Unlikely Lessons From Charles Dickens

Reading in the evening has become a very meditative and often insightful time of day for me. It has been a great joy and comfort to snuggle into a nest of pillows and blankets after a hearty meal with a warm cup of matcha tea and forget myself for a few hours before bed. Novels are a medium for self-surrender, an opportunity to lose yourself in the plot of another’s life. They are also a chance to gain fresh perspective once we reemerge to take up our own life once again.

Particularly for people like me who suffer from social anxiety, it is a good way to get a feel for the way others think, feel, and act. Observing the real people in my life or analyzing my own relationships has always felt a bit too close for me to understand objectively. It’s rather hard to learn from or concentrate on what someone is saying to you when your entire body is in a state of utter panic. Novels provide a safe cushion of distance and detachment that creates the perfect environment for personal growth and self-discovery.

Even when I think I’ve already learned a lesson many times before, there are always instances that present the essence of this knowledge in a new and penetrating way. For instance, one of the common themes that stands out to me in the works of Charles Dickens is the resilience and near stoicism of his characters. They encounter unbelievable hardships day after day, yet seem to be unmoved by them. They bravely face whatever fate lies before them with dignity and acceptance. Whether they be robbed of all their earthly possessions on a filthy street or arrested and sentenced to death for a crime they didn’t commit, never have they added to their suffering by lamenting the injustice of it all. It’s almost as if they move through the world with no expectations whatsoever. Whatever comes upon them in the course of their lives, they take it without complaint.

As a yogi, I am constantly confronted with the idea that we prolong and worsen our own suffering when we pile our own rejection and stubborn indignation on top of it. This truth that I’ve carried with me for years now felt all the more poignant when I experienced the living example of it in the form of Dicken’s colorful characters. Even thinking of it now, in David Copperfield, there is one character that is constantly in a state of depression or distress. They moan, “I am a lone, lorn, creature, and everything goes contrary to me.” They agonize over their belief that they just “feel things more” than everyone else. Despite a relatively decent existence compared to many of the characters, she suffers immensely. It is primarily her own perception of herself and said suffering that is the cause of it though.

Sadly enough, in spite of myself, I find that I tend to identify with this character. I get upset, then am upset and ashamed of being upset. I want to be comforted, then am embarrassed for needing constant comforting and being a burden on my loved ones, and the cycle continues from there. In contrast little David Copperfield himself is a shining example of how I would rather face the world and the difficulties that come with it. In addition to not resisting the unfortunate events of his life, David also does not blame himself for them. I’ve found that if I am not blaming the world for being against me or being unfair, I am blaming myself for being naive or foolish whenever something bad happens.

Because of these simple lessons and many others, I truly feel that reading these books has been healing for me. Although they are fictional, the truth behind them remains. We can gain a new perspective of ourselves and our situation through reading. We can also find powerful examples of how we might choose to be instead. When I see these characters accepting their lot in life, suffering, injustice, and all, I feel more capable of accepting my own life and all it entails. When I see these characters making “mistakes” that I would have torn myself apart for, I am able to view them with compassion and understanding. It fosters a willingness to forgive myself for not knowing what I didn’t know. Often the hardest hurdle to face with our problems is not knowing an alternative way to respond to them when they arise. Reading is the opportunity to find that alternative.

The Personal History of David Copperfield. by Dickens, Charles: (1849) |  Raptis Rare Books, ABAA/ ILAB

Impermanence

When I look around at the civilization that we have built as humans, I see it crumbling. I see abandoned buildings retaken by the earth, vines weaving in and out of windows and door frames, mossy, earth eaten walls. I see cracked and distorted highways and crumbling sidewalks. I look within my own home and I see the small consequences of daily life chipping away at tabletops and wallpaper. I see clogged pipes and burnt out bulbs. The constant repairs, the consistent yet futile attempts to prolong the inevitable. The frustrating struggle to keep an impermanent structure, permanent.

These are the most important differences between what mother earth has created and what we have. Nothing is wasted or caving in on itself in nature. The earth moves as a single organism absorbing the old to give birth to new systems and structures in a beautiful ever changing cycle. I can remember having a morbid thought once as a child as I looked out the car window over the acres and acres of headstones on the hillside. Won’t all the land be graveyards eventually? While I no longer think we will allow cemeteries to cover the earth, I do think I was on to something. The earth does slowly become more and more of a human wasteland every day. As we rapidly consume and discard, our garbage remains and multiplies. Even our homes are reclaimed by nature in time.

Impermanence is something that we have all but disregarded as a species. It is something I personally struggle with everyday. We want things to remain the same, to remain constant and predictable. Still our best efforts lead only to stagnation and slow decay. We are unwilling or unable to accept that nothing lasts forever. Instead of learning how to better situate ourselves within this system, we have endeavored to resist it. It’s an endless source of anxiety for me to know one day I’ll have to buy another new laptop, new clothes, new shoes, new windows and shingles. To clean off the kitchen counter every single day, to vacuum the house knowing tomorrow it will be covered in cat fur yet again. The ultimate decay and transformation of death is perhaps what I’m truly fearing, what we are all desperately trying to avoid and deny by our unmoving creations.

Our efforts to ignore and avoid life’s natural cycle of death, also prevent us from experiencing the beauty of growth and rebirth. Impermanence isn’t only something that exists outside of us in the physical world. Our spiritual selves, our mental and emotional needs, are also subject to constant change. I have a tendency to hold on to my habits and routines until long after they have stopped serving me. I lament to think about the fact that I’ll need to keep tweaking and adjusting my behavior as my inner and outer worlds endlessly change. How can we ever expect to accept the natural cycles of nature, when we cannot even accept our own inner cycles?

When I come up with a new productive habit or self-care routine I am usually delighted and fully satisfied by it for a few months. Each time I think to myself, “Aha! I’ve finally found it. This is the thing I’ve been looking for to make me feel happy and help me grow.” I’ll cling to this “perfect formula” I’ve discovered even once it no longer brings me the same peace and joy. I berate myself for once again growing distracted and disinterested, instead of adjusting or coming up with a new habit that better serves the new me that is ever emerging. It feels overwhelming to even consider constantly having to contemplate and concoct new systems within my own life. Yet I don’t know exactly what it is I’m imagining my time would be better spent on. What could be more important and fulfilling than learning to read and respect my own inner journey and tend to my physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs? In some ways, that’s what this life is all about.

We plan and construct our lives and our world with the unspoken assumption that things will remain constant. We’ve never learned how to shape our aspirations and intentions to be flexible and temporary. We are a rigid and unrelenting species. I personally am no different. Even so, I hope that I can learn to practice, allow, and accept impermanence in the world, in my life, and within myself. We can never hope to overcome or resist this ever changing system we are a part of, attempting to do so only leads to frustration, disappointment, and ruin. We are numbing ourselves to the beauty and potential that will inevitably emerge from the ashes we are so desperate to prevent.

DEATH/REBIRTH | Poets

Reframing Anger

You’ve probably noticed that my last few posts have been particularly pessimistic and angry in tone. I’ve been really struggling to accept a lot of the things that have been going on in the world as well as my personal life lately. Yesterday I was nearly incapacitated by my own rage when we received a call from the CPS supervisor saying “a worker” who had recently been at our office tested positive. Although I knew she probably had the virus, having it confirmed without a doubt brought my fury back to the forefront of my awareness.

I spent most of the day yesterday caught between frustration, despair, and white hot anger. Even though I was embarrassed of my behavior, I couldn’t stop myself. I was doing research on how I might possibly press legal charges, get the girl fired, or even dox her online somehow. My mind found not a moments rest yesterday. I could hardly concentrate on the words in front of my face while doing my evening reading. My thoughts just kept returning to all the ways that I simply cannot believe someone could be so selfish and awful.

I am trying to surrender today. I am trying to stay curious as to why exactly I am so angry. Sure my mind has been repeating all the reasons I have a right to be nonstop, but when I broaden my perspective, it still seems strange to let this comparatively small injustice effect me so deeply. Certainly it can’t be that I’m surprised by this girl’s actions. I’ve known basically my whole life that humans are trash and only care about themselves. If I had any doubt of that, you’d think working where I do for the last two years would have erased it by now.

In a certain sense, I feel embarrassed and just as self-centered as everyone else for my reaction. I see more egregious acts and injustices each and every day. Why am I not whipped up into the same fury for the children I meet who come in to tell us about being raped by their father for 4 years? Is that not a much more soul crushing and unbelievable cruelty committed by a human being against another? A far more unacceptable betrayal by a person that is supposed to care for you? I cannot pretend to tell myself I am just upset about injustice, when I clearly care much more when it involves an injustice, however slight, performed against me.

I am so very fortunate in so many ways. I must remember that no matter what may come. Spewing venom, frightening my loved ones with my rage, and using my time and energy plotting revenge are not things that are serving me. What happened, happened. There is nothing I can do about it now. I am being unkind to myself by allowing myself to be consumed by my anger. I may very well be sick. My quality of life may be harmed for the foreseeable future. But what good will souring the few days I have before then do? I should be cherishing this waiting period. I should be holding space. I should be fortifying my body, mind, and soul for the battle that is most assuredly being waged inside me right now.

Rather than being annoyed at my work friend for not being as livid as I am at the situation, I should be admiring his ability to let go and to smile in the face of injustice and adversity. Part of my rage is a result of the perception that without it, I am allowing myself to be taken advantage of and trampled upon. But as I read my book last night, I began to think about the types of characters that I respect the most. It is not the vindictive, aggressive characters. It is the characters that are most passive, loving, forgiving, and humble. I do not view them as fools for not raging against the terrible people or circumstances they face. I see that they are wise and well-adjusted for being able to maintain their inner peace and their loving nature no matter what.

The things that anger me most are actually opportunities for me to cultivate that same peaceful, compassionate, inner soften that I so admire in others. It’s hard. I won’t pretend otherwise, but I know that our challenges are what spur growth. In my heart I know that what’s important is not being right or wrong or “teaching someone else a lesson.” I cannot control other people and that is something I need to accept and move on from. Life may not be fair, there are cruel, selfish, monstrous people, but it is my duty to distinguish myself from these people. It is a joy and an honor to have the chance to be a light unto myself and those I love. I will not allow my anger to tarnish the naturally loving and abundant nature of my soul. Instead that nature will only gain strength from the negative encounters we all must face. I will maintain a grateful heart and a calm mind despite it all. This is my life. This is my practice. And I refuse to waste it on hate. I have faith in myself and my body to protect me and always do what is right and kind. The rest I must simply learn to allow.

How to Create a Peaceful Mind

Pushing Through Inspiration Stagnation

It feels like it’s been a long time now since I’ve felt passionate about my creative endeavors. Sitting down to write each morning used to be one of my favorite parts of the day. Now it feels as though I am just going through the motions. I’m not particularly proud or excited about any of the posts I’ve made this past month. I think that is partially due to the pressure I put on myself to perform. The longer this dry spell goes on, the harder it is to just relax and allow myself to enjoy the act itself rather than the product that’s produced.

Inspiration and the creative process are very amorphous things to me. I really don’t know what causes me to feel motivated and excited about my work one day and completely disinterested the next. Sometimes I’ll sit down with a great idea only to find myself unable to get my ideas out on the page. Other times I’ll sit down with absolutely no expectation of creating anything worthwhile and discover I’ve come up with some of my best work. The only thing that seems like a constant is that the more I force it, the more impossible it seems to find that flow state.

I was listening to a podcast the other day about this and I really liked the way the guest speaker described the creative process. Sitting down to create isn’t about productivity or expecting any particular outcome. It’s about making space. It’s about getting out of the way and allowing the universe and whatever else might be out there to flow through you. Many artistic geniuses throughout history have been hesitant to take credit for there most renowned works. When asked how they came up with them, they say that it was as if they had no control over it. Some unknown energy was simply moving through them.

In times when you don’t feel particularly inspired to make art in whatever form that may be, don’t get too discouraged. There is no need to try to force that creative energy to flow. It’s out there and it is within you. Time spent on creative endeavors even when you don’t feel motivated, still is not time wasted. In these moments our focus should not be on whether or not we produced an impressive or moving work. The point is to sit down and make yourself available to whatever force it may be that possesses us and causes us to create miraculous things. All we have to do is be there, go within, and wait. You inspiration, your muse, will surely find you again. Just have patience and allow.

Web Design Inspiration Sites 2022 (Tips from Designers) - UX studio

Accepting the Unspoken

Feel your feelings. This is one of the new popular phrases floating around the internet. But it’s never really made clear what is meant by these words. A lot of us resist this advice for that very reason. Why would I want to feel my feelings? I’ve been taking such pains to avoid them for most of my life. What isn’t explained is that these mental loops that we are labeling as “feelings” are not, in fact, our feelings. They are the cascading cycles of inner dialogue that we have built up in response to our feelings. These thoughts are really want we desperately want to avoid.

The way to escape these thoughts isn’t by pushing down our feelings or trying to numb them through distraction or substances, it’s to direct our minds away from the words and into the physical sensations we are experiencing. This is definitely something easier said than done, but it’s a practice worth putting effort into. Watch your mind as it tries to move back into thinking instead of feeling. I did this with my anger just the other day. I moved my awareness into my body. I felt the tightness around my heart, the heat in my face and neck. Then after just a few seconds, my brain was back to narration, finding ways to justify and bolster these uncomfortable sensations. Again and again, I had to keep putting down these words and picking up the actual feelings I was experiencing instead.

It’s quite difficult to remain in silent sensation, especially when it’s not a pleasant one. The mind is so good at labeling and explaining and creating stories. It’s an odd experience to not focus on defining and labeling everything. I’ve spent my whole life searching and trying to learn the words and explanations for what I go through every day. That’s the reason I got a degree in psychology. It may be helpful to have a background of knowledge about these things, but sometimes even that isn’t what we really need. Sometimes all we need to do is allow and be present with whatever is there, whether we can define it or not.

Learning that it’s safe and beneficial to trust and allow the physical sensation of my emotions without constantly analyzing has opened the door for me to accept this level of awareness in my relationships as well. I have a tendency to become fixated on what the other person may be thinking or feeling in regard to a shared experience or out interpersonal bond in general. I become overcome with worry that they perceive our relationship differently than I do, that I like them more than they like me, that they are unhappy, upset with me, etc. In order to relieve myself of this anxiety, I search for ways to reassure myself through explicit, verbal communication.

However, I often notice that even hearing the exact words I am looking for from the other person, I find myself unable to trust their words alone. I revert back to internal analysis, worrying, and skepticism. Giving myself permission to accept my own feelings for what they are at the simplest, most primal level, has encouraged me to do the same with other people. Ultimately we will never know what another person truly thinks or feels about anything. We have to eventually trust our interpretation and move on.

Like most things, this lesson is magnified while under the influence of psychedelics. Whenever I’m tripping with someone, there are phases where I feel we are perfectly in sync. Everything is easy. I feel connected, understood, and loved. Then a thought will arise or some slight friction will occur that leaves me questioning. Have we really been on the same page? Am I just being delusional to think they’ve understood me thus far? A dark cloud will appear for a moment, but will quickly pass as I allow myself to trust and enjoy again.

Our lack of trust in our emotions and our perceptions is what causes most of our stress in modern times. I think the fear behind this is primarily the fear of being wrong in our assumptions. We want to guard ourselves against every possibility. This is an impossible task, though. We will never be able to verify the validity of our perceptions and interpretations. Therefore, the best thing we can do for ourselves as well as those we love, is just accept, allow, and be present for whatever may arise. Give yourself permission to enjoy your experiences even when you can’t explain them, put words to them, or back them up with empirical evidence. Some things are meant to be felt, not spoken or explained.

People with blunted emotions have harder time reading their body's signals

Making Space for Bad Days

This past week has been pretty rough for me. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I’ve been in a bad mood for a while now. Nothing bad has happened. In fact, on paper this week looks pretty great. It was my birthday. I got lots of thoughtful gifts and well wishes. I got to spend an evening with my best friends. It’s nearly Christmas. My boyfriend will be coming home next week. Life is good. Yet for some reason I just can’t seem to enjoy it right now.

I’ve woken up the past couple mornings looking for that lighthearted, eager, bright-eyed feeling that I normally find waiting for me as I walk into work. However, instead I’ve been greeted with irritability, impatience, and disinterest. None of the things I normally look forward to in a day have brought me any enjoyment. And I’ve been making it worse by being upset with myself and frustrated because of it.

I keep searching for some reason or explanation so that I can make sense of this strange off place I’ve been in. But sometimes there doesn’t need to be an explanation. Sometimes we just have days, weeks, or even months that are less enjoyable than others. There isn’t anything wrong with that. The problem is holding these unrealistic expectations for myself. I’ve been doing amazing for months now. I’ve had high energy, low stress. I’ve been upbeat, proud of myself, and treating myself well. We can’t hope to continue experiencing only positive emotions indefinitely though. Off days are a natural part of the human experience. Progress is not linear.

Even knowing that, it can be hard to sit with uncomfortable emotions. Everything passes in due time, even our hardest moments, but there is something inside of me that worries it never will. I keep waiting and hoping that the next day I’ll feel better. Then I am furious with myself when I don’t. Fighting and rejecting how I’m feeling isn’t doing me any favors though. It’s just prolonging this funk I’m in.

I can’t help feeling a bit like a petulant child, pouting because I’m not getting my way and allowing my stubbornness to prolong my suffering. My higher self keeps offering me kind words and helpful suggestions, only to have them angrily cast aside by my wounded ego. Sometimes I just don’t feel like listening to my own advice. It’s hard to know what to do with myself when I’m in this undesirable mindset.

When we’re faced with these situations, all we can do is allow ourselves to be where we are. It’s okay if I don’t feel like joking and smiling as much with my coworkers this week. It’s okay if I don’t feel like doing as long or as intense of a yoga practice. It’s okay if I need to set down my to-do list and just breathe for a few days. We must have faith that this storm will pass and the time will come when we feel motivated and upbeat again. It’s okay for us to put some things on the back burner while we wait for that day to come. Even though your mind might be telling you this feeling is forever and we need to keep pushing forward, that is only an illusion. There is nothing wrong with offering yourself the space and compassion you need in order to rest. Just because your hobbies aren’t bringing you the joy they did a few days ago doesn’t mean you’ll never find joy again.

These difficult days are just as valuable as the easy days. Perhaps even more so, in that they hold important lessons for us. They give us the perspective we need to more fully appreciate the good days. They are an opportunity for us to practice offering ourselves love even when we want to reject it or feel like we don’t deserve it. It’s a chance for us to practice equanimity and patience. It’s a challenge from the universe that we can choose to overcome. It’s a reminder of how lucky we are that we have so many good days, that a few bad ones feel jarring and unnatural.

When we find ourselves in these moments, continue to treat yourself gently and with love without the burden of expectations. Just because we don’t get the same pleasure out of acts of self-care, doesn’t mean that we should cast them aside. Toxic positivity is when we continue to do these things in an effort to force ourselves into a different mental state. But you cannot force happiness, nor should you try. Sometimes the greatest act of kindness that you can offer yourself is just allowing yourself to feel your feelings, whatever they may be.

It's okay to not be okay. by Sabrina E. Coyle on Dribbble

The Nature of Wanting

how I deal with wanting to disappear | by Anthony James Williams | Medium

What are you wanting right now? Perhaps it’s to go back to sleep or for the weekend to finally arrive or maybe even something more significant like a new job or to leave your partner. Whatever it is that you are longing for, have you thought about what will happen if and when you get what you want? I know whenever I want something, the unspoken assumption is that once I get this thing, life will be better, my nagging desire will finally cease. I have to laugh at myself, because even though years of experience have shown me this is not true, I still believe it in the back of my mind. I think we all do to some extent.

It dawned on me this morning that wanting is part of what it means to be alive. Even though we may reach our goals or obtain whatever it is we desire, that wanting is not going to go away. There will always be something else to fixate on. We are all going through life chasing a moving target. At first this can seem rather depressing. Will we never truly reach happiness then?

Like most things in life, there is more than one way to look at this. Rather than feeling defeated, we can feel freed. “How on earth is that freeing?”, you may ask. Well think of it like this: we won’t ever be able to end that wanting sensation within ourselves, however knowing that, we can redefine what happiness means for us. If we’ll never end all desire, we can stop focusing so much on the ones we have. We can realize how foolish it is to think, “I’ll be happy when this or that happens.” Instead we can make the decision to be happy right now, knowing that happiness no longer means we lack all longing. We can make peace with our desires, accepting that whether or not we reach them isn’t what determines our ability to be happy.

Instead of spinning our wheels endlessly trying to get more and more and never feeling satisfied, we can use that energy to hold space for and accept our wanting nature. In this way, wanting and anxiety are quite similar. We are spurred to action in an effort to avoid the discomfort of wanting as well as the discomfort of anxiety. The sensation of these mental states in our bodies seems intolerable at times. We distract ourselves from these unpleasant feelings by convincing ourselves that we can “fix” them. That we will reach some distant point in the future where wanting and anxiety are just not a part of us anymore. When we can stop running and realize the futility of this exercise in avoidance, we can learn to make friends with these aspects of life.

I’m not saying that we just give up on achieving our dreams or trying to make our lives more comfortable. I’m just saying that as we work towards our goals, whatever they may be, we can be happy whether we reach them or not. And we can be happy while we’re reaching for them.

As you move through your day today, notice when you find yourself wanting something. Whether it is something big or small, just pause and explore what it feels like to want. Is there a sense of urgency or anxiety there? Do you feel pressured to take action, to obtain whatever it is you’re wanting? Can you remain still and just breathe into this feeling? Try acknowledging the importance of this feeling. Say thank you and offer gratitude to this nature of wanting within you. Be mindful of the ways in which this internal motivation has helped you get to where you are today. Practice enjoying the chase as well as the reward at the end.

Happiness is not ahead of you in some distant future. Happiness is not something to be earned or captured. Happiness is our nature in the same way that wanting is our nature. Both can exist simultaneously if practice opening our hearts and minds to that possibility and allow them to.

The Power of Daydreaming

At times, life can be frustrating. My soul often gets weighed down by the constant repetition from week to week. Wake up, workout, go to the office, go home, make dinner, go to bed, repeat. It only makes it worse when I start to get aggravated at my own lack of motivation and ability to insert novel experiences into my day. It feels like I have all of these great ideas, but I’m just too mentally and/or physically exhausted to implement any of them into my life.

Most days I really struggle to think of anything worth writing about. It feels like a chore to decide on an idea and go with it. I spend most of my time second-guessing my choice as I’m writing anyway. I don’t know why I put so much pressure on myself. Hardly anyone reads my posts. I’m supposedly just doing this blog for fun. But am I having fun? I definitely am when I come across a topic I’m really passionate about. That happens less often than it used to. I feel like I’m starting to run out of steam after writing once a day for over a year. More and more frequently I find myself googling writing prompts in a desperate attempt to find inspiration. However, none of the prompt I find ever seem interesting in the slightest.

Today I started with a different approach. I was feeling unmotivated by any of the prompts I came across, so I asked myself: what type of things make me feel motivated? I tried to think back to a time I felt really excited about something, anything. It’s honestly rare for me to feel really inspired by anything anymore. The only thing that came to mind was being a teenager and daydreaming about random things in class. It was such an enjoyable thing to do. I don’t know why those reveries stopped.

Part of me thinks daydreaming disappears as a natural part of growing up. I also think the advancements we’ve had in technology play a part. Whether you’re a kid or an adult, no one really has the opportunity for daydreaming anymore. At any dull moment, we can grab our phones or a computer or whatever and mindlessly scroll through content until we’ve killed all of our down time. It’s sad to imagine the younger generation never getting to enjoy a good daydream.

There are actually a lot of benefits to daydreaming, despite how often we were told it’s a waste of time. Daydreams help us get clear on our hopes, dreams, goals, desires. They help us plan for the future. They give the mind a chance to rest and reorganize information. Daydreaming can even help you be a more creative person!

Somewhere along the line, I got bogged down by only placing value on “real” things. Daydreams seemed dangerous. I felt as though I was just getting my hopes up, deluding myself, wasting time and energy thinking about things that would never happen. I guess I was afraid that if I thought about something too much, like being with my partner, I’d only experience more pain if/when the relationship didn’t work out. If I daydreamed about living in a big house in the country and ended up renting a small apartment in the suburbs, I’d have set myself up for disappointment. By closing myself off to hopes and dreams, I felt I was protecting myself from pain.

I’ve since learned through many hard lessons that you can never protect yourself from pain. Pain, disappointment, and suffering are parts of life that cannot be avoided or planned for. So don’t worry about it! Don’t cut yourself off from the good parts of life in an attempt to avoid the bad. While it may seem like a good idea, it’s counterintuitive.

Daydreaming is just another lighthearted aspect of life that I’ve ruined for myself for being too serious. This strangle-hold of control I try to have over myself isn’t doing me any favors. Not everything has to have an ulterior purpose. It’s okay to do something just because it makes you happy. In fact, that’s the best reason for doing something in my opinion. I would never accuse someone else of wasting their time for finding enjoyment in something simple or silly. Yet I never allow myself that same freedom. It’s another question of what it means to “waste” time. It depends on what your goal is.

Even though my primary goal in life is to be happy and make others happy, it doesn’t seem to align with my actions. In fact I spend most of my time thinking and doing things that make me unhappy. The world already places so many restrictions on us. I’ve started to internalize that rigid structure. I forbid myself from having “unrealistic” thoughts. But imaginary objects, animals, landscapes, lifestyles, and scenarios are some of the most fun things to think about! The possibilities are limitless. What an absolute joy it is to let your mind off the leash sometimes and see what it is able to create and imagine.

Today I want to focus on giving myself that mental freedom. So I’m giving myself a little assignment. Feel free to give it a go yourself, and if you’d like share it with me! I’d love to hear what you come up with. Here’s some daydreaming homework if you so choose to accept the challenge:

Ask Yourself:

  1. What is something I’d enjoy daydreaming about?
  2. Do I want it to be realistic, total fantasy, or somewhere in between?
  3. What barriers do I notice myself setting up to limit the possibilities?
  4. Can I give myself permission to play in my own mind without any rules?
  5. Can I give myself permission to spend time on something for no other reason than to have fun and make myself happy?

Allow yourself as much or as little time as you need. Try to write it down as you go to help you stay focused. Let’s work together to learn how to motivate and inspire ourselves. We have the ability to create a rich inner landscape of thought to keep us energized and uplift us when we need it most. Not giving ourselves this gift is the real waste.

Daydreaming Is Actually a Sign of Intelligence, According to Neuroscientists

Working with Resistance

Once again, my yoga class this morning has inspired my writing topic for the day. In my yoga teacher training we learned about something called PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation.) Essentially this is just using your muscles to resist or push against whatever stretch you are in for a few moments before relaxing the muscles, allowing you to sink and relax even deeper into the pose. It is similar to the idea of clenching different muscles before releasing them to relax more fully and release stress. It is a fascinating and useful technique to be sure.

One of the beautiful things about yoga is that we can take what we learn on the mat out into the rest of our lives. So what can we take with us from PNF? Well it draws our attention to the idea of working with resistance. A lot of the things we do in yoga class can be looked at as metaphors for how to live our lives with more ease. For the most part, people don’t like resistance. We don’t want to have our plans altered or interrupted. We don’t want disagreements or dissent. We just want everything to run smoothly in exactly the way that we want it to. We can even start to feel cheated or hopeless when things don’t go our way.

Using PNF in yoga not only allows our bodies to become more flexible and go deeper into difficult postures, it reminds us that we can use resistance in our everyday lives to our own advantage as well. We just have to be patient and use what life gives us rather than trying to reject it or avoid it. The other day at work my friends and I were discussing the idea of having bad memories changed or erased like in The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Although it is undoubtedly an interesting, tempting concept, none of us were convinced actually going through with such a procedure would be a good idea or something we would choose for ourselves. Thought experiments like this help us to reflect on the ways in which we can actually be grateful for all of the hardships we have experienced in our lives. In the moment, a lot of the things that happen to us seem unfair, unbearable even, but later on we come to realize that those same events have allowed us to become who we are today. Perhaps they made us stronger, wiser, more resilient, or even led us down a new path we wouldn’t have taken otherwise.

Looking back, it can be easy to see how some of my worst life experiences were worth the pain I went through. However, that doesn’t make it any easier to accept the difficulties I face in my present. I’m trying to remember that PNF perspective though. Even if at first it seems like I’m being held back or led away from where I want to be, it may actually be the opposite. I’m trying to stay strong in the face of adversity and trust that one day I will be grateful for even these painful times. I’m even trying to be grateful for them right now, even though I don’t yet know what they may lead to down the road. All I can do is keep moving forward and have faith that I’ll get to where I want to be one day, despite (or even because of) the struggles along the way.

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Biting Your Tongue

One high school memory that still haunts me to this day is from my junior year photography class. We were going on a field trip to the Andy Warhol museum. I never like Andy Warhol’s art. I still maintain that he’s not a good artist, he just became famous for being a weirdo that people were interested in. I kept professing these kind of sentiments and complaining that this was where we were going. Eventually my teacher cut me off. Irritated, he said, “Bite your tongue.” I felt so ashamed and honestly wished I would never have to speak again in that class. I wanted to disappear.

The reason this memory sticks with me is because it seems to mirror similar situations throughout my life. There have been many times when I’ve ended up embarrassing myself or making my own life more difficult because I seem to be unable to bite my tongue. It is usually when I am feeling angry or irritated about something. It is very hard for me to just let things go for some reason. I feel compelled to voice my displeasure. Loudly and whenever I get the chance.

For example, today I have to stay late a work for what seems like the thousandth time because of a particular CPS worker that likes to take advantage of my friend and coworker’s good nature. We will stay after hours to do emergency interviews. Sometimes a child is in immediate danger and it’s necessary that we talk to them as soon as possible so we can make sure they have somewhere safe to go. However, this CPS worker just uses the word “emergency” to manipulate and control us so that things work better for her schedule and deadlines.

The interviewer I work with is a very nice, easy-going man. To him it’s never a big deal and he takes pride in the fact that he never refuses to do an interview. He always says that I don’t have to stay and he can do it all himself, but it just wouldn’t feel right for me to let him do that. So here I am, stuck doing two interviews at 4:30-6 or 7 today when our office closes at 4. And surprise, surprise it couldn’t be further from an emergency. The children are completely safe.

My problem isn’t even that I have to stay late without pay (we are a very small non-profit that only gets paid for 40 hours each week no matter what), it’s that this horrible woman continues to take advantage of us for her own convenience. In my nearly two years with this organization, no other CPS worker has asked us to stay late. Not only that, but this specific worker does it practically every single time we get a call from her. It just makes me feel so furious that someone even has the nerve to do this continuously to such nice people like my coworkers.

On matters of injustice or unfairness, I have an especially difficult time biting my tongue. It’s one of the reasons I still struggle to do so when I hear idiotic comments about veganism. I get a familiar rumbling, hot sensation in my chest that causes viscous language to spew out of my mouth like a volcano. It never makes anything better though. The anger continues to build. Not only that but when I speak out I also start to pile on feelings of shame and self-hatred. I’m embarrassed by my uncontrollable outbursts, and by the way others look at me when they see me so angry.

I’ve always clung to the idea of operant conditioning and to the idea that staying quiet and complacent is the same as condoning a behavior. At least those are the reasons I give myself to rationalize my violent reactions to these types of situations. I feel it is my duty to do something, to protect myself and others from injustice or abuse. I feel very passionately about it. But I don’t want to feel this way when the result is that I become spiteful and vindictive. The outcome is never restoring justice, it simply ruins my day and possibly the image that others have of me as a person.

When days like today happen, I have been trying very hard to use them as an opportunity for personal growth. These are the moments that I’ll need to utilize in order to begin to create new, more healthy, productive, socially acceptable pathways in my brain. It’s never easy. I still get caught up in brooding over all the reasons that I shouldn’t be put in this situation, finding fault, blaming others, and coming up with ways to make these things stop happening, or at the very least to get revenge. I feel a great resistance bubbling up inside when I try to transition away from these thoughts to more positive ones. Something inside of me is always dragging its feet, insisting that if I allow myself to be okay with this, it will happen even more, and the injustice will continue to expand and grow larger. Part of me still tends to believe that’s true, but even so, I’m missing the point. Does it even matter if these things happen to me more if they no longer produce such toxic emotions?

I am trying to stay curious. Rather than getting wrapped up in the spiral of self-justifications, I ask myself, “Why is this so hard for me? What is it that keeps me from letting this go? Wouldn’t I rather be happy than right?” That’s really what it comes down to, that last question. Sometimes it’s hard for me to remember that being happy is better than being the smartest person in the room or being right or even having control. When I start feeling like I am helpless and powerless in a situation that is out of my control, I just need to remind myself that I am always in control. Maybe not when it comes to what happens to me, but I get to decide how I react to those things. That is what is truly important.

As I continue on with this unbearably long day, I am going to choose to focus on all of the things I have to be grateful for instead of the few small irritations that I have to put up with occasionally. I love my job. I love the people I work with. I love (most) of the people in the other organizations we work with. I can get away with coming in 15 minutes late everyday. I can leave early another day since I’ll be staying over tonight. I got to work from home for nearly a year. My job is usually easy and not stressful. Yesterday I got to spend the whole day at the office chatting with my lovely work friends. We even got lunch delivered to us from Panera thanks to one of the board members. I am so grateful for having the opportunity to be a part of this place, even if that means learning how to bite my tongue sometimes. This is a valuable skill, one I genuinely want to learn. So I should also be grateful for these opportunities to practice it.

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