The Rush to React

Nothing is ever as pressing as the one who’s pressing would like you to believe. And I am content to walk a little slower, because there’s nowhere that I really need to be.

The Difference in the Shades – Bright Eyes

The sensation of being rushed or in a hurry has been chasing me around for years now. I don’t remember how or when it began, but that fluttering, panicked sensation in my chest seems to always be with me. I start jerking myself violent forward through my day from the moment I wake up. The last few days I’ve been lingering for just a few minutes in bed after my alarm sounds to caress and snuggle my sweet animal children, and it’s been amazing to see just how much my mind tries to resist that and tell me I don’t have time for something so precious and worthwhile. My consciousness leaps straight from the peaceful oblivion of sleep to a three-alarm fire of strict routines and to-do lists in an instant.

While I particularly struggle with giving myself the time to just live and experience the life around me without frantically lining everything up for the next moment, I think a lot of other people have this same problem. Sometimes waiting feels as frightening as death itself. If someone makes a comment, if I get an email, if I’m invited to do something, or even have an idea I feel compelled to focus my entire attention toward responding or taking immediate action. It feels strange just to remind myself that I don’t have to react. Certainly not immediately, but often times, not at all.

It’s easier to see the error in this way of living when I watch those closest to me. It’s painful to watch someone continue to leap into awful decisions just because they feel they have to pick from the ones in front of them in each moment, that waiting is not an option. When you find yourself in a situation where both paths laid out before you are unappealing, it’s okay to decide not to choose either one and wait for other opportunities to present themselves. There is so much value in waiting, in stillness, in just observing, in watching patiently, mindfully. In a world where only bold, immediate action is given any acknowledgment, we are quickly losing sight of the quiet talent of simply being.

Even when the external world isn’t keeping us busy with stimuli to force a fast response, our inner world is. I make my emotional experiences so much more painful by feeling the need to do something about them. When I’m sad, I intensify that despair by trying to claw my way out of that feeling in any way that I can. When I’m anxious, I compound that frenzied energy by running from it, wondering about it, and trying to “fix” it. Even happiness sets me off on a quest to somehow bottle it and ensure that it stays with me, rather than just giving myself permission to enjoy it while it lasts.

Our emotions are often helpful, valuable cues. Even so that doesn’t mean they always require intervention or conscious direction. Emotions and internal experiences or mental states are there to be noticed and observed. Sometimes it helps me to pretend I am just a passive observer watching the external and internal events in this life. Then I don’t feel so much pressure to get involved with every little thing. I become aware of the benefit of simply watching everything unfold with openness and curiosity.

There is nothing wrong with slowing down and giving yourself space to experience whatever comes in the moment. This moment, no matter what it holds, is the only place we’re meant to be. Don’t miss the beauty of it, the uniqueness of it, by trying to get to the next moment faster. This moment is where your whole life is happening, take the time to notice it, savor it, enjoy it with playfulness and curiosity. There is nowhere else that you need to be.

Inviting the Critic In with Courage and Curiosity

“You’re not enough.” “You don’t deserve this.” “You are weak, broken, a burden on everyone.” These are just a few of the familiar mantras that my inner critic seems to be whispering to me under her breath every waking moment. For most of my life, I didn’t even recognize this as a voice. I didn’t hear the phrases themselves. I accepted these perspectives as simple facts. I never even thought to question the deeply held belief of my own unworthiness. I was unworthy, obviously, and that was that. I lived my life from these painful premises for most of my time here without even the slightest inkling that I had the option of challenging them, or respond in any other way.

More recently, now that I’ve recognized this hateful, critical voice inside of myself, I have tried to shut it out, to silence it. That has not been very helpful either. While I now know I should question these opinions I have of myself and try to determine if there is really any true basis for them, it doesn’t make them feel any less true or unchangeable. The voice hates me and I hate the voice. I spend my mental energy in this gridlock a fair bit of the time. No resolution, no relief. Perhaps a different tactic is in order.

I see you Mara. Come, let’s have tea.

The Buddha

This is a quote from Buddhist mythology in which the Buddha, instead of trying to avoid or destroy Mara, the demon god, he invites her in. This serves as a lesson for how we must respond to our own inner demons. The struggle to resist them and cast them out is only multiplying our suffering. We shrink away from our self-defeating, self-judging thoughts in fear, shame, and sorrow. We cover our eyes and close our hearts to our own harsh words in an attempt to protect ourselves. But we don’t need to hide away. We don’t need to fight. These thoughts, our inner critic, is a part of us. We cannot outrun her. What might happen if we invite her in instead?

For me, ideas like this, that feel so contrary to my natural instinctive response, are revelations. It feels as though the clouds have parted over my heart and mind and I am able to gaze at a clear blue sky I had forgotten could be there. The mere thought of opening myself up to all that I want to reject within myself is healing. I can almost imagine the look of shock, bewilderment, and finally, gratitude of my inner critic as I welcome her too, into my heart.

The next time I find myself despairing and berating myself, I am going to try this new method. I am going to tap into my bravery, my courage, my curiosity and turn towards that suffering voice inside my soul. I am going to extend my hand, to invite that voice in, to ask questions and learn more about her. Responding to the unpleasant parts of ourselves with denial and rejection is exacerbating the problem and intensifying our suffering. If we can teach ourselves to open rather than close, to reach out rather than pull away, to offer loving kindness instead of rejection, that will bring us closer to that calm, steady, inner serenity and acceptance that we all urn for.

I am going to work hard to cultivate my courage and my curiosity. I am going to keep trying to be brave enough to embrace every part of myself, even the parts that might feel hurtful or hateful. Love is always powerful enough to disarm hate. I intent to prove this to myself one day.

Body Appreciation

It’s awfully odd how much we as a society fixate on our bodies’ outward appearance. We even go so far as to prioritize this over our overall health and well being. It’s almost as if we see our bodies as something purely aesthetic. As if it serves no other purpose besides looking nice. When we consider whether we like or dislike our own body it is primarily physical appearance that we are judging. Are we thin enough? Curvy enough? Tall enough? Short enough? Do we like our eye color? Our hair? Are we displeased with the way we are aging? The way our nose looks? Are our teeth white enough? Straight enough? I could go on and on.

There are so many different little details to nit pick at. Only yesterday did it dawn on me that there are far more important aspects of these vessels we are blessed to inhabit than how they look. Why do we not take anything else about our bodies into consideration when contemplating our opinion of ourselves? From an outsiders perspective, say a being from another planet, this must seem utterly absurd. I mean just take a moment to think about all of the amazing things our bodies do that we take for granted.

These incredible bodies of ours are doing dozens of miraculous things for us each and every moment. Without even having to think about it, these bodies breathe in the air around us, converting it into the very things we need to survive, distributing it throughout our cells. If we’re lucky enough, we also have five different senses constantly interpreting everything in the world around us, helping us to navigate through this life, allowing us to see and hear and hold our loved ones. Our hearts are working tirelessly at this very moment and every single moment we are here to pump life giving blood throughout our veins. Our digestive system is dissolving, absorbing, and distributing essential nutrients. Our immune system is endlessly battling against potential diseases, viruses, and infections to make sure that we stay healthy. There is never a true moment of rest for these bodies of ours. They are constantly growing, healing, changing, working to allow us to experience and enjoy the beautiful lives we lead.

It seems like an absolute crime that we only seem to care about the way they look. We take these bodies for granted. Failing to realize that we were not guaranteed any of this. So many millions of people in the world would kill to have the perfectly functioning, healthy body that I have. Yet all I do is demean and berate it at every chance I get. I starve myself to look thinner with no regard for the unnecessary strain that puts on every system inside of me fighting to keep me alive. I am so sorry, body. I am sorry for not treating you with the love and respect that you so clearly deserve.

Even my brain, that I constantly despise for the anxiety I experience, is doing so so much for me that I never take the time to appreciate. I focus on the one flaw without being grateful for everything else. So what if my brain has a small issue with serotonin and dopamine? So what if it sends me warning signals without cause from time to time? Despite that it is still interpreting, analyzing, and observing everything. It allows me to learn new things. It stores valuable information for me, precious memories. It directs the intricate machinery of the rest of my body without even using my conscious awareness. It allows me to experience a rainbow of emotions and feelings. It even produces wonderous inner movies for me to enjoy as I sleep.

How could I ever claim to not like this body of mine? I love it. It is literally everything to me. It is the one thing that is truly mine in this world. The way that it looks couldn’t be of less importance. And besides, it looks perfectly lovely. I have been rather lucky overall in that regard as well. I’m ashamed to think of how many moments I’ve wasted being so ungrateful. I am going to work hard to build a better relationship with my body. It does so much for me, the least I can do is be grateful, respectful, and treat it as well as I’m able.

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Hyggekrog

I made a post on here a while ago about hygge, the danish aesthetic of coziness and comfort. Ever since reading about hygge, I’ve been obsessed. For the last month and a half I have been meticulously cleaning and reorganizing every square inch of my house. I’m actually surprised how quickly I was able to get everything accomplished. All of a sudden I found myself with nothing left to clean. At first I was saddened by this, but then I remembered: hygge. It was finally time! Time to transform my home into a cozy little true expression of my inner self. And I knew exactly where I wanted to start, making myself a hyggekrog.

A hyggekrog, from my understanding, is basically a little corner or small space somewhere in your home that is extra inviting and cozy. Perhaps a window seat full of pillows and soft colors where you like to read a good book in the evenings. Hyggekrogs remind me of being a kid again, making a blanket fort, or a little temporary space just for you. Except now, this is my house and it doesn’t have to be temporary!

For the last few days, I have been buying up lots of nice rugs, pillows, blankets, and fairy lights. There is a room in my house downstairs that is massive, but I never really use it for anything. For the few years I’ve lived here I’ve spend 98% of my time upstairs. Now that I’ve finally decorated it to my liking though, this downstairs living room is my new favorite place.

I laid down a white faux fur rug, propped up tons of giant neutral toned pillows, piled up some super soft, white blankets, and hung fairy lights everywhere. It is the most magical little nook, my hyggekrog. I love it so much. It is so interesting the way the atmospheres around us can have an effect on our inner wellbeing. It is a fun and easy way to quickly get yourself into a more positive headspace. When I sit in my new hyggekrog, I feel like a carefree kid again. Nothing can touch me there. I am so warm and safe and happy. I am so excited to have someone to share it with one day.

Wellbeing Crafted Through Mindfulness and Meditaion

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For the past few years, I had been tempted to begin practicing meditation. I would meditate periodically, but found it hard to remain consistent due to my underlying skepticism about it’s effectiveness. Just recently, however, I found myself experiencing a lot of suffering and self-doubt. Through the haze of this emptiness I turned towards yoga and meditation. I desperately desired to find peace and felt that looking inward was really my only option at this point in my life.

I began setting aside a moment of time, either in the morning or after returning from the gym in the afternoon, to take a breath and relax for merely a half an hour through yoga and meditation. After doing this routinely for perhaps three weeks now, I am already noticing incredible changes in my daily mood and awareness. I’ve noticed myself feeling excited about the day before me when I wake up each morning. I feel eager for the future and what I know that I can do. I used to wake up each morning feeling desolate, feeling each activity of the day to be a burden and a chore.

Little annoyances and small misfortunes no longer seem to get under my skin the way they used to. These daily encounters roll off of my skin like beads of water. I find myself focusing much more on the encounters I share from day to day with loved ones and the joy of knowing my darling kitten, Lucy, will be there to greet me with affection when I return home each day. I feel refreshed. I no longer feel so heavy and tired. Instead, there is an underlying sense of calm and serenity in my mind. I feel capable of catching myself even if I should fall.

It has been a wonderful and uplifting transformation! I am most certainly going to continue my daily meditation. I cannot wait to discover the person I can become. I strongly encourage anyone who is interested in meditation to give it a try as well. Your mind is the most powerful and influential thing in your universe. Get to know yourself and search for peace within. Your consciousness contains everything that you are searching for and more.

Stay mindful, dear ones.