A Soul Confined

Consciousness drips into these physical bodies, these vessels, so small and cramped. The universe is separated and confined inside of flesh and bone and electrical signals. We squirm and stretch and try to remember why we feel so strange now. Energy that once knew all, is left alone and cut off, forced to see through an unfocused, limited lens.

Some souls, young souls, are easily persuaded to forget about this flowing source from which we’ve been torn away. They smile and slip seamlessly into their new roles, happy, lighthearted, supposing they are whole. The old souls are not so easy to let go. A vague memory lingers of something more, of a connection now lost, of freedom obscured and shrunken down to fit within these new forms.

There is not enough space in here. My soul shuffles and feels suffocated by new boundaries and earthly limitations. This fear, this isolation, this uncertainty, these are all new, they aren’t right. The formless memory of the limitless expanse once inhabited causes friction and doubt. Blinded by the illusions that permeate and penetrate every perception, we anguish in confusion and discomfort. Why am I like this? I wasn’t always like this. Something is different. Something… something is wrong.

Unable to accept the new parameters of living consciousness, unable to feel these new forms of connection offered to us, will live in a surreal state of stupefaction. Equally frightened by life and by death, we float through the foreign rituals expected of us, always wondering, why? What is this? I can’t quite understand. I know there was a time when I understood. Why can’t I now?

Tasked with learning to trust, learning to follow the open-hearted ignorance of those that seem to flourish here. Allowing their smiling faith to support us and carry us through our fear. We don’t have to understand right now. Our job is not to understand, but to experience. These small, fragile, confining containers are gifts to be enjoyed and explored. Vehicles of vastly new, unlimited perspectives.

Let us not be afraid of that sense of something more. It is still there waiting for us. We have not been cut off, just reconstituted. We are these new bodies for now, but it will not always be so. When flesh and blood falls away, we are freed, not forgotten. We will all find our way back to that deep, soothing hum of all there is. We’re still a part of it even now. Trust in that oneness that flickers in your heart from time to time. Your soul is not mistaken, the sensation is true. Let it be a comfort to you on your journey and let it hold you above the painful illusion of an ultimate end. You don’t have to be afraid. Keep going.

Scorched Earth

Wielding knowledge like a weapon
I was a foolish warrior
Gathering sources and citations
I will shake you from this sleep

But the heavy lidded would not rise
the passionate tides of my pride
crashed silently against indifferent minds
I languish, froth, and writhe

Open wounds in salty water
there is no healing here
neurosis turned necrotic
consciousness confined quickly corrodes

Uncovering the empty container
of human empathy
mankind's compassion reduced to crumbs 
on kitchen counters

The swelling heat of unrequited rage
from years of fanning flames
burns behind tormented, tearful eyes
consumed in dancing tongues of frustrated fire

The elemental nature of my indignation
once extinguished, leaves only damp ashes
soggy reminders of sparks of joy
suffocated hopes gone up in smoke
Scorched earth by arcipello on DeviantArt

24/7 Mindfulness

The hardest place to be is right where you are. In the space between the finish and the start.

Half Alive

A few months ago, in an effort to recover from my disordered eating habits, I began practicing mindful eating. Mindful eating, for those who don’t know, is essentially exactly what it sounds like. Rather than watching TV or reading or even talking to your partner, you focus all of your attention solely on the act of eating. I did a pretty good job of doing this for a month or so, but since then I’ve fallen back into my old habits to some extent. I still practice eating my breakfast and lunch mindfully, free from distraction, but I’ve started to only eat half of my dinner in this way. Allowing myself to go back to watching Netflix or something afterward.

Although I am proud of myself for the progress I have been able to maintain, I can’t help but be a bit frustrated I haven’t been able to keep my mindful eating practice going entirely. When I ask myself why that is, the answer I always arrive at is that it’s just too tiring to be mindful for so much of my day. Despite that being how I genuinely feel, it still doesn’t make total sense to me. How is focusing on one thing more tiring than spreading out my attention and multitasking? Shouldn’t that be the other way around?

Any time I try to imagine leading an entirely mindful, present life, this is the obstacle that I envision. It just seems like too much work. But why does it seem like that? Logically I don’t see how there could be that much of a difference between focused attention and scattered attention. Either way I am still awake and conscious and processing my surroundings the entire time. I wonder if there is a difference in the amount of energy we exert between the two or if this is just a false perception I employ to avoid myself.

I find myself giving the excuse, “I just need a break,” when I want to skip out on a mindful dinner. But how is eating and watching Netflix more of a break than just eating? Why does it seem like such an effort to just be still? I’m sure a lot of it has to do with unconscious conditioning, but it feels like there is more to it than that somehow. Where do I go when I am not being mindful? When I’m zoning out? Sometimes it feels as if my consciousness dissipates and I am just floating by on autopilot. And to a certain degree, I enjoy how that feels. It’s nice to not have to focus on anything. Even though I truly believe a more mindful life is inevitably a happier one as well. Why then do my mindless moments hold so much importance for me? Why does it seem like a nightmare to imagine being mindful 24/7?

It makes me wonder what the consciousness of a monk might feel like. Have they reached a state of perpetual mindfulness? Is that even possible? What might that be like? Considering this also brings to mind a quote from Aldous Huxley’s book, The Doors of Perception:

To make biological survival possible, Mind at Large has to be funneled through the reducing valve of the brain and nervous system. What comes out at the other end is a measly trickle of the kind of consciousness which will help us to stay alive on the surface of this particular planet.

The Doors of Perception; Aldous Huxley

If you’re not familiar with this book, in it Huxley is describing his thoughts and experiences while under the influence of psychedelic drugs, particularly Mescaline. From Huxley’s description, this drug allows the doors of our perception to be flung wide open. We are aware of everything all at once. All of the sensory information that the brain would normally filter out is being noticed. And while this is a profoundly beautiful and moving experience according to Huxley, it is also quite overwhelming. That is why he believes our normal conscious mind is filtered through was he has labeled the “reducing valve.”

I don’t know if this is truly relatable to regular, every day consciousness, but that is how mindfulness feels to me sometimes. It has the ability to make even the most mundane, monotonous moments beautiful and profound, yet it can become tiresome and overwhelming trying to remain in this highly focused state for too long.

Then again, perhaps mindfulness is more like a muscle. Maybe the more I practice, the less of an effort it will seem to be. Just like doing a 150lb. deadlift might seem impossible at first, if you keep slowly increasing your maximum weight, you’ll get there eventually. There is still so much that I don’t fully understand about mindfulness and the obstacles standing in the way of it for me. I am hopeful that with further practice and contemplation, I will be able to uncover some of the answers I’m looking for.

What is Mindfulness & What's its Role in the Workplace

Who Am I Really?

Lying in bed last night, about to drift off to sleep, my mind was flooded with fearful thoughts of my boyfriend coming home in a few months. You may at first assume you misread that first sentence, but no, I was afraid for him to come home. Even though I love and miss him tremendously. Still I was feeling terrified by the way things may change once he’s nearby again. I was afraid of how my routine would change. How much time will he be expecting us to spend together? Will I have to drive up to the city multiple times a week to see him? How often will he be staying with me? All of these unknowns prevent me from my normal mental and emotional preparations for change. I simply don’t know how my life is going to be from day to day in 2022.

Oddly enough, just eight hours later after waking up, having some coffee, and starting my workout, the thought of him not only being close by again, but even living with me, seemed like a dream come true. I couldn’t wait to share as much of my time with him as possible. I fantasized about being the very best version of myself with him by my side to motivate and inspire me. Everything I’ve been aspiring to do/be seemed more likely to happen once he is back home. The same changes that sparked fear last night, were now the very thoughts spurring me onward, giving me hope and energy.

This is not an uncommon occurrence for me. There are many times I find myself overwhelmed with a thought at night, that brings me joy the next morning. The question that always arises is, “Which one of these people is really me?” Who should I believe? The evening me or the morning me? How can one person shift so totally in the span of a day? And shift so predictably and consistently at that? It seems like everything becomes scary and negative in the evening hours, but in the morning the whole world appears brand new and enchanting. It makes me wonder if this is normal. Do other people feel this way? Is this what people mean when they say “morning person”?

In my mind, I’ve come to the conclusion that this drastic inner change is caused by my brain’s neurochemicals dwindling as the night sets in. So I’m inclined to believe that the morning version of me is more true to who I am. The evening me is depleted and out of sorts, unable to view the world accurately. However maybe it’s my morning self that is deluded. Perhaps my refreshed brain is offering me a rose colored perspective that is just as inaccurate. Should I be distrustful of both? Should I deem the middle ground between these two states the most reliable and realistic?

This confusion and uncertainty about which thoughts are “me” and which thoughts are “not me” has always been of great interest to me. Never being able to decide, I gravitate towards the Yogic perspective. None of these thoughts are actually “me.” I am not my thoughts. I am the one who watches these thoughts. I am the one who wonders which of them are me. After all, that watcher within is the one consistent aspect of my mind, the one that is ever-present and unchanging.

Now the question becomes, how can I learn to identify with the watcher, rather than the fluctuating thoughts constantly demanding my attention? How can I keep myself from getting caught in the undertow of emotion that they cause? I suppose that this is the purpose of meditation. To practice being the watcher. To train ourselves not to get swept away. To ground ourselves in the impermanent and illusory nature of existence. To cultivate trust in the fact that it is okay to allow these thoughts to pass through us without letting them force us into action.

Contemplating the different layers within has, at the very least, allowed me to let go of the urgency I feel to respond to the thoughts I have. Lyrics from one of my favorite bands explains it best: “Nothing is ever as pressing as the one who’s pressing would like you to believe.” So when I find myself franticly playing out different scenarios in my head and wondering how on Earth I’ll be able to cope with them, I remind myself of those words. I assure myself that I don’t have to make any decisions or take any action right now. I can acknowledge that sense of urgency without feeling pressured by it. I remind myself that no matter how serious a situation may seem right now, with time my perspective will surely change. It’s okay to just wait, to observe, to sit with those feelings for now. Because I know that tomorrow I will awake to a new world, a new me. And maybe she will be able to handle it. She always has.

Silver Leaf Petal Kids Mirror | Pottery Barn Kids

Algorithms

Algorithms, particularly social media algorithms, have been on a lot of our minds lately. But what even are they? Well one definition I found says that algorithms are: a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer. So basically they are like an ever evolving blueprint guiding the computer’s actions. This isn’t much different from the way that our brains work, at least from my limited understanding of both.

I was thinking over how strange and ironic it is that we as a society have been struggling so much with technology and social apps. Even though we don’t want to argue, fight, compare, etc. These apps feed us the type of content that will get us to react in that way. This morning the parallel between that struggle, often leading to mental illness, and the struggle to cope with mental illness itself really became apparent to me.

Sometimes it’s almost as if the universe presents us with clever metaphors to force us to confront the things we try to avoid. Humanity has been running from itself, especially in the last few decades. We’ve submerged ourselves in these digital landscapes as a distraction from our thoughts and worries and fears. The internet, in a way, is the ultimate form of disassociation. Yet, there is still so much we can learn about ourselves through this unlikely medium.

It’s ironic that the very place we’ve gone to escape ourselves has become a mirror of the worst within us. These algorithms online tailor what we see, they filter the world through a lens of violence, outrage, and disgust. As I explained before it’s because we are naturally inclined to react to these things more forcefully than things that inspire joy, happiness, comfort, or love. Even while pointing that out in my post about personal responsibility, it didn’t occur to me just how much these algorithms are actually amplifying the algorithms within our own brains.

This public discussion about social media and Facebook are actually a fascinating parallel to the discussion of neuroplasticity. Unfortunately, no one has the power to change the algorithm in our heads except us, so in this instance, while not our fault, it is up to us to make a change. While that autopilot algorithm does do a lot of the work behind the scenes of our consciousness, we are able to take back the wheel and steer ourselves in a new direction.

Let’s get back to what I mean when I say this is a metaphor though. Think about the internet, for the most part, we all understand that what comes up in our feed every day isn’t all that exists on the web. Yet, somehow the things we take notice of in our everyday lives, start to seem like all there is to notice. We become cynical, or at least I did.

I can still remember arguing with someone when I was in high school. I was insisting that life was mostly negative or neutral events with light sprinkles of happy ones in between. How sad it is to look back at my young self who truly believed such a terrible thing. At the time, that was true though, at least for me. Because that’s what I was looking for, so of course, that’s all I found.

We are always subconsciously looking for evidence to support our beliefs, even when those beliefs aren’t something we are happy about. It starts with a belief, just like our apps start with an interest. Our “feeds” in life then fall into place around that central idea. That isn’t all there is to see, but it is all that we’ll see.

That inner world of ours, our perceptions of life and those around us, seem so real. It’s hard to conceptualize that there may be so much more that we are not aware of, that our view is skewed by the limited scope of what we are taking in. The world around us is continuously colored and altered by our mood, our knowledge base, our preconceptions, our biases, our past experiences, and so much more. These are the “filters” that we use on the universe. But the small amount that we are able to take in, that is not an accurate reflection of existence. Just as our Facebook or Instagram feed is not an accurate representation of the content available online.

So don’t get too trapped in your own perceptions of this life. While we may not be able to make a new account or scrub our hard drive so we can start again from scratch, we can make an effort right now to challenge our preconceived notions. We can practice compiling new evidence to support beliefs that we choose to hold. We can make our mantra each day that the world is good, that there is beauty and happiness all around us. I promise you, no matter how dark the world may seem to you now, practice believing that there is light and you will find it.

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Psychedelics

Alex Grey 2 - Hads Trippy - Image via Thingstolookathigh com

Yesterday I watched a Ted Talk discussing the effects of psychedelic substances on the brain. I clicked on this video absentmindedly, not really expecting it to tell me anything I hadn’t already heard before. To my surprise I was given new insight into why my psychedelic experiences have been the way they are. It also gave me even more reason to believe that psychedelics really do allow us to connect to some deeper consciousness, a divine connectedness. It is a glimpse beneath the veil of our earthly illusions, and the things we think and perceive in these altered states are perhaps more real than the reality our sober minds produce.

I knew that taking psychedelics altered the way our brains perceive the world. I knew that they break down our biases and inner walls so to speak. They remove the shackles of our well worn neuronal connections and allow us the freedom to explore the vast possibilities of our consciousness and perception. What I didn’t know is that this brain state is very similar to one we’ve all experienced before: childhood. Apparently a child’s brain works in a very similar way to a brain on psychedelics. Isn’t that fascinating? I had often described my experiences with LSD as being a child again in a new world. Nothing is taken for granted. Everything is fascinating and new. There is so much joy and curiosity and discovery to be had.

As children none of us were too enmeshed in certain ways of doing things or seeing the world. There were many more possibilities open to us. As we age, our brains naturally start to sink into patterns, strengthening certain neural networks while allowing other, less used pathways to shrivel and shrink with disuse. Eventually we begin to feel trapped in our ways of thinking and seeing the world. It feels impossible to change or view the world from a fresh perspective. And in reality, while it is still quite possible for us to change, it will be much harder than it might have been when we were younger.

Imagine a cart being pulled over the soft earth. Once you’ve made tracks in the dirt, it is easier to follow those tracks again. The more you follow those particular tracks though, the deeper they become. Eventually it will be quite difficult to make new tracks or break out of the ones we have been taking. A child’s mind is an image of virgin land, no tracks, no footprints even, just a great expanse of possibility and wonder. This is one of the reasons, I believe, that adults tend to enjoy children so much. While our own minds may feel incapable of breaking free of our patterns on their own, spending time with a child is sure to be full of surprises and new experiences. Children have the ability to pull us in new directions we would have never considered on our own. Kids are funny. Kids are weird. Kids are surprising, unpredictable even. That is the magic of a newly developing brain. That is the magic we may all experience again for ourselves with the help of psychedelics.

This comparison to a child’s mind helps explain a lot of the experiences I’ve had with LSD. The idea that psychedelics are able to break down our preconceived ways of seeing the world only strengthens my conviction that the feelings and truths I’ve experienced in that altered state of mind are real. LSD isn’t making me hallucinate or become delusional. LSD helps me to break through the illusions that I live inside of. It helps me see the world for what it is again, through fresh eyes, with the innocence and imagination of a child. I don’t for a second believe it’s a coincidence that one of the reoccurring perceptions people come away from a psychedelic experience with is that we are all connected. There is a powerful feeling of connectedness, contentment, joy, peace, trust. It is reconnecting with the wisdom of the universe, a deep sense of reassurance that everything is as it should be. There is also the ever present image that everything in life is a cycle, and that it’s okay to have faith in and surrender to that cycle. Now more than ever, I feel confident in that belief.

Alex Grey's “Gaia” | Pinkocrat

Cycles

Everything’s a cycle. You’ve gotta let it come to you. And when it does, you will know what to do.

– Bright Eyes

Happy spring, everyone! I am so pleased to welcome this most lovely of seasons back again. While I adore the summer months, spring is probably my true favorite. There is nothing quite like the fresh, bright, vibrant energy of this time of year. There is so much beauty in contrast. I’ve always found it funny the way 55-60 degree weather in the fall seems dreadfully cold to me, yet the very same temperature is a godsend in the spring. At the end of the year I’d consider this weather too chilly for a walk, but now I am itching to be outdoors in the sunshine again. I used to dream about moving somewhere south so that I wouldn’t have to experience the snow and bitter cold of winter every year, but as I’ve grown older I’ve developed an attachment to this area of the country. Sometimes we need to face discomfort or adversity in order to fully appreciate and savor the rest of life. There is a lot that the cycling of seasons has to teach us if we are willing to witness their endless unfolding.

There is a strange comfort that repetition brings us. This constant ebb and flow that exists everywhere in this life is truly something beautiful to behold. This constant churning keeps life from becoming stagnant. It really is true that it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. Without the colorless cold, the bitter wind, the once lush trees reduced to creaking black skeletons, we would not be able to fully appreciate watching the landscape come alive again. We wouldn’t be able to experience this bustling, rustling, vibrating energy as the earth comes alive once more. The sensation of new life, of awakening, of hope that spring stirs within us is unparalleled. It never gets old no matter how many years we have had here.

Spring reminds us that we need not fear the winter. It also insinuates that we need not fear even death. Imagine how frightened the first conscious creatures were that lived through winter. Surely with no guarantee, I would have assumed all was ending forever. Just as many of us feel facing death without faith in a god or an afterlife. There are no guarantees. No scientific evidence that we can analyze to suggest that anything exists beyond our final breaths. Still I find my own kind of faith in all of the cycles I see around me every day. Some cycles are as short as the ever-present rhythm of the breath, some are too long for us to comprehend or observe in a single lifetime. But I trust in the cyclical systems that surround us, that are within us, that we are inextricably involved in. While I may not be able to say what the cycle of life and death fully looks like, or even what it means for me, I am confident it is still a cycle all the same. I may not be there to witness the spring that blooms on the other side of my existence on this earth, in this body, in this mind, but I am confident that that spring exists. But for now, while I am still here, I am going to keep trying to learn from these cycles, to be mindful of them, to be grateful for them, to be patient with them, and to honor and accept where I am within them.

Photo by Simon Berger on Pexels.com

Coming Back Home

This life is so beautiful. It’s amazing how easily I am able to forget that. I always get caught up in the little things. For me it’s always been easier to worry endlessly than to pause and enjoy the present moment. But of all the suffering I’ve experienced in my life, I’ve been the source of the vast majority of it. It is hard to accept that and not condemn myself for it. It’s actually a great gift to realize that strange fact. Because it means that I can also be the end of all of this suffering. I just have to keep reminding myself, especially when it’s hard.

I just have to remember that this life is so much bigger than all of my petty little problems. What an insane, incredible, amazing thing it is that I exist at all! That there is so much right in front of me to enjoy, to be grateful for. This miraculous body that I inhabit, this home that shelters me, safe and warm with my loved ones, the ability to breathe the air, to feel soft pleasant textures against my skin. I am happy. I am free. I am alive. Right here, right now. Life is good.

Under all of my anxiety lies the fear that one day I won’t be able to take it anymore. I’m afraid that all of these tiny worries will pile up around me until I can no longer bear it, that I will somehow be consumed. But I don’t give myself enough credit. I am far more powerful than I realize most days. Sometimes I am tempted to allow my worst fears to become reality, just so that I can show myself that I will still be okay. When the darkest moments come, it is the smallest things that save me. Everything that I truly need is within me, it is me.

This breath, this deep, intangible, limitless love that I hold inside, nothing can take that away from me. It is forever mine. These things are always here for me. There is an immense power that emanates from my soul. A power that I can connect with whenever I need to. A power that I don’t use often enough. But nevertheless it doesn’t leave me, even when it remains dormant.

On days like today, when I stop and really contemplate existence, I want to laugh hysterically at the beautiful absurdity of it all. I want to cry from sheer, inexpressible joy. I want to shout thank you, thank you to whatever it is that has allowed this all to be possible. I want to take my anxious mind into my arms and coo to it softly, “don’t be so silly, there is no need to be afraid, I love you, I am here for you, everything is alright, it has always been alright, it will always be alright, trust me, dear one, shush now, I’ve got you.”

What more could I possibly want? What else could I even have asked for? This life, this world, it is all so beautiful. It is absolutely perfect. Even the messy parts, even the scary parts, they are all gorgeous and necessary to create the fullness that is this existence. I am so lucky. I am so grateful that I get to be a part of this. My heart feels so full. It is overflowing. I want to fill every empty space with warmth and love and light. I want to give and give until there is nothing left of me but pure glistening bliss.

When I begin to feel like I am fraying at the edges, like I won’t be able to hold myself together, I want to read this and remember that I never have to fear coming apart, because I am already a part of all that there is. I am forever whole and complete and at one with everything. I don’t need to cut out the bits of me that feel afraid or anxious or upset, those parts of me are fine just the way they are. There is nothing wrong with them. There is nothing to fix. When they start to feel too heavy, all I need to do is put them down for a while. All I need to do is image whatever it is I’d like to be feeling instead. “Not anxious” isn’t something that my heart can understand clearly enough to provide for me. Rather I should ask it for joy or love or comfort or peace. These are things that the heart remembers well. I am always capable of returning to these emotions. Because they are my natural state.

It is no wonder that I get tired, that I feel exhausted with living sometimes. It takes a lot of energy to keep myself so far away from my very essence, to deny myself so often. It’s as if I am using all my strength to hold a door closed inside of me. Behind that door lies this unending love and happiness that is my true nature. That beautiful, bubbling light that we are made of. An energy that is beyond logic, beyond reason, beyond definition, beyond even consciousness. I don’t need to understand it. I don’t need to search for it. I am it. It is me. I am the answer. I am the joy and the love and the safety that I seek. And it’s okay if in an hour I’ve forgotten once again. Because this is where I will always inevitably return. I can come back again and again, as many times as I need to. This light within me will always be here waiting.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Practicing Gratitude

It’s hard to believe just how much my anxiety has consumed my thoughts for the last few years. I am ever vigilant of it, making sure I’m feeling okay, anxious about becoming anxious. It is almost laughable if it weren’t so disturbing. I am constantly reminding myself that I’m okay. That nothing is wrong. I have so much to be happy about, to be grateful for. Why is it so hard to focus on the abundance all around me?

I feel as though I am continuously seeking something outside of myself to make me feel okay. There is an animalistic panic inside my chest as I desperately search. I don’t even know what I’m looking for. I’m always afraid of things not going the way I hope they will. I’m afraid I won’t be liked or that I’ll make a fool out of myself. But why do I even care? I have a hard time accepting that life doesn’t have to be so grim and serious all of the time. None of us even know why we are here or what any of this is about. But we get to choose how we spend our time here. We can choose to be distressed, fearful, even hateful, resisting what is laid out before us. Or we can choose to be open to whatever comes our way, to use this time to be joyful, to experience and share as much love as we possibly can, to stand in wonder at all that is before us, to be grateful that we are anything at all.

I don’t know how this sense of entitlement tends to develop inside of us. At what point did we decide that we were owed this life? That we are owed these experiences? That we won’t be okay if everything doesn’t go our way? I’m trying so hard to always remind myself that it is a true blessing just to breathe. I have been given this incredible gift of existing, yet all I seem to do is complain about the small issues I am able to find with it.

Even as I sit at my desk right now, there are hundreds of things that I could focus on and feel grateful for. My body feels good. I am warm and cozy with my heater on behind me and a soft sweater wrapped around me. I am using this amazing gift of sight to see beautiful forms and colors all around me. I have a magical ability to hear sweet sounds from this technology before me. I even have an endless selection of music to choose from. I am using strange squiggles on a virtual surface to express my thoughts and feelings to others. It is all just too miraculous to fathom! How am I so easily able to ignore these things most of the time? I have become so accustomed to having these comforts and small pleasures, that I forget just how incredible they all are. None of this was owed to me. It is all a gift. I could have been born blind or deaf. I could have never been taught how to read and write. I could have been born at any other time in history where many of these things I now take for granted didn’t even exist.

I want to be able to remember these truths in each moment. To keep them close to my heart. To allow all of this gratitude to flow freely from me always. What a different life that would be. How amazing it is that just a small change of perspective within me could alter my world entirely. The best part is, I know that this other life is possible. I have the power to make it a reality. I’ve just got to keep trying, keep reminding myself every day, keep practicing this gratitude, this deep undulating love that is the essence of my being.

It is not my fault that my brain becomes so easily fixated on perceived problems. It has simply been wired to do so by millions of years of evolution and by decades of my personal, unconscious reinforcement of that pattern of thinking. It is nothing to despair about, to feel ashamed of, or to become frustrated or angered by. It simply is. Once again, rather than focus on how upset and helpless I feel, I can focus on the fact that I have recognized this, that I am able to change it. I am able to craft myself into anything I want to be. Just because it won’t be easy doesn’t mean it won’t be possible, that it won’t be worth it.

I have been letting myself get discouraged because the results of this work aren’t rapid or readily visible. I’m sure I have already come a long way on this journey without realizing it. This type of change is incremental. It’s something that you have to keep working at every day. I may not feel any different an hour from now or even a week or a month from now, but that doesn’t mean it’s hopeless. I may not feel different, but by following this intention and practicing it again and again, I will be different. Even if it’s hard to notice at first. And after all, what else have I got to do with all this time? I’m going to be here either way. What could be a better use of that time than trying to be mindful, trying to enjoy it? I don’t have to keep searching outside of myself to find ways to feel okay. I am already okay. I always am. I am complete. I have everything I need within myself. I just have to open my heart and let it carry me.

Photo by Jess Bailey Designs on Pexels.com

Learning to Live with Anxiety

One of the most ironic aspects of having anxiety is that the more you try to avoid it, the worse it gets. Sometimes even when I’m not feeling anxious at all and having a good time, the fear that I may become anxious actual sends me into that state of mind. It is quite frustrating. Yet almost humorous sometimes as well, when you’re in the mood to see it that way at least.

There are all kinds of drugs and therapies designed to help people suffering from anxiety. It is one of the most common mental health problems. However, none of these things will cure your anxiety. That has been hard for me to accept. I so desperately want to never have to think about my anxiety again. I want to live a “normal” life.

When you have an anxiety disorder, though, all you can really do is make friends with that part of yourself. It will always be with you. Why not try to get along? Yoga has taught me that one of the main reasons we suffer so much in this life is because we try so desperately to avoid suffering. This serves only to prolong our pain and unease.

When I was young and sad I used to imagine myself as two separate beings. One was my emotional body, a scared child. The other was my intellectual, rational body, the loving parent. I would comfort myself in this way quite often. I think the same may be helpful now that I struggle more with anxiety rather than sadness. Perhaps I’ll try to imagine my anxiety as a small frightened animal. Backed into a corner, ready to fight or flee. My rational mind is the gentle caretaker. Showing the animal that it is okay. Waiting for it to trust me. To relax when it feels ready.

Thinking about my mental problems in this way helps me to feel compassion for these parts of myself rather than anger and frustration. It is hard to ignore your body when it is telling you that you are in some type of danger. Anxiety is the body’s signal that you need to be alert and ready for a life-threatening situation. We were not designed to ignore such an important cue, even if it is unwarranted. And we can never hope to eliminate it completely. It is important and necessary in the right circumstances. We all need to be able to feel stress.

Rather than condemn that feeling and try to run from it, I want to try to accept it. I know that if I really allow myself to feel my anxiety, it will dissipate. I also know that when my mind is anxious, my body is tense. I’ll often notice that I’m holding my breath or breathing very shallowly. My neck and shoulders start to tense up. If I allow myself to sit with my anxiety and be present, I can work to release this tension. I can consciously relax and breathe deeply again. Telling my brain that it’s okay. We’re safe.

While my anxiety may not be a sign that I’m in mortal peril like it was in our evolutionary history, I can still take it as a signal that the small frightened animal within me is needing some reassurance. I can take it as a cue to take a moment to be with myself, be kind to myself, to ask myself what I need to feel safe right now.

I know I’ll be in an entirely different mindset when my anxiety inevitably sets in later, but hopefully I’ll be able to remember my intention. I’ll try not to run. I’ll try to listen instead. I’ll sit with my anxiety, my frightened little inner friend, until it is calm once more. I will be grateful for it’s desire to warn and protect me, even though it may be a bit misguided at times. I am hopeful that with practice we will both be able to live together peacefully one day.

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