Your Worst Enemy

β€œThe 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.

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Decisions & Intuition

A lot of the spiritual and mindful videos and podcasts that I listen to talk about doing what feels right in the moment or doing what will make you happy. I always catch myself waiting for them to explain to me how I will know what that is. Of course, they never do. I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be self evident or if it’s just something that no one else can teach you. People always discuss intuition like it’s so clear. As if there is one particular thing you know you want, but you’ve been denying yourself. It’s never seemed that simple for me.

I’ve always been a very analytical and indecisive person. It’s hard enough for me to pick something to eat at a restaurant, let alone what path to take with my life, or what to do each day to best serve that path. I’ve never quite understood what people mean when they talk about intuition or just knowing they have to do something. I even remember learning in one of my psychology classes that most people feel more confident about a decision once they’ve made it. However, people predisposed to depression and anxiety don’t feel this same self assurance after making a decision. Instead they continue to doubt and question themselves. I would definitely count myself among the latter group.

I’ve been trying to listen for that voice of intuition in my head, but there are just too many contradictory voices. I’ve never known who to listen to. One voice may say: It’s a beautiful morning, let’s go for a walk. Then that voice is immediately shouted down by other voices saying: There isn’t time. The dog is going to make it too stressful anyway. You need to eat breakfast. You forgot to buy bug spray. Which voice is the one looking out for me? Which voice is guiding me towards what will make me happy? Some people may choose to just take the walk anyway and then feel confident it was exactly what they needed. However, for me, I’d just continue to wonder if I made the right choice and waste the walk ruminating anyway, over analyzing and second guessing myself. I guess that’s why I gravitate toward finding a routine and sticking to it no matter what my inner voices are saying.

Still I long to find fluidity and flow in my days. I don’t want every day to be exactly the same. I don’t want to remain stagnant and never experience anything new or novel. I want to be able to give my body and mind what it needs to flourish in each moment, not try to cram myself into the same box every day. My soul often cries out for more, but I feel I need an interpreter to decipher exactly what that “more” is.

Yesterday, I was weeding my garden and listening to an audiobook called, Siddhartha. At one point in the book, Siddhartha realizes that he has been seeking knowledge of himself from others. However, he is the only teacher he needs if he wants to learn about himself. Although this seems rather obvious, it struck me as profound in that moment. Perhaps my problem is that I keep waiting for someone else to teach me how to listen to my own intuition, for someone to teach me how to make the “right” decisions. I suppose I’m really the only one who can teach myself how to do these things.

The first hurdle I must overcome in this classroom of life is agonizing over making the “right” decision. There is no right decision. No matter what decision I make, it will teach me a valuable lesson about myself. The only way I’m going to find out which of these voices inside my head truly reflects my heart’s wishes is by listening to them. It’s time for me to start studying myself as an impartial observer. I’ll make decisions and let go of worrying about whether or not they are the “right” ones. I will never be able to know that. What I can observe, though, is how different decisions make me feel. Hopefully by being mindful of this trial and error process, someday I will be able to truly connect with that evasive intuition.

For now, I am just going to keep reminding myself that it’s okay to not know. I don’t need to always have the answer. It’s okay to trip and fall along the way. It’s okay to make the “wrong” decision. It’s okay to feel disconnected from myself, from my body and my spirit. I forgive myself for all of it. I’m learning how to rebuild that connection. With so much external stimulation bombarding us at every moment, it’s no surprise that I have a hard time sifting through the noise and hearing my true self clearly. There is no shame in that. I often get so frustrated by not knowing that I forget how much I love learning. How sad it would be to know everything. I am so grateful for the complexity of this world and of myself. Whatever you choose to focus on there is always more to learn. It’s time I got excited to learn about me, to tap into my inner wisdom and honor how unique and intriguing I really am.

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Sharing Yourself with Others

Yesterday was my favorite holiday, Independence Day. I love being able to spend a day with my friends and family in the sunshine, by the water, enjoying fresh fruit and BBQ food. I also always like the opportunity to drink around them as strange as that might sound. Being a generally reserved person, having a little alcohol at family gatherings gives me the courage to be more affectionate with everyone. The only problem with that is sometimes I’ll make promises that sober me isn’t brave enough to keep.

One of the things I always think about is spending more time with my family. My grandmother is over 90 years old, and although she’s SHOCKINGLY healthy and spry, I know I have limited time with her. I think a lot about all the time I spent with her growing up. There was a point I even considered her more of a mom than my actual mom. She would babysit my sister and I while my mom was at work and for a few hours after school every day. Even as a teenager I would often stop by her house before going home from school once I started driving. She was always there for me. I told her everything. She taught me so much and I cherish every memory I have with her.

I honestly don’t know when I started to drift away. Maybe it was once I started college and I wasn’t as close by anymore. For awhile I really didn’t have the time either, although I certainly still could have called. It just seemed like the crippling anxiety I carried with me all through my youth never applied to her. Then at some point, all of a sudden, it did. I became afraid to go see her, afraid I wouldn’t have anything to talk about, afraid I’d be bothering her. The longer I’ve let this anxious energy remain, the bigger it has become.

Now that I’m older I feel similarly about my Aunt. She is an amazing woman whom I love and admire so much. Before I never thought she really cared to be close with my sister and I, but over the last few years that’s changed. These past two presidential elections have really pushed her and her husband apart. It’s also really hurt her relationship with all of her boat club friends. I get the sense that she feels alone now. I want to reach out more and spend more time with her, but I get so anxious at the idea that I usually avoid the thought all together.

As I was sitting with my feet in the damp grass this morning, setting intentions for my day, a new thought struck me. Whenever I’m considering spending more time with friends or family, my main focus is on convincing myself that even though the thought makes me anxious, I will feel better overall. Embarrassingly, this morning was the first time I really considered the other person involved, other than feeling guilty for not following expected social conventions and possibly letting them down. The idea rang through my head that this time that I want to carve out for my friends and family is a gift to them. It is an act of love and compassion. Giving of myself to bring them happiness.

Of course my self-defeating inner voice immediately tried to tear down that idea. “No one cares whether or not they hear from you or spend time with you. You are insignificant,” it tells me. I am constantly afraid of bothering people with my presence. But once again I am merely focusing on myself and my own ego. The fear of feeling unwanted, facing rejection, or feeling like a burden has kept me from forming deeper bonds with all the people in my life. Deep down I know that isn’t true though. My grandmother would never feel burdened by being with me more often.

Not only that, but it helps to remind myself that even if I were an annoyance, so what? I truly believe that the closer we are able to live to the way our distant ancestors lived, the happier we will be. In the tribal communities that once made up humanity, and even in more recent times in small rural towns, every member of the group had value. I don’t have to be perfect to deserve love and quality time with the ones I love. No one expects me to be perfect, except me. There are plenty of people in the world that are more aggravating and problematic than me that are still loved and embraced by those around them. We are all flawed, imperfect beings, but that doesn’t disqualify us from having meaningful, important connections with one another.

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False Narratives

What are some of the lies that you tell yourself? Maybe they don’t even seem like lies to you. We all have a personal narrative. It is probably unknown by those around us and maybe we ourselves have a hard time recognizing what that narrative is. After all it never feels like a story we are creating. Most of the time that inner voice talking to us seems like an honest assessment and observation of reality, no matter how cruel or warped it may actually be. But this story only has as much power as we give to it. All stories have the potential to be interpreted in a completely different way if we only allow our minds to open to the possibilities.

One of the lies my inner voice loves to use is: I can’t be nice to myself, not while I’m such a train wreck at least. I have to be mean and critical of myself in order to motivate myself to do better. Otherwise I would never do anything or make any progress in my life. Up until yesterday, I never even questioned that narrative. Even when I tried to rationalize or reason with it, it was more about how to prioritize self love and self compassion over personal progress towards my other goals. I was still working within the lines of the false narrative I’d been feeding myself.

Then I heard someone talking about that very narrative from a different perspective. I was initially just relieved to realize that other people told themselves similar stories. The best part was that moment of clarity when this person explained why this story is laughable on its face. So if you are someone who tells yourself the same type of story, take a moment to really think about it with me. Remember when you were a child? If not, do you see how children in your adult life behave? Do those children seem unmotivated? Were you unmotivated? Of course not! Children are full of energy and curiosity and motivation and enthusiasm. Do you think they need a harsh, demanding inner voice to be that way? Did your harsh inner voice even exist within you when you were a child? I know mine didn’t and I was much happier and quite frankly, more productive, back then.

All along I was buying into the false dichotomy my inner voice was offering me. Be mean to yourself or surrender your goals and aspirations for yourself. Even in that scenario, it wouldn’t be worth continuing to not love myself in exchange for being successful. I was having a hard time convincing myself of that though. It is such a relief to know that I don’t even have to choose one over the other. Being kind to myself isn’t going to turn me into a lazy blob with no aspirations or motivation. It will probably even do the exact opposite. Just imagine how much more energy I’d have to work toward what I want to be working toward if I wasn’t using it all up being anxious and/or angry with myself all the time.

I feel so much freer after realizing the absurdity of just that one lie my inner voice was preaching. I’m sure there are many more false narratives in my head to unravel. The next time my inner voice is telling me something that makes me feel badly about myself, instead of just accepting it as fact, I want to challenge it. If it’s too hard to disengage from in the moment, it might also be a good idea to simply write down what your inner voice is telling you in that moment. Then once you’ve gotten some space from the situation, you can come back and take a look at what you wrote down. I hope we can all learn to listen to our own inner voice in a neutral, passive way so that we may learn something new about ourselves and hopefully discover new ways to improve our lives and our relationship with ourself.

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What Is Self-Love

While enjoying my new favorite hobby, listening to MindLove on Apple Podcasts, one of the comments I heard really struck me. The host, Melissa, was talking about defining self-love. She gave an anecdote about times from her past when she thought she was practicing self love. She was doing all the “right” things, making new healthy habits, eating healthy, etc. The problem was, if she ever didn’t do those things one day or fell out of her new self love routine, her mean inner voice was waiting and ready to criticize and condemn her.

This is a story that really resonates with me. I feel like that is the kind of “self love” I’ve been practicing. She made the point that true self love is loving, accepting, and being kind to yourself even when you may not be at your best. Self love is about being there for yourself with love and compassion during the difficult moments as well as the easy moments. Self love isn’t: I’m a good person and I love myself. I’m healthy and I love myself. I’m beautiful and I love myself. I’m loved by others and I love myself. Self love is: I love myself. Period. Full stop. There are no caveats or exceptions to self love. We must learn to love all of ourselves, every single messy part of us. True healing self love is unconditional. We don’t need to do particular things, look a particular way, or have a certain lifestyle in order to earn our own love. We are inherently worthy of that love.

Self love is also something that can be difficult to fully comprehend at first. For a long time while practicing that somewhat toxic version of self love I mentioned earlier, if I had been asked: do you love yourself? I would have answered yes. I think a lot of us, especially in these trendy self improvement circles practice this type of self love. It’s an outward expression. If I behave and speak in alignment with the self love examples I’ve seen, then I must love myself. I do yoga. I meditate. I exercise. I eat a whole foods plant based diet. Of course I love myself! However, while these are all wonderful, healthy, even loving habits, they aren’t going to be enough to combat the way you truly feel about yourself inside.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a long, painful journey full of trial and error. At least that’s my experience with learning to love myself. I’m still not quite there yet. But I think I’m ready to take the next step. I’ve gotten used to all the outward self love tools. Now it’s time to really focus on that inner work I’ve been avoiding. It’s almost funny now that I think about how often I ask myself why I’m so anxious. It’s so irrational! The mystery has been one of my greatest frustrations each day. But when I step back and really look at the way I treat and talk to myself, I’d be amazed if I wasn’t anxious. If a friend or a partner spoke to me the way I speak to myself, it’d be so easy to recognize it as blatant abuse. I’m anxious because I’m in constant fear of my own abusive inner voice. My ego threatens me all day long. Not only does it tell me that I won’t be loved by others unless I do x, y, and z, it tells me that I won’t be able to love myself either. If I can work to take away that fear, I’m certain my anxiety will lessen. I’m ready to start confronting that inner voice, my ego. It’s simply amazing how much reassuring and reaffirming my own love for myself can open my heart.

One of the most moving parts of the MindLove podcast I listened to today was when the guest speaker said something along the lines of, “I finally decided that I would rather be abandoned by everyone else in my life than keep abandoning myself.” I actually teared up when I heard that. And as someone who is very rarely able to cry, that’s a big deal for me. I felt so in alignment with that brave sentiment. I think I’m finally ready to make that decision too. I hope you’ll do the same.

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Fighting Your Ego

As I drove home from my little mini vacation to go see my boyfriend, I started listening to a new podcast called Mindlove. I played it basically the entire drive back, so needless to say, I’d definitely recommend it. It got me thinking about all the ways my ego tries to hold me back. The ego is really good at convincing us it’s who we really are. For me I imagine my ego as that little inner voice that is always worrying, always bringing me down, always concerned with how I look or what other people think. When this voice speaks, I take it as gospel.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been taught that we should listen to our gut feelings. The problem with that is I’ve never quite felt able to trust those feelings. I have no idea how to distinguish between intuition and ego. Most of the time I’ve simply waited for “inspiration” to come to me. It rarely ever does. I just use the fact that I haven’t gotten inspiration as a sign that I should just keep waiting. I’ve been waiting for years though. Even when inspiration does strike me, it’s often not enough to get me very far.

I’m beginning to learn that things that are right for you aren’t always going to feel right. You’ve got to trust that your higher self knows what’s best for you and do it anyway. One interesting point I liked from Mindlove was that our natural instincts are always geared towards keeping us in the same place. We resist change even when it’s a good change. So when you’re feeling depressed the things that you feel like doing are going to be things that keep you feeling depressed. I’m sure we all know that feeling. We’re having a bad day so we “treat” ourselves. We eat a bunch of junk food, lie in bed, binge watch our favorite shows. I often think this is doing something kind for myself, when in reality, although it may feel good in the moment, it always leaves me ultimately feeling worse.

This is one reason why it’s so important to create a regular practice of positive things like yoga and meditation. It’s always easy to practice when you’re in the mood for it. But having that routine makes it easier to also lean on your practice when you’re not in the mood. Because that’s truly when we need our yoga the most.

The ego likes to get very loud when we try to do something we don’t feel like doing. It tries to distract us, convince us to stop or do something else. It tells us we’re just wasting time, that it’s all a futile effort. I’m still learning how to stop obeying that nagging little voice in my head. I’ve allowed it to guide my actions for most of my life. It’s the part of me that cringes away from positive affirmations and acts of kindness. Oddly enough, it’s also the part that harshly criticizes me for struggling to embrace these self love practices.

My fear of anything even mildly unpleasant keeps me from connecting with that place of inner peace and happiness. I keep waiting for everything to just fall into place, waiting for the perfect time to change my life. But the truth is that “perfect” time isn’t ever going to come. I’ve got to be brave and start doing the work even though it may feel useless at first.

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Self-fulfilling Prophecies

I am fascinated by the way our internal dialogue effects the way we exist in this world. It’s another chicken and the egg situation. Do we create these inner narratives about ourselves because they are true or do they become true because we believe them? It’s hard to say. Perhaps at one time it was true, but since that time it has become only a limiting believe, a habit, a pattern of thinking that limits our potential for growth and change.

What are some of the default things you tend to think about yourself? Are these positive or negative thoughts? Is the voice of your self-talk gentle or cruel? How do you think that effects who you are? For me most of my beliefs and language about myself are extremely negative. It is only very rarely that I give myself any credit or positive feedback. I fixate on my perceived flaws and ignore all of the good things about myself. A few of the phrases I’ve noticed myself reciting a lot in my head are: I am so anxious. I am so tired. Why am I like this? I hate myself. I’m going to die. I want to die. Even though the latter three are said in a more exaggerated, sarcastic way (normally when I am cringing from embarrassment) they still must have an impact on my mental health and my self-image.

I would love to experiment with adding some more positive phrases into my daily self-talk. I want to get into the habit of saying things like: I am happy. I am calm. I am enough. I am excited. I love myself. I am talented. I am worthy of love. I am filled with joy. I am overflowing with energy. I am generous. I am kind. How might my life be different hearing these words of love and encouragement from myself every day instead of constant criticism? It couldn’t hurt to at least give it a try and find out. Maybe by changing my self-talk I could start to feel less anxious, less tired all the time. I think it would be even better and easier to overpower my old mental habits if I practice saying these more uplifting phrases out loud to myself instead of only in my head.

I am very interested lately in the power of vibrations. There is something so mysterious and beautiful about the way sound waves are able to affect us. Words spoken aloud have much more weight to them then when they are simply said silently in our own heads for some reason. A example of this I’ve recently started paying attention to in my own life is singing. Just listening to music is nice, but it hits you so much more powerfully when you are passionately singing along. Even simply humming a made-up tune can put me in a better mood. Why is that? I’d love to read more about it to find out. Until now I had always felt uncomfortable with the idea of chanting during meditation, but now I am definitely considering incorporating some type of chanting or mantra work into my daily practice.

One of the obstacles I encounter whenever I try to change my self-talk is doubt. Some days it can be really hard for me to feel any truth in the kind words I direct toward myself. If I am not in the right mood, it can even cause my unhelpful inner dialogue to become even louder and more viscous in an attempt to drown out the “foolish lies” I’m trying to feed myself. This makes me almost fearful of trying at times. I worry this backlash is potentially only making things worse. I have managed to overcome this occasionally by first imagining I am speaking to someone I love.

Conjuring up a mental image of a loved one is a great way to prep your mind and heart to be receptive to your new self-talk. Once your heart is feeling open and you’ve tapped into those loving feelings inside of you, it makes it easier to transfer those feelings over to yourself. If it’s hard to say “I” statements in the beginning, it can also be easier to start off by saying “you” when referencing yourself. Even though for a lot of us it may seem impossible at first to shift away from these things we’ve believed about ourselves for so long, I promise that it’s possible. It will only get easier the more we practice. And it’s definitely worth the effort.

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I Choose

The longer I live, the more I realize just how much about our lives and the way we experience reality is a personal choice. Our upbringing, our genetics, and our environment definitely contribute to how easily we are able to choose one thing over another, but we all have a choice. Some people may be naturally inclined to view things more negatively than others. For these people, it will always take more effort and practice to see the good in other people and situations. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the effort.

I think I was born a with a friendly, happy, and positive disposition. Even so, as I grew older I began to lose touch with that lighthearted, open nature. Encounters with heartache, pain, and rejection caused me to close my heart little by little in an attempt to protect myself, to shield myself from the world. I started to view myself as a pessimist. I was the stereotypical “emo” kid throughout high school. The longer I stayed in that “woe-is-me” mindset, the more I started to identify with it. Suffering became an essential part of me. For years now I have been working to redirect myself back down a more positive path, a path that feels more true to who I was meant to be, and who I want to be. (I plan to keep that emo aesthetic though. I love me some black clothing.)

Currently, I am at a stage where I am able to clearly see both sides of that coin. I can see the negatives, the pessimistic viewpoint I would have once had, but I can also see the positives, the option I have to view things in a different way. I used to think one way was more true or honest than the other, but now I see that reality is all about perception. There is no right or wrong way to experience the world. It is always a choice. At times this can lead me to feel frustrated as I struggle against that doom and gloom voice I spent so many years feeding and building up inside my own head. It can be easy to get stuck feeling hopeless, feeling unable to change, a lost cause.

When these doubts begin to bubble up I try to remind myself just how far I have come. I never could have imagined that I would be able to become the person I am today. All I can do is keep moving forward and trust in myself. It may be a slow and arduous process, but it’s worthwhile. Truly, it is the only kind of self-improvement that matters. You can tell yourself you will be happy once you get a promotion, make more money, lose more weight, build more muscle, move somewhere else, but even after reaching all of your goals, you are still the one you have to face at the end of the day. It is easy to think that changing external circumstances will change the way we think and feel inside. That inner voice loves to complain and blame this or that for all of our problems. However, those upsetting and limiting thoughts are the real problem. This is always where we must start our journey, inside ourselves.

Even after seeing so many people achieve the things I want to achieve in life and continuing to be miserable, I find myself thinking those same accomplishments will bring me happiness even if it didn’t for them. We always think we are the exception. But those things we desire are ultimately just distractions. They are excuses for why we aren’t able to be happy right now. It can be difficult to admit that we are the only reason we aren’t happy. Happiness comes from within. It has been ours since the day we gained consciousness and it will be available to us in each and every moment until the day we die. Even when it feels impossible for you to allow yourself to be happy, just know that it’s because you haven’t spent enough time practicing. Sometimes I even think of this practice like a game. When I find myself facing something exceptionally upsetting or challenging, I ask myself: are there any positives I can find in this situation? Just like the hag stones I scan the riverbank for, the more time you spend searching for certain things, the easier it becomes to spot them. When I first tried to find those special stones, I felt like I would never find one. I wasn’t even sure if there were any to find. Yet now I am easily able to pick up two or three as I walk along the shore without even trying. At first it might feel like there is really nothing good about different parts of your life, but the more you practice looking for the good in things, the easier it will become and the more abundant those good things will seem.

It can be hard work, training ourselves to be happy, but it is possible. Don’t lose hope. Don’t give up. Keep trying. I say these words for myself as much as for anyone who happens to be reading this. We are capable. We are powerful. We have everything we need inside of us. Don’t be afraid. You are safe. You are loved. You are enough. Even if at first you don’t believe it, keep repeating these uplifting, empowering words to yourself. Eventually they will become as true and real to you as that negative inner dialogue that many of us have become accustomed to. It may not be easy, it may take a very long time, but I promise you, it will work. And it will be worth it.

The Story We Write

Once again, it’s the beginning of a new month. Even though time is just an illusion, I always feel inspired to try new things around times like this. Especially with spring lingering just on the horizon. This month I’d like to start trying to work on my inner dialogue. I really believe it’s important the way we talk to ourselves. We are actively creating our own reality each moment with the words we use to describe it. Language is such an interesting and powerful thing. Even though I know this to be true, it has still always been hard for me to implement a plan to change my own narrative.

I am a very stubborn person when it comes to my beliefs and ideas about things. I am quick to anger when challenged, even by myself. It is hard for me to accept that the way I have been interpreting the world around me isn’t necessarily the only way it can be interpreted. Whenever I try to speak to myself more kindly, that harsh inner critic is repelled. Why are you lying to yourself? It says irritated. Even though I know if I keep trying the words will feel more true to me eventually. It’s hard to overcome the initial feeling of being fake.

This month, instead of going straight for self-talk like I usually do, I want to try to change my inner dialogue in general. I think that might be an easier place to start. For example, I often feel stressed when I am “forced” to do something, whether that be by someone else or myself. I am always reciting the phrase, “I have to…” fill in the blank. I know I don’t really have to but that’s just what I’ve always said. I’d like to start there. Instead of repeating to my friends, family, and myself, “I have to go to work everyday this week” I want to say “I GET to go to work everyday this week.”

It doesn’t seem like a huge change, but I’m willing to bet switching out those two words will lead to so much more happiness and gratitude in my life. “Have to” makes me feel rushed and forced. “Get to” is a reminder that I am ultimately grateful for the opportunity to do the things I do everyday. I am grateful for my wonderful job. I am grateful for my strong healthy body that lets me workout everyday. I am grateful to have coffee to make in the morning and sweet baby angels that need me.

It will be interesting to start being more mindful of the ways I say things to myself and to others. I probably say “have to” even more than I realize. I’m sure it will be nice to remind myself more often that I don’t have to do anything really. I am doing the things I do because I want to and I want to spend more time focusing on how grateful I am that I get to, that I am able to. I am the one writing this story. And the character I play is not a poor servant of others, the universe, or even that voice inside my head. I am free. I am happy. I am so fortunate. I get to live this amazing, wonderful, fascinating, exciting life. It’s about time I started reminding myself of that.

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A Life with No Resistance

I have been thinking a lot lately about how I create my own suffering. I have been so fortunate in this life. I really have not ever experienced any true suffering. I have always had food, water, shelter, family, and friends to support me. I got a free education all the way through college. I have been healthy and so have my loved ones for the most part. I have basically wanted for nothing in my life. And I am truly grateful for that.

I so often lose sight of all of that though. Somehow I still manage to find reasons to suffer. The mind seems to always be looking for problems, for ways to fix things. Even when changing the situation is useless or even impossible. Internally we rise up against so many little aspects of our day. We wrestle with our own discomfort and rejection of reality. In the end nothing is as bad as our resistance makes it seem.

I read a metaphor that sums this idea up perfectly. Imagine a leaf landing on the still mirror-like surface of a pond. It is going to create ripples. Maybe we don’t like these ripples. Maybe we were staring at the reflections in the water. So we try to remove the disturbance, resist it. But in the process of trying to get rid of the leaf’s ripples, we end up creating even more disturbance in the water. Now it will take even longer to return to stillness.

There will be things that come along in life that are truly unpleasant, but even those problems are best accepted and allowed to pass through you. The brain seems to think the best way of preparing for the future is to “protect” ourselves from anything we dislike and lock ourselves away, closing off our heart. But in reality all of these small, daily, disturbances are gifts. They are opportunities to practice releasing, allowing, letting go. I want to use these minor moments as training to learn to live each moment with more ease and less resistance.

I try to think of this practice as a game. After all, I have always taken life too seriously. But this game is more challenging than I thought. I find myself getting easily frustrated with myself. After years of building up a strong tendency to resist every moment, it is incredibly difficult to learn to release and let things pass through you instead.

My mind is quite crafty and persuasive when it wants to be. It throws out endless reasons why we must resist. It jumps from one thought to the next, stirring up my fears and anxieties, encouraging me to close my heart, to seal myself off, to “protect” myself. But what I’m really trying to protect myself from is my own internal dialogue. What happens if I decide not to defend against it? It cannot hurt me. All it can do is talk and rustle around inside my head. I don’t have to let it touch me or let my heart close because of what it says.

So far, I don’t think I’ve been very successful at this game of releasing and allowing. But I am not going to give up. I am going to keep trying until my heart is perpetually open. Even though I am already impatient to achieve peace within myself, I know that this is the work of a life time. I’ll have to be patient and gentle with myself as I continue along on this new journey.

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