Day 331

Letting Go and Moving Forward

I’ve been grappling with bad habits the past few days. Mostly, I’ve been fighting the tendency to wallow in self-pity; something I am rather good at. It’s been a slow, clumsy process, and I am not quite to the other side of this yet. However, I am hopeful that with practice and a conscious effort to change my thoughts, I will be closer to achieving and sustaining a lighter state of mind.

The thought that has occupied most of my time is the thought that I am not good enough. It manifests in the form of the belief that I am inadequate, incompetent, and less intelligent than I think I am. It carries a lot of weight, and last Saturday and Sunday, I struggled under that weight unable to do more than just the bare minimum. It was not a very good place in which to be, and yet I had convinced myself that it was the only place in which I could be.

On Monday, obligations got me showered, dressed, and out of the house and incidentally out of the funk that I was in over the weekend. Once I got out of the house and into a space psychologically where I could observe my situation, I allowed my rational, clear minded self to weigh in on my current predicament. I started by asking questions. I asked myself, What if I am really stupid? What if all my fears are true? Well, facing my greatest fear didn’t turn out so bad; in fact, I began to ask myself other questions such as, How do I determine my self worth?; What is important to me?; What are my objectives and does being stupid stand in the way of my achieving my goals?; Had it stood in the way of my achieving my goals before? As I answered these questions, I felt myself getting lighter and lighter, and I felt that thought which sat on my heart like a giant anvil get smaller and smaller until it no longer mattered.

Last week, in my coach training, I learned about the difference between significance and lightness. I learned that significance and lightness are states of mind. They are as big or small as we choose them to be. Really, the negative thoughts that I have are merely as powerful as I allow them to be. It is easy to get ensnared in my  own beliefs. Thoughts to which I assign great power become beliefs and those beliefs become significant. They weigh heavily on my heart and mind. When those beliefs are beneficial to my life and they enrich and empower me, their significance is life affirming, but when those thoughts hold me back and keep me from moving forward they form the bars of the prisons that I construct for myself.

Escaping these prisons is not easy. Sometimes I think I’ve escaped a prison only to find myself back in there months or years later. It is at these times that I remind myself that this is a process, and that I can get myself out of those prisons with just a shift in my perspective.

Until recently, I had no idea how to maneuver my way out of my self-made prisons. I used to think that every thought I had was important, and that the ones that really stuck around were there to teach me something. I believed that if I spent time examining and experiencing the unpleasant emotions that these negative thoughts carried with them I would learn something profound about myself.

Last weekend, I learned that such behavior is counter productive. I realized that the way out is not to dig deeper into the emotion or thought trying to pry something good out of it, but rather to use the emotion as a point of departure from which will begin a quest toward the solution to the problem that the emotion signifies. In other words, it is not the emotion or thought on which I should focus, but rather the way forward to which the emotion points.

If I were to use the analogy of driving on the freeway, my thoughts and emotions would be the signs providing information about possible destinations. When I’m driving on the freeway, I don’t stop my car, get out and examine the road signs. I don’t contemplate the material out of which they are made, or the hands or machines that painted them. The very idea is absurd.

So why do I do that with certain emotions and thoughts? I think it because I had no idea what the purpose of emotions and negative thoughts were. I believed they were some kind of mysterious, magical beasts carrying with them a riddle that when solved would reveal some spectacular truth about myself. Once I realized that that is not at all what they are, and that it is not the thought or emotion that matters but the message that it carries with it, I was able to develop a strategy with which to handle negative thoughts and unpleasant emotions.

Whenever thoughts of inadequacy and worthlessness arise, I will take a deep breath, and maybe smile. Then I will ask myself the following questions: “What if this were true?”; “What if this were completely false?” “What are my objectives?” “What does this mean to my achieving my objectives?” “What do I want to do now to move forward?” After answering these questions, I will move forward leaving those thoughts behind knowing that if others like them should arise that I have the tools I need to continue to move forward.

I feel fantastic right now. I feel like I have everything I need to face any challenges I might face. I believe that I have the answers to all my problems, and since I started coach training, I realize that now all I need is the right questions.

May you find all the right questions to your answers.

Until next time.

Peace.

 

Day 175

Short but Sweet

Busy week! Taught a special summer course for our Intensive English program–one 14 week semester condensed into one week! It was a blast, but exhausting. I don’t know how 9-5ers do it. Anyway, the most important lesson I learned this week was that it all comes out in the wash. What I mean is that there were some upsets this week as well as missteps on my part, but when all was said and done, it was a great week. Something I read in “Living Enlightenment” resonates with me today, and that is with pain, especially emotional pain, we hold onto the things that hurt us or we felt were negative. I am guilty of that, and this week, I tried to hold on to the positive. I am holding onto my students smiles and laughter, and the looks of pride on their faces when they finished their final project for the week. I’m holding on to the banter and warm conversations with my fellow teachers. I’m holding on to the feeling of belonging I have come away with tonight. Life’s too short to hold on to the negative bits. I’d rather take the good thank you!

May you have a lot of brilliant bits to hold on to this week and for all the weeks to come!

Day 118

Letting go: Acceptance and My Perception of the State of the World

The world seems to be changing and not in a good way. I am afraid that our freedom of speech is being threatened by progressives, and those of us who value freedom of speech in its pure form are losing the fight. At the same time, race relations in the U.S. are terrible, and the recent police shootings in Baton Rouge and Minnesota as well as the retaliatory shootings targeting police in Dallas, Baton Rouge, and Kansas City have brought that to the fore. So for the past couple weeks, I have been struggling with my feelings about identity politics and the best way to address what is happening in my home country. I am worried about how things are going in the States, but I am not sure how I can stop this change from happening. I’m not even sure it is a bad thing. Certainly, I feel like it is a bad thing when our freedoms are taken or given away, but this is because I was raised in the United States where individual rights and freedoms were highly valued. However I am aware of the fact that there are other places in the world where individuality is not important. I’ve been living in such a place for over a decade, and life isn’t so bad here. So, I have been thinking deeply about my perception of the world, and I have been doing so through the lens of acceptance.

I have accepted that freedom of speech is really important to me, and that individuality is also valuable to me. I want my children to grow up and live in a world where they can self actualize, and where they can express themselves without the threat of being criminalized for having an unpopular opinion. I accept that issues regarding race and identity politics upset me, and that I would prefer a world where race was not such a determining factor in certain people’s identity. I also accept that race is a determining factor in the identity of most people of color in the U.S. I accept that our concept of freedom of speech is changing, and I accept that my idea of what is right or better may be wrong. I accept that my ideas are unpopular and that they would be met with resistance if and when I shared them with other people, especially those that share my ethnicity.

The majority of my family members would be shocked and dismayed to hear what I have to say about Black Lives Matter and the recent police shootings and the subsequent retaliatory shootings targeting police. Accepting these things has led me to face the situation with my eyes wide open, and I have decided that I am not going to broach the subject with my family members and those who are not open to alternative perspectives on the issues. I have decided to focus on my mission and my vision for my life, which is to bring compassion and unconditional love to all who cross my path and in all aspects of my life.

As such, I have decided that my path is not one of the political activist although I feel strongly about politics. I have accepted that I am emotionally involved in identity politics which makes it hard for me to remain reasonable or rational about issues surrounding that particular topic, so I am not going to spend too much of my time and energy on it. Instead, I am going to dedicate my time and energy to finding a way to influence the world in a way that is uplifting and enriching for me.

This has not been easy for me as I feel a certain sense of defeat when I think about my decision not to talk about certain topics with my family and those who clearly are not open to alternative perspectives. However, it seems reasonable to stay away from topics that will only upset me and the people involved, especially if those people are not interested in my opinion or respectful of it. Although I feel like I should stand for what I believe in and tell my story to as many people that will listen, I know that the best thing for me to do is to focus on self-actualizing and making my vision a reality. For now that is what is important to me. It is how I can make the most impact.

The world is changing. I am changing. Whether it is good or bad remains to be seen, and is not that important. What I am going to do with my life and how I am going to contribute to the world is more important to me now, so I will live my life accordingly. I have found peace in letting go.

 

Day 104

My Path to Acceptance-A Closer Look

The idea of acceptance is an appealing one. Living life with no worries and complete faith that everything good or bad happens for a reason and that that reason is benevolent is a liberating notion. However, it is not an easy notion to live with. There is always a “what-if” in the back of my mind, and that “what-if” is related to complacency.

Acceptance has seemed to me to be a choice to let go and not try to change things. This has always been a sticking point for me where acceptance is concerned because I have always been afraid that if I adopt that stance I will stay exactly as I am without changing. On careful consideration, I realize the absurdity of this fear. I don’t think you could live without changing a little; we are always changing. However, I cannot help thinking that if I accept every aspect of myself, I won’t be motivated to change the aspects that I currently don’t like. The truth behind this fear is my tendency to be a perfectionist.

As I have discussed in this blog before, I am learning to let go of a harmful core belief that if I am perfect, I will be worthy of love. This is a tenacious belief that I am slowly changing, but there are still aspects of myself that need that belief to be true. It is this belief that I must be perfect to be loved that is keeping me from fully accepting who I am exactly as I am right now.

I know that self-acceptance is my key to unconditional self-love, and that once I learn to let go of the idea that I must be flawless to be accepted, I will feel so much better and I will be more open to people who will love me for me. More importantly, I will be more aware of those people because I will be one of them. This knowledge motivates me to take steps in the direction of self-acceptance, and that’s a good start.

I realize that I am just at the beginning of this, and that it’s going to take baby steps, but I am open to moving at a slow and steady pace. There is no rush here. I have the rest of my life no matter how long or short that might be to learn to adopt an attitude of acceptance. I’ve already begun the process. I start with daily mediation and keeping a gratitude journal. I write at least three things I am grateful for in my journal every morning. In addition, I write my vision for the day. Until it becomes second nature to me, my vision always includes acceptance. Every entry starts with I will accept what is and be open to whatever comes my way. Throughout the day, when I lose sight of that vision, I repeat those words until I am aligned with the energy of acceptance.

I love that energy. It is like settling in and receiving all that I am meant to receive. It is a feeling of complete faith in the benevolent nature of the universe and trust in my innate ability to sense that nature. It is a calm and peaceful feeling; one of clarity and purpose. It is steady, gentle, and profound.

It is a feeling I want to adopt as my base. I want it to be my default. Certainly, I will experience all emotions, but it is that sense of acceptance to which I always want to return. Currently, it is a sense of anxiety to which I go back; however over the past few weeks that I have been practicing the art of acceptance, I have found that more often than not, I can switch from an anxious state to a calm accepting state more easily than before, and I can stay in that tranquil state for longer periods of time. I am confident that with practice and more shadow work, my fundamental energy will shift to from that of uneasy dread to that of peaceful acceptance.

If you are like me and you struggle with perfectionism and the uneasiness that comes with believing that your life will be a mess if you do not have control over everything, it is my sincere wish that you find that calm serenity that comes from knowing that you are okay just the way you are.

Peace.