Working out my love muscles

I’ve always had a hard time falling asleep.

For the past few years I’ve gotten in the routine of meditating until I start nodding off then crawling into bed and passing out. This has worked great…. up until a new baby entered into the equation…

Veda is really hit or miss on her sleeping. Some nights it’s great, other nights she’s up all the time.

Because of this I’ve gotten into the mindset of “Ok, Veda is asleep, I need to fall asleep NOW so I can get some sleep before she wakes up”. It stresses me out. And Sunday and Monday I got like 3 hours of sleep each night. Not necessarily because she was up a lot, but because I was lying awake stressing out about what would happen if she DID wake up. Pretty ridiculous…

Last night I was headed down the same path so I got up and started meditating, trying to get into that old routine again. I got like 30 minutes in, started nodding off, got into bed and crossed my fingers…. And I immediately started stressing out and couldn’t sleep….

I lay there for an hour and then got up to try meditating again.

I was super pissed but stuck with it, and this time after 30 minutes something interesting happened. And this is really why I always come back to meditation. For me it’s the quickest way to get to these insights that might have otherwise taken weeks or months to come to.

I had a thought pop in. It’s one of my favorite prayers / mantra’s:

“Help me see this moment in a more loving light”

Hearing this totally snapped me out of the rut I wasn’t even really aware that I was in. There was no compassion, no love in the attitude I had been taking. I saw her sleeplessness and my anxiety about it as a frustration that needed to be eradicated so I could get back to my normal routine. So I could be happy.

Now there was this new found love that started swelling up and overtaking the old negativity. I realized that this situation could instead be perceived as a challenge. Can I bring love and compassion to this difficult experience? It’s like going to the love gym.

Taking this approach lets me work WITH the irritation instead of AGAINST it. Working against it like I had been doing just made it worse. My flow was totally blocked and I was just piling more pressure behind the build up. But now I can instead embrace the negativity and start to transform it into something I can use. Something that makes me feel happy regardless of if she is sleeping, regardless of if I am sleeping.

 

And interestingly enough as soon as I adopted this new attitude I hopped back into bed and went right to sleep.

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Fixed Opinions

I’ve been thinking a lot about certainty vs uncertainty. It seems most of us have fixed opinions about most things and spend a lot of time further entrenching these positions. The most glaring example of this is any kind of political discussion. The extremity of this struck me while reading a facebook thread on Bernie Sanders. There was no actual discussion happening. Each side was just trying to murder the other using information bullets. Like a game of dodgeball.

Dodgeball

I’ve observed this in myself in the imaginary dialogues I have with people. My favorite is to argue with a strict materialist atheist. I spend a lot of time thinking up ways to justify my position against them in an irrefutable manner.

This sets the stage for an Aha moment I had last night while reading an interesting book about how to shift around our mindset. The passage I was reading was a thought exercise of adopting a rotating set of belief systems. Like for a month you strictly believe in monotheism, the next month polytheism, the next month atheism. The goal being to dislodge the fixed patterns we have in our minds and to see the world in a less dualistic manner.

This is so interesting to me and shows me a glimpse into a way of thinking without fixed opinions. The mind becomes like a free-flowing river instead of a stagnant bog. But then it occurred to me that this stagnant bog serves a very specific purpose. It gives the ego something to hold onto. I think it actively encourages us to entrench ourselves into our opinions and spin our wheels in unwinnable arguments. The more we do this the more imagined stability we have for it to cling to. And it doesn’t matter which side of the argument we’re on. The ego could care less about the content of the belief, it’s all about the process of entrenchment.

bog

But imagine for a second what our lives could be like without all this. And not just our opinions about politics, but people as well. What if we didn’t have these rigid opinions about our parents? Spouse? Kids? Dog? What if we allowed these relationships to be a free-flowing experience instead? I feel much more authenticity and enjoyment in this direction.

And I’m not saying the ideal is to go to the extreme of having no fixed opinions, but at least leaning more in that direction. Which means taking a huge step out of the norm because our society is heavily structured for the opposite.

So maybe next time you’re having a political “discussion” just start asking yourself, is this bringing me happiness? How does having this fixed opinion really effect me? Is it absolutely necessary for me to have a strong opinion about this? Why?

And then just for a split second try to imagine what it would be like if you didn’t hold onto that belief so tightly.

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Life is pain?

If life is pain, then it seems the purpose of life is to be ok with this. To accept it and embrace it. For it seems like you can only be happy to the extent that you do this.

If I’m in pain and I’m trying to run away from it, to solve it, whenever I do enter a state of happiness I cling to it, so even that is tainted with anxiety. Worry. Fear.

So you’re never able to truly be happy.

BUT! If you are in pain and you say, ok, I’m in pain, let me feel this. Let me live in this. It’s actually ok. There’s nothing to fix here. It’s perfectly ok. There is an ebb and flow to nature and right now there is pain but it won’t always be here.

As soon as you’re ok with pain, that means you can also be ok with pleasure. The next time you’re happy you can fully embrace it because you won’t be clinging to it. I’m happy now, great! I’ll ride with this as long as it’s here and then when it passes, I’ll go on to the next thing.

So it seems like the purpose of life is to embrace what your current experience is.

If you think it’s your job, you will always be working. 7:00 on a Friday night and you’ll be stressing about everything you need to do. If it’s to give to the poor, same story, you’ll never be able to relax because that is selfish. But if you’re like, when I’m working the purpose of my life is to work, when I’m with my family it’s to be 100% with my family, when I’m eating it’s to be present with my food and that experience. When I’m in pain, my back hurts and I’m angry at the work, IT’S TO BE 100% WITH THAT EXPERIENCE. Every moment becomes the purpose of life, not some grand ideal. Not a static state or only one experience. It becomes everything… Including pain but not limited to it…

I think we all try to avoid this. We find our causes, our grand ideals. Maybe it’s a connection with God. Maybe it’s the relationship you have with your spouse. Maybe it’s the relationship you have with your kids. There is no escaping the pain. You can be very very clever and think you’re beyond it, that you have a special bond with whatever that protects you. You are 100% in love with that experience and pain can never touch you! But if you get very still and really look within you’ll probably find yourself running from it.

I think I’ve finally figured out how to stop running…

buddha laughing

Happiness isn’t the lack of negative emotions

I recently bought a house that’s about 30 min. outside of the city. Yesterday I was driving to my regular yoga class and had a bit more time to think about things during the drive. All of a sudden I realized there was a tension inside of me. I had no idea where it originated, but I had this thought

“I need to get rid of this tension so I can get back to being in a peaceful state.”

But then I thought to myself, there’s probably a better way to approach feelings like this. That instead of trying to get rid of the uneasiness, I could instead use that as the raw material to create that positive state I was looking for. That a positive frame of mind isn’t won by the absence of negativity, but by being able to work with whatever feelings come up.

This seems to be so much more empowering. Previously it had all been about avoiding uncomfortable situations. That this was the way to happiness. But more and more I’m seeing now that true happiness is the confidence that whatever arises I can use it to create whatever I want.

 

I read a book all about this change in approach that I’d highly recommend. One of my favorites.

On Becoming an Alchemist: A Guide for the Modern Magician

Thought Personification

In my last post I wrote about an experience I had separating from my thoughts which allowed me to personify them. I thought distancing myself from my thoughts was going to be something I’d be able to do consistently, but in a days since that happened I’ve discovered that this is very hard to do. Like I try to imagine my thoughts outside my head, but it doesn’t really work. It’s not near as effective as what happened spontaneously during that meditation.

BUT! Something else from that post really has worked. The idea of personifying my thoughts. I thought the way this is going to work was first distancing my thoughts, then I’d be able to personify them. But actually I see the reverse happening. I first have to turn my thoughts into a person, then I’m able to work with them.

So I start by asking myself, what do my thoughts look like? Are they a jumbled up mess? A tornado? A rubber band ball? This allows me to disconnect from them a little bit and start looking at them objectively. Then I start asking:

If my thoughts were a person what would they look like?
How old are they?
What kind of emotional state are they in?

I’ve been doing this a ton the past few days and I started noticing a few patterns. This person is usually pretty young. Either a child or a teenager. And they are very pissed off and demanding, but right underneath this is fear.

Yesterday I sent an e-mail to a friend in the morning, and the rest of the day I was plagued with worry over what I had said. LITERALLY ALL FUCKING DAY LONG it was eating away at me. Over and over and over. Absolutely miserable. But then at night something clicked. I was able to see the person behind this worry. How terrified they were. How all this worry was just a way for them to try to be in control of something that is uncontrollable… which understandably leads to that feeling of panic.

And I’ve seen this pattern in the past, but being able to see it as something outside myself makes a hugeeee difference. Because it’s so much easier to extend love and compassion to this image. It’s no longer personal. I’m able to step out of that story and view it from above. With an understanding and a sense of grace that is hard to muster when you’re in the thick of it. When you ARE it.

Letting Go Of The Need To Balance

I’ve learned to carefully time my visits back home. I come in on a Friday and leave first thing Sunday morning. While I’m home there’s this angst that slowly builds, and if I can make it out in a day and a half I can avoid drowning in it.

And I’ve never been able to put my finger on exactly why I start feeling like this. My family isn’t terrible or anything. I don’t get in arguments with anyone. They’re actually very supportive of this weird spirituality stuff I’m into.

But this time was a little different because of Christmas. Christmas day I spent a ton of time around family, and when that angsty feeling was starting to bubble over I couldn’t just take off, so I went for a long walk instead. It was a beautiful night, and as is usually the case with these things, something clicked into place while I was out.

 

The way my parents behave has always frustrated me. I see little things about how they treat each other, how they treat themselves, how they treat others and it really eats away at me. I realized that the issue here is not so much that they have “problems”, it’s that as an empath I’m trying to fix them. I’m trying to balance the energy so that everyone can reach a neutral place. Be in sync with each other.

I’ve been reading a lot about this recently. I first got introduced to it through “Dancers Between Realms” which is an excellent book all about empaths.

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Thus the parent/child relationship becomes one of push–pull, attraction and repulsion. In addition, the empath child is pulled to resolve and heal mother, father, sister, brother and all the family dynamics. The impossibility of this is not recognized by the child and they feel guilt, because they recognize a capacity to balance things and have not yet learned the limits of this capacity. Understanding that such patterns can exists is one step toward allowing yourself to acknowledge the deep impetus to bring balance and healing, and learn to separate your true self from this responsive child-self. -p.110

This is exactly what was happening. I was trying to balance everyone, but didn’t realize that this wasn’t possible. That it’s not my responsibility to do this. That I don’t have to shoulder this burden.

And oh my God, WHAT A RELIEF!!! I was instantly transformed after letting go of this. All that angst instantly melted away and I was lighthearted again.

And I also noticed something else that was totally unexpected… The way I was approaching my parents was the exact same way I was approaching myself. Always feeling like I needed to fix something. I couldn’t just relax and let myself be. And when I let go of trying to fix my parents, I also let go of trying to fix myself. And as I did this I realized that I have miniature versions of my parents living inside of me. This is what Matt Kahn talks about, that as an empath you try to heal others by taking on their patterns. You duplicate how they are, heal yourself, and think this will heal them. And naturally you get pretty frustrated when this doesn’t actually happen, which is why I was getting so angsty around them.

 

A few minutes later I realized that letting go of this need to fix everything provided the space to embody my true self. That constantly churning away on these patterns takes up all my energy, and that when it drops away something beautiful and authentic takes its place.

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To give you an idea of what this looks like, here’s the piece of paper I took with me on that walk. It’s like I’m a detective sniffing out a trail. I get a revelation and write it down, walk for a couple minutes, getting another revelation, walk a couple minutes… and so on…walk note

I don’t care what your thoughts are, what do they look like?

I think we spend an over abundance of time concerning ourselves with our thoughts. We’re told how powerful they are, and how they manifest what we see, so we better control them, right? We don’t want any negative thoughts coming in. Only positive stuff!!!

But it seems like the only thing controlling your thoughts does is drive you a little crazy. And actually, I think it can be much more serious than that. We’ve all seen people that are imprisoned by their thoughts. How compulsive and ridgid they are. I think this can lead to serious autoimmune diseases. And also to things like hoarding and OCD.

I was watching pawn stars the other day and saw someone trying to sell them an iron lung. I knew of iron lungs, but had never seen one. It made me think about how awful an existence that must have been. I spent like an hour planning out how I would have killed myself if I was trapped in one. It’s hard to imagine a more horrendous experience.

iron lung

But it occurred to me that this is exactly what most of us do to ourselves. We use our thoughts to build up an iron lung that we keep ourselves trapped in. To protect ourselves from the world. To not let people really see us. Touch us. Hear us. We just barely let ourselves breathe, which is actually true.

And this is so ingrained that we don’t even realize we’re doing it. We don’t realize there’s another option.

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I think there are two keys to unlocking us from this prison.

1. It’s necessary to separate your self from your thoughts. You are perfectly capable of functioning without them. Think of professional athletes, racecar drivers. They aren’t thinking and yet they do incredible things.

2. We’ve been trained to verbalize everything. Like when we are reading we sound out each word in our heads. This isn’t necessary. You can just scan over the words and your brain registers it just the same. Verbalizing your experience grinds everything to a halt. What we are can be so much more nimble and responsive than this. Instead try looking at things energetically. Instead of a thought just being a word you hear in your head, what does it feel like? What does it look like? Where does that energy sit in your body?

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After I got some distance from my thoughts and started paying more attention to their energetic structure, I first noticed that most of the time it felt like I was trapped inside a prison. Like I couldn’t breathe. Like I had a straitjacket on. But in seeing this I could gradually shift their structure to where my thoughts were more of a cloud. Something that I could choose to ignore and push aside. They became much less important. Much less appealing. I’d much rather sit in my body without them. This is actually enjoyable. I have room to breathe. To let things flow in and out. I can see things clearly. It’s peaceful.

I can still pull down that bubble and engage my thoughts when I need to do something analytical, but most of the time they aren’t necessary. I can just let them do their thing out there in the cloud, I don’t really need to pay attention to it.

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If you’re trapped in an iron lung, thinking positive thoughts is going to be an uphill battle. You might get a couple here or there, but you’re trapped in a fucking prison. Think about that for a second. How incredibly difficult it would be to be happy in a situation like that. You’d have to be some sort of zen master. I’d fucking lose it if I couldn’t move my body more than a couple inches.

But what if instead you’re lying in a field somewhere feeling the breeze blow through your hair, soaking in the sun. You’re going to be pretty happy without exerting a lot of effort. You can just get out of your way and let everything be.

So if you find yourself trapped in a prison, don’t try to think happy thoughts… GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE!

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