It Doesn’t Feel Like a Choice

Can a broken brain really fix itself?
maybe it requires a lot of help
but how can you seek out something
you're already certain you don't deserve?

I've tried relentlessly to turn
the tides of my mind toward the sun
but the familiar shore of rage and despair
is magnetic as it resists every effort

It's gotten no easier to resist this automatic
under toe of self-defeating thoughts
when it pulls my head below the waves
so swiftly and with such strength

Self-love practices that once felt like salvation
have turned sour under the miasma of this mind
shame and disappointment have piled onto the
frustration of not being able to be different

I had really hoped that it was a choice
that I could decide to feel better
but now I doubt that it's fully true
there are more factors to change than sheer will

It feels like an attack to keep hearing it's up to me
when I've been trying my very best
but it's still not enough to get by
I guess I should be glad it worked for a little while
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Oath of Silence

A silent prayer for quiet
is drown out by detestable drivel
this out of body experience of being unable
to stop myself from speaking is unbearable

Double voice of internal tongue-lashing
while arrogant assertions and petty comments
continue to spill from cracking, spiteful lips
in the moment it doesn't feel like a choice

Conversations contaminated with dread
presenting myself as someone I don't want to be
the sickening shame of perpetually poisoning
others' perceptions of me

The reoccurring oath of silence never seems to matter
when my mouth falls open again against my will
how have I still not learned how to bite my tongue
or simply speak in line with my true intention?

Unable to Move Forward

I have the disease of discontent
frantic to change my external circumstances
anxiously envisioning the imperative of upward mobility
while simultaneously shrinking from the idea of change

It's hard to remember that mindset is what matters
while also understanding there are choices I can make
how am I to determine if action is needed or
if it's just an ego's sad attempt to avoid responsibility?

Equally afraid of things being different 
as I am of things staying the same
is there any true escape from this
paralyzing paradox of self reflection?

Should I focus my energies on being happy where I am
or on grasping for new paths in life?
what would be the best use of my time?
or is it all about preference and perspective?

There are so many questions
I know only I can answer
but I'm left spinning in circles
inside my own uncertain mind

I just want someone to take my hand
and lead me confidently onward in any direction
as of now I foresee myself simply starving to death
at the impassible crossroads of doubt

My True Nature

I truly believe I can choose to be happy
my younger self was always so
there was innocence and joy in each breath
I loved everyone and the world at once
my heart was full of gratitude

But somewhere along the way
my soul got bogged down with disillusion
bitterness encroached upon my heart
like blight creeping through late fall crops
all of life turned sour for awhile

Now I struggle with these separate shades of self
I know deep down that pure love and light remain
still it feels like a denial to turn toward it
and away from who I've known myself to be
as I've grown into the person I am today

This anger and violence I've harbored for so long
grip me so much tighter than childhood pleasures
to let it go feels like a refusal to acknowledge my own pain
to surrender to a delusion that it never existed
to favor a false sense of all pervading peace

My precious passion has turned to poison
through years of focusing on the wrong things
an all-mighty wave of indignation rises up to consume
the small voice inside that pleads for the path
towards gentle gratitude and humble happiness

Can I really learn to reconcile these two opposing forces?
Can the soft thread of unconditional love truly overcome
the violent force of white knuckled hatred?
I'm afraid of who I will become if I am unable
to turn from my current path, led by self-righteous ego

Still there is a quiet hope that stirs within
that there is still time to reclaim my one life
and use my precious gifts to create light
instead of adding to the choking darkness
that tempts me and ties my hands

When I succumb to the swirling torment
that tells me happiness is not my nature
I will strive to remember my soul's complexity
and call out for the small child that once embodied
the brave wisdom of a wide open heart 

Let the Universe Lead You

Wanderlust Let Go of Control: The Universe Has Your Back

The modern world is overflowing with choices, whether it’s the twenty plus breakfast cereal options, the millions of bands there are to listen to, or even the possible career paths you can pick from. Generally, having a lot of different choices is a good thing. Never before have we had the ability to completely and utterly personalize every aspect of our lives. Whatever your interests are, there is a seemingly endless amount of content and products just for you.

Despite the positives of our diverse, jam-packed environments, there are also negatives. Have you ever heard the term “analysis paralysis”? Essentially it means being so overwhelmed with options that you cannot come to a decision. It becomes impossible to know what the “best” choice will be, so you end up not making any choice at all, just wasting time weighing your options until you run out the clock or give up out of frustration. I’m not sure if this is something that affects everyone or if certain types of people are more inclined to experience this, but I personally have never identified so much with a term before. It feels like I am in a nearly constant state of analysis paralysis.

I struggle and fret over every single decision I make. The more options I have to choose from the more incapable I am of choosing any of them. Especially when it’s a purely subjective decision. No choice is necessarily going to be better than another, yet I am fixated on somehow finding the “perfect” selection. Not only that, I also spend time after making a decision wondering, with mild regret, if I should have chosen something else.

Until yesterday, I never really had any possible solution to this dilemma. As I was scrolling through Pinterest, searching for artistic inspiration for my daily drawing, an interesting thought occurred to me. I was puttering around, going back and forth about what I’d like to draw, when I considered how I might feel differently about the situation if I was someone who subscribed to the believe that “everything happens for a reason.” What if instead of fretting about the other possible ideas I haven’t found yet, I simply commit to one that has been presented to me?

Intellectually, I know that it really doesn’t matter what I draw or write about. I am only doing these things because I enjoy doing them. The end result is basically irrelevant as far as I’m concerned. So I know I could be equally satisfied with whatever I choose. The anxiety and discomfort of searching for the “perfect choice” is definitely not worth it. But even constantly reminding myself of this fact, doesn’t seem to override my natural desire to pick the “right” thing and be able to weigh absolutely all of my options before coming to a decision about what that thing is, regardless of how innocuous of a decision I may be making.

One of the most valuable things I’ve learned in the past few years, though, is the importance of perspective and mental framing. Instead of viewing it as a highly important decision versus one that doesn’t matter at all, I’ve decided to try a different angle. From now on, I want to view the initial options presented to me as special, meaningful selections being offered up by the universe. Whether or not you genuinely believe this to be the case is irrelevant. You can choose to suspend disbelief for your own purposes. I want to choose to believe the first few things that jump out to me or spark my interest aren’t just random, I am drawn to them for a reason. I don’t need to shop around for all the other billions of options out there before making my choice. In fact, I could even close my eyes and click a random image. Whatever thoughts or inspiration bubble to the surface from that are what I am supposed to be focusing on, not everything else that might be available.

I think actively engaging in this mode of thinking will serve me greatly. Not only will it help me make decisions more easily, but it will remind me to have fun and keep a lighthearted attitude. I think it will also allow me to be more confident in my decisions. Believing that the few options initially presented to you are significant and hold meaning prevents you from endlessly second guessing yourself and wondering if there might be something better if you keep looking.

This mindset is also beneficial in your everyday life. If we can truly practice the belief that everything that happens to us is important and was supposed to be that way, then we can avoid that fear of missing out or the displeasure of wishing things had been different for us. Trusting that the universe has placed us on a particular path for a reason keeps us in the present moment. Without the constant tendency to feel cheated by reality when it doesn’t match what we wanted or expected, we are able to fully embody and benefits from the experiences we actually have.

With time and perspective we often look back at horrible times in our lives with understanding or even gratitude. We realize that sometimes the worst things that happen to us become opportunities that lead us to where we want to be. The only thing we need to bring the comfort of that perspective to the present moment is trust. Trust that each moment in your life was specifically selected just for you, that it was something you needed, even if it’s a hard lesson, even if you don’t understand it yet. Trust that the things presented to you in your life are meaningful, not random. Even if that’s a load of shit and isn’t true, what does it matter? We’ll never really be able to know if that’s true or not, so we might as well live our lives believing what makes us a happier, more grateful person. I used to be someone that believed the truth was all that mattered at any cost. But now I see that was only making me miserable, and in so many circumstances “truth” is subjective and dependent on your perspective and what you decide to focus on. What really matters in this life is being happy, loving, and grateful.

Trust The Universe | Kristin Heldt Art

Learning to Be Happy (Even When You Don’t Get What You Want)

True Contentment: In Simplicity — SECOND CITY CHURCH

The other day, while listening to a talk given by the American spiritual teacher and guru, Ram Dass, he said something along the lines of: Learn how to be happy even when you don’t get what you want. For some reason, the way he said these words really struck me. There is something about listening to the gentle, slow, thoughtful voice of a spiritual leader that allows simple ideas to penetrate directly to your soul. Since then I have kept that idea close to my heart.

It’s so easy to forget that external circumstances don’t dictate our internal state. Finding contentment where we are now, doesn’t mean that we won’t want things anymore. However, we won’t allow the outcome of these wants to decide how we feel. Certain desires are easier to let go of than others, but it’s important to remind ourselves that we always have the power to let go and reside in happiness.

All of us already know how to do this to a certain extent. We have varying levels of wanting. We may want to have a certain fruit for breakfast only to realize that it has spoiled and we must find something else to eat. Depending on who you are, this usually isn’t enough to ruin your day or mood. We simply think, “oh, rats” and prepare another food. On the other hand, we may be planning to get married only to have our
fiancée leave us at the alter. That’s not going to be as easy to let go of as a rotten mango.

I wonder, though. How much the variation in reaction has to do with our preconceived ideas about the “appropriate” reaction in each scenario. When I used to get upset, it genuinely felt like I had no choice. Then in addition to not getting what I wanted, I felt an added level of suffering due to a feeling of powerlessness. There is a certain freedom in simply knowing we have the ability to choose.

When my ex left me the last time, I remember feeling frustrated that now I’d have to go back to being sad and miserable. The idea of doing that seemed so repulsive to me that I decided I didn’t care if that’s what I was supposed to feel. I decided to discard my ideas of what I thought society expected of me in that scenario. I didn’t want to be sad anymore, and for the first time in such a situation, I realized I had the choice not to be.

Sometimes just remembering that we have that choice is enough. This doesn’t mean that you’ll never experience sadness, anger, frustration, or suffering again. There are some times in life that we actually want to feel sad, and that’s okay. There is a difference between holding space for a genuine emotion and feeling trapped by one.

The next time I find myself not getting what I want, rather than getting upset and ruminating, I’m going to use it as an opportunity. Each time something doesn’t go the way you planned, it’s an opportunity to practice being happy anyway. One of my favorite questions to ask myself is: Can I love myself even though…? Fill in the blank. Now I’d like to add another question: Can I be happy even though….? Sometimes phrasing the issue in this way allows us to see the choice we have. When I’m getting down on myself because of some small flaw, asking the question, “can I still love myself,” brings things back into perspective and reminds me what really matters. If I can still love myself anyway, why bother being upset about whatever it may be? The same goes for “can I be happy anyway.”

Asking these types of questions also helps me be more lighthearted about the problem. Sometimes the answer isn’t clear in that moment. Then I become curious. Can I? Let’s find out. It can be fun to explore our own hearts and minds and find a path back to happiness. And just like paths in the forest, these paths become more worn and easier to follow the more we use them. So don’t worry if your mind seems like particularly dense woodlands right now. You can still make those paths. Even if it’s hard at first, know that it only gets easier.

Ram Dass talks about 'Becoming Nobody,' the documentary on his spiritual  journey | Datebook

Trust and the Universe Will Provide

The other day, I was exposed to Covid and feared I would have to quarantine the very weekend my boyfriend was supposed to come home for a few days. I wrote a post about it earlier in the week, right before I went and got tested. In that post, my focus was on learning to sit with uncertainty. All at once, a four day weekend I had been looking forward to for over a month threatened to disappear in an instant. Not only had I been exposed to Covid, but there was a tornado near where Nate was away at training. Nate was sent home early, with the caveat that he may also have to go back early, spoiling our plans.

That night as I talked with Nate on the phone, I could hear the unrest and discomfort in his voice at all these sudden changes. Neither one of us knew what would happen in a few days time. I tried to remain hopeful while also making peace with the worst case scenario. No matter what the outcome was, I was prepared to stay positive. For the first time in a long time, I had complete faith that the universe would deliver me exactly where I needed to be, even if that wasn’t where I had wanted to go.

When I received my email with a negative test result yesterday evening, I felt overjoyed. At nearly the exact same time, I also got word from Nate that he would still be allowed to keep our plans. Not only that, but now we would have an extra day together. It felt as though the surface tension of uncertainty had finally broken. All was well. I was relieved, grateful, and even felt proud. I was proud of myself for being able to surrender to the unexpected. It felt as though my trust in the universe had resulted in a reward. When all these issues first arose, I told Nate that we had either been blessed or cursed. Only time would tell which. Turns out that we were blessed.

I feel so reassured and even emboldened by the events of the last few days. I had been able to surrender to the universe, to the unknown, and I had been rewarded for my faith. Normally it is quite hard for me to lean into unexpected situations. But this experience has taught me an invaluable lesson: that it is okay to trust. I have everything that I need. I have always had everything that I need. I will always have everything that I need. The universe has and continues to take such excellent care of me. I am so grateful.

Tess Whitehurst – Good Vibe Tribe – Weekly Affirmation – I trust the  Universe to perfectly unfold

Your Worst Enemy

“The worst enemy you can meet will always be yourself; you lie in wait for yourself in caverns and forests.

Lonely one, you are going the way to yourself! And your way goes past yourself, and past your seven devils! You will be a heretic to yourself and witch and soothsayer and fool and doubter and unholy one and villain. You must be ready to burn yourself in your own flame: how could you become new, if you had not first become ashes?”

Friedrich Nietzsche

We have such a unique and complex relationship with ourselves as human beings. We can simultaneously be our biggest advocate and our greatest enemy. The various sides of who we are are somehow able to exist within us at the same time. It is a power play between these contradictory parts of ourselves. Sometimes it may seem like that harsh, hateful bully is the only one left, demeaning us, discouraging us, telling us stories of failure and hardship. But even in our darkest hour, that advocate is still within us somewhere. All we’ve got to do is listen for her voice. We have to fight the narrative being sold to us by our inner enemy.

We have to realize that regardless of which voice is speaking to us, we are neither of these voices. We are the witness, the watcher, the observer of our thoughts. Imagine yourself as the viewer of a TV show, this drama called life. The character called us may only be able to see a limited version of the events taking place in the show. As the viewer, we have the advantage of a wider perspective. We can see that there is a bigger picture that can help us understand and accept whatever the character might be going through, even if it’s unpleasant. We can sometimes get caught up in what we wish would happen or what we hope for the character, but in the end we have to trust the writers and the producers of the show to make it all work out.

We have to step back from our hopes and desires and expectations for ourselves and our own lives in a similar way. We have as little control over what happens to us as we do to what happens to our favorite TV characters. All we can do is watch, and that’s enough. We have to surrender to the universe and trust that things are happening as they should be. It seems like a tough choice to make, but really it’s the only one available. Otherwise we will be grasping and clinging to a mere illusion of control and causing ourselves even more suffering trying to maintain that illusion.

I would perhaps go even farther than Nietzsche does, and say that we are our only real enemy. Think about it. Do you really think anyone else cares as much about our success or demise as we do? Does anyone else even have the ability to make us suffer or fail? Sure those we share this life with have an influence on us. They have an effect on our lives for sure. But at the end of the day, we get to make the final decision. Will these new challenges we find ourselves forever faced with be chisels that chip away at us until there is nothing left? Or will they be the building blocks, the brick and mortar we need to build ourselves up bigger and stronger than ever before? There really is no objective reality. There is only our subjective experience of it.

Nobody can hurt me without my permission.

Gandhi

I’m sure I would have always understood and accepted the first quote by Nietzsche. After all, I have plenty of experience being my own enemy. However, when I first heard this second quote by Gandhi, I didn’t quite know what to make of it. It stayed in my head for a long time though, rolling around, challenging my concept of the world and what it means to be a part of it. It’s really difficult for me to express what exactly helped me to change the scope of my perception on these types of subjects. I vividly remember how I used to take such expressions: Nobody can hurt me without my permission? That’s bullshit! You’re saying not only have I been the victim of something awful and unfair, but also that it’s my fault for the suffering it’s caused me? It didn’t take much for me to feel attacked and misunderstood. I refused to take any of the responsibility for the ways I found myself feeling.

My inner enemy had so thoroughly convinced me that I was nothing more than a victim in this life that no matter what the world offered me, that was going to be my role in the story. So of course when I heard Gandhi’s quote, I played the part of the victim once again. How can you blame me for the awful way I feel? I was looking for someone to blame and nothing more, instead of seeing these words of wisdom from the perspective I do now. Again, I’m not sure how I finally made the shift, but eventually I realized that this quote was extremely empowering. It’s not about blame, it’s about power. Who do you place your power with? Is it the people around you, the random events in your life? Or is that power yours to do with as you see fit?

The enemy within us tries to convince us that we have no power, we are helpless pieces of a fucked up puzzle. The advocate within us understands that we actually have all the power. It doesn’t sell us the delusion that we can control the world around us, but it does show us that we don’t need to. The only power we need is the power to choose for ourselves how we want to interact with and conceptualize the world. That is the greatest power of all, and we all have it. It’s not the toxic kind of power that can be bought and sold and used as a weapon against others. It is a power far more personal and pure, a silent power that no one else can see, but has limitless potential.

Don’t allow that enemy inside your head to convince you to play the victim in your own story. You can be the hero. You can play any part you want to play. This is your story and no one else’s. Even being our own greatest enemy can be positive or negative. How do you want to view it? Woe is me mentality says: I’ll never be able to have success or happiness because I’ll never escape myself, and I’m the one holding me back. That’s the enemy talking. Our advocate, forever full of loving kindness, says: If I’m the only thing standing in my way, then I am completely capable of overcoming that. I am the master of my own destiny.

Martha Beck: Ways You're Sabotaging Yourself

It’s Okay

You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.

Nightbirde

The other day my friend at work showed me this video from America’s Got Talent. At first, I was just watching to be polite. I didn’t have much interest until this small, beautiful woman began to sing. Immediately her voice struck a cord in me. I got chills all over my body. I nearly began to cry, her voice and her words were so beautiful. Then just when I thought I couldn’t be any more moved she said the words I quoted above. Absolutely perfect. I felt like it was a sign from the universe that I just so happened to hear her words and her heartfelt song that day at work.

Then just as the power behind those words began to fade from my mind, they were reinforced by a video I watched earlier today. I was learning about Fyodor Dostoevsky, since I love to read classic authors. Somehow I haven’t read any of his novels yet. The video talked about the morals of a lot of his stories. A reoccurring theme was the idea that suffering is something that follows us, no matter how “advanced” our civilization becomes, no matter how many ways we seem to overcome suffering in society as time goes on. A new type of suffering will always emerge to take it’s place.

This is quite easy to see all around us. Compared to most of human history, we are living in a magical age of ecstasy and abundance. We have found the cure or at least treatment for most of the diseases and ailments that have plagued humanity throughout our existence. We have technology to make every aspect of life more convenient. Advancements that wouldn’t have been thought possible even just a few decades ago. Yet somehow we seem to be suffering as much as ever. Now instead of physical illnesses, we suffer from mental illnesses. Rather than hunger pains, we moan about social injustice. No matter how many problems we solve, new ones arise to take their place. The more we try to “fix” things, the more clear it becomes that suffering is an inevitable part of existence.

The point of Dostoevsky’s stories isn’t that we should despair at this fact. Quite the contrary, in fact. Just like Nightbirde so eloquently stated, the point is that we can’t keep waiting for life to stop being hard before we allow ourselves to be happy. We are so easily distracted by the little issues that pop up along our journey. We delude ourselves into thinking, if it wasn’t for this, or if only that, then we could really be happy. We toil away in an effort to solve all our problems and finally reach that perfect life where we will be happy forever. But we shouldn’t fall for that intoxicating delusion.

There is nothing that can stop us from being happy. Happiness and joy are our birthrights. They are a part of us. They are as much a part of existence as the suffering we keep trying to avoid. Suffering does not disqualify us from also experiencing moments of bliss. In fact we can be joyous despite our suffering. And doesn’t that just make our joy all the more potent and delicious? We are so incredibly powerful in that ability to defy all that stands against us. Just as we can always find something to be upset about no matter how great our circumstances in life, we can also find happiness no matter how destitute we may find ourselves.

Nightbirde’s song, “It’s Okay” is a testament to that inspiring truth. Our joy, as well as our suffering, comes from within. In this way we are all truly free. External circumstances cannot dictate our internal experience. I find one of the greatest challenges in life to be remembering that. No matter how many times we are taught that lesson throughout the course of our lives, we always seem to revert back to blaming the world around us for how we feel. In doing that, we are giving away our greatest power, our power to choose in each moment. It’s time for us to take our power back. We can choose happiness or we can choose suffering. It’s not always an easy choice, but it’s always there for us if we’re willing to look for it.

Waiting for Life to Begin

It feels like I am always waiting, either for something I’m looking forward to, or more often, for something to be over with. Once I get home from work, then my day can really start. Once winter ends, I’ll feel better again. Once the holidays are over… Once I’m not so busy… Once I graduate… Once I start my career…. Once I get married… Once I lose ten pounds… Once the kids are out of the house… Once my house is remodeled… Once the New Year starts… Do any of these phrases sound familiar? We become so fixated and ensnared by this mindset that we never really take the time to realize that our list of things to do or benchmarks to achieve before we can be happy or before our real life begins, never seem to end. There is always something holding us back.

The same principle applies to waiting for inspiration or waiting for the right moment. They are likely never going to come in the way that we want them to. While we waste our time waiting, life is passing us by. I’ve been reading a book lately that made an excellent point, it said something along the lines of: We must accept that our “in-box” is never going to be empty. Despite having our lives remind us of this each and every day, it is a rather hard concept to consciously accept. We so desperately want to believe that someday, somehow all of our chores and errands will be complete. That one day we will have time for all of the things we dream of, but keep putting off into some imagined future. It is hard to acknowledge that that future will never come. All we ever have is the moment that we are in right now.

Most days I save the activities that I really want to do until the very last moment. I want to play my new video game, or do some brainstorming. But first I have to clean the house, workout, do yoga, read, study, meal prep, etc. Then by the time the end of the day rolls around, I am so mentally exhausted, that I don’t even want to play my game anymore. The worst part is, I never seem to learn. Yet I get so frustrated with myself, day after day, for not doing enough. If only I were more organized, if only I had more energy, time, whatever, then I’d be happy, then I could really start to live the life I want.

The saddest part of it all is, there isn’t anything we could do or obtain that would put us in a better position for happiness than we’re in right now. We are the only one who has the ability to withhold our own happiness. These stories we tell ourselves make us believe that we have to finish everything, make everything perfect before we can focus on anything else. Despite having this realization many times, I still need a constant reminder that this is it. This is my life. I’m living it right now.

My life is never going to be perfect. I’m never going to have my in-box emptied. There will always be responsibilities and struggles and set-backs. And that’s okay. That’s life. There is nothing wrong with that. Having things left unchecked on my to-do list, isn’t the end of the world. It’s the way of the world. That doesn’t mean I can’t be happy right now. That doesn’t mean I can’t rest until everything is done. It will never be done.

It feels like a lot of us, including myself, go through our daily lives as if our commute to work, our studies, our chores, our self-care are all hurdles we have to jump over. Then and only then will we be able to really live. But that is all an illusion we’ve created. Brushing our teeth every morning, making coffee, making the bed, driving to work, buying groceries, cleaning the house, that’s life. Sure it may seem tedious and monotonous sometimes, but that’s only because we are taking these small moments for granted. Seldom are we truly focused and engaged in what we’re doing when we’re washing the dishes. We’re hardly ever fully present and in the moment when we’re stuck in morning traffic. Yet these things are ultimately what make up the majority of the time we have here on this earth.

At first this thought may seem depressing, but it doesn’t have to be. We get to choose whether or not these things are a burden or a blessing. It’s all a matter of perspective. We don’t have to brush our teeth twice a day. We get to. We don’t have to clean our house. We get to. We don’t have to take the time to prepare ourselves healthy meals. We get to. These are all moments that we try to exclude from what we consider our “real” lives. But why is that? Going to the bathroom isn’t any less a part of life than painting a masterpiece. We can find peace and contentment in both.

As you go through your day today, try to take notice of when you’re mind is waiting for a chance to relax, waiting until after work to feel happy. I’ve spent most of my life waiting. Now we have a choice to make. Will we keep waiting indefinitely? Or will we decide to live now, be happy now, be at peace now, regardless of whatever it is we’ve been waiting for?

Mr. Clarke Large Modern Plywood Wall Clock on Food52