Insights From Resistance

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We all have preferences. We all have things we dislike or show resistance toward. These feelings of resentment and resistance toward people, places, situations, etc. can be so overwhelmingly powerful that it is hard to think about them or analyze the root of the issue. Instead of challenging these feelings, usually we just feed them. We look for reasons to confirm our feelings and opinions, excluding any information that may challenge them or provide an alternative perspective. Most of us are more likely to react than reconsider. Even the idea of questioning these deep seated ideas can cause more resistance to bubble up.

In an effort to take life (and myself) less seriously, I’ve been trying to practice more curiosity throughout my day. One of the things I’ve been most curious about is why I react with anger so often. For most of my life, it didn’t seem like a question worth asking. Of course I’m angry, I’d tell myself. This is unacceptable. How could they say that? Who could be that stupid!? Etc. Etc. I directed all my questions passive aggressively outward, never even considering that I might be the problem, that my reaction was the thing that needed to change, not the world around me. Even if I do still begrudgingly think someone else is in the wrong, the fact is, the only thing I can control is me. (Well theoretically anyway.)

When I started to question why certain actions or comments even make me angry, I was surprised to realize that most of the time, I had no idea. For instance, the other day my friend was making comments that made me think she wasn’t very good with money or understanding loans/debt. I immediately felt this spark of anger inside me and couldn’t stop that aggressive edge from creeping into my voice. I always feel so ashamed of myself after having these tense conversations. The people I’m talking to must be so confused and irritated by my irrational behavior. Why on earth do I care how my friend chooses to spend her money? It’s none of my business and doesn’t effect me at all. Maybe I’m just jealous that other people don’t worry about spending money or taking on debt like I do. Maybe I feel threatened or worried they’ll think I’m the stupid one who never uses the money I have to make big purchases or improvements to my life.

I don’t usually ever come to a decision about exactly why a lot of things make me angry. But to be honest, the reason doesn’t necessarily matter. Just the intention to be curious about my emotional response to things is enough to diffuse the rage inside me. Curiosity comes with a sense of openness, while anger, stress, sadness are more closed states. Both cannot exist within you in the same moment. It can be difficult initially to make that mental switch from closed to open, but once you do you can feel a noticeable difference. Not to mention, the more you practice flipping this switch, the easier it becomes.

Let’s practice a little exercise together, just so you know how it feels to be in a state of resistance. Imagine one or more opinions or beliefs you hold very strongly. Then just imagine trying to purposely challenge those very beliefs/opinions. Try imagining ways you could be wrong or misguided. Try to think of some good qualities or points of the opposite perspective. Quite difficult isn’t it? As someone who is very opinionated and stubborn, even this simple thought exercise makes outrage and fierce resistance start to rise up within me. I can feel my chest tightening, I can feel that closing sensation in my heart space. I immediately notice thoughts crowding my awareness trying to defend rather than challenge my beliefs. What a reaction to something so simple and harmless! I find it truly fascinating that this is so difficult for me. It is an amazing opportunity for insight into my own biases.

I think there is a lot to learn from our own resistance. It always brings to mind the saying, “would you rather be right, or be happy?” Once my sister said to me that she’d actually rather be right! I was shocked. That is the power of resistance. You can become so resistant to different ideas or circumstances and at the same time, so attached to that resistance, that you’d rather give up your happiness than alter your perspective. That is why it is so important to work on cultivating our curiosity as often as we can.

As you move through your day today, pretend you are a scientist or a researcher observing this human being called the “self.” When you catch yourself getting caught up in anger or your resistance to things, just think, “how interesting,” make a note of it, let it go, and move on. Life is so much more enjoyable when we remind ourselves that it doesn’t have to be so serious all the time. None of us really know why we’re here, where we came from, or where we’re going. All we can do is try to enjoy where we are right now. And the only way we can do that is by staying curious, staying open to all the new information and experiences this life has to offer. Let’s make a game out of it. Let’s see who can waste the least amount of time on petty irritation and useless resistance. Let’s see who can be the most curious, the most open. The game starts now!

Hesitation & Uncertainty in Love

I’ve been dating someone now for a couple of months. It’s the first time in years that I’ve had a partner and on paper he’s absolutely perfect. He’s handsome, smart, progressive, atheist, and vegan. He reads, dresses well, lives a healthy lifestyle, and is always trying to make me happy. We agree on practically everything. We’ve never had an argument. We’ve recently even started saying, “I love you.” Everything is picture perfect. We make a very handsome couple.

Yet hesitation still lingers in my heart. This always happens. I get excited, then I worry I’ve rushed in too quickly. I start picking at every little thing. Such as the question of whether or not he’s funny. Being able to have that easy, witty banter with someone is very important to me. And while he checks an unbelievable amount of boxes when it comes to what I want in a partner, he has yet to check that one. It still feels like we’re nervous and awkward around one another. I keep waiting for us to become more comfortable, but we never seem to make much progress. I know that’s partially because he lives so far away and we don’t get to spend that much time with one another. Part of me fears that we may never find that easy companionship with one another though. Is he not funny because he’s nervous or holding back? Or will he genuinely never make me laugh? Is it wrong to continue on feeling this hesitancy? With everything else that is so amazing about him, does he also have to be funny?

If love is supposed to feel the same each time, regardless of who you are in love with, then I may be making a mistake. However, not being well versed in the art of love, I wonder if maybe each love has a different flavor and flow to it. That is what I hope for. Because I desperately want to be in love with him. He does bring me great happiness. He makes me want to be a better person. I enjoy talking with him. I miss him when he’s gone. I’m sad when he is too busy to text me all day. Is it okay to be cautious in love? Does love have layers? These and so many others are the questions I don’t have answers for, that I find myself having to face alone, too fearful to share my doubts with my partner.

In my past love, everything came naturally. It always felt easy, passionate, overwhelming, magical. Is it possible to build those aspects of a relationship over time? Or are they things that are either there or not? Is it okay to continue on being unsure? This is one of the reasons I have always been interested in polyamory. Nate may not be perfect for me in every single way, but he is perfect for me in a lot of very important ways. I don’t want to have to pick and choose what I’m willing to live without from my one and only partner. No one is going to be everything I need. But it’s hard for me to tell which of my needs should outweigh others. I always end up focusing on the areas that aren’t right rather than the ones that are.

If I knew I was free to have other partners to fill my other needs, I wouldn’t be having this difficult conversation with myself at all. I would more easily be able to love and admire him for who he is rather than worry about who he’s not. I could have one partner that is hilarity and passion, and another that is tenderness and safety. It seems unfair and unrealistic to expect one person to be absolutely everything you need. I feel so conflicted. I feel so guilty for feeling conflicted. I genuinely don’t know what the right thing to do is.

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Feeling Emotions In Your Body

As I was growing up, I remember crying quite a lot. I guess it’s normal for kids to cry often, especially little girls. Even as a teenager I have many memories of crying myself to sleep at night. It seems sad, but I actually miss those days. Now I go literally years without a single teardrop. That’s a good thing, right? Well, not exactly. Not crying doesn’t necessarily mean you’re happier than if you cry every day. Crying is a release. It’s a release I’ve actually been longing for and unable to find for a long time now.

Until recently I didn’t think too much about it. I figured if I wasn’t crying, I must just not be sad enough. As an adult, I’ve always thought of myself as not a very emotional person. However, as human beings we are all emotional creatures. Unfortunately some of us have just cut ourselves off from those emotions. I don’t necessarily know if it’s a natural defense mechanism in my case, or if it’s because of the SSRI that I’ve been taking for around 6 years now. Perhaps neither, or a combination of both. I suppose the reason doesn’t matter.

It’s only come to my attention lately because I have been working with a few kundalini meditations. For some reason, each time I do one of these practices, I feel this deep pit of emotion open up inside of me afterward. I’ll randomly feel the urge to cry throughout the rest of the day. It feels like there is so much feeling welling up, but still I am unable to fully release that energy. Although I’m sure I need that release, it’s not a pleasant experience. So, true to form, I’ve been shying away from kundalini, despite my interest in it.

With emotion front and center in my mind, I happened to stumble upon a podcast that was talking about just that. The woman being interviewed even described exactly how I’ve been feeling, but haven’t been able to put into words. She said that she never really understood it when people talked about feeling their emotions in their bodies. For her, emotion was always a mental state, not something you necessarily felt physically. She even talked about the way she likes to visualize walking down a staircase from her head into her body in order to find that deeper, primal connection with herself.

After hearing that, it dawned on me that I haven’t been feeling into my body at all for a long time now. I guess part of me even felt powerful and strong for never crying. But courage is sitting with those emotions, not blocking them out. I want to make an effort to really rediscover what it feels like to experience life from my whole being, not simply living in my head all the time. I feel like I’ve been taking this body for granted, not fully embracing it as a part of myself. I’ve somewhat disassociated from my body as I’ve grown older. I’ve lived the last decade or so of my life as if I’m just this floating head, completely disconnected from the physical world.

Even though it feels scary, I’ve been trying to come back to my bodily sensations when I notice myself getting too caught up in my thinking mind. It seems like the only two emotions I feel anymore are anxiety (if that can even be considered an emotion) and anger. So I’m going to start there. I’ve already noticed that allowing yourself to be open to the experience of whatever it is you’re feeling let’s you have the space to really be present with it. It feels much better than trying to avoid or control it.

The next time you feel yourself starting to get overwhelmed, take a few breaths and tap back into your body. Let go of any thoughts you might be having and simply ask yourself, how do I feel right now? What is going on in my body? Maybe your chest feels tight. Maybe your clenching different muscles. There’s no need to try to change what you notice. Just noticing it is enough. Give yourself permission to feel whatever it is. Forgive yourself for the way you feel. Offer yourself compassion. Emotions, even painful ones, are just another part of the human experience. They teach us about ourselves. They connect us to others. They are energy moving through us. Trying to avoid these feelings just causes them to become trapped within us rather than flowing in and out of us like the breeze. Let’s relearn how to let go. Become the curious observer of your own human experience.

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Anxiety: Fear of Inner Punishment

Why am I so anxious? The age old question. At some point it seems like my anxiety became the sole focal point of my life. Everything I do is in an effort to avoid feeling anxious. The problem is even when your intention is to avoid something, you end up concentrating on the very thing you’re trying to avoid. Therefore you’re attracting even more of it into your life. I’ve been spiraling in that space for a while now.

Listening to my anxiety instead of trying to ignore it taught me something. When I’m running through the list of everything I have scheduled for the day, panicking that I may not have time for everything, I never really took the time to wonder, so what? I followed my panic to it’s logical conclusion and found only myself waiting there to hand out the “punishment” I so feared. Spending a few days away from my normal routine with my boyfriend really emphasized that point.

This is what happens when we lose our intention, when we stop checking in with ourselves, when we forget to take the time to find grounding. It’s almost as if I had completely given up the power I have over my own life. I have been living as if I have to do this or I have to do that, never pausing to ask why I’m doing it in the first place. I’ve been so fearful, running from myself for so long that when I finally looked back, what a relief it was to realize that I’m the only one around. I’m the only one handing out these consequences of fear and displeasure.

After doing things a certain way, living in a certain way, for so long, I nearly forgot that I don’t have to keep following this road I’ve laid out. It’s almost like following a path through the forest. I’ve gotten so used to the path that I’ve become afraid of the dense woodlands on either side. However, the path I’m on leads me in circles. I’m the only one making the rule that “I must follow the path.” I am completely free to make a new path. It seems silly, but just realizing that fills me with so much joy and excitement. I don’t know what I’ll encounter once I step into the woods, but I am so eager to find out.

When it comes down to it, most of the unpleasant feelings we try to avoid in life are completely up to us. We make so many rules for ourselves without even realizing it. If I sleep in too late, I’m going to have a bad day. If I don’t accomplish my goal, I have to feel badly about myself. If my friend can’t hangout, I’ve got to be sad all day instead. We have these unspoken rules about the things that make us feel a certain way. Then we work so hard to justify our reactions to ourselves, perpetuating moods and emotions that aren’t serving us.

It’s funny. I used the restrict myself the very same way with my anger. I felt like I didn’t have a choice other than to get angry when certain things happened. I felt that was the only logical, appropriate response. Thankfully, I finally realized that I get to decide what’s worth getting angry over. (Turns out hardly anything.) Yet I failed to apply this lesson to my other emotions. Just because something happens doesn’t mean I have to feel a certain emotion about it for a certain length of time.

If I make a mistake, there is absolutely nothing forcing me to feel badly about myself because of it. If things don’t end up going as planned, I get anxious partly because I am afraid of the emotions and feelings I feel must follow. I’d forgotten that I’m the one writing this story. I get to decide how I respond to whatever happens to me. I’m the one calling the shots. I get to choose happiness and inner peace no matter what is happening around me.

My anxiety has been a response to my own self-rejection. I’m afraid if I don’t do everything perfectly, I’m going to lose my own love and compassion toward myself. My self love has been so conditional that it could hardly be considered love at all. My anxiety is my inner child, constantly afraid of a manipulative, emotionally abusive parent. The first step toward healing that fearful child is to stop abandoning myself if I don’t live up to my own expectations. Just reassuring myself that this deep love with always be here inside of me, will always be available and freely given to myself no matter what, fills me with peace and frees me from this oppressive fear that has been looming over me for so long. Regardless of what happens, regardless of what I do or don’t do, I am going to be here, supporting and loving myself with everything I’ve got.

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The Advocate and the Architect

If you’ve never taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality test, I would highly recommend it. Although I’ve only been able to take the knock-off version that they have available for free online, it’s still definitely worth checking out. It’s almost terrifying how accurate and detailed the results are. I’ll often ask people if they know what their type is just so that I can read about them and come to understand them a bit better. I finally remembered to do this the other day with my new vegan guy.

I was delighted to see that he had already heard about this and knew his type. Most people I ask have never taken the test or even heard about it. He is an INFJ and I am an INTJ. Looks like we must be pretty similar right? Actually that one little letter apparently makes a lot of difference. I suppose it would, given that they F stands for feeling, while the T stands for thinking. On the bright side we do seem to compliment one another. Although I wasn’t able to sense it myself right away, it does seem like he will be able to help facilitate the emotional side of our connection.

INFJs are called the Advocates. Kind of ironic given that’s actually my job title. They are very sensitive, emotionally aware people. Advocates are always looking out for the best interests and feelings of others. Unfortunately this can often lead them to place their own feelings and needs in the background. I was delighted to read that INFJs are generally very committed to their romantic partners and are looking for serious, long-term relationships. Knowing that has greatly helped to remove any lingering doubt about his intentions.

After reading through the details of an INFJ, I decided to reread my own page to refresh my memory. I was immediately amazed and embarrassed. I had forgotten how incredibly accurate this personality type description was for me. I almost regretted bringing it up. Knowing he would read about me, I felt so exposed. I was horrified at what he might think about me. Especially when it came to the “relationships” section of the webpage. While INFJs were lauded for their affinity for emotional intimacy and commitment to their partners, the INTJ’s corresponding page was not so flattering.

A lot of the things I was considering autistic traits, may actually just be traits of my personality type. One of the things that continued to be emphasized was INTJ’s disregard and cluelessness towards social conventions. We don’t like small talk at all, don’t even really know how to have small talk. We aren’t very in tune with our emotions or the emotions of others. We can even offend or hurt someone without realizing it. In my opinion, the relationship section particularly was almost scathing. Paragraph after paragraph explained just how inept INTJs tend to be when it comes to romance and intimacy. We feel awkward and confused by dating, unable to tap into our emotional selves, preferring to look at the world in an utterly rational and analytical fashion. One particular line that struck me what when it said that INTJs often wonder if dating and social interaction are even worth the trouble. I’ve definitely found myself wondering that on more than one occasion.

Even after reading all about my humiliating shortcomings, my vegan guy still came over and hung out with me yesterday. I felt much more relaxed with him this time. We had a lovely cozy day in, just talking and watching movies. He brought me more flowers like a true gentleman. I showed him some yoga poses. We went and picked up a few groceries and cooked a delicious vegan dinner together while listening to one of our favorite bands. Overall it was an absolutely lovely day. He even opened up to me about the details of his past relationships. Even though I struggled, I did the same. I feel very awkward being vulnerable like that with someone, but I feel as though it was necessary.

Unfortunately he also showed me pictures of the new apartment he’s already signed a one-year lease for. I truly am happy for him about his new job, but it still pains me to know he’ll be living five hours away from me by the end of this month. At least I feel reassured about his commitment to maintaining a relationship with me now. Part of me hopes the distance will be good for us. Perhaps it will allow me the time I need to get more comfortable with him before I feel any more pressure to be physically intimate. We are planning on writing letters to one another once he’s moved. That’s one thing I am actually extremely excited about. He seems to be too. He told me he’s been planning out a few things for our letters. I’m not sure what exactly he means, but I’m so excited to find out.

We’ll probably only be able to hang out one or two more times before he moves. I really want to make an effort to be in the moment with him on those days. I don’t need to worry about what will be said or done. I just have to breathe and enjoy his company and trust that I’ll know the right thing to say or do as the day unfolds. No matter what happens, I am still grateful for the wonderful experiences we’ve already shared.

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Torn

Each time I start a romantic relationship with someone, I am reminded of just how immature I actually am. I am 27-years-old, but still I seem to be unable to speak my mind or verbalize my more complex feelings. I’m not sure why that is though. I certainly don’t lack the vocabulary to do so. More I lack the nerve. I am too afraid of the idea of being honest and vulnerable with someone. I want to avoid awkwardness at any cost.

Yesterday I had my fourth date with my vegan guy. Even though he’ll be moving away for his new job, we decided to try to spend as much time together as we can before that. We had a wonderful day that he planned out for us. I got to meet his dogs and see his house. We went to a beautiful conservatory and examined flowers together. Then we went and saw some more tourist-y parts of the city that I had never seen before. He took us to an amazing vegan restaurant. We got our food to go and took it to a park nearby to people watch as we ate. We even took cute little pictures together. Overall it was one of the most lovely days I’ve had in a while.

But even acknowledging all of that, something still feels amiss inside of me. Part of me really likes him. On paper he’s absolutely perfect. Even our dates have been more than ideal. Yet my heart is unreadable. I want to like him. I want to imagine us being together for a long time. But something inside of me hesitates. I’m not only bad at expressing my emotions to others, but I can also be quite bad at just understanding them myself. I’ve found myself in this position many times before unfortunately.

I don’t have that immediate easy connection with him that I’ve had with some people in my past. But does that mean we shouldn’t be together? Perhaps sometimes it just takes a little longer to fully get to know someone before feeling that. After years of basing my social cues on television and movies, I worry that not feeling that “spark” means we shouldn’t be together. Then again, I can’t be sure what that “spark” is even referring to. I am too inexperienced to know when to keep trying and when to move on. I feel guilty for not being sure.

Dating in this day and age is so confusing. I have to keep reminding myself that we’ve only met four times now. In that context, it doesn’t seem so unreasonable to me that I still haven’t fully decided who he is or how I feel about him. What gives me pause is that he already seems so sure he likes me. It seems like the guys I’ve met always do. I feel like that puts me in an even more awkward position. I don’t know how to keep trying to get to know them without leading them on and giving them the wrong impression about my feelings. I can never tell if I just need more time or if I really should be able to know how I feel by now.

I don’t have that nervous, giddy, excitement I’ve felt in the past. I don’t know what that means though. Perhaps I’m just older now, maybe it’s my medication dulling my emotional responses again, maybe I do need more time to get to know him. I really have no idea. It could be so many different things. I just want to have faith in myself for once rather than becoming lost in all this uncertainty. Surely it can’t be so wrong to want to know someone for longer/spend more time with them before making an important judgment. I don’t know why I feel so pressured to make up my mind quickly. I’ve just got to keep reassuring myself. It’s okay to not know. It’s okay to need a long time to get to know someone. It’s okay to tell that person I still need more time. It’s okay to take as much time as I need. And it’s also okay if that person decides they don’t want to give me that time and leaves. There is nothing to be done about that. It’s far more important that I be honest with myself.

Change

I think it’s very interesting how many people I’ve heard say they don’t like change. I am one of them. Yet change is the only true constant in this world of ours. Without change none of us would even exist as we are. Just like with most things, it can be beautiful and also terrible. Just a few weeks ago I was quite excited about all the new changes that seemed to be happening in my life. Now as things continue to develop and change even further, I feel as though change is no longer a friend, but a bitter enemy.

At times like these I try to remind myself of all the changes in my life that initially felt unbearable, that ended up leading to some of my greatest joys. You can never really tell what even the smallest change may mean down the road. At the very least, it is an opportunity to practice letting go. Something I’ve never been very good at. I’m surprised my fingers are not just bloodied stumps from all the clinging I’ve done in my life.

One of the things I struggle with when facing an unpleasant change is whether or not to surrender to the sadness and pain that accompany it. I never know when I am just letting myself experience a healthy amount of painful emotions or when I am feeding those same emotions. Surely it isn’t healthy to turn away from every pang of the heart, but at the same time it is so easy to fall further into that deep dark hole that I’m still working to climb out of.

I suppose when I was younger there wasn’t much of a choice to be made. It was impossible to deny the feeling of raking claws across my chest, tearing at my tender heart. It seems like I used to cry so often as I was lying down to sleep at night. I never thought I could actually miss those awful moments of sorrow. Yet now I almost long to feel in the way that I once could. For years now, it has been nearly impossible for me to cry. It isn’t that I haven’t had reason to. The tears just don’t seem to come anymore. Instead of stinging eyes, now I only feel this strange gaping chasm behind my ribs, a terrible emptiness.

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Empathy for All

I consider myself incredibly lucky to work in such an interesting field. Psychology has always fascinated me, but actually working with kids and families in my community has broadened my horizons even more than I could have imagined back when I was still in school. Given that I’ve struggled with social anxiety for the majority of my life, it seems strange to me that I would have such a good time working is social services. However, I’ve learned to be more fascinated than fearful of people. Even so, I also believe that I am on the autistic spectrum which I feel gives me an interesting perspective on interpersonal matters. I have always been able to set aside my emotions around a subject or situation fairly easily and act based on logic and facts rather than my feelings.

I’ve learned throughout my life though, that this analytical character of mine can often be seen as cold and calculating by those around me. Many times I have offered up an opinion about something that seems perfectly logical to me, but has been terribly shocking and offensive to others. For instance, a recent conversation I’ve had with a friend at work sticks out to me. We were discussing the idea of legalizing all drugs and illicit substances. We both agreed that at face value, this seems like a shocking and unethical idea. I think most people have a gut reaction to this proposal that causes them to condemn it right away. However, I have read the research on this idea from countries where similar policies have been implemented. It came as a surprise to me, but legalizing these substances actually has the opposite effect than you would expect. Rather than more people abusing drugs and overdosing, there are less instances of this behavior. This is because people are more easily able to reach out for help. There is less of a stigma surrounding drug abuse. People that use are also able to do so more safely than they are when it’s illegal, which results in less instances of overdose and infection.

After discovering this data, I was fully on board with legalizing all drugs. Even though my emotional reaction to the idea remained unchanged. It still felt like a bad idea, but I was confident in the science enough to overlook my personal biases. However, when I shared this information with my coworker, he refused to change his position on the matter. I asked him, “So you’re still against it even if it results in less drug abuse?” This seemed so interesting to me. That even highly intelligent people will often side with their emotions rather than the facts.

A similar discussion came up the other day at a meeting with people we work with on cases of child abuse. We began discussing the idea of virtual child pornography or child sex dolls. Of course the idea is repulsive. Everyone’s initial reaction is of disgust and condemnation. Yet, I remain convinced that if there is data that shows these things lessen the likelihood that actual children will be abused, then I think they should be allowed. I’m not aware that there is any such data. It could very well be the exact opposite. But even in this hypothetical situation, no one else would agree that this should ever be legal. Even if it stops children from being abused. Once again, I was left feeling amazed at the irrationality of these smart individuals.

I am careful to watch what I say, lest I upset anyone, but a lot of the time, I don’t find it as easy to condemn the alleged perpetrators as I feel I should. Obviously child abuse of any kind is inexcusable and all measures must be taken to protect children from these offenders. However, this doesn’t make me incapable of still feeling sorry for everyone involved. After all, a lot of pedophiles were once the innocent victims. This obviously doesn’t justify their crimes, but it does somewhat explain them. We are unable to just cast these people out of society. The fact remains that putting them in prison for ten years doesn’t solve the problem. They are very likely to go on offending as soon as they are released. The science has shown that as upsetting as it is, pedophilia is a sexual orientation. It is something that cannot be changed. These people must learn how to control these urges and understand that although they cannot control their thoughts, they are able to control their actions. If they are considered monsters by society for their thoughts alone, why wouldn’t they give in to their urges? There needs to be an effort to rehabilitate these people, not just punish them.

Often we will interview a child because they have been abusing other children. We won’t ask them about what they’ve done, rather we try to ascertain whether or not something has happened to them that is causing them to act out this abuse on others. I think it’s very interesting that when a child hurts another child, we still feel empathy and compassion for both of them. It makes me wonder at what point we draw the line. When does a troubled child become an unforgivable adult? Does the limit of our compassion end at eighteen? Why do we make that distinction?

I find it hard to make sense of this divide, even though I do feel it viscerally within myself. It is much easier to vilify an adult than a child for the same crime. At the same time it seems illogical to arbitrarily make a decision that someone isn’t culpable at 16 but they are at 18. How exactly were they expected to “fix themselves” now that they are legally an adult? This atmosphere of shame and condemnation only makes it harder for the “undesirables” in society to seek help. Apparently in the U.S. you may be reported to the authorities for even mentioning you feel sexually attracted to minors to your therapist, even if you’ve never acted on those urges.

At the end of the day, despite our feelings on these difficult matters, we need to act and make decisions in a way that results in the best outcomes for society as a whole. Sometimes it may end up to be something that at face value seems counterintuitive. But we’ve got to learn to look past our emotional impulses and trust the data. I certainly don’t know all the answers to these very challenging questions. I just hope that we can be objective and open as we continue to search for those answers.

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Meditation for Kids

I’ve seen a few articles that discuss the benefits of replacing things like time out or detention with meditation whether in school or at home. Even since hearing about this idea, I’ve been a huge fan. It seems like a lot of the time parents and teachers can become so frustrated in the moment that they resort reflexively to age old punishments. Most people have used and/or been subjected to spanking or time outs. But how many of us have actually checked into the data behind whether or not these things are actually effective? Not only that, a lot of the time it seems like the intention behind these punishments seems to get lost somewhere along the way.

I would hope that most parents and teachers enact punishments in an attempt to correct and change negative, disruptive, or dangerous behaviors. While I’m not sure if the data supports the time out strategy in this regard, I know for a fact that spanking has been proven to be not only ineffective, but harmful to the child. Among other things, it leads to even more negative behaviors rather than preventing them. Unfortunately I’ve seen many parents dig their heels in on corporal punishment even after being confronted with this information.

Another thing that I’ve noticed while watching the way parents and other adults interact with children is that not many people seem to place any value in finding the time to actually explain things to kids. I don’t know why that is. I’m sure it could be many things from demanding unquestioning submission to their authority, to impatience, to modeling their parents’ behavior, to thinking the child wouldn’t be able to comprehend anyway.

One of the things I’ll never stop giving my mom credit for is always being willing to explain things to me. The older I’ve gotten the more I’ve realized just how incredible the amount of patience that woman has. She never seemed to get frustrated by my endless questions, even about the reasons why I wasn’t allowed to do something or had to do something else. She was even patient with me when after discovering the reason, I continued to debate with her and push the issue. This level of openness and respect allowed me to become the intelligent, thoughtful person I am today. It taught me to value knowledge and the importance of good communication and mutual understanding. Not only that, I feel it helped my mom as well. I think people underestimate kids. They seem to forget that they are just little humans with wills, wants, and desires of their own. Wouldn’t you be more likely to follow a rule if you understood why it was a rule in the first place? Isn’t it frustrating to be forced to do something just because you are told to?

With all of this in mind, I want to come back to the idea of meditation as a punishment replacement. When you think about it, a time out is already somewhat of the same thing. However, meditation gives this period of quite and stillness an important, clear intention. To me it seems like swapping out meditation for time out has almost unlimited potential for parents, families, teachers, and children alike. I can only image what a different world we would all live in if we started raising our kids this way. Think how much more receptive a child would be to this form of “punishment.”

When a kid is acting out, especially a little one, it doesn’t really make sense to expect a reprimand such as time out, taking something away, or especially striking them to make them calm down. So in the end you need to step back and remind yourself what the goal of these things is supposed to be. If it is simply to get revenge on the child for what they’ve done, then by all means, go ahead. You’re sure to upset them at the very least. But if the goal is to help the child find new, more appropriate behaviors and understand why their current behavior is unacceptable, then it seems like a pretty lousy strategy.

I think it would be a much more helpful and pleasant experience for everyone involved if in response to a negative behavior, someone would explain to the child: 1. Why this is unacceptable behavior. (How it negatively effects, not only others, but the child themselves.) 2. Why meditation is the response to this behavior. (How it can help the child not only behave, but feel better.) No one wants to feel like they are being punished for what they’ve done, even if they know it was wrong. However, we are all hardwired to act with our own self-interest in mind. Wouldn’t you be more likely to participate in something (even if you didn’t necessarily like it) if you thought it would ultimately benefit you?

I only wish someone had been around to teach me meditation as a child. For the most part when a child acts out, it is because they are upset or dealing with emotions they aren’t able to handle appropriately. And it really isn’t their fault, they’ve yet to develop the skills and areas of their brains necessary to properly regulate and process different emotions. Even so, kids know that it doesn’t feel good to be upset or to let your emotions overwhelm you. The majority of my life was spent thinking that these things were just out of my control. What a relief it was to me to discover that I actually have the power to regulate my own emotions and to strengthen this skill like a muscle. I’m sure I’d be much better at doing so if I’d started when I was younger too.

I believe children would really respond well to being taught these new, useful tools. It could simply be explained to them that the purpose behind these “time-outs” is for their benefit. It isn’t just to be mean or make them unhappy because they acted in a way we didn’t like. It is just a time for them to practice using these new tools so that they can have a happier, more peaceful life now and in the future. From what I’ve seen, kids are usually eager to please. Many may be quick to comply if they were told all of these things. It all comes down to treating kids with the patience and respect they deserve and remembering what we want the purpose of punishment to be.

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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.

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