Self-Help

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.)

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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 | 1 comment

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?

 

 Like this post? You may also enjoy Lack of Support or Future Unknowns.

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Jealousy

Posted by on Sep 1, 2016 in Self-Help | 1 comment

As IG is flooded with pics of perfectly positioned poses, it seems like everyone and their mother is a superstar yogi. I am not one of those people.

I am someone who likes the feeling of stretching and someone who appreciates reminders of awareness and deep breathing.

I’m also someone who has more or less sat in admiration of yogis for years, but never taken on a consistent practice myself.

Recently though, I’ve made some regular attendance in a flow class and am already tuning into the myriad of lessons that translate from on to off the mat.

??

Especially as social media has us injecting the highlight reels of our peers into the monotonous moments of our daily lives, it’s the unfortunate truth that comparative internal dialogue is commonplace in our culture. “Look at them they are so much more talented, more fit; smarter; better looking; more accomplished; happier; cooler; more confident; more put together; they have more friends than I do…” It seems to be automatic in our society that we size ourselves up against each other, and even to ourselves – comparing our current state to what we perceive was a better version. “I used to be so happy; so successful; so fit; so outgoing; so vibrant; so lean; I used to have everything together.”

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In the studio however, we learn that there is no space for this chatter. Setting up for a pose, though we may be surrounded by a flock of more seasoned yogis, all perched steady in their crows and their cranes, it does us no benefit to become distracted by our neighbors.

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Intimidation or ego inflation, it will not serve to make comparisons in either direction. What kind of information are you really gathering when the variables are so vast that there could never be a true assessment anyway?

“Wow, they hold their crane pose for a full minute longer than I can!” Well, they may have a particular anatomical advantage that makes this easier to achieve.

“I’m so much more flexible than them!” Well, they may be coming back from an injury. Or, “I’m so much stronger than they are!” Well, they may actually have 10 years experience, but it’s not evident right now because they’ve already done 3 other classes today and are consequently fatigued.

?

What we learn in the studio is that, like in life, in order to maintain balance, in order to build strength, one cannot become distracted.

If we peek at a neighbor or out the window or get taken by a thought, we’ll surely fall.

IN ORDER TO MAINTAIN BALANCE AND BUILD STRENGTH, the extent of the occupation is… to is focus on the breath, check in with alignment, recall the intention, and relax to deepen.

 

And when there is pain on the path…

Enjoy the challenge of the work.

Listen to the body.

Trust in the wisdom of your being.

 

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Future Unknowns

Posted by on Jun 14, 2016 in Self-Help | 0 comments

With an unknown future it’s easy to get caught in complaint.

“Grr… i’m frustrated because i just don’t know…
• What is my career going to be?
• When is the construction on our house going to be complete?
• Am i going to have children?
• Will i find a life partner? where?
• Am i going to find suitable land to purchase?
• What am i going to do when i retire?
• Who will my community be when i move?
• Will this project be successful?
• Which school is going to accept my application?
• When will my immigration visa process be complete?
• Am i going to ever fully recover from this illness?
• When will i be financially independent?
• Will i find my passion? when?”

The thought is that, “I don’t know BLANK. I just don’t know and i want to know and if i only had the answer it would make this moment better.”

But, is there ever pause to appreciate the gift that is the mystery? Aside from the thrilling magic of it all, on a practical level, it’s actually quite helpful to not know one’s future. the truth is, whatever’s next in the timeline is yet to be revealed simply because there is nothing to do about it now.

Think about if you really did know what the future held — you knew all the todos and happenings lined up for your life — it would be entirely too much!

Imagine this…
You open your inbox and see there are three new messages.

• One is from your friend who is asking a question and would like an answer by Tuesday.
• The next is from your colleague who’d like more information on something. he is needing a response by Wednesday.
• The last is from your sister. She is looking for your opinion and is requesting to hear back from you by Thursday.

A typical reaction would be small-scale overwhelm. “Woah, woah, woah. alright, this is a little too much to handle all at once. I’ve got to prioritize here. I’m not going to touch the Thursday deadline message, or even the Wednesday one right now. I’m just going to focus my efforts on the Tuesday one. I’ll do what I need to do to finish that right now. Really, I almost wish I didn’t know about those other two because having them in the back of my mind is just distracting… It would be a lot easier if they’d only appear in my inbox when they were relevant – the current format is just cluttering my mailbox.

It may seem as though the guessing you’re doing about your future is distracting enough right now — being granted a guaranteed outline of what’s to come might sound like a welcomed reprieve. However, in reality this wouldn’t be so. The fantastical thoughts you have about the future, though endless in their variety, all remain ethereal. Because you really don’t know how things will play out, these ideas are kept as equally possible as impossible. They drift as thoughts with little substance. conversely, if you were granted the knowledge of all your assured future happenings, though it would be finite, those notions would hold a different constitution. Their certainty would give them weight; and their details, texture. All these intricacies would muddle the mind as they’re be more details than one could know what to do with.

Imagine this…
You settle into the car for a week long road trip and switch on the navigational system. today you are heading to a friend’s new house located in a part of town you’ve never visited. you merge onto the highway and begin the cruise. the sky is cloudy, traffic is steady and as you make your way out of familiar territory you listen up for the nav’s next aural instruction. a number of exit signs pass you by and curiosity begins to grow. “where am i going?” finally the nav system pipes up.

▸ “Take exit 429 on the right.”
   “Great, thank you.”

▸ “Then, turn left onto woodlawn and follow it for 5 miles. Next, make a left onto church street. Stay on it for 0.7 miles, then, turn right onto brant. Follow brant for 1.2 miles. Make a right onto university…”
   Cars wiz past and you’re having trouble making your way across the highway lanes in order to get off at the 429 exit.

▸ “Keep on university for 0.8 miles. make a left onto king street. keep right…
   A motorcycle races out of your blindspot, swerving in-between you and another vehicle.

▸ “In 24 miles take a right onto cherry st. continue for a mile…”
   There is a transport truck in the next lane who is getting a little too close for comfort.

▸ “In 44 miles… in 52 miles… in 58 miles…”

You haven’t yet been able to reach your first exit and the nav system continues to distract you with instruction. You become agitated. “No no no! Why is this device revealing directions that are multiple steps ahead of my current location? I can’t act on those until i arrive there anyway. I need only to focus on what is taking place right now. Knowing the details about these future steps is not only unnecessary, but confusing – all it does is divert my attention from what i need to do to take care of myself in this moment.”

The universe’s current system is set up in your favor. With pleasure or pain, not being granted the full knowledge of what lies ahead is always in your best interest.

Coming upon that panoramic view of the nature reserve is more beautiful if you don’t see it in the guide book first. The punchline in that movie is funnier if you don’t hear it in the trailer first.

There have been times in my life, I’ll poetically name as “shit storms.” In retrospect i am glad to have not known of their existence on my horizon. If i had known that much pain and confusion and anxiety were around the corner, that suffering would’ve only leaked into the present in the form of fretful anticipation. It would have taken away from the enjoyment and education I was receiving during those times leading up to the storm. There was nothing more for me to be doing during those times than what i was already doing by being present to the feelings and teachings of my day-to-day. Really there is no sidestepping the future, so there is no useful application of it’s whatabouts.

 

Similarly…
I can recall a number of instances as a child where my doctors required me to take a flu shot. The times where i was told in advance, I would only agonize about the upcoming clinic visit, Friday at 4pm. The two seconds of pain had swollen into a prior week’s worth of anticipation. The times i was told the day of, I would again allow the experience to swell. The many hours leading up to it I’d be walking around with a visceral chagrin.

In both cases, the mere two seconds of actual physical pain had dilated in the shadow cast by the unnecessary introduction of their future “knownness.” Funny to me because if i had the chance to experience the feeling of the injection in isolation — say, if i had happened upon a sensation akin to that of a needle prick, and in a scenario where i could have avoided the anticipation of it (if i was bit by a bug for instance, or if i had brushed past a spiky tree during a nature walk) — it would likely go unnoticed. In the least, it would be much easier to handle.

It is a gift not to have all of the answers in this moment – to have the space of now kept as clutter-free as one can allow.

Ultimately, not being distracted by the future’s details will mean more ease in in experiencing whatever is currently happening around & within oneself. The perfection is that – what you are experiencing right now is your personalized primer for what is to come. So, the best thing you can do to prepare for the future is to fully immerse yourself in the training that is this moment.

The best thing you can do is trust that you always have sufficient information. You’ll always know just enough to make the next step.
• I know it’s not daytime but your vehicle’s headlights will show you just enough of your surrounding area to maintain your safety, to keep you going. (really, if you had the whole road in illumination, it’d be superfluous. you’d still only be able to drive it one meter at a time!)
• I know you don’t have the whole loaf, but follow the bread crumbs. each bite will be satisfaction enough until the next one. (really, even if you had the whole loaf, you’d only be able to eat it one bite at a time anyway!)

 

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Taking Things Personally

Posted by on Jun 12, 2016 in Self-Help | 0 comments

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Imagine that you are taking a walk in the city and are approached by a man. he looks worn out, overrun by life. You can sense by his tattered clothing and forever furrowed brow that he’s faced significant hardship in his time. Spying the makeshift cardboard bed and the mess of empty bottles on the nearby stoop, you suspect that the street has become his home and drinking & drugs, his occupation. your nose is distracted by whiffs of urine.

The man begins to approach you. His eyes twitchy and his breath sodden with alcohol, he gets right up in your face. Enraged, he begins to spew gibberish. It’s meaning is incomprehensible, it’s content predominately profanity. Among the slurs, “You’re a f**king unworthy piece of s**t!”

…You continue walking.

For you this interaction might have been a little off putting, it might have been unpleasant, sure – but would you have taken this interaction personally? Would you have let this man’s words damage your self-worth?

Likely not. The typical reaction would involve some form of, “Awe he’s just drunk. He’s just high on chemicals, he’s in pain and he’s blabbering. There is clearly a lot going on in his world. (Though his words were aimed in my direction, they have nothing to do with me.)” The typical response would be to brush it off. This other person would have no power over the opinion you have of yourself.

This is a situation where it is easy to recognize that someone else’s words have nothing to do with you. The mind immediately jumps to explanations and the heart to compassion. “He’s clearly having a tough time. maybe he’s also hungry, tired, cold, lonely, desperate… There is a lot of pain and toxicity present for this human being.” – Speculations that aren’t about condoning or condemning this other person’s behavior, but rather, look to understand it.

In this situation we respond with first, Step 0: NOT taking another’s words personally. Then, Step 1: finding possible reasons for their behavior. And finally, Step 2: tapping into empathy for their condition.

So why do we respond this way in one scenario, but not in another?

For instance, would that be your default response to an unpleasant interaction you had with a friend? Likely not. With those who we see on a more regular basis, like our family members, colleagues, roommates etc., it is easy to loose perspective – we can forget that they have their own versions of this man’s alcohol & drugs that get in the way of their authentic communication. Like the man on the street, they too carry their share of influences that determine how they interact with the world. They carry…

• Physical toxins (from their stress, their environment or their addiction to substances like processed food, cigarettes, pharmaceuticals, alcohol etc.) all which affect them on a chemical level
• Mental suffering, the result of many distracting thoughts, enforced through years of social conditioning
• Emotional pain from unhealed past traumas
• Physical distress (like fatigue, constipation, hunger, disease etc.)

These factors filter both how they perceive their inner and outer world and how their self gets expressed.

The only difference between the stranger on the sidewalk and those whose names you know, is the visibility of their struggles.

WHY YOU DON’T WANT TO BE TAKING THINGS PERSONALLY:

It is a no-win situation.
1. You give your power away to another person and in turn make yourself a victim
2. You distance yourself from others through resentment
3. and then burden others with the responsibility of the impossible job of making you feel a certain way
4. You are then so distracted by your own insecurities that you aren’t available for authentic connection with others, to facilitate your own growth, or to help anyone else with their affairs.

The secret here is that you don’t need to wait for someone to reveal the details of their suffering. You can make the assumption that it is always what is at the root of their unsavoriness. With this approach, you free yourself.

So, next time you catch yourself reacting to the actions and opinions of another, think about the man on the street. Although you might be the subject of their outburst, don’t get caught in the trap of taking it personally. Recognize it as a manifestation of their own issues and go from there.

 

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Non-Attachment

Posted by on May 13, 2016 in Self-Help, Thoughts | 1 comment

I often overhear prideful words on the subject of non-attachment.

My self-proclaimed hippy friend recently said aloud, “gross, look at that girl with the expensive designer bag. I’m not pretentious like that. I don’t care about money. I don’t shop in those high-end stores, I shop in used clothing stores.”  What she was attempting to share about was her freedom from an attachment to money, however what i heard was an example incomplete.

If one truly didn’t care about money, yes, they might shop at an inexpensive vintage store, but they also wouldn’t blink an eye over spending a larger sum of money on an item that they liked from a more expensive store. True non-attachment to money comes by maintaining an indifference to a cost – a purchase is based solely on the desire for the good or service.

In another case, a person with more substantial wealth may have attachments to their own idea of money. Though it appears that they are comfortable spending any amount on a whim, when it comes to the sale rack, something changes for them. They’ve become averse to buying the discounted item because it’s newly designated monetary value has now deemed it “less than.”

Freedom from this internal evaluative dialogue would be buying the vintage tee because it’s comfy and the diamonds because of their sparkle. That is living beyond the designated value of money and “not caring about money”

There are many sides to non-attachment. When you say you don’t care about one side, check yourself. Is it possible there is an opposing side… Maybe one that you weren’t aware of, one that you are unknowingly clinging to? Check yourself. Are you behaving self-righteously? Are you holding yourself up by the judgements you have of others?

When I hear, “I don’t care what people say about me. They can put me down all they want, I don’t care.” I’m curious to question, “Do you truly not care what people say? Check yourself. How do you react when you are complemented?” If you really didn’t care what people said you’d give this positive feedback the same zero weight as you did the negative. Ask yourself, is it that you hear others’ words, acknowledge any positive intention and then allow them to roll right off your back; or, is it that these affirmations funnel into a reservoir of pride? Do they feed an identity to which you feel attached?

When i hear, “I don’t like that – insert mainstream pop song title here -,” I want to inquire. “Is it that you actually don’t enjoy this beat, or is it just that you don’t enjoy the idea of yourself liking the song?”

Is there an image of yourself that you are too attached to to challenge?

Maybe one time, you can let yourself dance along, in public, even though it may be incongruent with the image you have of yourself.

Maybe you can release yourself, with the realization that these are innocent notes on a page, simple sound waves, valueless vibrations, that aren’t born with any inherent meaning… Maybe you can release yourself with the realization that you too are as simple and innocent. That you too have no fixed form or identity.


“I’m not vain and attached to my appearances. I don’t take photos of myself, like these other people posting selfies all the time.” Whether an individual takes one picture of themselves or 20; whether it ends up as their facebook profile pic or on a billboard; the only relevant factor is their relationship to that picture.

The amount of attention a photo receives also doesn’t reflect the humbleness of its subject. The woman next door might have an IG account with 10 followers and she could be completely consumed with her image; believing that it is the whole representation of herself. And there could be a famous runway model, with plenty of photoshoots under her belt, who is down-to-earth with few delusions about her image.

I realized a couple years ago that I was trying to fit a particular image I had of myself. In the past I’ve had times where I’ve had an aversion to being photographed – I thought of getting one’s picture taken as act of ego. I saw it as being prideful and vain. I valued humility and thought by refraining from photos I would be supporting the growth of this character trait.

The catch here was, I was caught up trying to maintain a self-image of modesty. This subconscious preoccupation kept me from being genuinely present – from simply being a part of a photograph because it was fun; from posting a picture of myself because it represented an enjoyable time; from sharing a photo of a cheesy grin because I think the world could use more smiles.

It’s sneaky, but this pursuit of the ego-free identity, actually feeds the ego!

To really be free from this trap, to really be humble, is not to not take selfies. it is to take selfies but without attachment to them. It is not to hide from a lens, but to examine what comes up in oneself when in the presence of one.

It is to have photos in one’s life, to have the presence of form, without having it be the definition of one’s being. Ceci n’est pas Kat Green.

 

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