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Letting All Voices Be Heard

It’s not fair!

I visualize this statement as a small child, in tears, stomping her feet and yelling, before crumbling to the floor exasperated.

I spend a lot less time than I used to stuck in thoughts like this; however, they do still come up. Recently I’ve been thinking about this thought- that voice inside stomping its feet- and our tendency to blow it off, judge it, and dismiss it – deeming it a voice we shouldn’t be indulging by letting it be heard.

I get it. Staying in that frame of mind for long periods isn’t helpful for us dealing with reality, as we all know life is simply inherently unfair. Due to this, it feels nonsensical to even go there in our heads. And let’s face it- when we do- we feel like we’re being childish. It’s embarrassing for a lot of us to even admit we have those thoughts. If we are aware that life is unfair, how can we be feeling upset that it isn’t fair??

Well, here’s the thing. Feelings don’t make sense. They don’t play by our rational brain rules. They just are. And that childish voice having a tantrum of “it’s not fair” is experiencing a very real upsetting feeling. That voice has every right to be heard and the feeling is valid.

Acceptance isn’t only accepting the situation, I have found my practice of acceptance is also around the feelings that are true for me. That I must accept that even despite knowing life is unfair, it still feels like it should be, and it hurts.

Better yet, the more we hear and validate that voice, the less it impacts us. If we can say, “You’re right. This IS fucking unfair. You have every right to be sad and pissed!”, those feelings and thoughts will start to go on their merry way. Because we heard it (and didn’t ignore). Because we let it be (and didn’t judge). Because we validated our full experience. Because we gave ourselves permission to be with that upset child, and allowed ourselves to comfort them.

“It really sucks that this is happening. I’m sorry you have to deal with this.”

(Side note: I recently validated a kid using “that sucks” and his response was “I’m not allowed to use words like that”.. oops! 😛  )

Can you hear that voice? Can you let all the voices be heard; even if you believe they’re being a bit irrational or self-indulgent? Can you see yourself validating and comforting that child?

Can you see what happens if you tell that voice “You’re right, it isn’t fair. I’m sorry you are going through this” and giving them a hug?

Hearing it. Letting it be. Validating it. Comforting. 

Not just for the “unfair” voice, but all the voices inside. 

Are you ignoring or dismissing voices (feelings) that want to be heard?

Let’s start listening more and see what changes. 

Thinking. Feeling. Digesting.

When was the last time you chose to digest? That you apologized for doing it? That you beat yourself up for digesting?

Of course you wouldn’t.

Because digestion isn’t something you control. It isn’t something you are choosing to do or not do. You aren’t responsible for how your body digests or that it does it at all.

According to my trusted Psychologist we should be considering thinking and feeling in the same way.

Our thoughts and feelings just happen. They are reactions that happen to external or internal stimuli, that we are not in control of. They are natural. They aren’t bad or good, they just are. 

We don’t need to apologize or feel badly that we had a particular thought or feeling, just as we wouldn’t apologize for breathing or digesting. Thinking and feeling are just other types of body functions. 

Sure, we can influence our thoughts and feelings. Likewise, we can influence how deep our breaths are or how well our digestion goes. But the fact that some thoughts and feelings just show up is not something we have to own. In fact, it’s silly to think we could (then again, it’s just a thought, so I don’t have to feel silly for thinking it 😛 )

How would your view of your own feelings and thoughts change if you could let go of the criticism and judgment that come along with them? If you can view them as the same process as breathing or digestion, how would you approach them differently? How would you respond differently?

When my psychologist brought this up, I was skeptical and figured he was just giving me an out because he’s nice. It was really hard to relinquish ownership. I was so used to feeling guilty or upset about the thoughts and feelings that I had. Deriving meaning (sometimes as proof that I’m a bad person) and judgment (sharing often that “I know I shouldn’t feel that way”) from my emotional reactions and thought processes. Once I was able to internalize what he was saying, that all emotions are just emotions, that thoughts and feelings come up without us “doing it”, I was able to feel some freedom and space there. It’s a lot easier to practice leaning into your emotions when you don’t have to own their presence. 

It’s easier to find compassion for yourself when dealing with intrusive thoughts and emotions that are hard and upsetting when you don’t add on top of it the guilt for having them, and the judgment on yourself for struggling.

Letting it be and noticing. Like you would watch your breath in a meditation. Not judging the inhale and exhale. Not feeling badly for how fast or slow you’re breathing. Just letting it all be there, as the natural process it is, and being present to whatever shows up.

It’s difficult to release our hold on feelings and thoughts as most of us closely tie them with who we are (much more so than our digestion or breathing patterns). When we look deeper we can see that we aren’t our thoughts and feelings. We are deeper than that. We are the ones noticing and observing ourselves having those thoughts, feelings, and sensations. Take a moment to notice what thoughts are coming to your mind. See how you are the one watching the thought, a whole other level from where that thought is. Pretty meta, huh? 

So if these thoughts and feelings are not us, then what are they?

As the observer you notice and experience body sensations, breath, thoughts, feelings, etc. 

If this whole idea is new to you, or if you want to take your “observer” practice further to let go of the ownership over thoughts/feeling – the practice of labelling is a great way to start.

The idea of labelling is to label (surprise, surprise) thoughts and feelings as separate from you. To gain some distance so you can see that you and the thought are not the same.

Say the thought “I’m not good enough” comes to mind. Labelling would sound like this; “I’m having the thought that I’m not good enough”. And to take it even further here, we can specify how this whole “thinking” thing is really just an experience, not something we are actively doing. This might sound like; “I’m experiencing the thought that I’m not good enough”, or if you prefer, “I’m noticing the thought that I’m not good enough”. 

Another way to practice to start seeing thoughts and feelings as the same as breathing and digestion would be to incorporate them into a body scan. If you scan through your body and notice all the different sensations, make sure to add in there what thoughts or feelings you are observing as well. The more we pair them, the easier it will be to incorporate this new learning and apply how we approach our body to how we approach our thoughts and feelings.

Try it out for a day, or a minute, and just see how this mindset changes your experience of your experiencing. 

I Don’t Feel Like It

I really don’t know what to say. And it’s not just here. I’m lacking a lot more than words lately. Motivation. Belief. Energy. I’ve been feeling rather defeated. And surprise surprise, really sick and panicky.

I need to write this out. I need to figure it out. I’m trying to feel out what I’m missing, and what I’m yearning for.

One of those things is certainly the sun. It was a lot easier to feel free and bright and inspired when it was sunny and warm. Not to play the “victim to my circumstances” role too much, but to say I’m looking forward to summer (or actual spring) is an understatement. So there’s that. It was easier to feel those things and get more fresh air when it could be done in flip-flops and a bikini. But just because it’s not easy now, doesn’t mean I get to throw in the (beach) towel. It’s still my responsibility to find ways to give myself what I need. One way I’ve been doing this is by making an effort to walk the pups. Putting effort into becoming a pack leader is very mindful work. It gets me out in the fresh air. And, I can wear my flip-flops if I really want to.

One thing I have been keeping up (which is probably the reason why I’m not just lying in a lump) is my sleep, yoga, gym, and eating relatively well (though this could use more improvement). What I’ve lost grip of is meditation, writing, and reading. And, I think, adequate challenge, fun, newness, and creativity.

The thing is, even though I know that, when I think of doing those things, I feel blehhhhhhh. It’s hard to find the motivation to do them. An inner battle between restlessness and defeat.

And it’s the same with business. I keep trying to figure out my way forward, yet simultaneously believing all roads are dead ends and fighting the urge to just pull over instead. I feel a loss of control over where I’m driving, a loss of belief that my actions will lead me where I want. It’s hard to put effort and enthusiasm into things when you feel that way. I know one of the biggest things I probably need in this front is a change in mindset. So far, I just feel stuck in a car that breaks down no matter how many times I fix it (ironically the same as my actual car).

A way forward from here. 

A phrase I often use with clients – “Given that this is your reality, where do you want to go from here? How can you move forward from here?”

I know this is my reality. I’m not ashamed that I’m here and I’m not hiding it (clearly). I’m accepting that this is how I feel, this is what I’m doing and not doing. I also refuse to stay here.

Finding a way forward is a must. My coach-mind kicks in and tells me I know what I need to do. And that I need to commit to doing it.

Gratitude practice to help switch my mindset. Appreciation for what I’ve already accomplished. Meditation practice (even when I don’t want to), to help ground myself and connect to inner self to keep me more mindful and centered.

Intentionally bringing energy and enthusiasm into my daily life – in small things to start (like cooking supper or how I greet people) to increase joy and enthusiasm for life itself (to later apply to business). Seek out new things to try (flavours, activities, routes, etc) to switch it up and get my mind out of the funk it’s in, to increase sense of aliveness and possibility.

To keep fucking writing even though I won’t like what it says.

To take it all as feedback, and feel it, to keep finding my way forward.

To remind myself that committing to doing it means “not feeling like it” is just something to notice – not something to (not) act on.

Maybe walking on wet gravel in flip-flops is how I get my grit back 😛

Acceptance, Enjoyment, Enthusiasm?

(Originally written March 13th, in the San Jose airport. Unfortunately the wifi wouldn’t work to post it, so here it is now.) 

It’s official. Dragons are migratory creatures. I always suspected it was so, but now I know for sure. There is no way this was a vacation. This is just the marking of a new way of life; a life that involves migrating south for a month or two while winter is roaring on in Canada. Just like a bird. This dragon is migrating.

My time in the Delicious Coast was precious. Enlightening and enjoyable. I read 11 books (almost 12), practiced yoga and meditation daily, kept up my weight training, and spent time poolside and walking the paths. I woke up to no alarm, ate simply, and had ample time and space to just be – and connect.

Now I’m on my way back to Canada; and it turns out it’s going to be quite a journey. My flight to Toronto was delayed two hours, and my flight to Halifax was cancelled. Now I’ve received notification that they have rebooked me on a flight for two days from now and there’s nothing I can even try to do until I get there. Forget that I have not budgeted for two nights in Toronto and that I have zero winter clothes with me. I’m noticing a lot of “I wish my reality was different” thoughts right about now.

This morning, before I left for the airport at 5am, I wrote on my arm three words. Three words that I have been trying to choose between at each moment. Acceptance. Enjoyment. Enthusiasm. 

In Eckhart Tolle’s book “The Power of Now” he discusses how in order to be in the present moment we can bring at least one of the following to each situation; acceptance, enjoyment, or enthusiasm. I have been keeping these words close to me to work on this practice. Today it’s pretty easy to know which one I’m going to choose and work hardest on; acceptance. But I wrote them all there to help me acknowledge the choice. And perhaps see if I can bring enjoyment into any moments. As I write now, I do notice that I have some enjoyment sitting here writing, using my suitcase as a footrest, in a quiet, people-less section of the airport.

This practice certainly keeps me in the moment. Even when I am creating suffering or having a really hard time accepting – I can notice this and see my choice (there’s really only three choices, and they’re written in ink on my arm.. pretty hard to miss). It’s quite impossible to fool yourself into thinking there’s this other “out of my control misery” when you can read exactly what your options are. It doesn’t make it easy mind you, but it does make it clear that my suffering is coming from my rejection of the present moment.

Things right now feel overwhelming, uncertain, and disappointing. In order to bring some calm to my acceptance, I’m trying to focus on my resilience and resourcefulness. I know I can figure things out, even if I don’t know what I’m going to do yet. I have to remind myself that no matter what, I do believe in my resilience, and life is what it is.

I take a deep breath, look down, and ask myself. So which one am I going to bring to this moment? 

Pain & Suffering

aka “What happens when you meditate in a tree in Costa Rica”

I’ve been exploring the ideas of suffering these last few weeks. Through reading the yoga sutras and re-reading the Power of Now, I’ve been trying on another perspective on the whole suffering thing.

Pain is inevitable. Both physical and emotional pain is going to happen to us, as long as we all shall live. That’s life. And yes, pain is painful. However, whether we suffer is up to us. We create our suffering by thinking, wishing, and resisting our current reality.

Yes, breaking our leg sucks. Or being broken up with sucks. They are painful and the sensations we feel from them are real, and they hurt. That is experiencing pain. Then, when we add in our judgment on what happened, what is happening, and how we feel, our pain becomes more than pain – it becomes suffering. When we can’t stop thinking about how much we wish we weren’t sick right now, that we want to be experiencing a different reality from the one that we are- this is where we suffer most.

Most suffering comes out of the agony we create over our current reality not matching our wished-for reality. It isn’t from the sensations we feel at the moment, but the ones that arise from our thoughts and judgments about those sensations/what they mean.

We have to experience pain. We might as well face that one. But the idea that we can reduce our suffering – that has me intrigued. Noticing thoughts come up in our mind is a part of being mindful, and in the present moment. Letting those thoughts create suffering for us is optional.

We can do this with our emotions too. I don’t know about you but I know I’ve had many more painful thoughts about my emotions than I have pure sensations from the emotion itself. When we stop struggling, accept it, and feel it – it is a relief. Even Especially when it’s a “bad” emotion. The opposite – avoidance, judgment, fear, minimizing, projecting, etc etc etc – is suffering.

Noticing them doesn’t mean suffering. It’s in noticing (becoming the awareness behind the emotions/sensations/thoughts) that we get the space needed to detach ourselves from them. We can experience pain and yet not suffer from it. When we notice sensations and thoughts for what they are (sensations and thoughts) we can unidentify with them, let them be, and stop any further suffering that would be created by attaching to them.

This is quite liberating when you think of it. Hard as fuck, but liberating. If we have the power to stop suffering, no matter what is happening in our current reality, without having to change our current reality – that is truly relieving. 

So, back to meditating in a tree in Costa Rica. From pure bliss to pure pain, in a matter of moments.

This is a bullet ant. They have the worst sting of any insect on the planet. Apparently they can be found in trees. It got me three times. And for the next 14 hours I was in intense pain. Thankfully I had an ice pack, but every time it wasn’t frozen, I was in bawl-my-eyes out pain. Even after the 14 hours, it went on hurting for another ten. They aren’t kidding when they say that a bullet ant sting lasts 24 hours I guess.

I’ve only ever once been stung by anything in my life, and that was just last summer when I stepped on a bee walking barefoot (apparently my embrace nature ways have a downside :P). 

This was NINE hours after getting stung!

I was in a lot of pain. And yes, there was some suffering. But I tried to notice how I was creating that part. I had worried thoughts about whether I would need medical help, if whatever got me (I didn’t know for sure at the time) was poisonous and would have other effects on me, and a bunch of other related worries. This created much suffering, now it wasn’t just about the pain and feeling those sensations – it was dissecting what they meant, worrying about the future, lamenting the past (that it happened), and very much wanting to change my current reality. All of these thoughts didn’t help the pain, they only made it worse. I’m proud to say that for the most part I could detach from them and see what I was doing, and although I didn’t reduce my suffering completely, I was able to stay calm and strong while dealing with my present moment. Alone, in a foreign country, I might add. I’m not going to lie, I feel super tough now (that’s just my ego talking 😉 ).

 

Do you know your suffering triggers? Where you are more likely to reject the present pain and create suffering from this rejection of reality? Mine are plentiful; a big one is certainly around sickness, yet I even notice how I create suffering with smaller things – like while driving (in the form of road rage).

I encourage you all to notice how and when you create suffering for yourself. In the small things and the big things.

Is some of your suffering tied up in an identity you have about yourself that you wish you didn’t (ex. I’m depressed, I’m anxious, I can’t …, I’m not …,etc). Perhaps most of the suffering you actually experience from those are the thoughts and judgments you have about their existence. How would your suffering change or diminish if you could whole-heartedly accept yourself for whatever you are, in the moment?

It is funny when you think of this broken down. Say for example you are in emotional and sensational pain because you are experiencing anxiety. If, say, you are at the top of the CN tower outside taking a stroll, there isn’t much judgement there. And consequently, no additional suffering (there was some of course – I was certainly having the thoughts of preferring to be back inside). Now imagine you are having those same feelings, but in a grocery store. How much more suffering are you going to experience? Will you now be suffering not only from the anxiety, but also from your judgments and thoughts about how wrong it is that you feel that way? You might even be beating yourself up for not being strong enough to deal with regular life. And because of this additional suffering, you will probably go on to suffer much longer than the actual anxiety feelings last. You will keep suffering because you will keep having those thoughts about yourself. The shakiness is gone, but your suffering is still going strong.

How different could our experience be if we could accept our current realities, and stop adding suffering to our pain?

(These are concepts I’m still working around in my mind.. or awareness.. or what have you :P, so I am in no way implying any of this is absolutely true, or true for you. What I know is that it’s a concept I want to continue working with, and that I have already had glimpses of less suffering from its implementation.)

Fierce Love <3

 

 

 

Are You Dancing?

 

The “thing” isn’t coming, it’s here. Right now. In your face; like the rain that washes over me and soaks me in bliss and awe, while I listen to thunder crashing around me on the top of the mountain, barefoot.

I didn’t “get caught” in a rainforest thunderstorm, I put myself there. I saw the storm coming in over the mountain; the dark clouds noticeably moving toward me. I noticed the commotion of the birds in response to the oncoming commotion of the sky. I am called to embrace the experience, and make my way up the mountain. It starts pouring (adding boldness for lack of a more intense description), a kind of pouring I’ve only experienced in the rainforests of Costa Rica. I am instantly soaked to my core – including my phone- so I rush back to my casita and put down my phone, take off my useless slippery flip flops, and enthusiastically make my way up the mountain barefoot and euphoric. I stand at the top of the mountain side, as one of the trees, letting the rain overcome me and the thunder mesmerize. So connected and simultaneously in awe of nature – so indescribably alive.

It’s a feeling I used to only feel momentarily on crazy adventures, or at times of intense distress or rarely in quiet, serene moments. Back when I used to equate my life to something I was getting to, something I was waiting for. So much waiting. So much wasting.

I looked at the present moment as a nuisance, a means to an end, or an evil thing I had to suffer through to get to this hoped for desired future where I would get to enjoy life – I’d get to live. What’s funny, in a way that isn’t really “funny” at all, is that I was in the norm. What I was doing was not only socially acceptable – it was promoted. If people don’t subscribe to the belief that “life starts at retirement” why would they work so hard to get there? Why would we try to get the outcomes if not for being told they matter, and in fact, to believe they matter more than your enjoyment of living now. 

When my life outlook was shaken with first hand knowledge of what it looks like to not get that life that you are working for, and second hand knowledge of what it looks like to lose your life before you supposedly get there, it changed me. For the better. I cannot hold the future the same way I used to now, which means I hold the present with much more care. 

This is where my motto comes from; live now and live fierce. It’s a desperate plea I wish for everyone in this life, and it’s an internal drive I never let slip too far from my mind or heart.

Living your life merely for the future is incredibly sad to me; I cannot help but feel like it means they are giving up their life, that they will someday look back and wish they hadn’t waited. That they could have been living the whole way here. And what a dance their lives would be if they were dancing the whole way. Not sitting it out – waiting. There’s no protection or prize for the wallflower. The song will end when it does. You aren’t changing that, you’re just missing the dance.

This isn’t to say I don’t believe in planning or future goals; I just cannot justify putting your needs and wants on a longterm hold for that far off time. I believe you can live your best life while reaching for an even better version of it. Without dissatisfaction, without rejecting the present moment, without having to give up presence for productivity. 

If you aren’t dancing yet, what are you waiting for?

The answer doesn’t really matter. The issue is the waiting. If you see it, do something about it now. It’s the best decision you will ever make in your life. In fact, it is the decision that will be the start of your life. I’m not even asking you to give up the “thing” you are waiting for. All I’m asking is that you dance on your way there.

Let’s dance our hearts out until we have to take our final bow, and we’ll do so with much more grace, ease, and content. No need to grasp it or struggle, as we’ve been embracing it this whole time. I imagine having a smile as I bow to life – like the one plastered on my face when I was allowing the thunderstorm to overcome me. So genuinely alive and in awe of life. 

Embrace

I’ve been reading the Yoga Sutras and have been thinking a lot about Raga – the clinging to past pleasure, and how this elicits duhkha (suffering). Raga is a huge player in the suffering most of us experience. When we cannot have something we desire – a repeated pleasure – we feel pain and discomfort. Even before it becomes a past experience, raga can play out in the moment, when we fear we will not experience it again.

In order to avoid suffering, we must let go of the attachment to previously experienced pleasure. Accepting the impermanence of feelings, moments, and experiences. Letting them be without having to be again. Letting go of those good times that gave us joy without struggle or remorse.

Not trying to recreate past pleasure or comparing our current experience to better ones we had before. Just letting things move along without grasping for pleasure or being disappointed when it fails to come.

I don’t know about you guys, but this feels like a monumental task. The possibility sounds alluring, yet I start to crumble under the weight of it.

Because I’m in paradise and have lots of time to ponder these ideas, I’ve come up with a few ways I will work on this practice. The practice of non-attachment to past pleasure, of reducing suffering due to the idea that pleasure won’t happen again, and the acceptance of impermanence.

The practice of mala beads. When I purchased my self-love mala beads three years ago I knew how to use them for meditation and setting intention. I knew about the different types of beads and the meaning associated with the stones. What I didn’t know was that the practice of mala beads also represent a practice of accepting impermanence. Of letting things go when it’s their time. Of taking it as a sign that it is no longer for you – even if your attachment to it feels strong and desperate.

I love my self-love mala beads – there haven’t been many days since I purchased them that I haven’t worn them. They have given me a sense of strength and compassion. A reminder while I forged new territory of mattering, self-love, and self compassion.

While rushing around the house getting ready for my trip, they caught on a doorknob and broke. My heart sank. I looked at the broken piece and went straight into figuring out how to fix them. Determined that I was going to put them back together so I could act as if nothing had happened. In this process I remembered someone telling me over the years about how when a mala breaks it means something. It signifies something. At first, I dismissed that memory and wanted to forget I had even heard anything to do with the breaking of mala – that all this was, was a piece of jewellery that I could fix and put back around my neck where it belonged. It sat on my counter for a few days – and on my to-do list – with my plan to fix it strong in mind. As time went on I kept thinking of what I had heard about there being a meaning behind a mala breaking.. and I finally gave into the intruding thoughts and looked into it.

Malas breaking signify that it is time to move on, that you no longer need that mala, that it’s time for a new intention, and the practice of accepting this transition and letting go is part of it. Practicing the reality of impermanence.

I’m not going to lie, after reading that I wasn’t fully convinced I should let MY mala go – I had a lot of resistance to this idea. Sure, I get it and in theory I love it and see the value – but I really didn’t want to let go of my favourite mala.

I see this as a type of raga – where I want to hold onto my past pleasure with this mala, and the resulting suffering I’m experiencing because it’s broken and I need to let it go. All the more reason to let it go.

So I’m leaning into the resistance, noticing the suffering my attachment has created, and comforting myself through the process of letting go. I did bring my self-love mala with me on my trip – but with a different intention. An intention to let it go. To mark the end of my need for a self-love mala, and not only accept it, but celebrate it.

Another way I see this practice playing out in my life is being present in the moment. 

A beautiful brightly coloured bird lands on the railing of my porch. My first thought, “Oh shit, I don’t have my phone. THIS is why you should always have your camera ready, Jeana.” And then I pondered that. My preoccupation of trying to capture the moment was robbing me of the actual moment. For a picture that would always only be a picture. A photo of a missed opportunity. Unable to soak in the real experience, and proof of raga in motion. The driving force behind this of course being that I would be trying to preserve it for the future – to prolong the pleasure of this moment into the future. A simple, yet clear example of attaching to pleasure and how it could create suffering.

So the lesson for me – not to have my camera ready – but to always have my eyes ready.

The second unique bird I saw, a day after this aha moment, was a magnificent toucan – and this time I was ready. I let go of the thoughts of getting my camera, whether I would see more creatures, and even thoughts of how I would share this with others. I let it go and returned back to the moment. I fully engaged myself with taking in the toucan’s beauty and the gratitude of getting to experience that moment.

Embracing the moment. Not grasping at it desperately or looking for ways to control the meaning it will have or deciphering whether it could happen again. Not worrying about the impermanence, simply letting it be in this moment, on that branch, just a beautiful bird that I get to watch.

I had never seen a toucan before. Funny how the universe can test you.

The present moment can be a funny thing when you’re experiencing so much joy you don’t want it to be contained to that single moment. I often feel this way while going on adventures, or riding on the motorcycle. I’m enjoying myself so much that I can’t help go to how to get more of it; I find myself dreaming up the next adventure, or thinking of more rides we could take. It’s raga that makes me want to have a commitment to make the experience a tradition while I’m in it. That having that moment isn’t enough, I want to make sure there will be more, so I can relax into it and not fret about never experiencing it again. In this I am rejecting the idea of being present, and I’m fully attaching myself to the idea of past pleasure. Of giving into that desire to hold onto the good feelings I have now by planning and dreaming of identical future experiences.

Why is it so hard to just accept and enjoy?

There is a sadness that accompanies the joy when we acknowledge that this moment is also the end of this moment. And there it is again, the suffering due to attachment. I’m going to keep practicing being in this experience without planning more experiences like it. I’m going to bring myself back into the moment at hand, than fretting over how to make it last or repeat. And if there’s sadness in the moment because I let go of those ideas, then I will feel the sadness and have it be a part of this moment – until I reach the point where I can truly detach myself from raga.

The third way I see myself practicing this crazy concept of being unattached to pleasure is in changing how I approach my interactions and relationships.

I’ve sat here, at my computer, multiple times over the last two days, trying to find words to explain what I mean by applying this non-attachment of pleasure to relationships, and yet I lack the words. I cannot fully describe what I mean or explain how I will apply it. And yet, I knew I didn’t want to take this point out. I could have easily erased the last paragraph and left it at that. But it feels powerful. An idea, that even incomplete, is significant and should be planted in all of our minds. I continued coming back to the journal entry I wrote while first thinking of this, and feeling this sense of love. I couldn’t get past it or elaborate on it, yet I feel it holds within it everything I mean.

“We love each other with whole hearts that understand personal legends and being a whole person – and yet, it’s a love that feels so deep and moving that it’s even bigger and more pure than that of desperate mending or completing. We aren’t grasping each other – we’re embracing.”

Let’s loosen our grip and embrace.

 

The Field

It’s been awhile since I’ve written and I’ve been feeling awfully guilty about it.

Now I’m in the Delicious Coast (aka Costa Rica) and I anticipate a lot of thoughts making it to printed words while I’m here. So for those of you who have missed reading posts, you’ll now have the opposite problem of it being too much 😛

It’s my first day here, living out my dream of escaping winter. A part of my ideal lifestyle I dreamed up last year. As I was sitting on my porch sipping delicious Costa Rican coffee this morning, looking out over the mountains – enthralled with the sights of massive trees and sounds of birds I can’t identify – I found myself feeling dread anticipating tackling work goals. Prior to this trip I had made a plan to tackle a big work project during my getaway in the sun. Something I was excited to work on and would have lots of time to dedicate to it. However, this morning, I didn’t want to even think about the pending work. I found myself judging this – how could I have all this time and not be productive? And yet, my heart was yanking me back to this desire and yearning to use this space and time to just be, to delve deeper into myself and grow my being – instead of my business.

Since making the commitment to self-love and compassion, I am switching the default response from judging to one of compassionately listening and providing. Providing for my needs and wants with an acceptance that they matter and I deserve to have them.

This played out this morning in a decision to free myself of expectation for this trip. Sure, I have a work goal and if I feel like it’s something I want to work on – I will. And if I feel like meditating all day and focusing solely on connecting more with my inner being – then I will do that. What I realized is that I want to be present to the moment – not driven by a predetermined script (even if it’s one I wrote myself). There’s no telling how I’ll feel tomorrow or next week. Perhaps I only feel repulsed by a lot of computer work because it’s my very first day in paradise. Maybe after some time to enjoy this wonderful weather and space I won’t feel so caged by the idea. I’m not making a decision to throw out my business plan; I’m making the decision to listen to what I want and need day by day, and be open to whatever this opportunity brings. To rid myself of judgment and trust.

This perspective has also changed the way I’ve been feeling about writing. It’s easy to see my lack of words as a bad thing because I know writing is good for me. When I write, it feeds my soul. But it got me thinking. Does the pure absence of doing something beneficial automatically make it bad? Does the fact that when I write I enjoy it, automatically mean when I don’t write it is necessarily a bad thing? I used to think so.. but now I’m not so sure.

Knowing what is beneficial to my wellbeing has helped me immensely when it comes to making sure I am taking care of myself and is extremely helpful when I’m feeling unwell and figuring out how to get back on track. However, when I’m feeling well and doing lots to feed my soul, mind, and body – what is the purpose of creating negativity just because I’m not doing EVERYTHING I know to be “good”? And by judging myself and loading a guilt trip on this activity, I’m not only practicing anti-wellness, I’m also robbing the association of joy I had with that activity.

It’s the whole black and white game playing out in a different arena. Are these activities necessarily good or bad? Does our behaviour have to be one or the other?  Can I love to plan and also despise having a plan? We all know any activity can be used in a healthy way or an unhealthy way, depending on the reason you are doing it. Does this not prove in itself that nothing is purely good or bad? That we aren’t doing something right or wrong – we are just doing.

Embracing the glorious grey – or perhaps, not even naming a colour at all. What difference would this make to how you view yourself? How would your self talk change if it didn’t contain the words good and bad? How would your compassion grow for others and yourself if things and behaviours could be instead of being judged?

What about your feelings? If feelings can just be feelings. If all feelings are okay. Not bad or good. They just are. How many different (supposedly opposing) feelings would come up if there wasn’t a label to limit them? What would you allow yourself to feel and lean into if it didn’t have to mean anything?

“Out beyond the ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”          Rumi

 

Forbidden Love

It’s the love that seems to be the thing that all self-development addicts are reaching for. The love that is claimed to be of vital importance and make some of the biggest gains in our health. The love, that despite valiant efforts to reach it, always seems just out of reach.

We can find solace being in search of this love. If we’re on a journey to acquire it, it’s seen as an honourable journey.

But when it comes to actually being in love with ourselves? Consistently treating ourselves as we matter and in a way that one could only assume we nothing more than are in absolute love with ourselves – well, that seems to be another story.

So many of us are on a path to self-love. What I have noticed is that self-love seems to be something we like making attempts at, not something we are actually too committed to having.

I feel that this is where our two minds butt heads. On one hand, the gurus and all the books we read speak wonders of self-love and how it should be a must in our life. On the other hand, we have all of these old stories and beliefs that judge this concept and resist it. Sure, you can pursue it. Have a one night stand. But actually going for it? Actually committing to go steady with yourself? Then those beliefs pipe up and shut it down. They find ways to convince us out of it, make us feel incapable of having such love. Society is a great reinforcer here too – because as much as we hear self-love is good, there’s a whole other choir of voices spewing that self-hate and self-sacrificing is the right way to go (inconspicuously of course).

I believe it is tremendously hard for us to commit to this forbidden love because we still hold worth, value, reinforcement, and comfort within our old self-hating way of being.

I have delved pretty deep into my psyche on this one and I’ve found there is certainly an element of value and belief that “I am a good person” because I treat others better than myself, because I self-sacrifice. I also know that by judging myself so harshly and preemptively rejecting myself – I take away the ammo from those who might think badly of me, and give them no reason to have to throw that shit my way because I’ve already covered myself in it. And if they do throw shit my way, I’m accepting it and layering it on (“Yah I know I am, don’t you see the shithole I put myself in?”) instead of feeling embarrassed caught thinking more of myself than they do.

I have created worth there. Worth – and a pretty significant story that I’ve never truly tested for validity. The story about being loved by others for being this way. Living this story and (for the most part) being accepted by others leaves me in a place where it “could potentially be true”. and if there’s any part inside that still holds onto that belief – it basically means I’m asking myself to trade connection for self-love. Not a very inspiring call to action if that’s the outcome of embracing self-love. I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one who holds stories and worth in the ‘anti-self-love’ side. It may not appear as that at first, but I encourage you to look deeper and see what is really reinforcing your self-hateful ways.

 

If I stop judging myself, putting myself down, and treating myself like I matter less – I leave myself open to a different type of rejection. I leave myself vulnerable to holding my own worth and risking having others disagree or reject me. Not only are they rejecting me now, they would also be rejecting what I believe in and who I love.

To have self-love is to put myself in a position where I’m now fully endorsing my own brand. Myself, as imperfect as I am, now standing behind and loving wholeheartedly.

I’m not just being me. I’m being me and saying it’s okay. And not just “okay”, but showing the world that I’m completely lovable.

How fucking terrifying is that?

It makes the quest for self-love seem much more romantic than actually getting there. No wonder we stay stuck “trying to love ourselves” instead of just doing it. Saying we are struggling to love ourselves is almost another way we save face in this forbidden love journey. Acknowledging and discussing how difficult it is for us to love ourselves can be a way we keep ourselves comfortable in this uncomfortable quest; however, it is also a way we can keep ourselves stuck in not getting past the struggle. Declaring to a friend that “I am struggling being nice to myself” is a lot easier than simply BEING nice to yourself in front of others. It’s like we are still holding onto the story of “I know I’m not THAT great, see how much I’m struggling to not beat myself up?!”. We take some pride in the struggle and it helps us feel better discussing it with others – because the intention of self-love is received quite honourably, the actual act of loving yourself proudly is a scary place of uncertainty.

Of course, we know the intention of self-love isn’t the same thing as having it. It doesn’t give us the benefits that we so desperately want in our lives. This is why we must become unstuck and get out of the “trying” trap.

The ongoing self-love journey is a trap of comfort with just enough valuable effort and discomfort to make us believe we are doing good.

We aren’t. We need to commit to this forbidden love. Get realistic about what’s keeping you from just loving yourself – and find ways to let those things go and move on.

The more we know why we are stuck being a commitment-phobe, and what benefits we’re getting from our casual love affair, the better able we will be to stop saying “I am trying to love myself” to saying “I do”.

To Slay or Not To Slay

 

A year ago I had a choice in my hands. I could have slayed the dragon; but I dropped the knife, and decided to save her instead.

I need to forgive myself for how I chose to survive. I need to forgive myself for betraying myself. For not loving myself. For letting myself not matter. For accepting the unacceptable. For giving what I shouldn’t have given. I need to forgive myself for thinking so low of myself it was justified for others to step on me. I need to forgive myself for finding worth down there.

I need forgive myself for considering not surviving it. I need to love that girl who felt so trapped she didn’t even believe there was a way out of this.

I need to stop minimizing the weight of what was on me and blaming my own weakness for my struggle.

I need to forgive myself for needing a video to teach me something I should have known. I need to forgive myself for not truly getting the message for so long.

I need to forgive myself for almost giving up the possibility of what I have now, for almost giving up everything I believe in and everything I had created and wanted to create, out of fear. Out of terror.

I need to forgive myself for not holding myself in compassion. I need to love the part that makes it so hard to be kind to myself. To forgive. To accept. To love.

The part that still judges me for all of this. The part that judged me into all of this. That’s not the part that got me out.

I was so brave. It didn’t usually feel that way. But I was so fucking brave. Brave enough to shake my way through it. Brave enough to throw away my blinders and do something about it. To decide to matter. To decide to live. To decide to love myself enough to save myself.

This year I experience it all over, in a whole different light. I have distance, perspective, I’m on the other side now. I am proud and grateful for that girl’s struggle. For my decision and perseverance and determination. I love her for what she did for me.

But it’s not all happy when I look back. I can see how horrible and terrifying and sad it was on a whole other level now. Now that I’m not in it, coping, surviving. I can feel it with a new knowing. A knowing of how unacceptable that was. Of how terrifying it was. Of how wrong it was.

At the time I was going through it, I was still working my way through the wrongness of it. I was still battling with whether it was “actually bad”, whether I was just making it seem worse. I remember sitting there, bargaining with my therapist, of trying to determine where the “line” really is – how I should be deciding what is okay and what isn’t. How I determine if I’m terrified because I’m weak or because it’s dangerous. I wanted to justify my situation and work on my reaction to it. I wanted to excuse it. I was flailing through this. All this bargaining of lines and trying to avoid the reality. I remember him stopping me mid-ramble of what I can only describe as one last desperate plea on my part –  “It sounds to me like you are trying to get me to give you permission to stay in an unsafe situation”. I’ll never forget it. He was dead on. In a way that utterly crushed me – and freed me at the same time. I’ll forever be grateful for having the wind knocked out of me that day.

And this year, I know this all on a deeper level. I’ve seen what it can be like when it’s not like that. I’ve experienced what a healthy relationship feels like. How being treated with respect and love can feel. And it certainly isn’t even in the same realm. There’s no need to question which behaviour is acceptable. No trying to determine where the line is of abuse versus my sensitivity. I’m able to be open, connected, vulnerable, authentic – in safety, always. And for this, I’m deeply grateful. To him and to myself.

And yet, knowing this side. Being on this side, clarifies how blind I was and how hurt I was. How wrong it was. How much of a decision it was for someone to do that- not just simply “what relationships are like”. Knowing how good it can be highlights how bad of a situation I was in before – how badly someone decided to hurt me and thought it was okay. How much I didn’t matter.

I have been consumed with sadness and anger lately; turning it so quickly inwards that it’s coming out as feeling like a failure in everything I do. I find myself judging how I am with friends, feeling incapable in business, and having no energy to accomplish anything I feel I should be doing. Feeling like a bad person. Feeling not good enough. Making me want to quit.

Avoiding the emotions beneath – it’s easier to just feel inadequate and beat myself up. Similar to last year. It was the easier choice – to give up and go back to being weak and just decide not to press on. And this year? I guess it’s easier to beat myself up and determine I’m a failure, instead of sitting in the emotions of my experience. And why don’t I just do this?

Because I haven’t forgiven myself. Because I still judge myself. Because I still won’t face the severity of what I went through. Of how hurt I was. Because I still own too much of it. Because I stubbornly want my new life to be all that matters, to not give my past and my emotions from past things to be heard or acknowledged. I want to be better than them, not at the mercy of what happened to me. I judge myself for still being affected. And yet I know, this is anger for what did happen, it shouldn’t be a weapon against myself.

So a choice again. A choice to be with what is – to lean into it. To give myself permission to let those emotions be there. A choice to love myself through it. To be brave enough to sit in it. To be open with what’s going on for me.

To not let myself just give up, minimize, and hate myself for my struggle. To not just have nightmares, but to wake up and face them.

To process whatever I need to, even when I don’t want to.

You can’t be the bully and the friend at the same time.

You can’t be trying to save yourself while you hold yourself under the knife. Well, you can try. But, trust me, it just doesn’t work out. No matter how much you say you want to help yourself and love yourself, you’re still the threat. And no one can get better when it’s not safe.

So here’s my choice again. And yet, I know. It’s really no choice. It’s a done deal. I just have to get to the point that I’ll give myself enough permission to act on it. Because I know there’s only one end I want to end up on.

I can’t be the one holding the knife. The last time I had this decision, I wasn’t the threat. It’s different now, and yet it’s still the same choice. I won’t let the dragon be threatened. Even if I’m the threat. I need to be the one helping the dragon get stronger, or better yet, just accepting it for everything it is.

I must put down the knife I’m carrying, and just fucking love the dragon.