Saturday, November 30, 2013

Changing Your Perception is Not Living a Lie

I wanted to take a moment to reflect on one of the biggest concepts I’ve learned that I wish I knew growing up: Perception is all there is, and to change it has no bearing on its truth or validity.

I used to think that things are the way they are, and for someone to be optimistic was not only ignorant and na├»ve but was also useless. If someone had tried to show me that by changing my perception I could be happy, I would have said that I did not want to live a lie – I would rather know the truth than be “happy”. It’s true that you can’t simply choose another perception until you see that there are many different kinds that all make sense and are valid in their own ways, and that truth does not depend on perception. You have to be able to see beyond your own life and experiences, which I don’t think is something many young people could do, though I don’t think it is impossible. You have to be able to see that your view of the world IS a perception. I’m not a doctor of any sort, but I truly believe that this is the fundamental concept that is lacking in people with severe depression and psychopathy, the two extremes of believing that your perception is reality. But that’s beside the point…

Most, including myself, may initially look at this stuff and think, “Only certain people have the privilege of thinking this way. Only people who are lucky enough to be XYZ or have XYZ can think this way. Maybe this works for everyone else, but not for me.” That’s not true at all. The best use and the most pure use of this way of thinking is when everything is horrible. It would be EASY to be happy when absolutely everything lined up for you, wouldn’t you think? So it takes a strong person to find the courage, confidence and peace when circumstances don’t go your way. That’s exactly when you NEED to think this way, because not only do you simply find joy, but you find your way out of the mess. It’s taking that crappy circumstance and reminding yourself how powerful you are and that you can get through it, because you can. No matter what it is – a loss, an illness, whatever. If your heart is still beating, you can overcome it and learn from it. Everything in life is a teacher, and you have way more power in your life than you realize.

This is where that relationship I had that ended a year ago comes into play. We all have our perceptions of reality that we deem as truth. We start to wonder if this is all there is to life, and hope that there is more. Then something drastic turns our perception on its head – something doesn’t fit. That’s when the breakthrough occurs. That may or may not be the only way it can happen, but from what I’ve seen in life, literature and interviews, this is a standard story. It could be an event, or could even be a person that you don’t understand at first but then something clicks and you realize this other person’s perspective makes total sense. For me, after months of wondering “Is this all there is to life?” the final push was feeling compassion and believing in the goodness of someone that, through my perception of reality, was an evil, selfish and horrible person. It just didn’t add up or make sense, and it really screwed with my head and even my body. I doubted my sanity there for a while. Did this person somehow trick me into having compassion for him? How could I have a sense that this person was good when they went against all my standards and values that meant EVERYTHING to me? It took a very long time to sort out all my emotions, and it may not even be done today. I toyed with so many ideas. Maybe things in his life were to blame for his behavior? Maybe he just never knew any better? Maybe his role models were horrible? How would he have even known his behavior was bad in that case? Is that even an excuse? Maybe this, maybe that. Luckily I was able to determine that he was not simply evil, and he deserved love and compassion, but I had too many judgments of his lifestyle and would not be able to give him that love and acceptance. That was it – that was the beginning for me. I’d met someone that I couldn’t simply judge as “bad” and write off. My world was no longer black and white. Suddenly there was Technicolor!

What I learned is that perception is all there is. People did not grow up to learn the same values, but deep down we are all the same. That doesn’t mean people do not do evil things or that they are not dangerous – not everyone can be changed or saved, and they may be a threat. But we all started with the same spirit of love, and our perception of the things around us pointed us down a certain path after that. Knowing that, you can no longer perceive people in the same way. I can no longer simply identify someone’s selfish needs and intentions and stop there the way I used to. Now I see the selfish needs, but I dig even deeper to the call for love those selfish needs were built on. What’s more is that perceiving things in a negative way, and acknowledging the selfish needs of others, does not equal the extent of the undeniable “truth”. You can decide to see everyone as a threat, and I can understand the truth behind that, but that doesn’t help you live a long and happy life. That doesn’t help you find peace. And happiness and peace are not ignorant concepts afforded to people who cannot see the world for the threat that it is. They are courageous concepts that see the threat in life, but then also see and acknowledge the immense power within each of us to be able to rise to the challenge. There is a confidence in optimism that is not as ignorant as I once thought. You get to decide if you can handle the “evils” of the world. You can. Nothing can hurt you. You have to have the confidence that you can get through whatever life throws at you. Before we realize this, we put stock in the wrong things. We just can’t see beyond the simple surface appearance of the world, and that can depress us. That can make some people either give up and be depressed or become completely manipulative psychopaths just trying to survive. Again, not a doctor, but that’s how I see it. That’s as “fight or flight” as it gets.

Something has to happen to crack our perception. Something has to clue us in that there is more than what we acknowledge. At that point, it depends on whether you listen to it or run from it. Change can be frightening, but it is also freeing.

Hopefully that explains how I used to think versus how I think now. It is not something that happens overnight. Something helps you open to it, but then it takes a long time for any noticeable difference to occur. That’s EXACTLY why I wanted to start my blog. I wanted to show the baby steps that come together to create a huge breakthrough and massive change in your life and perception. I wanted to show how you can take everything in life as a lesson, and use it to learn more about yourself and the world around you. You have the power to perceive everything as something done to or against you, or as a learning device reminding you to have faith in yourself. From then on, you have to dedicate yourself to it. You have to actively try to learn from everything that happens, and know that fear is not real. You have to stop yourself from criticizing it and talking yourself out of it. The ego can talk itself out of ANYTHING. You can declare that this wouldn’t work for you, or that it isn’t the truth, or that the horrible things you do and say are justified. Defend yourself all you want, but deep down you know. You just know. And fear surrounds that knowledge, because it is uncomfortable and different from how you’ve lived all your life. It might require you to be vulnerable, or it might require you to take the chance at failing. Everyone is positioned around it at a different angle, so it will require different things from youto reach that balance than it requires from others. But THAT is where your peace and happiness lies, and you DO deserve it, and you CAN have it no matter what situation life has placed in front of you. Courage is acting in spite of fear. That is a conscious decision, and you can do it. Everyone has it within them. Think of it as a muscle that you have to stretch and train. Your strength may be very weak at first, but work on it and it gets so much easier. It is possible, and you do deserve it.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Don't Use Enlightenment as a Weapon

This journey I’ve been on has helped me minimize my judgment of myself and of others, and has shown me how both are interconnected in ways I was completely unaware of. Although I’m not perfect, I’ve been able to react with love instead of judgment when something less than harmonious happens. Instead of taking things personally, I’m able to take a look at why the other person is behaving that way, and what I can do to help instead of attack back and “defend” myself, which isn’t necessary, because I know now that I have nothing to prove.

Unfortunately, I just found myself using enlightened truths as a weapon of judgment. I’ve been reading A Course In Miracles, and I found myself taking some of the truths it speaks of and relating it to how other people have treated me. These are truths that are supposed to help ME. I’m not supposed to use them to determine how other people have “screwed up”. I’m supposed to exclusively think about these truths as they relate to ME and how I interact with others, not the other way around.

It was pretty discouraging when I saw that I was doing this. I tried to snap myself out of it and continue reading from a different perspective, but it wasn’t working, so I just stopped. I figured maybe I was in a mood and I should continue reading at a different time when the mood passed. I just watched a tv show with the same mindset. Not quite as bad, but still relating it to how other people behave. Which is fine in general, but I don’t like the feeling it gives me. Being judgmental. That’s exactly what I’m trying to get away from. I had a couple good thoughts – the tv show expressed that people don’t change, which is something I used to believe. Now I know that isn’t necessarily true, though for the purposes of the tv show it is, because the timeframe and experiences of the characters is too limited for those changes to occur. But people can and do change in their lifetime. It was encouraging that I was able to disagree with the concept somewhat.

I like to help others. I like to show people truths they were unaware of about themselves to help them become better, happier people. But sometimes I get myself in a situation where I want to show or tell someone something that is applicable to how they behave, and it isn’t helpful. All it does is defend me against their behavior. All it does is judge them. It doesn’t actually help them. There is a line, and sometimes that line is very fine.

Ironically, I just had this discussion with one of my friends… I was trying to show him the distinction, because sometimes he has the same problem. He thinks that the situation is “telling people what they NEED to hear instead of what they WANT to hear”. I tried to show him examples of how that isn’t what’s going on in a lot of those cases – sometimes what he is actually doing is telling people his judgment of them as what they “need” to hear, and not telling them what they actually need to hear spiritually because he thinks that’s just what they want to hear. Granted I gave him an opportunity to learn the difference, and it turns out he didn’t need it! At least not in that case. And what’s hilarious is that I’ve just shown that I have the exact same problem sometimes!

One of the truths I’m using as a weapon of judgment is that the Course says that people give too much attention to controlling their actions, and say that you can’t control how you think. Really, you do control how you think – that is the only place where you can exercise free will, and your thoughts directly affect how you behave. It also says not to bring body thoughts to the level of the mind. When I read these things, I felt completely validated in all the arguments I’ve had with people. People like to excuse themselves for thinking horrible things, and place all their value on whether they act on it or not, and I always found that completely disgusting at times. I’ve had endless arguments with people about that sort of thing, so I felt such a victory reading it and directing that truth towards all the people who tried to “lecture” me about how I was wrong and they were right, and that’s just “how it is” and I’m not living in “reality” if I think otherwise. I used it to defend myself in my mind. It felt GREAT at first! Hell yeah, I was right! And by being right, that means there are people out there enlightened enough to not have some of the awful thoughts those people have tried to excuse themselves for! There is hope in the world! And suddenly I have a slight desire to send them those quotes. But for what? What would that accomplish? Most of those people clearly are not in a place to hear such a thing, and most of those people would just attack me and try to find reasons to dismiss and negate it. I shouldn’t be using my free will to choose to want to attack people with these truths so that I can feel better about myself. I already know it is true, and that should be enough. I shouldn’t be trying to argue with people using this as ammunition. Let them go on their own journey. Let them figure it out for themselves. It is not my mission to expose people to these truths, especially when it is in defense of my ego.

Really this is all just a continuation of me fear that all people think a certain way, and those ways are things that I am morally against. I just have to keep reminding myself that there is a balance. People do NOT all think the same way, but I should also not be afraid of the seed of truth in what those horrible thoughts are. The people who upset me are on one extreme, and I am on the other. Not everyone thinks the way they do, but the way I think about it isn’t completely healthy, either. The truth is pure and peaceful. Neither one of us is there. I don’t have to be afraid of it. I’ll get there. I’ll work through my issues, and when I do, their issues cannot be a threat to it. I don’t have to have a fear that they are right. They are not right. But I also don’t have to point that out to them. They think that way because of their own experiences and fears. I don’t have to defend myself against their issues. That doesn’t even make any sense. I don’t have to defend myself against another person’s perception of reality – even when I know a lot of people with the same one. I know it is only a certain type of people, and if that perception bothers me so much, I need to just stop exposing myself to it until I can handle it better. I need to stop surrounding myself with people who trigger all the issues I have and are preventing me from making progress. And really, I’ve already done that. I’m not around them anymore. So now it’s just all in my head…

Let it go. I need to just let it go. Working through it here in this post was actually extremely therapeutic. I think now that I’ve worked through that, I can get back to reading inspiring literature as a means to help me and only me, because that is where my reality begins and ends.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

When We Get What We Want

We often dedicate our lives to trying to prove ourselves in some way. Some say it is a problem young people have. We must prove that we are smart enough, wise enough, brave enough, etc. We try to be the best, and we never seem to feel we get the recognition we deserve, which fuels the desire to fill that hole in our hearts. In some cases, it makes us doubt ourselves and gives us motivation to try even harder than ever to prove our worth to the world, when really we are having trouble proving it to ourselves.

I seem to be getting the acknowledgement I’ve always longed for. It feels strange. I don’t know what to do with the feelings it brings up in me.

I feel as though the Universe is proving a point: Stop trying to prove yourself! You already have! And what’s more, you don’t ever need to!

It has really been an emotional week. I’ve gotten acknowledgment at work, from my parents, from the Daily Love and from my friends. The acknowledgment is in all the areas I needed to hear: I have the approval of my parents; My work is being complimented and called upon at my job; My Daily Love comment was wise and inspiring; I’ve truly helped and inspired my friends. It’s almost like a dream. It makes me very emotional. The things I’ve been trying so hard to do and be have finally gained that external validation that forces the ego in me to have nothing to say. I heard some beautiful words in my dance classes, as well, reinforcing that I am the confident, strong, independent woman I always wanted to be.

Having these beautiful sentiments expressed to me has given me irrefutable proof that I should love myself. In the land of the ego, this is what it craves, and here it is in my possession. Even in the most external and critical space, the space of the ego, I have nothing to cling to for justified self-hatred. I am now FORCED to allow in those feelings that are actually quite awkward – loving myself and being proud of myself. It’s like being thrown into an old-fashioned Ball where I don’t know anyone, and I’m intimidated, and yet everyone is just going about their business, being kind to me but not really putting much attention into me. It’s not a big deal. It’s not as terrifying as I feared. Loving myself doesn’t cause the skies to open and demons to crawl across the earth, nor does it cause angels to sing and unicorns to prance about. It just peacefully happens and goes about its business.

I’ve definitely noticed a confidence about myself lately that wasn’t there before. If I screw something up, I don’t get incredibly self-conscious. For example, I was talking and distracted, which led me to put the signed copy of a receipt in my purse and the guest copy on the table. I noticed it right away and swapped them back, giggling at myself. Normally I would have been mortified! I would have been so extremely self-critical, calling myself a complete idiot and being totally ashamed for such a stupid act. But this time it just didn’t affect me. This does WONDERS when I am speaking at work. I have gotten SO much better at expressing myself, interjecting opinions, praising others and accepting criticism. I have faith in myself, my opinions, my work and my ideas, so nothing can really upset me anymore. Occasionally I get a twinge of frustration and a sense of emergency, but I’m able to come to my senses and deal with it one step at a time. If you’ve read any of my blogs from a few months ago, you’ll know this is a COMPLETE 180 – I was having a HORRIBLE time with communication issues and taking (and giving) things way too personally. What’s fantastic is that through this process, I’ve taken some of my co-workers with me. Everyone is MUCH better at giving and receiving input. It is like night and day. I’m sure there will be situations that test our resolve, but it really is so much more enjoyable when you don’t view everything as an attack on a wounded place in your soul.

Life is so much more enjoyable when you don’t view everything as an attack on a wounded place in your soul.

I think one of the problems I have with all the recognition and compliments I’ve been getting is that I feel like it is selfish. However, as I try to work through that emotion, beneath it is a deep sense of gratitude. I feel so grateful to be surrounded by people who see me. Finally! I know it shouldn’t be important what people think, but I also believe that we learn lessons one at a time, in whatever order we need to. The Universe has decided that I need to get recognition before I learn that I don’t need it. Perhaps even to SEE that I don’t need it. But I shouldn’t shame myself out of fully processing this beautiful moment of recognition and gratitude. I really do feel proud of myself, because it is almost as if right now is the reward for everything I’ve worked so hard on. I’ve just never had a moment where I really was forced to sit back and take it all in. There was always something else that had to be done. This time, it feels like a pause in the routine of life, which allows the feeling to build up to its fullest capacity.

This is the feeling we should all have for ourselves at all times. This feeling of great pride and gratitude should fill our hearts each day. Once we’ve felt it and know what it is, we need to keep reminding ourselves on the deep peace that always resides in our soul, and is simply clouded by our external circumstances and the voices of others. We can’t be our best unless we are in touch with that inner peace. Others may try to bring you down, but you must always, as Mastin says, “Take what resonates and leave the rest.” Don’t let it destroy your peace. Don’t let it knock you off balance.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

One Thing at a Time

I’m so proud of myself. Normally I get so wrapped up in details and possible scenarios, and I hate feeling rushed. I’m always 20 steps ahead of myself, and trying to prepare for any and every possible outcome. In general, it is good to be prepared, but it became unhealthy for me.

Usually, weekend plans stress me out. Even if they are good ones. I worry about the timing and how I’ll be feeling, and I know I’ll feel rushed and ill-prepared, so I get a jump-start by going into it stressed by the potential for stress. Yeah.

Not to mention, I am mentally depleted. I need some introvert “recharge” time.

But this weekend, I worked on that. I reminded myself to just take it one thing at a time.

So Friday night when I had to stay out late and was worried about the physical activities I had the next day, I told myself to just stay present in the moment and worry about that tomorrow. If I was tired or unwell in some way, I could cancel. Stressing about it now doesn’t help anything.

And the next morning, I felt fine.

I was running through all the possible worst-case scenarios for one of my activities, and part of me didn’t even want to do it.

I asked myself what I needed to alleviate those problems. I needed to do some research and straighten some things out. What’s more, I decided I don’t have to do this alone. I can ask someone else to help me and take some of the stress off of me, since it helps everyone involved.

And so the stress was gone, and I was able to see the activity for the beautiful, refreshing thing that it was.

All better!

I was able to keep that calm and grateful state, and when my mind started to get rowdy, I soothed it back into its calm state again.

SO proud of myself.

Is there anything here that can help you with your stress, and allow you to be present in the moment?