Lightening Up & Letting Go

As I was eating my breakfast this morning, I had a release of some emotion.  I thought back to the Tara Brach talk I had watched last night.  “1000 serious moves”  is a phrase she used that stuck in my head.  I reflected on how I can be stiff and serious sometimes when I want to be soft and lighthearted.  I contemplated my habit of constantly planning what I am doing next instead of sinking into the moment and going with the flow.  I thought about how I cling on to my persona of “person who is in control” when I would rather open up and show vulnerability and emotion to the people I am closest to.

I realized how I had been caught up in the illusion of having “1000 serious moves”;  like every decision I made was somehow critical to my life going on its “right” path.  There was no room for error.  I had to get it right if I were to fulfill my purpose here on earth.  That kind of sucks the fun out of life, doesn’t it?  Well, there was an earlier time in my life when I did quite the opposite:  I hardly thought about my choices at all.  I was just seeking pleasure (and avoiding pain) without any regard to the consequences.  And that certainly didn’t lead to happiness or freedom either.

In order to live in balance, I believe the key factor is trust.  We need to trust in ourselves and in life.  From this point of view we can lighten up and let go because we know that we are doing the best we can and we have faith that the universe has our best interest at heart.  So here I will compare what life might look like from each perspective–1000 serious moves,  trusting self and life.

1000 serious moves

We have a mask we show the world.  We are often guarded, defending and protecting our image.  But all of the pretending and defending makes us feel even more separate, more inauthentic and more dull even though our most important goals are to feel alive, real and deeply connected to others.  We especially want other people to believe that we are someone who has everything under control.  I heard an old Bruce Springsteen song in the grocery store–Brilliant Disguise–and a line keep ringing in my ears–“struggling to do everything right”.   For some of us, this is how we live our lives;  striving to steer our lives and get it “right” which only leads to feeling lost and alone.

We are trying to figure things out and plan for the next thing.  We are desperate to solve our problems of the present and arrange our lives so that we have the most pleasant and comfortable future.  I do this a lot!  Occasionally I will notice how I am doing one thing but I am already trying to plan what I’ll be doing next.  In this way, I am totally out of the present moment, missing out on the preciousness of it.  I often attempt to figure things out, too.  I want the solution and I want it NOW!  I ponder and analyze, judge and compare but in the end I am no where closer to actually solving the “problem”.  What a waste of time!

We try to be right all the time and try to know all of the answers.   And in doing so, we are usually making someone else “bad” or “wrong” or “different”.  Being right and in the know makes us feel good about ourselves.  It boosts our egos and our sense of control but of course we are likely left feeling unhappy, irritated, disconnected.  This turn our communication into competitions and power struggles rather than having our conversations unify us and give us a sense of similarity and togetherness.

We are very serious about our decisions.  We may weigh the pros and cons, comparing and analyzing in our heads for hours.  We are scared of taking risks and making a mistake.  In the end, we might just do what seems safest and most comfortable.   Although at times it may be wise to carefully weigh all the options and possible benefits and consequences, probably we frequently talk ourselves out of choices that could have led to expansion.  Not really a recipe for a life of adventure, is it?

We fear making a mistake or looking like a fool.  I mean, who wants to look like an idiot?  Again, some caution is good, but if we go overboard we might find ourselves passing up opportunities or not living up to our potential.  At my last job, I had terrible anxiety before it was my day or week of planned activities.  Speaking in front of kids was something I was used to but the thought of looking insecure or inept in front of my peers was terrifying.

We are afraid of change.  We may be rigid and inflexible about our beliefs, opinions, schedules, routines.  We don’t want anything unexpected to knock us out of our illusion that we have got things under control.  Keeping routines has almost always given me a feeling of comfort and security.  Not that routines are bad, but they can be a hinderance when we are set in our ways that we fail to see other possibilities.

We wait until a difficult situation passes so we can “get on with our lives”.  Unable to accept our present circumstances, we hope for a future where things are better and easier. I definitely came to know this one during the hormone craze.  All I wanted was to escape what I was experiencing and feel good again.  Surely time was passing me by.  But wishing I could somehow skip over this part only added to my suffering.

 

Living with trust

In contrast to hiding behind a mask, we can take the risk to be real and be vulnerable.  We can show people who we really are and what we are really feeling.  For myself, I used to believe I was concerned about hurting someone’s feelings but I’m thinking my motives may be more self-centred than that!  Perhaps I am more worried about how speaking up and being real could affect ME.  Imagine the freedom and ease of simply being who you are and not having to worry about what someone might think or feel, what someone might say or do, or how uncomfortable it may be for you to face their reaction and the outcome.  Imagine that you actually create more trust and a closer bond.  You could even inspire the other person to be more open and vulnerable.

Rather than problem solving and planning all the time, we are present in our bodies, alert and aware, ready to respond to whatever comes our way with wisdom, grace.  Coming from a  heart-centred, intuitive place,  we can be more free to go with the flow and be more creative in how we resolve issues.   We trust that things are going to work out in the long run and we don’t need to sort out every single detail in advance.

We are open-minded and really listen to other people deeply.  We are not concerned with being right.  We are mainly focused on seeking to understand others and trying to see things from their point of view.  We freely admit that we don’t know everything.  We are accepting of other people’s ideas, opinions, beliefs and cultures.   We allow for uncertainty and imperfections.  We know that life is a mystery and things are not always black and white.

We use our mind as a tool to help us make decisions but we are ultimately guided by our hearts.  We take mindful risks.  We look for challenges and desire to grow and learn from them.  We trust that the answers we seek are within us and we will know what to do when the time arises.

We don’t fear making mistakes or looking bad.   We realize that mistakes are really learning experiences.  We take responsibility for our actions if we have hurt someone and use the situation to look at ourselves and our flaws with compassion.  We know that others feel the same vulnerability as us.

We embrace change and the natural cycles of life.  We know that everything has a beginning and an end, followed by another beginning.  We can easily break out of our routine to allow for spontaneous ideas and activities.  We become playful with life.  We see that change can open up a whole new world of possibilities.  We accept loss as something we will have to deal with on our journey but trust their will be positive gains as well.

We see that difficulties are opportunities.  As I have heard before, what’s in the way, IS the way.  We don’t need to try to run away from the pain or go into denial.   If we are fully present to our experience, our suffering can be lessened.  We trust that we will have the strength and inner resources to handle any tough situation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SELF-COMPASSION

I have that critic in my head.  It that tells me I’m not good enough, not doing enough, not progressing enough.  It tells me things are going wrong, I am making too many mistakes, I am failing.  It tells me to toughen up, to stop being passive or wimpy.  It tells me I can’t.  It tells me I’m not strong enough, not smart enough.  It tells me that I’m not cut out for that big of a challenge, not able to make it on my own.   It is the voice of self-doubt.

I didn’t even realize that I had that voice in my head until a few years ago.  At first, I believed these thoughts were true.  In fact, they had been my beliefs for a long time without me even knowing it!  It was really difficult to see how how much I criticized myself and put myself down.  I remember sharing in a post a while ago about a time when I was in the kitchen and my critic was going off and I finally just yelled–STOP!

In the last several months, I have noticed that I am getting better at recognizing these thoughts for what are.  They are only thoughts.  They do not define who I am.  Yesterday, the voice of self-doubt came up and with some compassionate awareness I was able to turn my thoughts into more positive and uplifting ones.

I have known for quite a while how important awareness is but it has only been recently that I have realized that awareness needs to be paired with compassion.  I went through a lot of really dark stuff when I started exploring my mind.  It almost seemed like all the negativity would be endless.  But something again has shifted in me and I am feeling lighter and brighter.  I think the dawn has finally come.

It can be shocking, disheartening and even depressing to become aware of how hard we can be on ourselves.  Even the Buddha, sitting under the bodhi tree, was challenged when he met his own self-doubt.

Dealing with self-doubt is a struggle we all face.  We can become so identified with these thoughts of being not enough, being somehow deficient or inadequate that it actually takes work to let them go.  Our egos may have believed that these thoughts were protecting us from the dangers of the unpredictable world but in reality they are only holding us back from our highest potential.

For me, another big step was when I started writing to myself from the voice of my highest and wisest, most compassionate self.  I wrote to myself as if I were my own best friend–a kind and gentle support who would understand my feelings and encourage me to take steps forward at my own pace.  (A huge difference from my critic who constantly tells me I am not measuring up!)  Now I felt accepted and reassured, like who I was and what I was doing was enough.  Rather than putting myself down, I was lifting myself up.

I think in our society, we have this belief that if we are kind and gentle with ourselves that we will get “soft” and won’t get anything done.  We think that in order to “succeed” we need to be continually pushing ourselves.   This is so ingrained into our brains.  We are used to hearing–Donna.  Why aren’t you taking bigger risks?  You should be further along by now.  You are such a chicken.  Hurry up and get it together or you’ll never be fulfilled.

We can’t imagine saying to ourselves–Hey, Donna.  I can see you are feeling kind of scared right now.  Don’t worry, you are doing great!  Think of how far you have come! You are making steps in the right direction.  Keep listening to your intuition and following your inner urges!  You can make all your dreams come true!–What a difference, eh?!  Talking to myself with self-compassion has been such a healing experience for me.

If you take the road of awareness and self-compassion, you won’t regret it.  As I have said over and over again, it is challenging but it is worth the effort!  Here are some ideas to get you started:

The first step is recognizing what your voice of doubt is saying.  Are there some thoughts that are more common than others?  Are there any themes arising?

The second step is to realize that these thoughts are NOT true.  They are NOT you.  You may even say to your thoughts–This is just a thought and it will pass.

The third step is to bring compassion to yourself.  Bring acceptance to whatever you are thinking or feeling.  Know that ALL of you is okay…even the dark parts.

Finally, uplift yourself with kind words, encouragement and support.  Give yourself whatever you notice yourself wanting from others.

We all have a little Buddha inside and every breath can bring you closer to enlightenment.

 

 

Poetry Slam

Speaking My Truth

To speak my truth

Fearlessly and without shame

That is the name of the game

To light my flame

To write my name

Under a funnel of words

Will I be heard?

Will they think me absurd?

Will my meaning be slurred?

I cannot tell

A lie

For that would leave me a hollow shell

I would rather fly

With a flamboyant smile

On my lips

That goes on for miles

I am the captain of my ship

The Queen of the Nile

Yeah, I could be Cleopatra for a while

A powerful goddess of beauty and charm…

please don’t be alarmed

If I choose not to please you

I don’t apologize for my authenticity

For when I am true

I am lit up

With electricity!

 

Resilience

Like a cat

I always land on my feet

Imagine that

Life’s ups and downs don’t get me beat

Yeah, I’m resilient

Ever so brilliant

And oh so sweet

The universe throws me a curve ball

and that’s a treat, y’all

I might fall

But I’ll get back up

You can bet your bottom dollar

And I’ll stand prouder and taller

‘Cause I stretch more than a rubber band

Nothing’s gonna bend me outta shape

I can fend for myself

Better than any man

In a flowing red cape

Yo, I can go with the flow

I’m like a river, ya know

Put me down

And you’ll watch me get stronger

Make me frown

And you’ll see I last longer

Than the energizer bunny

In my mind, it’s always sunny

Laugh at yourself when you can

Keep life light and funny

Then the bumps don’t seem so bad

Be grateful, be glad

And you’ll keep rising higher

You know I ain’t no liar.

 

 

 

 

IMPERMANENCE

The first song I learned on the ukelele was “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley.  Such a brilliant and simple tune whose message is–“Don’t worry about a thing, ’cause every little thing…gonna be alright.” I was singing it in the bath tub this morning.

Things ARE alright in my life.  I feel happy and grateful most of the time but I have been noticing how easily I am swayed by the winds.  When I experience any kind of stress or discomfort, whether it be hay fever or relationship issues or challenges in my work, I find myself getting caught up in it and thinking that things will never change or that I will never be able to handle it all.  My mind makes it into something horrible and unmanageable.  I just want it to go away and so I can feel good again; so life can be smooth and easy again.   And when things are smooth and easy, there’s that tiny voice in the back of my head saying–Ah, be careful, be on guard.  You never know what’s coming…

In some moments of clarity, I am able to gain a bit of distance from the situation and realize that the stories that my mind tells me are not true.  They are just thoughts.

Our primitive mind is actually trying to protect us.  It wants us to believe that things are stable and consistent, predictable and permanent so that we feel secure.  It wants to try and solve problems and fix whatever seems wrong so we can feel in control.  It wants us to judge events and other people as good or bad, friend or foe so we can feel safe.  These ways of thinking are all to help us survive but as you can see, when these thoughts become pervasive, rather than feeling safe, secure and in control, we can end up feeling a steady sense that there is something wrong…and we may have a big fear of change.

Even when things seem to be going well, we can still have the sneaking suspicion that bad things could happen, that danger could be lurking around the next corner, that our very body may be at risk or that someone close to us could hurt us (even if this hurt is emotional and not physical).  This kind of thinking would be great if we were out hunting bears or protecting our territory and resources from other tribes!!  But of course for those of us who live in peaceful, developed countries, the real dangers we face are few.  The majority of our fears are psychological.

We need to recognize that these thoughts in our brain are really just thoughts.  As Tara Brach would say, our feelings may be real, but our beliefs are not necessarily true.  For example, a person who is afraid of public speaking may experience intense anxiety when they get up to make a presentation in front of many people.  This emotion is REAL.  However, they may also have a tape playing in their head shouting–“Oh, my God.  What if I make a mistake?  I’m sure I’m going to screw up and make a fool of myself.  What if they laugh at me?  They’re going to think I’m stupid.  This isn’t safe.  I need to get out of here!”  These thoughts are not TRUE.

What is true is that all life is impermanent.  Things are ALWAYS changing.  I think the more I can allow that idea to soak in, the more I am going to be able to live with peace and ease.  Because our brain are wired to see negativity, it takes effort to focus on the positive.

If we start to believe that the universe is a friendly place and that everything is working for our highest good we can begin to live with less fear.  We can see events and people as teachers all helping us to evolve.  We can see the bigger picture of our lives and see how everything is connected.  Then we can welcome change, knowing that it is all the natural process of life.  Everything comes and goes.  Just like the weather, we will have rainy days and sunny days.  Our thoughts and emotions pass as clouds in the sky.

When we consciously intend to see the positive and the good, we can release our struggle.  Instead of worrying, come back to the moment and see that everything is okay as it is right now.  Instead of trying to control everything, let go and allow things to unfold naturally.  Instead of complaining, think of all there is to be grateful for.  Instead of judging, realize that the other person is really just like you.  Instead of holding onto resentment, forgive the other person and realize they are doing their best.  Instead of getting into a power struggle with someone, realize that you don’t have to make the other person wrong in order to feel better about yourself.

Consciously choosing our thoughts takes effort.  A LOT of effort.  But if we do not make this effort, our primitive brain can easily take over and fill our heads with negativity and fear.  Our negativity will come up over and over again and we just have to keep remembering who we really are and what really matters.   We have to keep reminding ourselves that this is just a ride.  Life is a ride, a journey, an ever-changing adventure.

So don’t worry, about a thing, ’cause every little thing is gonna be alright!