Creating Peace in a Chaotic World

In the book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl speaks of his experience in the Holocaust as a Jewish prisoner. Instead of focusing on the hardships and details of the event, which many of us are aware of, he speaks of the inner experiences of the prisoners who he shared a story with. Frankl speaks of the prisoner’s ability to find peace and joy inside themselves despite the horror and inhumane conditions surrounding them. He describes each prisoners appreciation for the small joys such as a sunset, being delegated one laborious task over another, finding humor in the direst of situations, and, for Frankl especially, the simple thought of a loved one’s presence, which gave him enough reason to survive.

Today, I think it is safe to say that the majority of us have never, and hopefully will never, experience a comparable experience to Frankl’s but we can relate to this idea of being dealt a difficult hand, so to speak, and finding ways to manage our emotions in those times of hardship. Frankl presents a useful lesson on how to cultivate joy in a situation where joy may not be found externally. He speaks of finding this within our inner selves, as he did with the thought of his wife and her love during his time in the camps.

Frankl’s point throughout the book is to prove the power of finding meaning for our lives and how it can give us the physical strength to rise above seemingly helpless situations. By giving our lives meaning and focusing our minds on that purpose, we cultivate our own reality and will to continue on our journey, no matter the circumstance. Frankl does not fully credit his salvation to his own luck, but rather, to his mentality and his ability to create peace within himself throughout his time in the camps.

This story proves the power of the mind, and its ability to give us the strength in times we may feel hopeless or physically powerless, as Frankl was living off of watery soup and a rationed piece of bread every day in freezing, inhumane living conditions. So, in our own lives, we can carry Frankl’s lesson with us in times we feel without hope, envision the things that bring you joy and that give meaning to your life, and know that you are capable of rising above it all.

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 Choice to be Free

I hear the sound of my heart bumping through my ears at the same pace as I feel it pulsate against the balls of my feet.

I stand there, still, free from judgment of myself as I know no one is watching.

“I am beautiful. I am smart. I am bold. I am loving. I am kind. I am caring,”

Mantras I repeat to myself as I am erectly planted with my stems to the ground.

I sway as if in a slight wind, as I feel my body shift weight to one side of my body to the other.

I love being here.

A feeling of calm engrosses me with the exhale of every breath.

If I can stand here alone free from judgment, why can’t I stand in a populated area all the same?

Why am I timid to speak up in a group but have the gusto for constant debates with myself?

Why can I dance alone in an empty yoga room but I am frozen in the presence of others?

Why?

To be free from judgment of ourselves is to be free.

To be accepting of ourselves—insecurities, thoughts, and fears—is to be free.

Do I wish to live a life of freedom and wander, or would I rather be bound by my own mind, shackled in a room which has been hoarded with insecurities, thoughts and fears blocking the door out.

What is the choice?

 

Quarter-Life Crisis

Most of us have heard about a middle-life crisis, a stage of life stereotypically accompanied by an impromptu purchase of a fancy red sports car and new out-of-character hobbies, but how about a quarter-life crisis? Since it is safe to say that the majority of us at 25 years old are still broke and living with our parents, our quarter-life crisis may not be projected with a luxury car purchase. Conversely, it can be accompanied by overthinking about the future, anxiety about achieving our goals, being unsure about making a new move, and fearing we will not have done enough with our lives by 30 years old.

The irony of having such doubts about ourselves is it can be debilitating and the exact reason we will not achieve our goals. It is easy to look five steps ahead to our ideal life, but how about all of the steps in-between? When we focus too heavily on step five, it hinders us from taking steps one, two, three and four.

So now I beg the question, “Would it be better if we did not set goals at all then?!”

I am not sure about my own response to this question. I believe we do need an objective that will drive us into action, but perhaps my response would have more to do with allowing ourselves to be flexible and do more acting and less planning to inch our way closer to reaching our objectives.

For instance, we should be open to changing our path if interests or lifestyle changes. Sometimes we are too scared to change because of the time and money we already invested in the field we are in, the degrees, the years, the relationships, and to jump into a new field of interest is often less appealing for these reasons. However, if we are not flexible in catering our goals to match our new interests, we will never be able to become that person we envision at step five.

Furthermore, planning less means taking time away from creating a vision board, writing out a five-year plan or creating a business plan, and giving more time to taking action towards our goals.

If you too are going through your own quarter-life crisis, my advice is to put less pressure on yourself, live in the moment, be flexible and focus on taking step one rather than constantly thinking about and planning for step five.

Think about the person at step five. What was the most basic action that person needed to take to get them to where they are? Take it today.