OUR VALUE

Our value is not in our DOING.  It is in our BEING.

Up until last spring, I was working at a before and after school care centre.  I really enjoyed the work but often found I had little energy left for myself.  At the same time, my husband had started up a company.  I contemplated the idea of quitting my job to join him in this project full-time and at first I was not keen on the idea;  sitting at a computer, making phone calls, sending emails, doing paperwork and other non-exciting business stuff.

But as time went on and a summer of full-time days with the kids approached, I made the rather sudden decision to leave the daycare centre.  I thought to myself, I don’t exactly know where I’m going yet but I think this is the route to take.  On a day later that week, I was supervising some children and two girls starting singing a song.  This musical message made it very clear to me that I was making the right choice.  The song was ” Break Free!”  (by Ariana Grande) “This is the part where I break free, ’cause I can’t resist it no more.”

I will tell you a little about the discoveries I have made about self-worth through building a business, what steers us away from believing in our inherent goodness and how can we begin to see our value as a human BEING rather than a human DOING.

So over a year after taking that leap of faith–what have I learned?  how have I grown?  I’ve certainly learned a lot of new skills but more evident to me is what I have discovered about myself and how my mind works.   Having a business sounds like a dream for some people–imagining the freedom of it all.  Having a business means there is no one telling you what to do, no one checking your work, no one overseeing your choices, no performance reviews.  Sounds like heaven right?  But there is something that I have noticed;  one pattern that has kept repeating over and over in my head.  The questions of doubt– “Am I doing this right?  What should I do next?  What’s more important–A or B?  How should I approach this phone call?  Was that the right decision?

There have been many days where I don’t feel like I am doing enough.  Days where I looked at the clock mid-day and said to myself–You haven’t done anything!  You are not accomplishing anything!  Lots of days when I have turned to my husband hoping that his confirmation would make me feel that I was doing it right.  Countless days of having the sinking feeling of the possibility of failure.  And days when I just freaked out thinking that everything was going wrong.

Honestly, I used to think that I was the only person on the planet who felt inadequate or unsure of myself at times.  But I’ve realized in the last few years, that we all occasionally have a sense that we are not enough in some way, that perhaps we are not quite measuring up somehow.  What a relief to know that I wasn’t the only person who has struggled with their ‘okayness’ or self-worth.   Even the Buddha, sitting under the Bodhi tree, had to face the demon of self-doubt.

More and more I am feeling that my value as a human being doesn’t depend on how much I get done, or my husband’s approval of me, or getting it all perfect or achieving some acceptable form of “success”.  More and more I am seeing that I am valuable simply by existing and being me.

So when do we start feeling that we are not okay?  What gets us to start thinking that there is something wrong with us?  How do we get steered away from believing that we have a unique contribution to make to the world?  Perhaps you can pinpoint a time in your life when your image of yourself started to diminish.  Maybe it’s more of a vague slide into the murky waters of self-doubt.

One thing that leads to this less-than feeling, is judging.  We naturally do this as and it can serve us but much of the judging that goes on unnecessarily causes suffering to ourselves or to someone else.  The minute we start comparing ourselves to someone else and thinking that we are in some way inferior or superior, we lose that sense of our innate equality as humans.  The second we start judging someone for being less than perfect, we not only send them a bad vibe but we set impossible standards for ourselves as well.

Unfortunately we are continuously judged throughout our lives, judged for the grades we get in school, the kind of work we do, the clothes we wear, how we do our hair, how much money we have, how many cool gadgets we own, how well-behaved our children are.  The tally of all the judgements gives us a score on how well we are doing in life.  A low score means we are not doing enough, not doing it right and therefore we, too, are flawed and lacking.

Another way we lose our own sense of self-worth is in the rush of life.  In our society, we are in a constant race against time.  If we don’t cross off everything on our to-do list, if we don’t accomplish several tasks each day, if we don’t beat the clock, we are not doing enough.  In our society, the message is, do more, do it better, do it faster.

How often in our day are we thinking,”I need to do this and this, and then this and oh, I don’t know if I’ll have time for that.”  We are expected to work full-time, have interesting hobbies, take care of our family, and squeeze in a yoga class or two.  How can anyone possibly ever live up to such high standards?  How can we feel good about ourselves when we have this sense that there just will never be enough time to get it all done?

So what can we do to get out of the trap of self-doubt and start believing in our innate value once again?  We can begin to see how we might be judging ourselves and change that voice of criticism to the voice of self-compassion.  We can encourage and support each other and be more understanding and kind.  We can begin to slow down.  We can remember to take a few breaths between racing home from work and running out to get groceries.  We can start to think about what is really important to us.  Do we want to spend an hour on a social media site or do we want to spend that hour having conversation over tea with a friend?

I know for me, sharing my feelings and seeing that others have similar thoughts, feelings, and problems has made me see the truth that we are all really in the same boat.  When I see these similarities, the separation that is caused by judging and comparing is reduced.  Also, becoming aware of the bigger picture makes me realize that I am not the star of this show but merely an equal player, doing her small yet important part.  As I start to see through the veil of the false belief of “not enough”, I notice I begin to shift from what can I get to what can I give.  A shift from what will they think of me to what wisdom can I share.  A shift from the small self who is mostly concerned with maintaining an certain image to a larger sense of self who is an interconnected piece of this mysterious web of life.

Paradoxically, as with many of life’s truths, it is when we return to our “being” that we will receive inspiration for our “doing”.  Not a kind of doing that is rushed or confused or worried about performance but a kind of doing that is calm, focused, energized, creative.  It is the kind of doing that will naturally generate everything we need.  It is a kind of doing that is solidly based in the feeling of our value.  For when we value ourselves, we can uncover the opportunities to use our gifts and talents to create abundance in our life.  Then our actions and our service to the world will undoubtedly be… enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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TRUTH

It’s been a good week.  There was a little more trust and a little more letting go.  I’ve been reading “Outrageous Openness” by Tosha Silver and it’s been inspiring me to surrender and view my life from a larger perspective.  So easy to get caught up in the “little me” but when I open up and see that I really don’t have control over everything, I feel more patient and more peaceful.  Paraphrasing Silver, “What needs to come will come, what needs to go will go.”

I dreamt of being at a meditation centre.  I was wearing baggy, brown pants. (like MC hammer style)  I woke up with a strange feeling and knowing.  I can’t really explain it in words but I just had this feeling that my life was headed toward something, maybe I’m not going to be a monk but maybe I’m moving toward a life with more quiet contemplation. (I actually already am!)  I sensed there was a purpose and that all would unfold naturally in its own time.   It’s still a little scary being in the uncertainty, but perhaps this is also the place of great possibility.

It probably also helped that the night before this dream I had watched aTara Brach video on Faith/Trust.  She echoed what I was already touching on in Silver’s book;  the idea of letting go of our ego’s wanting and tuning into the source.  I find I’m sometimes get lost in trying to figure things out, trying to plan, trying to get things done, trying to prove myself rather than allowing my intuition to lead the way.  I went to sleep thinking–May I be a vessel for the highest good.  May I be of service to the world and an instrument of goodness.

I adopted one of Silver’s ideas of a “God Box”.  She suggested writing down what was worrying you but in a positive way and then putting in a box.  So I wrote on 3 separate pieces of paper and put them into a box.  One said something like, “I am now moving toward work that is creative and fulfilling.  It’s already handled.”  Doing this also gave me a feeling of peace and ease.  If the worry comes up, I just think to myself–It’s in the Box.  I can let it go.

Throwing out old journals was another event on this week’s path that has given me a new perspective on things.  I found it interesting how the circumstances of my life had changed and my personality had changed but there was an essence that was always “me”.  Some of the words I remembered as if I had written them only a few days ago.  Some of the things I said were similar to things I say now.  There has been a lot of change, a maturity and wisdom that wasn’t there before, but underneath all the stories, the spirit remains the same.

For the last year or so, since I quit my job, I have really been sensing that my days here on this earth are really soul school;  that I’m here to learn and grow in certain ways.  Some days, I feel like I am taking up too much time on the mundane–having conversations that seem to have no point, having fights over trivial things, moving stuff around, buying new stuff, throwing stuff out, typing away at the computer, making decisions about this or that, rushing to get something done, posting on Instagram.   I know that some of things just need to be done.  I know that there is learning in everywhere.  I guess I’m feeling more and more a sense of what’s really important to me, what really matters.–LOVE, CONNECTION, HARMONY.

I also dreamt of a boy I used to teach at the daycare.  I felt a special bond with this young boy.  Perhaps he was just an archetype of the innocence, wonder, creativity, intelligence and aliveness that lives inside us all.  I remember times when I was fully in the moment with the kids, being silly, laughing, paying attention to whatever was right there.  There was a realness, an authenticity to it.  Kids are fully engaged in life.  You can look kids straight in the eyes and they will look back at you, completely present.  There’s no mask.  I find it sad that as adults we lose a lot of these precious qualities–the belief in our own goodness, the spontaneity, the enthusiasm.

I’ve noticed to that I was reacting less this week.  When I am in a conversation with someone and they say something that triggers me, I can become completely entranced in defending myself or judging the other person, or just thinking how it’s all wrong.  But this week, I did my best just to stand still and listen.  I could look in the person’s eyes and see things from their point of view.  I could have more compassion.  And I could take what I thought was true and leave the rest.  Why get upset over someone else’s upset?  Sometimes when I’m struggling to stay present I say in my head–They are just like me.  They suffer too.  May you be free of suffering. — It helps.

Brach also talked about “a heart that’s ready for everything”.  I love that phrase–A HEART THAT’S READY FOR EVERYTHING.  Doesn’t that sum up those child-like attributes nicely?  Being open, full of wonder and curiosity, enthusiastic.  What if we could live like this everyday–ready to creatively, spontaneously and intelligently respond to whatever came up, moment by moment, simply trusting that we could handle it all.

Our life path, from a universal perspective, is short.  It’s tiny.  Yet, everything we do, everything we learn is very important.  We are all on our unique path.  The truth is we all experience what we need to, we are all beings becoming, awakening.  For me Truth, is more of a feeling, an inner knowing, pieces that come to me bit by bit as if they are part of a giant mosaic.  Truth is like the warmth of the sun soaking into my skin.

I don’t know much, but I do know I need to keep remembering my radiant true nature. And when I look at others, I can look with love, remembering their radiant true nature.  The masks we wear, the jobs we do, the stuff we have, the dramas we get into, the thoughts we get caught up in, the emotional state we attach to, these are not what is true.   TRUTH is in the being, the breathing, the loving.

I heard that Ghandi, from childhood, would chant–Rama, rama, rama–whenever he was in a difficult situation.  I suppose it was his way of remembering what was true.  We all need reminders, so that we can stay awake, so we can remember the truth.  Maybe we find our own ways to remind ourselves and each other.  Maybe then we can remember that underneath our masks, underneath all our layers or fear, insecurity and mistrust, there is a child-like essence in each of us, full of wonder, creativity and enthusiasm;  a pure heart, a heart that is ready for everything.

 

 

 

 

 

AWAKE

We can’t change ourselves by beating ourselves up and we can’t change our situation by rejecting everything in it.  We can’t find happiness by following seven steps or find whatever we’re looking for by using some simple tips.  What all of these strategies assume is that there is something wrong, something missing.

We’re too old, we don’t have enough money, our life is not easy enough, someone is not doing what we want them to do.  Basically, it’s the feeling that life is not going how it is supposed to be going.  We want something to be different, better.  We even reject our own feelings–This feeling is “bad”.  I don’t like it.  Go away! –We disapprove of our own qualities–I don’t like this about myself.  I want to get rid of it.

All of these thoughts in our head tell us that life is not right, we’re not alright.  We crave.  We crave more of the good and less of the so-called bad.  We are all like addicts chasing after a high;  searching for something to make the pain, frustration and confusion end.

I think what I have been craving and searching for almost all of my life is LOVE.  After flipping through some old journals the same story kept reappearing.  There were different circumstances but the theme seemed to be the same.  When I was loved, or thought I was loved or thinking that love was possible, it was like I was floating on air.  But when I was disappointed, hurt or rejected, I felt bad about myself.  I felt down, depressed.  My happiness depended on whether I was accepted externally.

Confidence seemed to be another things I thirsted after.  When I was good at what I was doing, I felt good, comfortable.  When I made mistakes, performed not so well or was not sure  of my next step, it was like my self-worth was crumbling and the rest of my world was going with it.  Perhaps I wanted to feel like I could handle life and everything was under control, going smoothly.  I suppose what I was really yearning for was TRUST that everything was going to be okay.

LOVE and TRUST are good things, right?  Why shouldn’t I seek them?  The problem, though, was that I was looking for them outside of myself.  I thought that if someone could just love me the way I wanted and give me support and attention, then I would be happy. It would be easy.  At times, I would be filled with hope thinking that I had found the perfect love and finally I would be accepted and safe.

Confidence worked in a similar way.  When I was in a job I wasn’t good at, it was like I was sinking.  My trust in myself plummeted.  It was as if my self-esteem was tied up in how well I performed.

Tara Brach’s investigation into trust shocked me.  She asked, Can we really trust our ego-self?  The answer was clearly No.  How many times has our ego-self make mistakes because of fear and wanting?  So what do we trust in then?  How do we feel loved and secure in this ever-changing world?

For me, it’s becoming more and more evident that I can only find the love and trust I so desperately want in something much bigger than my ego and it’s surroundings.  I think at times, I have gotten so occupied by my thoughts, believing they were true.  I was recognizing them but still caught up in them as if they defined who I was.  I not only busy with my own reactivity but also then criticizing my reactivity, thinking if I were stronger or more compassionate or not so sensitive I wouldn’t be so negative.  But I recently learned that recognition of thoughts is not the same as being mindful of them, and observing without judgement.

So then I took a step back and just wrote down some of the thoughts–Oh, there is the victim-mind that cries out–Oh, poor me!  Why am I going through this?  This is so terrible!–And there’s the critical-mind that tells me–You’re not doing enough, not doing it right, not doing it fast enough. –Then there’s the blaming-mind that finds fault in others.  There’s the panic-mind that wants to escape it all and there’s the fantasizing-mind that dreams of some ideal situation.

For quite some time, I had been swept up in the grasp/avoid game, clinging on to the thoughts and feelings I liked and trying like hell to push the “bad” ones away.  Nope, that didn’t work!  I had fallen into the trance, forgetting the larger, loving presence that is always there.  In getting addicted to my thoughts I was forgetting one very essential thing–to FEEL!!

Our mind serves as a distraction, trying to protect us from all of our potent emotions.  But at Brach’s wise guidance, I asked myself–What am I running away from?  –I realized it was deep hurt and feelings of being rejected and unloved.   All of my thoughts were just covering up these hard-to-face emotions.  I needed to feel this in order to come back to life and come back to my heart.  When we are caught up in our thoughts we essentially numb ourselves just as an addict will numb out by taking a drink or a pill, by gambling, shopping, over-eating or any other habitual behaviour that we become dependent on to soothe us.

You can try tips and quick-fixes but the only way to really free yourself from the small ego-mind is to meditate and be mindful in your daily interactions.  This is how we WAKE UP.  I am learning how to love and approve of myself.  When I open myself to the greater mystery, I can let go more and trust in life.  In sensing this larger goodness and love, fear and desires start to calm.

It is in this place of LOVE and TRUST that we can start to see the emergence of what really matters, of what is possible.  It’s not that we want instant gratification, slimmer bodies, better jobs or bigger homes (although those things can bring temporary comfort)  I believe the more we continue on this path of love and trust, the more we can let go.  And the more we can let go, the more we feel PEACE.  PEACE in a heart that is whole.  And ultimately, there is freedom–freedom from our ever-craving minds.  Freedom to simply be with what is.

And so I meditate so I can train my mind to keep coming back to the present, to keep connecting to the love and safety I know is there.  I know there will be times when I fall back into my thoughts and fall off my centre, but at any time, all I have to do is take a breath and I am back, AWAKE.