Growing Through Relationships

Just because a relationship is easier, doesn’t mean that it’s better. This realization came to me as I was snuggled into my boyfriend’s side over the holiday weekend. For a long time before I met Nate, I struggled with the persevering obsession with my ex. Even when I hadn’t spoken to him in months or even years, that sense that we were supposed to be together never left me. Part of me was convinced that the obsessive thoughts alone were proof of that fact. There must be a good reason that I can’t let him go. I told myself that reason was destiny or some such nonsense that I never really believed in.

It seems obvious now, but only after listening to one of my favorite podcasts discuss this phenomenon of not being able to let a partner go, did I realize that other people felt the way I did. It wasn’t because they were “destined” to be together. Often it was just because the person was someone they loved as an adolescent. That teenage love has a tendency to be overwhelming and all consuming. It’s no wonder people can find it hard to let that go. Especially when no adult relationships seem to be able to measure up to that level of intensity. That isn’t because our high school sweetheart was the one. It’s because back then we were flooded with hormones and our prefrontal cortex wasn’t fully developed yet.

In addition to that, I also realized this weekend that one of the reasons I would often find myself comparing and preferring my past partner was because things felt easier with him. This ease was another sign to me that we were meant to be. However, all of a sudden I realized that wasn’t true. Things weren’t easy because we were soulmates. Things were easier because he enabled me. He allowed me to remain stagnant, to avoid any personal growth. I don’t think this was malicious or on purpose. It was just the dynamic we had together. His traits compensated for the underdeveloped parts of me. And that felt good. It felt safe.

On the contrary, I noticed that a lot of the little things about Nate that rub me the wrong way are actually qualities we both share. For instance, he is always agreeable and appeasing. Usually I am the one that plays that role. I’m terrible at making decisions and being assertive. It’s much easier when I have a partner that is. Then I can just go along with whatever they want to do. Seeing my own indecision and passivity in Nate is the reason I find it irritating sometimes. For the first time in a relationship, I feel forced to make decisions.

I don’t enjoy making decisions. However, for that very reason, it is important that I practice doing so. In the past, I let my partner make all the first moves and decisions for everything. I thought because I preferred this, it meant we were a good match. I’ve started to see things differently though. Now I realize that those relationships kept me from improving as a person. Being with Nate has already helped me to push past my comfort zone and work on some of the skills I’m deficient in. While this isn’t fun for me, it’s beneficial. It’s hard to work on ourselves. It’s hard to face the parts of ourselves that we may not like. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t, though.

In addition to helping me grow, being with someone so similar to me helps me to get a broader perspective on how others may perceive my behavior. I had always thought just going along with what whoever I was with wanted was a positive thing. I thought it would make me more likeable. Now I realize that it may actually be doing the opposite. I see how it might make the other person feel I am creating distance between us, not allowing them to see the full picture of who I am, what I like, etc.

I no longer feel uncertain about whether or not Nate is “right” for me. He’s perfect. Even his imperfections are exactly what I need. Not only does he help me love and understand myself better, he is also helping me to become a better person. I’ve finally been able to let go of my ex for good. I am now able to see just how unhealthy that relationship actually was. It is such a joy to be free of that mental burden and find rest in a love that is good for me.

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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Five Years

It still feels surreal to me, but I officially have a boyfriend again after five years of being single. I feel ridiculous being so happy and giddy over something so commonplace, but I can’t help myself. I hadn’t even realized it had been five years until now. Time perception is such a wild and ever-changing thing. It’s crazy to think that when I was in school, a mere four years enveloped a huge, important chunk of my life (high school) and now the past five have just been a vague blur, hardly worth remembering. I suppose there were highlights within the past few years, but they don’t seem to stand out as much as similar things would have when I was younger. Maybe the structure of school just allowed for a more organized, and therefore more easily remembered, life.

Regardless of how long is seems, it has been five years. I’m 27 years old now, yet I definitely still feel 22 if not even younger when it comes to my emotional maturity. As someone who is quite proud of being more intelligent than most, it is quite a painful realization that my emotional intelligence is so stunted. It really has never been so obvious to me as it has in the last few weeks with my new partner. The littlest thing makes me tongue tied with embarrassment. Then that embarrassment is compounded again and again as I cringe at myself, embarrassed of being embarrassed. I’ve always felt that I am clueless and awkward when it comes to dating and romance, but it didn’t seem like that was all that uncommon for my age back when I met my first boyfriend. However, even though so much time has passed since then, I feel exactly the same as all those years ago. A far less acceptable place to be emotionally now that I’m no longer 16. Over a decade has passed with little to no progress in that arena.

I suppose I’m just being too hard on myself again though. I don’t have to be perfect to be worthy of love and affection. It’s okay to make mistakes and feel embarrassed. My new boyfriend doesn’t seem to be put off by it at least. I’m excited to learn and grow with someone by my side to support me again. Especially someone so considerate and kind as the one I’ve found. Although it does feel quite unfamiliar. I’m so used to being on my own now. It feels strange to tie myself to someone else, to not only have myself to consider or look out for anymore. Someone made a comment on one of my other posts about just waiting until I feel more emotionally developed or “ready” to start a relationship again. Definitely sounds like good advice. Unfortunately, I’ve already been doing that for half a decade! Remaining on my own seems to have only been making things worse, not better. Instead of growing as a person, I’ve remained in a stagnant cocoon, off in my own world. It’s only made it harder for me to be with others, not easier. Just like with most things, if you are waiting for the perfect moment, chances are you’ll be waiting forever.

This analytical, obsessive mind of mine just loves to get lost fixating on the details. I’m always stuck worrying about all of the unknowns ahead. For once I’d like to just enjoy the blissful happiness that I have in this moment. It’s time to let go of fear and to learn how to just trust, in myself, in my fellow humans, in this universe. All is well. I am healthy. I am happy. I am loved. I have found a beautiful, intelligent, kind, vegan boy who wants to be with me. And for the first time in a very long time, I desperately want to be with him as well.

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Throat Chakra

The throat chakra is connected with communication. It helps us to express ourselves, our feelings, and our personal truth confidently and clearly. I still don’t know exactly where I lie on the sliding scale of believing all of these things. However, I do find it fascinating to learn about chakras and integrate this knowledge into my own life. At the very least the chakras are a nice way to visualize a lot of the obstacles that come up within ourselves. Sadly for me, no matter what chakra I think about, it seems like I have a blockage in it. It’s no wonder I feel so anxious and on edge.

Today I wanted to focus on the throat chakra though. For me, like the heart chakra, this chakra is easy for me to buy into. Our language even has phrases that have become part of our shared culture that seem to reference this energy center. “Frog in your throat,” “lump in your throat,” “choked up,” “choking back tears,” all of these remind us of that familiar sensation of tightness in our throats when we are struggling to speak.

It seems like the art of communication has become more and more forgotten as humanity becomes more comfortable texting than speaking in person. It is much easier to choose the right words when you have time to think about it and carefully craft your response. Especially without the added pressure of the person waiting right in front of your to hear what you have to say. With texting you can take as long as you want to figure our the perfect way to phrase your thoughts.

For the longest time I’ve described my difficulties with speaking my mind as a fear of confrontation. However, lately I’ve started to think that it’s more than that. I’m just afraid to speak my truth. I am so concerned with what other people will think of what I have to say or the reactions it may illicit. I pause, panicked, searching my mind for the most polite and non-offensive way to speak the words I want to say. So many times I’ve gone along with something I didn’t want to just because it was too difficult and awkward to say no. Even when I’ve mustered up the courage to say no, I often feel ashamed and guilty about it. I have to stifle the urge to profusely apologize. And apologize for what? For being honest? There should be no shame in being true to myself. The idea that so many times I’ve put the needs and desires of others ahead of my own just to avoid feeling awkward saddens me deeply.

I hesitate to be so open and share the details of my private life any more than I already have on this blog, but no one knows who I really am on this site anyway, so fuck it. The reason I’ve been contemplating these things is because of my date yesterday. I notice my shortcomings in self-expression the most when I am dealing with romantic relationships. I usually seek out a partner that is so emotionally intelligent that they are able to compensate for my extreme lack of personal insight. I realize that is unrealistic though. I can’t expect my partner to simply carry my weight. I must try to push myself through my own hardships.

Anyway, I always dread the moment when someone I’m dating tries to be physically intimate with me. I’ve mentioned on here before that I have a very low sexual interest, especially with people I’m not in love with or very emotionally bonded to. There have been many times in the past where I have given reluctant consent to sexual encounters simply because I felt obligated to. I felt too guilty and awkward to say no. I realize the horror of that statement, but it’s true. Even though I did that to avoid confrontation or uncomfortable conversations, it never ended well for me as you might imagine. This attempt at avoiding healthy communication and mutual understanding and respect led to a lot of pain, heartbreak, and even more unpleasant conversations down the road.

Knowing that my date was going to be stopping at my house to pick me up yesterday, I had already tried to mentally prepare myself for what may come later on. Sometimes I’ll even do something like avoid shaving so the embarrassment of them discovering that forces me to be true to myself and say no to their advances. Humiliatingly enough, sometimes that has even failed. As I had anticipated, the dreaded hour drew near where this lovely man I met wanted to go further physically than I was comfortable with. While I am proud of myself for sticking to my guns and declining, it doesn’t change how embarrassed and ashamed that moment made me feel.

I did my best to explain that it was only because I still did not know him that well, but I feel I could have said much more than I did. I desperately wanted to discuss it more, but that damn frog in my throat wouldn’t let me. I spent the rest of the evening suffering in silence. I am always afraid that saying no will result in the end of that relationship. I know how foolish that idea is though. Wouldn’t I rather it end there than have slept with someone who would have stopped talking to me if I hadn’t? Just the idea of sleeping with someone for any other reason than because I deeply desire to is terribly sad.

Part of the issue is a lack of experience in these types of scenarios. I don’t have many healthy examples to draw from. Most of my social skills have been adapted from television and movies. But when it comes to sex, these sources are even more unrealistic than usual. In my mind, it seems perfectly reasonable to not have sex with someone the third time you’ve ever met. Then why do I feel so awful for saying no?

Part of my fear is not knowing when, if ever, I will want to say yes. One of the many reasons romantic relationships are so hard for me to navigate is that I struggle to enjoy each moment as it comes. I am always wondering what the end result will be of every decision. I can’t enjoy a kiss, because I’m busy panicking about where it might go from there. I can’t listen to my own body when I am worried about what will make the other person like me the most. I guess the only real way to improve my communication skills is to keep getting practice through uncomfortable moments like these. I’m sure it’s much more embarrassing to be declined than to be the one declining. Yet my empathy for the other person’s position only makes what I’m experiencing all the more painful. Just a few days ago I was so happy and excited. Now I’m not sure how I feel at all. I feel detached and depressed mostly. I have no idea where this relationship is going to lead, nor do I know where I want it to at this point.

I’m not going to give up just yet though. I have to remind myself not to be so serious all the time. Just enjoy the time I spend with this guy for what it is. I don’t need to know everything that the future holds. Part of the fun is not knowing. All I have to do now is stay true to myself and follow my own feelings and intuition, letting each moment unfold as it comes.

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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.

Lessons from Childhood

I find it very interesting to see the way the children I work with interact with the world around them. Although their problems and emotions are often less complex than those that come with adulthood, they can be surprisingly similar in other ways. I find myself specifically fascinated with those common toddler tantrums. It may sound ridiculous coming from an adult, but I identify with their unmanageable emotional states more than you’d think.

It used to make me panic when a little one would start freaking out, but now I see it as an important opportunity. I’m so used to seeing parents only responding with more threats and yelling. Which obviously only makes the child freak out even more. I have no idea what they hope to accomplish with that. Perhaps it’s just an example of the parents having little to no control over their own emotional state while dealing with the child’s.

For me these moments relate back to my dilemma about helping people when they seem stuck in thinking and seeing things a certain way. One of the many wonderful things about children is how malleable their minds are. When a toddler is pouting, I see it as a great opportunity to test out different methods of helping them escape that unpleasant mindset. What works? You really have nothing to lose because even if nothing works, they tend to come out of it on their own quite quickly.

I still haven’t been able to make any super significant progress. But yesterday I did think of something that I’ll definitely try again. A little four-year-old girl was pouting because we took away a box of things she was ripping up. As she stood their, arms crossed, teary-eyed, I tried to come up with a way to show her that it was a waste of time to be angry and upset. Their time at our center was almost over and I wanted her to see that her time would be better spent further enjoying all the toys we have instead of pouting. One question, did seem to make her pause.

I eventually thought to ask her if she liked feeling upset. After a stunned moment of silent thought, she stubbornly answered yes. While it didn’t go exactly as I’d planned, she did seem to see a glimmer of humor in this blatant lie. What I was actually getting at though, and what I hope to be able to show more kids, is that it’s our choice whether to be upset or happy. It seems like I didn’t learn that until a few years ago myself.

When these strong emotions come up inside of us, especially when we are young, it feels like they must be right. That we must be supposed to feel this way, because of whatever has happened. It seems impossible to feel any other way. Then we become indignant, latching on to these negative feelings, insisting on the truth of them. Little ones luckily don’t have the willpower or attention span to hold onto them for very long. But as we grow older, rather than learning how to let go of these feelings quicker, we seem to learn how to hold onto them for far longer instead.

It’s funny how we all agree the things children throw fits about are ridiculous, but as adults we feel our inner tantrums are fully justified. Yet in the grand scheme of things, they are all just as silly. And even if they aren’t, it never helps to harbor negative feelings and sour even more moments in response to things not going our way. Maybe part of the reason I am so interested to figure out ways to help kids with these feelings, is so that maybe I can gain some insight into how to better help myself with them as well.

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Children

It is crazy how much can change within you in only a year. When I first began working at a child advocacy center, I really didn’t like children very much. I know it sounds awful, but it’s true. I didn’t dislike them. I just hadn’t had hardly any experience with them in my personal life, let alone at work. I have no idea why I was even hired to be honest. My social anxiety has always been extra overwhelming when it comes to children. I had never learned what I was supposed to do or say around them. I had no idea what to expect or how to respond.

Learning how to talk to and behave around children is just another one of the many reasons I am inexpressibly grateful for this job. Now that I have been able to spend so much time with children, it turns out that I actually love them. They are so much better than adult humans. So innocent and loving. So eager to please. So eager to learn and to understand. They are truly amazing little creatures. There is a unique joy that comes from gaining the trust of a child, to be offered a tiny hand or hug. Even though we aren’t supposed to be touching one another right now because of the pandemic, who could deny such a blessed gift?

Part of me began to worry when I realized I actually love children now. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it on my blog before, but when I was 22 or 23 I had my tubes tied. I never had the desire to have children, and was always terrified at the idea of accidentally getting pregnant and having to have an abortion. Or even worse, not being able to get an abortion. I am still so grateful that I found a caring doctor that was willing to respect my wishes and my right to make decisions about my own body. Never once did she talk down to me or try to tell me I’d change my mind some day. And I’m relieved to be able to say I haven’t.

I don’t think I’ll ever come to regret that decision. I still firmly believe that human being in general are a plague upon this planet. I would never add more fuel to that fire. Besides, I could never allow myself to bring a child into this world knowing I’d have to watch them die when the earth becomes uninhabitable in a few decades. I still think I am too selfish and impatient to be the kind of mother I would want to be. I’m still more than happy just having my fur children. Besides even if I ever wanted a child of my own, I would never be brave enough to go through pregnancy and childbirth. That whole process still seems horrific to me. I see no difference between an adopted child and one that has my DNA. I’d happily be a foster parent or adopt a child if the urge ever struck me to bring a child into my life.

For now I feel like I am exactly where I need to be. Being a child advocate is the perfect job for me in so many ways. Apparently a lot of people that don’t want to have children of their own end up working with children instead. I think it’s a perfect compromise for the nurturing, motherly instinct I have as a woman. I am still able to have children in my life without having them in my home. I have a place to help them learn and grow and thrive, while also still having my privacy and personal space at home.

I finally understand that deeply fulfilling feeling of being a positive influence in the life of a child. It is such a magical thing to see the world through their eyes, to see how much your words and actions mean to them. I can see now why so many people are able to have limitless hope in humanity. These little beings are capable of becoming anything. They have so much potential to do good in this world. They are so full of curiosity and love. If only there were more people around them to teach them how to hold onto that love as they grow older. The children of this world are definitely capable of learning, sadly the adults are not competent enough to teach them.

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Outgrowing Selfishness

I’ve always thought of myself as a very self-centered person. Autism could be a contributing factor to a lot of my more selfish tendencies. It’s not ever been a malicious selfishness. I’m not acting in my own interest at the expense of others. If I ever have, I’ve only unwittingly done so. It’s more like sometimes I forget to consider other people entirely, because I am too busy being consumed by my own inner world. I can still remember when I was very young, noticing that other people would often compliment someone else’s clothing or hair, etc. I remember asking my mom why I never felt the urge to do that, even if I did like something about someone else. I assumed it was only because I was shy and socially anxious. Only after I began forcing myself to compliment people did it become a comfortable, natural habit. I was surprised to discover that it even made me happy.

As I continue to get older, I’ve noticed myself becoming more and more interested in being of use to other people. And the way that thinking of and helping others is its own reward. I once thought selfishness was just a personality trait. I’ve now started to wonder if it’s simply an aspect of youth. I remember hearing about older people focusing their remaining energies on giving back to the community and supporting their family. It seems like in the later stages of life, giving back, sharing what you’ve learned and acquired with others, becomes the most personally fulfilling thing. I always had a hard time imagining myself in this role. Now it doesn’t seem so far-fetched.

I’ve heard the metaphor of life being compared to a wave in the ocean. In the beginning we are one with the sea, then we crest for a time, the illusion of an individual entity, before eventually falling back into the water we came from. The longer I live, the more convinced I become of two things about this life: Everything is a cycle, and everything is one. These are the fundamental truths I keep coming back to when I have my spiritual experiences with LSD. It is comforting and profound. I can see it everywhere I look. It gives me hope that every ending inevitably leads to a new beginning on both a micro and macro scale.

The idea of the fluctuation of selfishness throughout life seems to fall into that framework as well. When we are born, we are totally dependent on others. Although no longer in the womb, we are still very much an extension of our mother, feeding from her very body to survive. Then we slowly but surely begin to gain independence. We revel in this newfound freedom, we test it’s limits, we find our individuality, just like the wave on the ocean. For awhile we are lost in the intoxication of this illusion. The illusion that we are separate.

No matter what, if any, religion or spirituality you subscribe to, getting older tends to remind us that we are all one, with our fellow humans, other species, the earth, everything. We all depend on one another, we all live through and because of one another. We’ve all sprouted from the same source, just as we will all return to it someday. Like waves in the ocean. But just like the ocean, the tide is relentless. There is no ending to the ebb and flow, there is a constant undulating cycle. It is a beautiful thing to be reminded of this. For me especially, it is nice to be reminded of the way things change, the way I change without even realizing it. What may seem terrifying and impossible to accept one day, seems as easy as breathing when the time finally arrives. We don’t need to worry about how we will handle situations in the distant future, because this current version of ourselves won’t be the one dealing with it anyway. We’ve simply got to keep going and trust that when we get there we will be the person we need to be to get through it.

So there is nothing to fear. Not even death. Because no matter how many cycles come to an end, a new one starts simultaneously, spiraling out into infinity. For a time it may be important for us to be selfish, to learn how to best take care of this newfound self. But there is also beauty and comfort in playing with the very idea of “self.” What made me decide to draw the line where I have? Why is this body the only thing I consider me? Maybe I am actually more than this. That boundary seems to be expanding, little by little, every day. And one day this little brief wave that I am will have fully submerged once again.

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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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The Difference Between Yoga and Other Exercise

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Some of the first things anyone I meet learns about me are that I am a vegan, I workout a lot, and I am a yoga instructor. It seems like everyone always wants to combine the latter two into one. I get asked all the time, “Oh, so you do yoga for your workouts?” No matter how many times I get asked this question, it always surprises me. I forget that for a lot of the western world, yoga is just another workout routine like aerobics or Pilates. But it is so much more than that.

When people hear the word “yoga” all they think about are the asana, the physical poses. In reality that is only one small limb of the yoga practice. It is merely a nice bonus that the physical practice can double as a form of exercise. However, yoga isn’t about the physical body at all. When someone begins a workout routine, there is usually a goal in mind. “I want to lose weight,” or “I want to build muscle.” And while a lot of people may get into yoga with a similar mindset, I’d say most stay for the mental and spiritual benefits instead.

I started yoga primarily to become more flexible, but also hoped it would help my anxiety. Now, even though I am more flexible than I ever dreamed I would be, I couldn’t care less about that part! Yoga has given me so much more than the ability to do the splits. Yoga allows us to use the body as a gateway to our souls, our higher selves.

At the gym, you push yourself so that you can achieve results, run faster, look slimmer, lift heavier weight, etc. But when we push past our comfort zone in yoga it isn’t about that at all. At first we may be fixated on the idea of molding our bodies into perfect poses. Eventually we begin to see our practice through new eyes. In the end it doesn’t matter how close we can get our head towards our toes. It is about seeing how the mind reacts to not being able to do a pose perfectly, or in fact even how it reacts to doing the pose perfectly. What does the ego whisper to us in these moments? Can we learn to accept where we are in our practice, in our lives? Can we breathe through discomfort? Can we honor our limits?

It is these questions and many more than we explore and grapple with on our mats, with the hope we will be able to take what we learn with us into our daily lives. While the asana practice may result in some incredible physical feats, it was never about that. It is about the journey there and what we are able to learn about ourselves along the way. So no, my yoga practice is not my workout. I usually don’t think of it as exercise at all. It is a spiritual practice, a moving meditation, a beautiful celebration of life.