Not Knowing

When I was a younger, even friends wouldn’t hesitate to let me know that I was a “know-it-all.” At the time, although I understood this was an insult, I couldn’t really comprehend why. I interpreted it as jealousy or an envious lashing out against my superior intelligence and knowledge base. (Exactly what a know-it-all would think.) What’s wrong with being smart, I often wondered. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized that “know-it-all” wasn’t a comment on how intelligent I was. It was a comment about my attitude.

Being a know-it-all doesn’t mean you know everything or even that you know more than the average person. It simply means that you think you do. Intelligence is curious, open, and observant. A know-it-all is self-assured, closed, and domineering. An intelligent person knows that there is always more to learn and there are always people that know more about something than we do. A know-it-all, well, thinks they already know it all. They have nothing left to learn. There is no one that knows more than they do.

Even though I still fall back into my know-it-all tendencies quite often, I’m learning more and more about just how much I don’t know every day. One of the more important lessons that my experience with LSD has taught me is that I don’t know everything. Not only that, but there are aspects of life, reality, and the universe that I can’t even hope to conceptualize. There is so much knowledge out there that I couldn’t even absorb it all if I lived a thousand lifetimes. Not only is there mountain upon mountain of empirical data, there is also the unlimited ways we can interpret that data. Despite all I pride myself on knowing, somehow I still learn more all the time. I couldn’t be more humbled by or grateful for that fact.

I absolutely love to learn. It is one of my greatest joys to find and spread new information. After learning about the mycelial networks helping trees to communicate and send nutrients to one another, I’ve been telling anyone that will listen. I firmly believe that anxiety is a byproduct of an intelligent, but under stimulated brain. My brain is constantly devoting all it’s unused energy to make predictions about the future based on what I know. It is a great comfort to me when I realize that these predictions are not very likely to be accurate given the amount of unknown factors at play. Reflecting on this leaves me feeling a lot less urgency around tending to my anxious thoughts.

Growing up a Christian, I remember being so pleased that after I died I would finally be able to talk to God. I couldn’t wait to ask him all the endless questions I had. I couldn’t wait to one day learn everything about the universe, how it began, and why. Now an atheist, I’m pretty upset that isn’t going to happen. Then again, I don’t really know what is going to happen. Perhaps my consciousness will meld back into all of existence and in a way I will have access to all the answers I’ve been seeking. Maybe the not knowing, maybe the mystery is part of the fun.

It’s quite a depressing thought actually, to imagine really knowing all there is to know. What a dull life that would be. Curiosity, mystery, discovery, wonder, these are all parts of life that make it worth living. It is such a joy to know these experiences will always be available to me. There will always be surprises awaiting me, new mysteries to puzzle over, new discoveries to be made, breathtaking moments of wonder and awe.

We are especially fortunate to live in the time that we do now. With the internet, we can easily find out more about anything we’d like to know. At any moment there is the potential to learn something that completely changes the way we see, interact with, or understand the world. Isn’t that an incredible notion? We tend to get weighed down by the monotony of day to day life and lose sight of that fact. It’s helpful to remind ourselves every now and then. I find that the concept of not knowing is enough to spark curiosity, creativity, excitement for what’s to come, as well as gratitude for what is.

As you move through your day today, try to take notice of moments that surprise you. Savor any new knowledge you’re able to gain. Contemplate how “not knowing” plays an important role in your life. Reflect on the times in the past when you learned something that completely changed the way you perceive yourself, others, or the world. Let the mantra for today be, “anything could happen.” Then allow yourself to be curious, excited, and open to whatever does.

Discover a Bestselling Mystery & Suspense Series | Novel Suspects

Making Change a Habit

After 27 years of life, a pattern that now seems so obvious has finally revealed itself to me. While I’ve always heard that change is the only constant, it seemed equally as natural that we will inevitably resist and detest this constant change. How many times have you heard someone say something like “I wish things could stay this way forever”? I’m sure we all feel that way sometimes. However, even if it were possible to avoid change in our lives, should we?

I’m reminded of when I learned that despite having clear ideas about what will make us happy, studies show that we don’t have very good judgement in that regard. We don’t know what will make us happy. It’s a hard concept to wrap my mind around. I feel so sure that this or that will make me happy. I almost don’t even realize it when I acquire said thing and am still just as unhappy as before. I thought working from home would be a dream come true, but it turned out that I’m actually much happier coming into the office every day. Despite clearly remembering this baffling realization, a few months after coming back to the office, I find myself hoping for another shut-down so I can work from home again. I can’t seem to convince myself that being at home alone every day actually makes me feel depressed and more anxious than usual.

This strange dilemma is similar to the way I view change. I assume most people would say that they don’t like change. Evolutionarily, change is an obvious threat. If we’re able to survive with the way things are, change could potentially be catastrophic. Our minds and bodies are inclined to try to hold on to what has been working for us up to this point, even if something else may work better. As long as we’re alive, change seems like a big, unnecessary risk. I think this is one of the complexities that make modern day society so difficult for us to navigate. It is not an accurate reflection of what our minds and bodies were designed for.

I mentioned in some of my recent posts the new habits I have added into my daily routine to promote mindfulness and self care. While I initially felt an immense positive impact from these changes, after a month, they have begun to feel lackluster. This is the pattern I have finally noticed within myself. I am constantly concocting new plans and habits that I believe will help me live a happier and fuller life, more in line with my values. These changes are always amazing for the first week or so. Then they start to seem ineffective. I find myself back where I started. I fall back into the mindless hum of habit.

I’ve begun to wonder if perhaps what is making me so happy at first isn’t the specific tasks I’m including in my day, rather the change itself. Although the habits I’ve cultivated are mindful, I wasn’t being more mindful simply due to the actions I was performing. It’s much easier to be mindful when you are doing something new. Perhaps I wasn’t less anxious because I wasn’t watching TV while I ate, but because I was doing things differently than I normally would.

I’ve often had the feeling that intelligent minds are more prone to anxiety and depression. I believe this is due to the effort that we have to exert to stimulate our active, easily bored brains. Not many of us are willing or able to make that effort. I’ve always detested challenges as well as change. I don’t know if that was innate or a result of my early environment, but it is a misguided opinion nonetheless. I need to be challenged, I need new, novel experiences and information to make me happy. Now the issue is how do I go about intentionally including these things in my life.

When we’re growing up, we have little choice in the matter. There are lots of consistent changes that come our way which we have no control over. Maybe our parents move or get divorced. We have to go to a new school. We suddenly have a new sibling. Whether we are resistant to change or not, we know there is going to be a lot of it we’re going to have to deal with. Once we are adults and have more control over our own lives and environment, it becomes easier for us to avoid change. Often we even avoid changes we want to make out of fear. Stagnation may be unpleasant, but it is safe and that is our prime biological imperative.

After trying for years to cultivate healthier habits, there is one I have been missing. This month, I’d like to try to make change a habit. In order to break free from what has become a quite oppressive daily schedule, I think intentionally doing at least one thing differently or trying something new each day would be an excellent way to invite more mindfulness and mental stimulation into my day.

10 Facts About Chameleons

My Values

I’ve never really taken the time to sit down and really think about what my values are in life. I have always been a very passionate, outspoken person when it comes to my opinions and beliefs though. Today I wanted to get more clear about what exactly it is that matters to me, so that I can better embody and serve those things every day. I’d like to come up with five values to always keep close to my heart as I move through this world.

1. Justice

When I think about values, justice is the first thing that comes to mind. I have always been unable to tolerate injustice. I guess I never really grew out of that phase of childhood where you constantly scream, “It’s not fair!” I’ve learned that life isn’t fair, but that never stopped me from wondering indignantly, why not? I used to be a very patriotic child as well. I was so proud to live in a country which I had been taught valued justice and freedom above all else. When I came to find that actually wasn’t quite an accurate portrayal of America, my patriotism faded, but I held fast to those ideals. Justice is even one of the reasons that I am a vegan. Not only is it horrendously cruel and idiotic to treat animals and the planet the way we do, it is also extremely unjust for us to place our species above all other beings.

1. Non-violence

My next value is one that comes from the Yamas in Yoga philosophy. Non-violence goes farther than simply not physically fighting people. Violence can exist even in small actions. Our words can be violent, the way we treat our bodies, buying animal products, etc. I’m still learning every day how I can better embody the essence of peace and compassion in everything I do.

3. Nature

I’m not quite sure what constitutes a “value,” but for my purposes, I’d also like to include nature among mine. The natural world is the most beautiful, precious thing that has ever or will ever exist. I was lucky enough to grow up with dense woods and a stream practically in my backyard. The happiest moments in my life have all been enjoyed outside among the lush green abundance of this living, breathing world. I believe this is also a dying world due to human interference, but nonetheless I hope to honor and protect it as much as I can while I’m here. I’d at least like to do as little harm as possible. I know I still have a long way to go in this regard. Perhaps one day I will proudly include myself as part of the zero waste community.

4. Creativity

Creativity has always been one of my greatest joys. I have loved to draw, write, and make things from the moment I learned how. There is something so miraculous in the act of making something from nothing. Our ability to imagine and create such a myriad of different things is maybe the only thing I do marvel at about humanity. It is possibly our one redeeming factor. Not only do I love to create, I love to watch others create as well. Few things get me more excited and interested than seeing what other people are able to come up with. It is like being able to see a glimpse of that person’s inner world. I love to be surprised at the fascinating things others make that I would never have thought of. It is such a shame to me to know that some people go their whole lives believing they “aren’t creative.” I believe that everyone is creative by default. Society has unfortunately led us to believe that we must be exceptional at things like drawing, painting, or writing in order to do those things at all. I love to encourage the kids I work with to keep creating even if they feel they aren’t “good at it.” Creativity is about self-expression and enjoyment, not talent.

5. Knowledge

The fifth and final value I want to talk about today is knowledge. Learning and intelligence are two of the most important things in my life. I am always eager to gather more knowledge for myself. I truly believe that the more we know the better, as individuals and as a society. One of my favorite things to do is read. It’s amazing how much I am able to learn and discover from books whether they be fiction or nonfiction. It is also a delight to share any new information I happen to gain with others. It’s unbelievable that no matter how much knowledge I accumulate, there is still an unlimited supply of new things to learn.

——————

For now, these are the five values that I want to focus on. I am hopeful that know that I’ve written them down, I may be able to be more mindful of them as I go about my day. What are your values and why? Do you think you are living by those values? Why or why not? How might you better adhere to your own values in your every day life? Let me know! I would love to hear what kinds of things are most important to you.

Photo by Anete Lusina on Pexels.com

5 Things I Love About Myself

In an effort to incorporate more loving kindness into my life, today I am going to write about five things that I love or admire about myself. I am always thinking about the flaws I have or areas in which I need improvement. I’m sure I could easily make up a list of at least a dozen things I dislike about myself. But when it comes to what I do like, it takes me much longer to consider. It feels very awkward even. I have always shied away from any type of praise, especially from myself. I am embarrassed and terrified that people will think I am conceited. But I’m learning that it’s okay to love yourself, and it’s okay to be proud of your accomplishments and your positive characteristics. I hope that by writing about a few things I love about myself today, it will make it easier for me to remember them and be kinder to myself.

Intelligence

Even since I was a toddler, I remember people telling me how smart I am. This has always been my most cherished attribute, the thing I am most proud of. I’m certainly not the smartest person out there, but no matter where I go in life, I seem to be recognized for my intelligence. Learning and knowledge are quite valuable to me. I have a consistent ravenous hunger for information that never seems to be sated. I am always looking for new interesting topics to read about. I’m definitely a firm believer that knowledge is power, and I must say, I feel quite powerful in that regard.

Curiosity

For most of my life, I didn’t think that my curiosity was anything special. I assumed that it was just natural to want to explore, learn, and understand as much as possible. As Ive gotten to know more and more people in my life, I’ve come to realize that this is actually a somewhat special characteristic of mine. I am very grateful for this aspect of my personality. I definitely wouldn’t have gotten to where I am today without it. Curiosity is one of my greatest motivators. It has guided me forward my entire life.

Compassion

Even though I’m not necessarily a very emotional person, I do consider myself to have extremely high levels of empathy and compassion. I just don’t always portray this side of myself outwardly to the world. I actually think I come off as cold and unfeeling to a lot of people. Quite to the contrary, I care deeply about all living things. (Occasionally even inanimate objects.) This is one of the main reasons that I have been vegan for nearly a decade now. I want to do all that I can to avoid causing suffering during my time here on this earth. I am constantly striving to do better for those I share this planet with.

Physical Fitness

Even though this one may sound silly and shallow compared to the other things I’ve listed, the health and power of my physical body is something that I really love. I have worked very hard for years to develop my current state of physical capability. I have an insane amount of stamina and cardiovascular strength. Most days I am able to breeze through my hour long HIIT workouts with ease. Often I’ll even be dancing around and singing along to my music instead of resting between moves. I am also quite proud of how far I’ve come in my yoga practice. My body can now do things that I never dreamed I’d be doing when I started. My body may not look the way I want it to, but overall it is still simply incredible. And I am so grateful for all that it does for me every day.

Humor

Last but certainly not least, I love that I am funny. You probably can’t tell that from my writing. I guess most people probably find themselves funny, but the people around me seem to agree. There is nothing more satisfying to me than having a witty back and forth with someone. Banter is probably one of my favorite forms of play. Laughter is the best medicine and I’m happy to be able to provide that to the people in my life. My quick wit and often dark sense of humor have gotten me through a lot of tough times.

And there you have it, five things that I love about myself. Writing that actually took me a lot longer than I’d like to admit. But it has put me in a slightly better mood and given me some things to consider the next time I am feeling unworthy. Along side my many flaws are an equal amount of amazing traits. It is only because of the combination of all these things that I have become the person I am. A person who is worthy of kindness, compassion, love, and understanding. I hope that this exercise will make it a bit easier for me to remember that and treat myself with the gentleness and respect I deserve. Try it yourself and leave me a comment with five things you love about yourself! I would love to find out.

Photo by picjumbo.com on Pexels.com

Focus

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

Yesterday I found myself having a rare moment of pure peace and happiness. I sat down to start planning out and scheduling when I was going to do different cleaning and organizing chores around my house. Before forcing myself to begin this task I had been feeling rather anxious as I usually am during that point in the afternoon. Yet I realized that focusing my mind on something made all that anxiety fade into the background and dissolve for awhile.

It’s strange. Whenever I am feeling super anxious I feel incapacitated. My inner voice tells me I simply can’t do anything. I’ve just got to sit and try to relax or do something mindless to avoid how I’m feeling. I start to focus on my anxiety, which makes me more anxious, which starts a dizzying cycle, winding me up inside. That was how I felt yesterday before starting my task. I told myself I couldn’t do it. I’d have to put it off until another day. Somehow I got myself to start and realized I was having a great time.

At that moment I had a very interesting thought. I’ve often felt that my higher than average intelligence contributes to my anxiety. A brain with a lot of processing power and nothing to process will scramble around and chase it’s own tail until it drives itself crazy. A brilliant mind with no direction will soon devolve into chaos. At least that’s my theory.

My problem is that as a child I somehow came to associate any kind of “work” or “effort” with something negative. I saw how my parents hated their work. It seemed like a necessary drudgery that I wanted desperately to avoid. I resisted anything besides “leisure time.” I wanted to lay around, watch TV, frolic outside, go online, play video games, munch on snacks, and occasionally write or draw. Anything else felt forced. An egregious waste of my precious time. An impingement on my freedom.

At some point, however, I began to recognize that bizarre perspective for what it was, ridiculous nonsense. There is nothing inherently “bad” or “unpleasant” about hard work or being challenged. I was just choosing to perceive it in that way. Only recently have I realized that, like most humans and even animals, I enjoy those things quite a lot. It feels good to work hard at something and reap the well-earned rewards of that effort. It is fun to challenge yourself or to be challenged. That is how we learn new things. That is how we grow. That is how we surprise ourselves. These are the things that make life interesting.

Trying to keep my brain from working on anything, trying to spend all my time lounging around in some strange attempt to enjoy life more, has led me only to an existence fraught with anxiety. At least now I can start to shift away from my old mindset that brought me here.

It can be very hard to convince myself to start working on something when I don’t feel like it. I’m the type of procrastinator that waits around for inspiration to strike before I do anything. But I’ve learned that once I actually make up my mind to begin, that is most often when the inspiration finally comes.

Even though it may not seem appealing at first, setting your focus on a task will often lead you to that blissful flow state. That state where time no longer matters and you are fully consumed by what you are doing. There is no room for anxious thoughts in that state. The mind is too busy to be anxious. It is the idle mind that is anxiety’s playground.

I hope to come back to this post in the future when I am feeling too overwhelmed to do what I had planned to. I want it to be a reminder that the hard part is just to start. The next time I feel anxious I am going to close my eyes, take five slow, deep breaths, and then focus my mind on what I want to do.

It will be like a meditation. Each time I feel my mind going back to a state of anxiety, I will gently guide it back. I will focus on my task just as I focus on my breath during meditation. Because that is truly what makes meditation so blissful. It is not necessarily the stillness or even the breath itself. It is our diligent focus. When the mind finds focus, everything else falls away. When we are focused we are truly present in the moment. And when we are truly present, joy and peace are sure to arise naturally from within.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Emotional Intelligence

Photo by Wallace Chuck on Pexels.com

I have always considered myself a highly intelligent person. It is one of the only things that I am proud of. I can feel extremely threatened when this aspect of myself is called into question. Until very recently in life however, I didn’t consider that there are different types of intelligence.

I have a friend whom I believe to be very smart. Yet she never did well in school, and there are some things she’s done or said that normally I would consider quite dumb or foolish. Eventually I realized that while this friend may not be “book smart” she has a high level of emotional intelligence. This explanation satisfied me, and I didn’t think much more about it until years after this realization.

When I ask myself the question “Do I have a high emotional intelligence,” the answer is a resounding “no.” The answer isn’t surprising to me as I’ve never been very good with people or handling my own emotions. I was surprised, however, that I’d never even thought to ask myself the question before.

I was thinking about this deficit a lot today. So I decided to take an emotional intelligence test on Psychology Today’s website. Even as I was going through the questions, I could tell I was not doing very well. My result at the end was only 57 out of 100. A grade I never would have received in school. Unfortunately you had to pay to learn anymore details. But it was enough to confirm my suspicions about myself.

In my opinion, this is yet another piece of evidence that I am on the autistic spectrum. It is hard for me to admit to myself that I have this huge lack of knowledge and understanding. I cannot believe I have gone my entire life without realizing this. Not only that, but I have no idea what I can really do about it. Perhaps this is something a therapist would be able to help me work on somehow.

I suppose at least now I know and can take this into consideration as I go about my life. As someone who has been called a “know-it-all,” on more than one occasion, it is quite humbling to discover this handicap. I hope that in the future I will be able to improve in this area.

Intelligence and Mental Illness

I’ve always found it interesting that highly intelligent people often also suffer from depression or anxiety or some other affliction of the mind. I often find myself wondering why that is. After pondering the subject for quite some time, I think I’ve settled on a hypothesis of sorts.

Since I was very young, I have been told that I am very intelligent. I never had to study to get some of the highest marks in grade school and college. There were a lot of things that came very easily to me, which I saw my peers struggling with. Along with that intelligence, however, I have always suffered with mental illness. And it only seems to have gotten more pronounced since I have been out of school.

I don’t think that is a coincidence by any means. I’ve come to believe that losing that academic outlet has given my mind more time to fester and cultivate that mental illness. I think that without some type of distraction, some means of challenging myself, it’s easier to fall into anxious and brooding states of mind. Perhaps a highly intelligent mind requires more stimuli to keep it happy and healthy than one of average or low intelligence. That could explain why I am always trying to dull my sense with substances. And why many great minds throughout history have done the same.

I am always happier when I have something to occupy myself with, especially if it is truly engaging and requires intense focus. It was truly a gift to be in a learning environment for so many years among my peers. On my own I am not very good at staying busy. I don’t often have the courage to challenge myself willingly.

It seems like intelligent people who are highly motivated and have something they are passionate to work on aren’t as likely to be burdened by the symptoms of mental illness. However, this could be a “chicken and egg” scenario. Perhaps their motivation and passion is only possible because they aren’t suffering mentally.

Still I wonder how I can use this new insight of mine to improve my life. I feel like I am chasing my own tail in a sense. I know giving myself more to do, challenging my limits, will lead to more happiness. But at the same time, my severe anxiety keeps me from making any of those changes in my daily routine. It was nice to be somewhat forced into beneficial situations by structured education. I regret taking that for granted. Hopefully some day I can figure out a way to simulate something similar for myself on my own.

What Bindis Really Represent

10462618_775769605801492_3856432184708091148_n

Recently, the bindi, traditionally worn in the east in places such as South Africa and India, has become a fashion accessory to young women in the West. This has spurred somewhat of a controversy. I have seen various posts online criticizing “white” girls for wearing bindis. Some people seem to think that this is insulting and disrespectful of the cultural and religious aspects of this symbol.

However, the bindi is not inherently for women of eastern cultures. The bindi can represent various things. Before I began wearing one myself, I looked into the meaning behind it. I found that the bindi was created as a way to worship one’s intellect. It is placed on the forehead, directly over the sixth chakra, the seat of concealed wisdom. The wearer of the bindi wishes to retain energy and strengthen concentration. It is worn as a reminder, in the hopes that one’s thoughts, speech, actions, habits, and character may become pure.

I would never want anyone to be offended or feel disrespected because they see me wearing a bindi. I simply wear it to express to the world and to myself, my wish for peaceful thoughts and a strong intellect. Being an intelligent woman in this world is not generally celebrated. Woman are expected to be passive, pleasant, and quiet. Many girls I know are even embarrassed to be smart and dumb themselves down to attract the interest of men. I wanted to show the world that I will never be ashamed of my intelligence. Knowledge is power, and I am proud of my mind.

Keep learning, ladies. ❤

The Responsibility of Being Human

10430463_589326441167523_7183844352672465226_n

It seems to be agreed upon by the vast majority of the world, than humans are different, superior, to the other animals that inhabit this earth. I would agree except, instead, I would say that human beings have the potential to be great. However, as things stand right now, we are merely more pompous and self-righteous.

You see, as humans we have been blessed and cursed with a large capacity for intellect and understanding. We can conceive of the future, for ourselves and for things beyond us, we recognize death, and we comprehend the intricate relationship between our actions, individually and as a species, on each other and our world.

Up until this point in our progression as a species, we have been selfish, as would be expected. We, like any other animal, strive to secure our place in this world and ensure our survival and comfort. However, we have long since achieved these goals. With the technology we have created and the availability of information and resources that we have accumulated, there is no longer any excuse for us to continue existing is such a short-sighted and selfish manner.

It is time that we set aside our childish pleasures that we know to harm the earth and even ourselves. We must do what is best for all of the world and its inhabitants. We have the power to do so. Human beings are capable of so much more. It is time for us to realize what is important and stop behaving like we have no control over our fates and the fate of our world. Together we could create a utopia. We could live with nature instead of against it, if only greed was not so many people’s driving force.

Open your hearts. Use your heads. We do not have much time left to us. We owe it to ourselves and to the world to utilize our sublime ability to reason and understand and act. Let us help each other to reach enlightenment. Don’t live your life in comfortable ignorance. Do your part to spread intelligence and joy and tolerance. We say that we are more than animals. Let’s start showing it.

Stay peaceful, fellows. ❤