There’s No Real Rush

The inspiration for this post has come from the realization that I have not posted on here for almost 5 weeks! I cannot be a hypocrite and claim I “have not had the time,” since I have written a post on this very excuse. I will admit that I have had the time but 4AM has simply not been a priority. Yes, I am embarrassed to admit.

The past few weeks have been filled with various lessons and realizations from the events I had prioritized over writing for 4AM. The one lesson I had learned was in the area of patience.

I have had various job responsibilities over the past few weeks that made me feel like I was living extended work weeks. In reality, I had probably been putting in an average amount of work time, but something made this time feel more consuming and more stressful than previous weeks.

Have I had more tasks to accomplish? Yes. Have I been spending less time at home? Yes. But, were these the true culprits of my angst?

I concluded although things have been a bit busier for me in recent weeks, the tasks themselves have not been the cause of my anxieties. Conversely, I have been the cause, not the events themselves.

We all have times in our lives where some weeks are more chaotic than others, but how we perceive these events is truly what determines our emotional state, not the event itself.

For myself, I recognized that it was not the increase in tasks or the extra driving or the additional money required of me over the past few weeks. It was a problem of my own perception of expectation vs. reality.

I expected these tasks to move along quickly with little additional time, effort or money being spend in the interim. Instead, a transaction that I expected to be completed over the weekend, for example, took 3 weeks to finally see completion, with additional time, effort and money required along the way. Of course, this had been a great disappointment to me, since the reality of the situation did not come close to what I had been expecting all along. My constant dwelling on the frustration of having this transaction constantly delayed was the cause of this anxiety.

Now, was it the actual incomplete task that had caused this anxiety? Was it the parties involved that had caused me to feel a consistent urge to look at my phone and email in hopes we could get a response to close the transaction more quickly?

NOPE.

The only thing or person causing this anxiety was me. In theory, we all have the ability to respond to the urge to check phone or email, for example, but in the moment, such control had gone out the window and full submission to the impulse had commenced.

This inability to react and appropriately respond to these tasks then would lead to another anxiety about being on my phone around my family and loved ones, and the vicious cycle continues.

The big learning lesson here is preventing this cycle or being able to break it through a change in our behavior when reacting to a given event.

Big picture, I had been rushing myself to complete this transaction, when in reality, the nature of the situation would have taken 3 weeks regardless of the way I had responded to it. I could have waited an additional hour to check my phone and emails. I could have waiting for the next day to respond to an inquiry. I could have shut off my phone for an entire day, and this transaction would have taken 3 weeks.

This was a big learning lesson of patience for me. I had been so consumed with wanting to finish quickly as possible, I was distracted from what was really important to me. I realized no one is expecting an immediate response from me, as I would not expect from them. I realized trying to get things done quicker and expecting tasks to be moving faster will only result in anxious behavior.

I hope this lesson of patience will serve me going forward when responding to tasks and time management.

When you feel yourself becoming anxious about a task, do not blame the task itself, but question what the true cause of your anxiety is? The bad news is, it’s most likely you. But, the good news it, it’s most likely you. You have the power to react to your circumstance. Take responsibility so you can take control and change it.

 

 

 

Not Accepting Every Thought as Fact

It is easy to lead with thought, right? Whenever we think something is a good idea, we are quick to jump at the opportunity before consideration. Whenever we think something is wrong, we are quick to avoid the instance. Thinking then leads to emotion, which is also a misleading determiner of action. Does leading with thought and emotion alone prove that the action is true? In other words, because you are frightened, should you then avoid? Because you are excited, should you then pursue?

These are hard questions to answer because we are often advised to go with our gut, but I would argue that gut is different from emotion, if you can believe it for a moment. The gut is admired to be an instinctual intuition, and I am not sure that can be equally categorized. I believe this gut feeling is more of a force or attraction we experience, while, I would categorize emotion as reaction or state of being.

Furthermore, many of us can fall into the routine of believing everything we have in our head, our doubts, our fears and our uncertainties, and accept them at truth. We might even argue with ourselves saying, “Well if this isn’t true, then why am I thinking it?” or “Since I’m thinking it, it must be true.” FALSE. We have more control over what we think than we realize. Thinking is simply a scattering of neurons in the brain, which actually have no meaning at all until we GIVE them meaning. Since this is the case, we can change the meaning of our thoughts and make the decision to accept them as fact or let them go. Oftentimes our days are rid with more negative thoughts than positive ones, unfortunately, so I would advise us to let them go.

Not accepting every thought as fact can reduce the worry in our days, understanding that we control what has meaning and what does not. We need to take control of the narrate we rehearse in our minds, and let go of the garbage that appears out of nowhere in our monkey brain. Today, take a moment to observe the thoughts flowing through your mind, and I urge you to objectively observe them as just thoughts alone and let them go.

Peace Found in Objectivity

When was the last time you had a false perception about either a situation or a person? Situations like this are common as human beings, who are always looking to reason, draw conclusions and make up our own elaborate judgments for ourselves. Simply based on the look of someone, tone of voice, or wording in a text message, we can be given a negative impression of a situation.

These sorts of interpretations are due to the subjective nature of our mind. Mostly, I am sure this is an evolutionary trait which would have previously allowed for us to defend ourselves against the enemy in the wild. Now, as a more evolved species, it is the precise things that can cause us confusion in the wild and defense us from our truth.

I recently accidentally texted my co-worker “JK” following the exclamation, “Cute!” referring to the picture she sent me of her niece. I then quickly texted the correction, “Cute!*” again to hope she interpreted my “JK” as a mere slip of the finger. However, this got me thinking about how my co-worker could have interpreted this meaning without ever having known the real nature of the mistake.

My co-worker might had read that as a joke to imply her niece was in-fact not cute at all, which would have been a disaster. She also might have interpreted to be something I might have typed but accidentally send, resulting in the same rude and horrific interpretation. Or she might have found it to be the mistake it was.

Objectively, I believed her niece to be very cute, but expressed myself a bit improperly. If everyone was to only be able to think objectively, a mistake like this could be seen for what it was. Since we more often think subjectively about instances, we can draw various conclusions about the same, solidary event.

If we were all to think more objectively about situations, we would be able to find more peace with ourselves and the world. There are times I find myself questioning what seems to be almost everything and anything going on in my life. I judge whether or not it is good, bad, right, wrong, what it means, what it doesn’t mean, etc. By viewing things in life more objectively, we do not worry so much about what it good, bad, right, wrong what it means or doesn’t mean. Conversely, we focus only on what it is or what has happened without interpretation. Without this interpretation, our reactions can be pure, for they are not influenced by our own prompted thoughts or dwellings. We can see people, places and things for what they are and not for what we judge them to be.

If things feel like they are going well in the moment, let them continue free from judgment. Judgments can dilute the truth in the moment. The truth is what is actually occurring, while judgments are merely the interpretation of the truth, or in other words, the not-truth.

By allowing ourselves to experience the present free from judgments, we can find the truth in these moments more clearly, and see them for what they really are.

The clarity given to us when thinking objectively is a feeling of freedom. Freedom from attachment and excessive thoughts. We accept events things at face value, and recognize the moments when our mind wishes to judge them, but we know better.

This practice comes along with the practice of self-awareness. Try to be more aware of situations where you feel you are passing judgment on someone or something. Then question whether you are feeling this judgment because it is the truth of the situation, or is it your own conditionings, experiences and beliefs that have caused you to interpret this “truth” into something it is not. When we are able to be aware of why we are interpreting the truth for something it is not, it can bring us peace in being more accepting of situations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pink Elephant in the Room

A few days ago, I was prepared to diagnose myself with OCD. OCD is also known as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, essentially a behavior problem that prompts one to inhibit obsessive thoughts and habits that hinder their everyday functions. After recognizing my destructive habit of analyzing every little thought that came to my head, making reason for why it was occurring, and manically scribing away pages and pages in my journal for a full diagnostic report of one simple thought, it sounded like an OCD-type behavior to me. So, I began to read up on the disorder that can be crippling for so many. Ultimately, I realized my behaviors were very much in my control and nothing as serious as such a potentially debilitating disorder. I began to understand this was in my control.

As it was explained in a video I came across about OCD, the psychologist used the example of a “pink elephant,” an objectively bizarre yet meaningless image. She instructed the video viewers NOT to think of a “pink elephant.” Ok, try it for yourself now. Do NOT think of a pink elephant. Whatever you do, do NOT think of a pink elephant. What are you thinking about now? Let me guess… The damn pink elephant, of course! The point of this exercise was to make an example of how the more we think about our thoughts, the more they can consume us. We might even begin to question, “Why am I thinking of a pink elephant? Oh my gosh, it must mean something!” And again, be possessed by meaninglessness.

As the doctor went on to explain, WE are the ones who give meaning to our unintentional thoughts. Unintentional thoughts that just pop into our heads are really just the natural random functions of our brain, which we have no control over. Instead of accepting these thoughts as something we have no control over, oftentimes we CHOOSE to give reason and meaning to these thoughts, which in-turn drive our obsessive behaviors.

At the end of the day, it has been enlightening for me to realize that the majority of thoughts I experience throughout the day are not in my control and are completely random. I am the one who chooses to place meaning on the. As much as I love journaling, I decided it needed to be tamed, for it prompted full-fledged analysis of every little thing. Now that I understand, I have been working to allow my thoughts to come and go, not sticking with or giving meaning to the unintentional whims that might show up thought the day. You kind of just have to laugh about it and say, “Oh brain, you’re so funny. I don’t know why you would think that but I’m going to go back to what I was doing. Thanks for visiting.” And leave it be.

This is where the practice of mindfulness comes it, being able to recognize when the mind has drifted into possessive thought, and then bringing it back to the present. It is easier said than done and I am no expert in meditation or traditional mindfulness practices, but I have found that developing an ability to laugh off our thoughts and move on is a mindfulness practice in and of itself. This is what I encourage us all to do to live a more clear-minded day. Place no meaning on the unintentional thoughts that may pop up today, laugh at them and recognize that it is your mind doing its job. It is not you. J

Intimacy and Loneliness

I’m thinking about yet another concept I had observed from listening to the Dali Lama. It was the relationship between intimacy and loneliness. When Dali Lama speaks of intimacy, for the record, he is not speaking of sexual intimacy, but rather intimate human connection.

When the interviewer asked the Dali Lama if he ever got lonely, living in isolation, away from family and spending many days in silence, he responded, “I have never felt loneliness.”

This response had my attention because I had always, personally, questioned whether something was wrong with me, since I never had this sense of “loneliness” either. Often, from my experience in participating in conversation, when people speak of loneliness, its context is often associated with experiencing a love life or lack thereof. For example, people speak of wanting to find someone for the sole reason of feeling lonely. Perhaps all of their friends have a significant other and they believe the presence of another will fulfill this void. The fact of the matter is, however, another person will never fill this void if we are not creating connection. This idea will clear up later.

It was interesting to take this perspective as the Dali Lama spoke about why he is never lonely. He begins to describe the kinds of encounters he has with the people he meets, whether it is an official meeting or simply one in a hotel elevator. He describes the connection he creates with these people. No matter what their status, no matter what the topic of conversation, he feels deeply connected to them. As a result, the Dali Lama’s human need for intimacy is regularly quenched. He creates it himself through genuine listening and openness with other human beings. How can he ever feel lonely if he is constantly connected to the universe in this way? He cannot.

Now, this brings us back to us non-Dali-Lama people, who feel we incapable of connecting to just anyone. No one understands us, right? No one is listening, right? It has me thinking…. Is it really another or is it just us who are hindering our connections? How often do we truly listen when another is speaking? How genuine are our questions of interest in another’s life?  Such conversations are opportunities to connect, yet we find ourselves distracted, uninterested and ultimately, back to feeling lonely. Go figure!

Taking it back to my personal reflection on intimacy and loneliness in my own life, never feeling this sense of “loneliness” people would speak of really, I began to think about why. Well, what I concluded really came down to the simple act of making connections with the people around me every day, like the Dali Lama (well…sort of). I am definitely not one to talk to stranger or any of that craziness, but I enjoy talking to my mom, grandma, friends and family just as much as I enjoy listening to them! This simple act has made me too feel constantly connected to the universe we all comprise, so where would this sense of loneliness have a place?

What I am saying is, another person will never fulfill our loneliness. In fact, if we do not work to create connection with that added person, we will feel just as lonely whether they are there or not!

There are so many opportunities to connect to anyone on a daily basis! Take advantage of them! I understand fellow introverts like me might not want to speak to just anyone on the street like the Dali Lama, but how about our own family members and people we are close to? It is so easy to take for granted the comfort of their presence. We might find ourselves never striking up a conversation with our parents because we feel they will always be there. But, in realty, this is missing out on an opportunity to feel connected to someone we love. Make the effort to start conversation with whoever you live with today! I guarantee the feeling of loneliness and intimate connection cannot coexist.

Giving Perspective to Our Suffering

Upon reading the Art of Happiness, there have been many points of enlightenment I have been able to take away and apply to my own life. Yesterday, I did not experience a very positive day at work and overall. I found myself ranting about some people who I feel had wronged me, being stuck in situations I can ultimately change, etc. In the moment, I was not so aware of these trivial “sufferings” I allowed to shift the energy of my day until I transitioned perspective. There is an idea in the book, the name of the meditation escapes me now, but it is essentially an exercise to visualize the sufferings of another person. Perhaps this is someone without a home, plagued with a terminal illness, or abused by the society in which they live. The Dali Lama encourages us to visualize and feel the suffering of these people in order to give perspective to your own suffering.

My visualization had specifically been that of a young girl living in a third-world country. She lives in, not a home, but a tent without running water or plumbing, having no access to professional opportunity for herself, or even in the least, sanitary working conditions. This visualization made me feel shamed and ungrateful for the life I live and the woes of this day which had irked me. To make a trade in my suffering for hers, would I yearn for what I deem my current “suffering?!” Of course. In fact, this young girl probably wishes she had the problems I had. I live in a safe community and sanitary conditions, in the least. I have a roof over my head, a bed to sleep in, an education and job to allow me to be finically well and able.

Ultimately, I found this practice to be beneficial today, specifically, to begin a new day on a more positive and reflective note. Where is that girl right now, I wonder? Is she sitting comfortably at a desk job, writing a blog post she has time to peacefully write, garbed in clean and sleek clothing? I doubt it.

So, whatever may bother you today, meditate on the sufferings of another bring perspective to our own lives.

Staying Present

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Staying present is a difficult discipline for even the most disciplined. Many encourage a daily practice of mindful meditation to keep us grounded in the present moment. Still, how often do we find ourselves in some other mindless dimension throughout all other parts of the day? It is easy to do! I was doing it right before I started writing this post, which in turn, prompted me to become present in the writing of this post. (Ha.)

We can find ourselves thinking about the strangest things in the strangest moments. For example, I was washing my hands at the sink the other day and questioned, “Why don’t we have upper and lower case numbers? Would we have use for upper and lower case numbers even if we did?” Thought provoking stuff, right? I mean, what exactly in that moment would have prompted such a thought…. Absolutely nothing. This is a prime example of the wondering of the mind. I doubt so many of us are very in touch with the actual action of washing our hands. Do we consider the feel of the water on our skin? The rubbing of our hands together? Unless the water is scorching hot or freezing cold, this is generally a mindless task.

Although I am by no means an expert, probably not even an intermediate-level present-stayer, there are certain practices I try to do throughout the day to remind me of the present moment. One of these practices is the simple, attention to one’s own breath. For me, I enjoy this practice because it is a short and easy way task, listening to a few deep breaths lasting for maybe less than a minute. Here, I am only listening to my breath, not the office chatter around me or thinking about what I am going to eat for dinner tonight. I am only with myself. Next, at work I keep a coin in my pocket, feeling for it when I find myself getting anxious about a task or worrying about something else that I anticipate will soon be asked of me. I then reach into my pocket to find my solace and stops with its touch. Finally, writing. Writing in my journal or writing this very post about a specific thought or idea forces me to focus on just that task at hand. The moment. I encourage the practice of journaling for this very reason.

Find whatever works for you to remind yourself of NOW. After all, as Marcus Aurelius has said, “The present moment is the only thing of which anyone can be deprived, at least if this is the only thing he has and he cannot lose what he has not got.”