Gratitude and Humility from Strife and Other Ramblings

“Humility helps us to realise we are one among many mortal and limited human beings.”

  – Sister Stan, Mindful Meditations for Every Day.

If there is any upside to being driven downside by life, it’s the opening gateway for a reduction of ego to enter.  

This month, my bank card had been skimmed, my car trouble was costing me more than I could afford and I had done my shoulder and back in from training and had to cut back on exercise.

It had felt like the universe was pushing me back, and snapped me out of a belief that my life would just be smooth from here onwards. I had acquired this thought from how bad my past has been and that I was due in high credit with life.

That belief may be skewed.

Aside from the emotional turmoil it caused me, being squeezed between not having enough money potentially to get through the month and body pain on a daily basis that I’d never experienced before, something broke. A sobering, a realising, a maturation of accepting it and sucking it up.

Knowing my value as a person wasn’t reduced because of what was happening to me over what was beyond my control (mostly) was key, but I also began thinking in new ways to survive and get through what was happening. It caused me to be adaptive and let go of my attachment to self-image, particularly in how I’m seen by others and to shrink my focus to how I see myself and making that the priority. 

Nothing like bad stuff or a disaster to really bring you home to yourself.

Gratitude

I realised that gratitude was something I had been lacking recently, not paying enough attention to what I have and just wanting more, despite it taking me the guts of over 10 years to get me to the place I am today. Being so well-rounded and achieved today, it’s easy to get caught up in present-day established self, and forget the past self who laboriously worked hard to push for today’s dream.

And that’s what I forgot. 

I started expecting more, getting too comfortable and settled into where I am.

But the warrior’s journey is never done, and I think that was the message sent, loud and clear.

I forgot about the joy gratitude brings, I forgot about the freedom and simplicity of humility. I forgot myself in a way, and traded possibly one of the best parts of me for a comfortable, higher-class living person that doesn’t really fit with who I am.

Who I am is who I was and who I am today. It’s the marks of the past I’ve forgotten that add up to the person today.

  • My humble days of travel and alone in a world of foreigners. 
  • My days of despair and aloneness living in a home environment of addicts, thinking it would never be over, that my life was over before it ever began.
  • My studies and my overwhelming level of commitment to rise about what was handed to me, knowing my very survival depended upon it.

This was the girl I’d forgotten about.

Perseverance, self-discipline, steadfastness, stubbornness, courage, determination, self-resourcing.

I may be operating on a higher level of living, but that doesn’t mean these traits go away or are made redundant, they’re skills in the back pocket for more typical adult-day scenarios.

I’m still a person with the same vulnerabilities as back years ago, and that girl has never left.

Photo by DJ Johnson on Unsplash

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Ok to Not be Ok

I honestly don’t know how to start off this topic, because a fear, a doom has hung over my head the past few days. A dark cloud of defeat. Defeat with work, with new arising problems, with life.

I’ve found that regardless of my attempts at combating these challenges, there was a deep despair of the future. So much so that even weekends and time off work were ruined by this could hanging over my head. The present surrendered and forgotten in the face of fearful future, of ‘will’ or ‘could be’ in my tricky work situation. It sucks from me relaxation with myself, my attentiveness and power to focus presently.

Anxiety makes me unproductive, a higher likeliness to make mistakes is present and overlook certain facts on situations and be generally more forgetful. My brain reduces as the amygdala takes over, and I’m not myself. Trying to smile and have ‘normal’ conversations with people without coming across as strange. I try to fake it, but at work it’s too difficult to hide, my co-workers know me too well.

Frustrated, I went for a jog today as a recent injury meant I couldn’t go kickboxing, but I needed a bodily outburst so I sprinted hard and fast until I could barely take another step, and collapsed under a tree in the park.

Heaving in the silence amidst a backdrop of chirping birds, and wandering conversations, I watched a particularly large tree with branches shading above the pond, huge green clover leaves spread out like a thousand hands. It was here that everything I’d been trying to ‘fix’ the past few days came pouring out of me – money stolen from my account, beating myself up for not being able to go kickboxing, blaming myself for being overlooked at work and not doing enough about it, and a string of other things. I wasn’t ok. It was the first time I’d admitted it to myself. Furthermore, I accepted that I wasn’t, not just mentally but feelingly too.

I closed around it and owned it. 

I left the park eventually and went home, feeling more peaceful than when I had entered.

The anxiety and fear lingers and no, I don’t want to go back to work – you know why? Because I don’t believe I am capable of handling what I’ve been given to do. Because I think I’ve compromised myself by not being on my own side there and not practising self-compassion. Because I don’t think I coordinate with my team members when I should because I lack courage in the moment, because I overthink.

It was the one really helpful thing for me to do today – to be ok with not being ok. To give myself the space, mentally and emotionally, to admit and house that. To face it as an adult and treat it delicately, not like a disease.

To own it wholeheartedly.

I don’t profess to know the best ways to combat anxiety, but I know that it festered more due to my rejection and chosen ignorance of it.

Accepting oneself as human I’ve seen, is critical to confidence development and living a full life.

Featured photo by Fernando @dearferdo on Unsplash

Meditating Hungover

I know it’s a strange topic but if you compare it with people who take LSD or some other drug, could taking alcohol enhance your meditation experience also? I mean, you would think it wouldn’t because inebriation means low focus and concentration.

But what about if you’re hungover?

On a pretend meditation Richter scale, I would get to a level 3 after 45 minutes of meditation. This morning after a night out I sat down and felt a whoosh of oneness with everything instantly enter my conscious awareness, universal sensations and an ‘om’ stillness that could take ages for me to get to. An inner serenity that was just there as soon as I sat down on my cushion. There was no fishing for it, it was instant.

I shot straight up to a level 9!

I had meditated just before heading out the night before for nearly an hour and I wonder if this impacted my elevated meditation the following day.

I also wonder if the low feeling of being sensitive combined with the resting of meditation produced this deep experience that is otherwise difficult for my mind and body to reach.

I thought it was super cool, although I don’t recommend excessive drinking to reach that high plane! But I thought it was pretty interesting how it unexpectedly happened.

In addition, I had one of the most vivid dreams I’ve had in a long time too that night when I got home and I’m thinking the unconscious is perhaps more active/influential when the conscious mind is, let’s say, a bit indisposed.

If the barrier was lowered, maybe that’s why my meditation was so powerful.

Anyone experience anything like this? Do you think it’s true that being hungover could actually help mediation?

*Photo by Ksenia Makagonova.

Honest Conversation on Struggles of Meditation

Can we just have an honest conversation about the struggles of meditation?
I sometimes feel like when I sit down to do it, I always have this level of expectation come over me, like if I had an unbelievable experience the previous time, it sets the bar and I want that again, so much so it hampers my concentration and then I get nowhere near it and I finish up disappointed.
I guess the answer is to be feather light on it and gently coax oneself into it without looming expectation that it has to be a certain way. Easier said than done at times.
Meditation has helped stabilise my emotions and push up to a higher level of present alertness. I used to think i couldnt get to tgat place as I believed I wasn’t smart or good enough for it, but despite a broken part of me that holds vehemently onto that belief, (in the words of Maya Angelou’s poem), I Still Rise.
For me, meditation has brought me knowledge and an abstract level of awareness like:
  • You can only know and empathise with people as much as you can with yourself.
  • Beneath broiling emotions is a self that is fulfilled, light and needs nothing.
  • A sense of energy and emotions in the body, knowing where they are stuck and needing release.
  • My mind and self-worth works primarly based on how people perceive me, and I see the depth I strive everyday to maintain a certain image of myself.
Can anyone relate to the above in their experiences?
Can I ask, how do you know when meditation is working for you? I mean what do you notice personally that keeps you going to do it each time?
And just as importantly, how do you deal with what gets in the way of it? The thoughts that refuse to go away, or the emotion you experience during that breaks concentration? Or would you view meditation as a way of processing unconscious emotions? Which in my experience it has done.

To Heal – First Let Go

Healing Frees Up Space

Healing is a word that gets tossed around a lot, for the purposes of this article I’ll be phrasing it within the context of mental/emotional healing.
Healing is a process by which our busy lives rarely slow down to take time out to do, and yet it’s so essential to our existence because without it, we acquire more emotional baggage as we move through life and sits there.
The older we get, the longer our memory of experience stretches back. And not all of it pain-free.
Consciously letting go keeps you fresh, shedding off what you don’t need so your energy is focused on developing the more positive things you want in life.
Letting go yields to more space, a fertile bed to grow what was repressed, and allow it to return. You wouldn’t think it linked but self-healing supports self-discovery, and you’ll quickly realise aspects of you and possibilities were held back by occupied pain. In essence, the feeling could be described like this:
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Exercise #1

This is a typical exercise I do when I’m overrun with toxicity that doesn’t need to be there, whether it’s self-comparison, imposter syndrome or just downright crap self-talk that’s useless to me and everyone else around me.
It doesn’t involve desperately searching for an escape from it, nor accepting it, it’s only about consciously letting it go.
Visualise yourself standing or sitting (however you like) by a wide, deep fast moving river. Whatever issue comes first is the biggest and the one you need to create enough space between yourself and it in order to gently let it go. Picture throwing a leaf or stone into the river, feel whatever it is leaving your body and being imbued into that object. Now throw it into the river, and as you watch it rush away, feel it drain out of you more and more as the current runs away with it. Conciously focus on letting whatever it is go.
Tip: Remember, not just the mind releasing it, but the body too. The body has it’s own kind of memory in the form of feeling that needs relinquishment from.
It’s a brave let go, a loving let go, a courageous let go. Courageous cause letting go means chancing new, unfamiliar things to enter which creates risk.
Its unknown, your newness through letting go, and it cannot be identified until its experienced and how others will react to what emerges from you cannot be fathomed beforehand.
But that’s not the point is it? The point, really, is wholeness. Happy with your lot, content and accepting of who you are. But you don’t get to that fun stuff unless you face the shit first. Identifying it by consciously by shining a light on it and releasing it. So you feel like:
tenor (1).gif

The Healing Part?

Yep. But it only happens when you’re ready to face what gets in the way, Dr. Brene Brown talks about this at great length.
And what gets in the way instructs, what instructs teaches, and what teaches trains you into a better person. Appreciating more, humming humility, a quiet wisdom that can sit with itself at sunset.
That’s healing. And it never stops. There’s practise and practise for the rest of your life.
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(Gif by French artist, Étienne Jacob).

Death for Cleaning Out the Closet

Death is a hard subject. It’s a tough place, with none to hold your hand or guide you through it. Even worse is when someone close to you who has died.

After the shock of it happening to me, a change settled in. I put up every aspect of my life under the scope. Nothing, NOTHING was left untouched or passed under the radar. All was subject to evaluation with a new lense I had been given.

This is because death set a new standard for me to live by.

Photo by Kirsty TG on Unsplash

Humility and humbleness entered as an unexpected gift, one I couldn’t refund nor return. It whispered things to me about life, about gratitude, about living in respect to yourself and with a heartfelt acknowledgement for what is here and now. And may be gone the next.

This is because death set a new standard for me to live by.

I cleaned out the closet after death visited, that was my lesson, and one I have dutifully never forgotten and still live by.

Thanks in part to this, my life is completely different to how it was 2 years ago when it happened.

Months later on the river Ganges, where death is open caskets and burning pyres, I floated a candle for him. And was once again humbled, this time by the Eastern approach to death, and it opened me to be more accepting of how life actually is, as opposed to how it should be. There was an unfathomable peace, a closure, like the coffin lid was still ajar but was now ok to close.

I had the honour of being humbled twice thousands of miles from home.

Easy to put all this in words, but it can never convey completely the experience of it all. Some things just have to be lived.

So live yours.

Even though I dread putting this content out there for fear of what others will think of me, I know the messaging is what’s more important to get out. If this post helps even one person, it was all worth doing.

Take a Compassionate Approach to Yourself

A good friend of mine who I see as someone who has a natural orientation towards compassion, remarked that I was too hard on myself.

It was the first time someone besides my counsellor had told me as such and it really brought things home for me.

I feel very fortunate to have such a friend who reminds me to be compassionate towards myself, because I’ve never been programmed that way from an early age.

Due to how I was raised, I always pushed myself hard to achieve because I made myself believe that if I didn’t, it was death. Family circumstance pushed me into that line of thinking and my beliefs around that are still half-alive today.

But I tried something new.

Instead of fighting and judging myself over obsessive thoughts I was having about work, instead of hating and rejecting them because they weren’t ‘me’, I took another approach.

I felt a compassionate response ignite in me from somewhere, that took the position of loving me, regardless of these thoughts with no judgement whatsoever. No expectation to ‘get over’ them.

My focus on these thoughts disintegrated.

In Whitney Houston’s words, ‘The Greatest Love of All’ had happened to me in those delicious seconds before it wisped away. An undemanding, unconditional acceptance that fed relief into me, a relief that was scary cause I didn’t realise how badly I needed it.

Relief was ok to be Seen, to be my actual self and not a social product I had built over the years. To dig up the one that had been buried behind Facebook posts, text messages, friends and work.

Someone had peeked out. And it was my compassionate self that had made them feel momentarily safe enough to do so. How beautiful, but sad too.

The saddest part was I didn’t know I was starving for this. Which made me realise how disconnected I was from myself, really.

And now I search for it again, in the hours and moments I have to myself. That vulnerable, natural person that is untouched by external stuff.

The question I pose is, how do you bring this person out more into the world? Because for me, it’s terrifying. People can be hard and the world moulds you into something you never signed up for.

How to do you start your inner revolution while also conforming?

Letting go of Expectation

When I was travelling in Florence I found myself on the first day in an old cathedral named Santa Croce, not too far from the famous Ponte Vecchio and the Arno river. It was here that I sensed an unsettling pressure within me and I realised a part of me was feeling overwhelmed from something. Noticing the opportunity to explore and relieve whatever it was I was feeling I sat down in one of the pews, as other tourists wandered around gazing at the tombs of Niccolò Machiavelli and Galileo and various artworks.

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Learn to let go of expectations as they arise, and accept what is to be.

The discomfort came from a pressure I was putting on myself to do everything I possibly could in the short time I was there, and my investigation into this made me realise how impossible and unrealistic this expectation was. This demand I had placed upon myself was in a hurry to see the next sight, treating the break as simply an itinerary to ‘cover’ off, as though I was speeding through a checklist I hadn’t intentionally created.

It was then that I decided to let the burning need to see and do as much as possible go, and when I did, it became clear to me how easy it was for me to enjoy the details of the interior of the grand cathedral I was sitting in. To appreciate the now and what was here, instead of allowing my mind to race onto what was next. I felt such peace and contentment that I just sat in the pew, quietly looking around at the splendor of art and sculptures and the high ceiling. This was what the break was truly for anyway. I didn’t need to do anything, this was good enough and the racing in my mind ceased, allowing me to turn my attention to the details of the now.

Expectation has a two sided purpose, one could be to help us manifest what we want in life and two is a ruminating effect so overwhelming that it begins to drain our happiness in the moment. Perhaps a third purpose is learning to let go of expectations as they arise, and allow what is to be. Everything passes eventually, the good and the bad, and I’ve found the fastest way to contentment is to let go what you think should be and allow for what is. Things we expect to happen exactly as we plan for it rarely ever transpires, it’s called life, but it sets us up for disappointment.

Perhaps there can be faith and belief instead in what is to come, coupled with acceptance for the moment.

We can use the moment as our bedrock, our foundational bottom, to choose how we want to be with ourselves, with others and with life.

Grow Through Fear

I had developed a fear of flying after spending one year abroad. The anxiety never seemed to leave me before and during take off. Those long minutes are tricky, challenging and I always, always have the worse case scenario overplaying in my head even before the wheels leave the tarmac. It usually involves me panicking and clawing for the door, begging staff to let me off. I was determined to figure out how to handle it.

turning-into-your-fear
‘What you resist, persists.’ – Carl Jung

These particular thoughts and feelings are unpleasant to say the least. But hours before I was to travel by plane, I decided a meditation session could help my nerves and the result was that it put things in perspective.

I focused on the details that made me feel panicky the most – the height the plane would be travelling at, the enclosure of a small space with lots of people with no option to leave and the fear I would lose control of myself and have some kind of panic attack. At first it was very difficult and uncomfortable to look at each of them – and that’s when I realised that was exactly my problem. I wouldn’t look at them or acknowledge their existence. The fact I kept resisting them and pushing them away was what increased them in size. It’s like with any phobia or disorder – it starts off small and is then avoided and feared to the point of extremity. I saw how I was contributing to the fear by fearing what would happen (assuming the future), and secondly by trying to deny or push these fears down. Because of this, it festered.

Resistance to fear entangles us.

In order to give peace to myself and to take a first step to transcending these fears, I needed to acknowledge them in a friendly way. I needed to make space for them within myself and house them. I learned that we need to make friends with our fears just as easily as we find it easy to make friends with feelings of happiness.

I travelled to the airport that day in a state of peace that I hadn’t felt in a while, and it made me realise that adversity forces us to rise to higher standards of resilience and courage that we never realise we possessed. These fearful situations not only call for our approaching wisdom, but also acceptance of the uncomfortable. Because for all those long minutes during take off, I was proud of myself for facing it and the holiday I received for a few moments of discomfort was worth it.

Resisting the negative only seems to double its efforts, accepting them helps us move through them more quickly and experience positivity again.

Fears are the dirty underside of the coin that most of us do not want to look at. But we give them power when we refuse their presence, and treat them as an inconvenience for us; but what if we could work with them to relinquish them? Having fear teaches us courage, being sad makes us appreciate the moments when we are happy. The negative and positive compliment each other in the same way as Ying Yang do. I believe if I give my fears their space within long enough, I may eventually find that space unoccupied.

The experience can be almost perfectly encapsulated by the famous poem by Rumi:

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.

meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

Press the Reset Button Everyday

Every day is different to the next. Certain situations that happen one day that don’t occur on the next. A variety of people (at times) appear for whatever reason that we need to converse with, and challenges arise that require our attention and problem solving abilities. Sometimes some circumstances can be so intense, so challenging, that we carry them on our shoulders for days. Like a cartoon that continues to replay in the backs of our minds as we try to focus on our work or whatever it is we’re doing. But what if we could consciously press the reset button each day?

press-the-reset-button

Start from Zero

This is a term I think is appealing in different aspects. First, beginning from zero means you’ve rid yourself of expectations, emotions and thoughts on how something is going to unfold. When you do this, you allow space for whatever actually happens, to happen. Of course, positive visualisations can always help but perhaps release them once done and don’t get attached. Instead, accept how a particular circumstance, situation or person proliferates in reality and not get caught up in disappointments. You will be well more equipped to deal with a situation as it arises as you become more flexible and elastic with all kind of occurrences with life. Approaching all things with an open mind means you’ll learn more and be calmer as well in the midst of whatever is going on.

The only way to do this is by consciously letting go of whatever has hurt us, disturbed us or otherwise has thrown us off from our normal mode or way of being. The best way of doing this is ‘catching it in the net’ as it comes. This was stated pretty well on an episode of Soulful Sunday where Michael Singer said to let the things people say pass through us without resistance or cause for defence.

One good thing to remember that when a particular person conveys to us in a manner that is hurtful or otherwise not favourable, it can be in many situations a reflection of how they are with themselves. This can help to take the poison out of their bite so to speak.

People tend to give themselves away in a million different ways and there is little need to allow for it to disturb how you are with yourself. Let the chain of reaction of hurt end with you, let it pass through you.