature, the physically demanding activities, the playful environment, the comradery of likeminded individuals, the sense of belonging, the structure of a schedule, the purposeful work?

😩 I miss my last vacation! → Or, do you miss the excitement of being in a new place, the sense of freedom, the exposure to art & entertainment, the quiet time for contemplation; the opportunity for relaxation, the nourishing food, the social engagement?

😩 I miss my last partner! → Or, do you miss the companionship, the support, the caring touch, the feeling of being heard, the sense of harmony, the physical intimacy?

 

More often than not we walk around in agony, thinking that we don’t know what we want. It is this first step of identifying our deep desires that seems to be the hardest one. The asking for it/the going after it is the easy part. Once we know our direction we can move forward, if we don’t, we may feel stuck or at wander. 

 

Moving Forward

Note that, to truly move forward, we must shed any attachments to the people/places/things that we have cast as stars in these memories.

For instance, if I wasn’t able to accept my last relationship as over, if I still clung to the dreamy version of it, I might run back to that partner. We might reunite and although I may not be content, I may attempt to convince myself of otherwise in an effort to play out my fantasy. I might try and “make it work,” forcing a square peg in a round hole. In this, l’d likely end up exhausted and yet still unfulfilled…

However, if I were to understand that it’s not that relationship I’m missing, it’s what it provided me with, I could step back into my power. I could seek out different ways of getting my needs met. For instance, finding companionship though more time with friends, finding physical touch though professional massage and finding support through talk therapy. I could then let go of this relationship which would open me up to receive the infinite number of new & unexpected experiences that are coming my way. (Ie. A different partner, a job opportunity, inspiration for a personal creative project etc.)

meditation reflection self help worry fear

 

Looking Back

Memories poke their head out the past because they want our attention. There is a part of us that keeps them alive because they serve. Even beyond what has been discussed, they are helping us in a multitude of other ways…

A 90 year old man may recall the thrilling time he went skydiving. He may not have the desire or ability to parachute up again, but the courage it took to do so will remain a part of him forever. Though it may play out in different ways these days, that bravery has been stored within, so he can tap into and draw upon it at any time. Memories are what help keep character traits alive in oneself.

Similarly, we remember times we are less proud of, like that evening the mother who was so run-down, yelled at her kids. These memories are also here to serve. Though they are painful, they remain a part of us because in retrieving them we are able to relate to others. We may see someone out in public who is shouting angrily at the store clerk and label them as a jerk; or we may have someone act in anger towards us and react by taking it personally. However, when we employ our memory and access that time we felt a frustration that manifested itself as yelling at our children, we can better understand the complex experience of that other angry person. It is this empathy that cuts through judgement and allows for compassion and connection.

self help depression anxiety worry

 

In Conclusion

  • Our memories are not here to hold us back but to guide us forward. With this knowledge we can appreciate the events of our lives, learn from them, and move on with confidence. Though it is natural to embed a particular feeling in an experience, we no longer have to feel shackled to such person, place or thing in order to access this feeling. In directing ourselves to new resources we regain our freedom and our power.
  • Our memories are not here to hold us back but to hold us up, and to hold us accountable. They keep us in touch with the array of character qualities we have experimented with in this life. They keep us humble, they keep us human and thus, they keep us connected.

 

 Like this post? You may also enjoy Future UnknownsFriendship or Guilt.

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Authenticity

Posted by on May 4, 2017 in Self-Help | 6 comments

One of the hardest things to accept in this human life is the ever-changing nature of our selves.

We try our best to hold on to, to grasp a little tighter at, to pin down a version of us that felt good, one that warranted approval. We want to maintain our summer glow, our youthful energy, our athletic physique, our confident attitude, our sharp mind, our tenacious spirit…

But it’s all elusive & mysterious because just as we may come into appreciation or even simple awareness, it seems to slip through our fingers.

So, although each day can be an opportunity for growth & renewal, each day can also be a reminder of what no longer is. Here we mourn old traits & abilities. Here we must put to rest our ideas of who we think we are.

We may tell ourselves, “Compared to what I once was, I’m not so hot right now. I’m going to wait to start this new job/relationship/project until I’m able to recollect myself — until I’m back to being my best self. Currently it feels like I’m not living to my fullest potential. I’m not strong enough / attractive enough / organized enough to open myself to the world right now.”

This is a snare many of us get stuck in. We wait. We wait on the sidelines with a timidness and a false belief that what we have to offer right now is not enough.

(To note: If a rest period is what you need at this time, then it’s what you need! This is not only allowed, but encouraged – so long as you are taking it deliberately. The trap we want to avoid is becoming passive to this life. And It’s this erroneous idea, that “as we are, we are not enough,” that lures us here.)

The beautiful thing is that your best self doesn’t lie in your strongest self, your most wrinkle free self, your hardest working self, your most jovial self, your skinniest self, your most confident self, or your most organized self. You don’t have to be collected & composed to be your best self because your best self is your most authentic self. The beautiful thing is that you have access to this self on a moment to moment basis.

self love acceptance expression authentic spirit art

What does this even mean, “my most authentic self”?🤔 To me it means, to speak one’s truth & to follow one’s heart. (I do understand that this may sound too hippy-dippy to think about how to incorporate it in a real way.)

So, if you are questioning your authenticity, it might be helpful to have a conversation with yourself, asking honestly:

1. Am I experiencing freedom of expression? (What is in charge of the volume and content of my speech on a day-to-day basis? And, in my more personal life, am I allowing my inner artist to have full reign of their canvas?) Where do I find my actions to be stifled and/or where do I find them to be fake?

2. Am I living this life for me? (Or, was my decision to live here/work here/dress this way/marry this person/eat this diet/follow this religion, etc., was it made to appease another? What would I choose if I felt truly free from familial and societal pressure?

3. Do I allow myself to show up just as I am? When I drop into observation of my state, have I been practicing acceptance without judgement? Or, is it that I label my thoughts/emotions as bad and then try to cover them up?

For instance, “I feel down today but I have to attend this party… I want to reject this depression because I think of it as ugly – I don’t like seeing it in myself and I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to share it with others. Additionally, I don’t believe that depressed-me will have anything to offer. My options are to A. Coat my facade in smiles & attend the gathering B. Stay home and feel bad about feeling bad.

Allowing yourself to show up as you are, would be to entertain the remaining options. C. To attend the party while still honoring your mood by removing any pressure to be explicitly engaging or contributory, perhaps even sharing that you are feeling low, D. To rest at home in the company of your mood, the only rule, to refrain from making any classifications of it as good or bad.)

self love acceptance heart loving louis hay affirmation help

 

Why is it important to act from a place of authenticity?

We could go in depth about the the social, spiritual, physiological & psychological benefits, but I think the answer would be most easily explained through a relation to a particular Ayurvedic principle: Vegadharan, which means suppression of natural urges.

Our body is a complex and intelligent system that understands the appropriate times and methods by which to operate. Without our conscious involvement it is designed to maintain a balance among all the substances within us and to also extricate the appropriate material out from within us – all in an effort to keep us as healthy as possible.

Ayurveda acknowledges this inner wisdom and encourages us to honor any natural urge that may arise. This means not holding back any need to urinate, defecate, cough, sneeze, fart, burp, vomit, ejaculate, tear, yawn or sleep. Unfortunately, mostly by way of cultural conditioning, many of us withhold these on a regular basis. 

To suppress a bodily urge is considered prajnaparadha, or “a crime against wisdom” — the repercussion of which being malady as non-expression results toxic build up and interruption of vital processes. To suppress one’s nature is to create disease.

Likewise, every soul has its own natural urges that when suppressed create dis-ease. When we block our flow, we suffer. This may show itself as despair, anxiety or anger – all of which are ultimately an extension of feeling a lack of fulfillment.

One may also observe that, life, as a mirror, too appears blocked. Our home/family/work life may either feel stagnant, or stuck in chaos.

chaos depression anxiety social alone help support lonely self

 

Why Does this Occur?

There are many internal and external barriers that obstruct our ability to flow fully. At the most basic level, we have to feel safe enough to do so. We often hear the advice to “just be yourself,” but even with this direction, it proves challenging.

Either we fear the criticism (or even punishment) that we may elicit, from ourselves or others.

Or, we don’t know who “ourself” is as we’ve yet to take the time for any reflection, introspection & meditation.

What we can do about it : Creating more safety

At it’s core, a safe environment is one free of judgement. (Being human and a product of our society, to be absolutely free of judgment is a tall order. However, what we can ask for realistically is, to be conscious around it.) A safe environment is also one free of punishment. As punishments are reactions based on judgment, this would inherently be addressed.

We can make an effort to open our minds and shed the conditioning that may be in the way of our authenticity. We can continue to look at what triggers us: what do I have trouble accepting in a person? What are my aversions about and where are their origins?

Finding your practice(s). Painting, yoga, writing, running, tai chi, meditation, swimming, drawing, woodworking etc. To craft a daily, distraction-free ritual is to create a kind of security and intention that together lay the foundation for one’s authentic self to emerge. It’s in this solace and safety that we can make this connection within.

self love reflection meditate introspection louis hay advice

 

What if…

“I have have present commitments. If I discover that these aren’t inline with my authentic-self, what use is this work?”

Commitment to a job, housing, family, or other relationships can make for sticky transitions when a change in direction is desired. Perhaps this particular situation is beyond changing at the moment, but there is still value in asking the aforementioned questions. Even if we aren’t able to act on what we’d like to right away, the exercise of accessing one’s truth is invaluable. We can then at least move forward with the understanding of why there may be current feelings of dis-ease. And, we can move forward with a newfound ability to connect with oneself, meaning we’ll have different tools for making future decisions.

Even in the midst of a seemingly unchangeable situation, the practice of pursuing one’s authenticity will bend the course of one’s life to one of greater fulfillment — just as the rooted sprout senses the sunlight, it bends to grow itself in a brighter direction.

grow support light flower

 Like this post? You may also enjoy Guilt or Continuing.

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Guilt

Posted by on Dec 20, 2016 in Self-Help | 3 comments

How often have you been having a hard time and heard some version of, “You really shouldn’t feel that way. There are starving children in the world and you are complaining over xyz!?” In that moment, how do you feel hearing that? It likely doesn’t help. Rather, it hinders by piling on more discomfort in the form of:

1. GuiltHow is it that I have so much and others aren’t given these same opportunities? I am no more deserving than anyone else, yet I’ve been the recipient of so many gifts.”

2. Self-criticism “Look at my life and all that i have, and I still suffer. Something must be fundamentally wrong with me!”

3. Pressure “I do have more resources than others at my disposal, I better do something amazing with this opportunity!”

This comparative approach is often counterproductive as it fails to address either party’s issue in a timely manor. It also feeds into a separatist mentality, one that is quite common in our culture. (In this mentality, the focus rests on the differences between us and our fellow man, rather than the similarities that hold the potential to unite us.)  Lastly, it often leaves the person at hand in an even more distressed emotional state.  (Using guilt as a motivator will always bear negative side-effects.)

distress, depression, guilt, self-help, thoughts, how-to

 

All feelings are valid.
Remember this for when you are having a hard time.

Remember this for when your friend is having a hard time and you are slipping into judgement with the thought that “They shouldn’t feel this way.”
Whether it’s your…

– teenage sister who is upset after failing a test.

– friend who is dealing with a broken heart.

– child who tears up after breaking their toy.

– colleague who nicked his Ferrari.

– or your spouse who simply feels sad today.

What is present is not to be trivialized or dismissed. Allow for validity of the pain without feeding into it – This isn’t about a pity party, this is about empathy.

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On every human path there is suffering. No one is immune – not those of money nor health nor power nor fame.

We may understand this intellectually, but can easily forget it and fall into judgement — evaluating an event or circumstance as to determine where it lands on the worthiness scale. We decide for ourselves and for others, what is the appropriate way to react; what feelings and thoughts are allowed.

This process is a flawed for a couple of reasons. One, because this is an assessment no one has the authority, (nor unbiased perspective,) to make. Secondly, the current event/circumstance may not even be the real reason this feeling has emerged. The mind may just be using the situation as a pretext for outletting a particular emotion.

So cry over the spilt milk. Cry if you feel like crying. Those around will likely judge and say, “Wow, they are overreacting.” Those people wont be able to see how the milk represents the general chaos your life has been. They wont be able to see how present your need is to uncork the many emotions that have been suppressed over the years. (From a parents’ divorce, which brought confusion; a house move, which brought powerlessness; a change of schools, which brought loneliness; and an inability to right yourself since, which brought frustration.)

These tears may very well be rooted in the past. By bringing more awareness to one’s experience we can optimize the effectiveness of this weeping as a discharge of emotion. This can be done by giving the tears a particular meaning; or simply by being open to the release of the sobs (ideally, in a safe space with a supportive individual).

This isn’t about staying in it longer than necessary and it’s also not about repressing what comes up. This is about feeling the feelings fully enough that moving on becomes an option.

 

Everyone will get gifted in their lifetime. Privilege comes to all.

  • Though an obvious example would be through the inheritance of financial wealth, privilege doesn’t always come in the form of money. In fact, from one view, not having money can be seen as a privilege.

I’ve known a number of North Americans who have, upon returning from a trip to a developing country, expressed some condescending and confused version of, “Oh my goodness, I feel so sorry for those people, they have so little! It’s remarkable – they have nothing and yet they are so happy!”

I just imagine one of those “poor” families they are referring to, back in their hut, discussing the unhealthy tourists they’ve been exposed to.

(They themselves are content in their simplicity. They have an understanding of what is important in life — their relationships, art, music, play, spirituality, time in nature. They appreciate how being free from the burden of unnecessary stuff makes nurturing all of these possible.)

And then I imagine them, in all their wisdom, saying something like, “Those poor Americans, they have so much, how could they possibly be happy?”

  • Everyone experiences privilege in a different way – Some may be gifted with a high IQ, others with a strong immune system. Some may be born with a nationality that grants them a multitude of freedoms; where others may be born into a simpler life where they aren’t given as many choices, but therefore don’t have the stress of as much decision making. Some may be born with a particular creative talent; others with a particular mental capacity (like resiliency for example).

This isn’t about denying the importance of a global perspective. This is about seeing that pinning realities against one and other in order to make a competition out of suffering fails to serve either party.

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When we examine how we converse as a culture we give ourselves the opportunity to question it and to then decide if it’s a dialogue we’d like to perpetuate in & outside of ourselves.

Let’s look at one cliché to demonstrate how we can contradict our word and then remain ignorant the double standards we hold. “Don’t compare yourself to another,” is commonplace advice and yet we use this same approach in trying to shake someone out of their sadness. “You really shouldn’t feel that way. There are starving children in the world and you are complaining over xyz!”

Perhaps an innocent attempt to offer perspective, this message is overshadowed by its subtext, “Your lifestyle doesn’t warrant you sadness… Your experience is lesser-than and therefore unworthy of attention.”

Without ignoring the clear differences that reside over borders of geography, government, culture and race, can we allow space for each individual and the myriad of emotions to which they are entitled?

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Practically speaking…

“You really shouldn’t feel that way. there are starving children in the world and you are complaining over xyz!”

Brushing aside one’s pain will not feed that child, it does not alleviate their suffering. Brushing aside one’s pain is not productive in and of itself. If one truly endeavors to be of service in the world, one route there might very well begin with a step in the opposite direction. To hold presence in one’s full experience and to let go into the suffering, is to tap into the suffering of every human on this planet. It is in experiencing one’s own humanness that an emotional and spiritual knowledge is granted – a key for connecting ourselves to others (others who might like our support, like these children).

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So what is to be done in the suffering?

1. Refrain from piling on more stories (like this comparative dialogue example). These thoughts often just get in the way of being present to one’s feeling.

2. Feel the feeling. For most this is easier said than done as many fear getting stuck in an uncomfortable state. The only way out is through though and feeling the feeling is the only way it can be processed and then released.
– Getting stuck only occurs when an emotion is suppressed or a false story is fed.
– Naming feelings can be helpful, but be wary of judgement as this is what keeps them trapped. Trapped feelings are set to manifest as dis-ease and/or violence.

3. Certainly, take time to learn about another culture’s reality and to acknowledge one’s own privileges. However, to optimize receptivity of this information, it’s helpful to wait until the suffering has passed.

 

 Like this post? You may also enjoy Taking Things PersonallyExpectations, or Compassion.

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Continuing

Posted by on Nov 16, 2016 in Self-Help, Thoughts | 0 comments

I’m not here to act like getting out of bed every day is easy. There are many that I’d rather just cocoon up and wait — wait as long as it takes for my wings to sprout and for them to introduce my best-butterfly-self to the morning. But not every day affords this luxury and sometimes I find myself out in the world as a confused and vulnerable little larva.

And although I’m fascinated by, I’m not interested in anyone who is pretending that it’s always sunny. What I am interested in is being real and saying it’s hard. It’s hard and I do it anyways.

Why do I do it?

Maybe it’s because I’m curious… I’m curious to answer all the questions that I have; and I’m curious to hear what new questions I will come to ask.

Maybe it’s because there is a way the joyous memories of the past cast their light on the future, that i’m drawn forward.

Maybe it’s because there is a confidence that comes with seeing how the trying times have served to edify. I’ve now carved out my seat for this rewarding role of studentship.

Maybe it’s because I (and I really do) believe in magic. In the magic that is a kindred spirit; a flash of inspiration; a whisper of intuition; a surprising synchronicity; in the magic that is a moment of pure peace in a day. It’s these unplannable and unexpected drops of light by which I am nourished, that I continue to grow.

Why do YOU do it?

 

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