Category Archives: awareness

10 Steps to Reassure Yourself: Your problems do not define you

“One of the challenges of moving through fear is identification. After a while, you identify with the problem for so long that you don’t know who you are without it. So, now instead of trying to navigate through try to imagine who you would be without the problem and be that. Allow a loving world that is beyond this fear to fill your mind and heart. Imagine being free and then be it. This is the bridge home.” – Derek O’Neill

I just came across this quote yesterday in a welcome e-mail for a NYC Meetup Group. It really hit close to home. Seems that lately I interact with people who have a major underlying issue hindering them from taking on the world at full throttle. Each of us has one (if we are lucky, some have more than others) particular cloud hanging over our heads, following us wherever we go. We constantly think about this issue, whether it’s a health condition, career dissatisfaction, money struggles or relationship woes. This one thing that’s troubling us can end up consuming not only our every waking moment but creeps into the subconscious mind, plaguing our dreams and robbing us of our health. This can result a general disturbance in the body with mental, emotional and/or physical manifestations.

When hit with waves of frustration or despair, we must fight it. But everyone who has ever swam in an ocean or similar open body of water knows that there is a method to fighting this volatile force. You can’t face the waves head on, but you must allow yourself to immerse and go with the flow up until a certain extent, when you can seize a moment of weakness and make your way out. Similarly, when faced with a problem, no matter how big or small, we must be able to take a step back, evaluate and come up with a strategy to deal with it and come out unscathed (or at the very least, alive and safe). I’ve developed my own way of riding out the storm when things upset me, which I’d like to share with you:

Step 1: Identify the problem. What exactly is it that upsets me? Why does it have this effect on me?

Step 2: Locate the source of the problem. Is it an outside trigger or an internal interpretation that is the root cause of my unhappiness with the problem?

Step 3: Evaluate whether the problem can be solved.

  • If it is ongoing – can it be fixed or at least lessened to some degree?
  • If it is in the past – can you come to some sort of closure with the parties involved, perhaps ask for or grant forgiveness and offer to mend things?
  • If it is internal – do you have what it takes to fully assess the problem yourself, or do you perhaps need some outlet to get your emotions out (try talking to a friend/counselor, or some creative outlet, such as music, art or physical activity/dance).

Step 4: If it can be solved – do it. See above and choose any favorable combinations.

Step 5: Accept the worst case scenario. What is the worst possible outcome of this problem? Imagine the cascade of events which culminate in the worst way possible. Can you live with that? If yes – than you can live with any other less-bad end result!

Step 6: Learn to live with it. Even if everything is at a standstill – with neither improvements nor declines, you need to come up with a coping mechanism. This doesn’t mean give up. All the while, as you are fighting and coming up with new possible solutions and plans of actions, you need to keep your sanity up and your life force beaming. You can’t let this problem hold you down and send you in a downward spiral of self-pity and depression! You were there before the problem, and hey, you will survive! Death is the only problem that has a definite finality, and (for the most part), it is the ultimate problem with no solution. Everything else can be dealt with and lived through.

Step 7: Distinguish yourself from your problem. You are not synonymous with your problem! It does not define you or change your worth, or your goals. Your life has a purpose and meaning, and you need to stick to your true path to the best of your ability, devoting as little time and focus to the problem. After all, sometimes you need to let the storm pass and ride out the waves, because fighting mother nature can be a futile effort…

Step 8: Be happy despite the problem. Happiness does not depend on how healthy, wealthy, or popular you are. People can be happy with as much or as little as they allow themselves to be. The richest people in the world can be the loneliest and the most miserable, and vice versa. Handicapped people can lead extraordinary lives full of love and happiness in the face of adversity. It is all in the eye of the beholder, and all up to you.

Step 9: Crowd out the problems with gratitude. Be grateful for the good things in life. Focus on positivity, and bring more of that into your life. It really does negate the dark and empty spaces. Look around, and see how much good you have; you probably have what someone else out there is yearning for, and you don’t even realize it. Appreciate the good things and seek more good things that you can occupy your mind with.

Step 10: Love yourself. Love your problem too. It doesn’t define you, but perhaps it made you the person you are today. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, that’s my motto! We are all dealt exactly the hand we are meant to handle. We just need to approach that hand with grace, methodical skill and faith in ourselves. Forgive yourself, and love even your flaws.

I hope these steps help you as they’ve helped me. I’ve realized that I’m surrounded by people who seem to be going through what at first seems like hopeless situations. Maybe it’s because my peers and I are now entering our mid-20’s, and are finally coming into our own, and are putting weight on things that we thought we were immune to before. We have finally begun to realize who we are as personalities, what we truly want, and who we want to share our dreams and lives with. Everything prior to this moment was what our parents, society, or friends have influenced us to believe we wanted. It is these very premature beliefs that are holding us back now.

Do not let your fears or problems define you. Find our own way to accept and bear the problem, fighting back by the very act of not allowing it to control your life.

Eat to live; don’t live to eat!

You have probably heard of the saying, “Work to live. Don’t live to work.” Recently it just occurred to me that the same thing is true for food. During an age where the entire globe seems to be obsessed with food, weight and health/beauty ideals, it is about time we realize: We eat to live, we don’t live to eat!

[“Eat to live” also happens to be the slogan and title of Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s book, which explains the nutritarian diet.]

Do you find that your day revolves around your eating schedule? Do you long for the next meal like it’s your salvation? A lot of people are plagued with what they perceive as cravings for a certain food, a sweet, or a caffeinated beverages. What they are most likely experiencing, however, is a feeling of emptiness and boredom that they try to fill desperately by chewing on something. People turn to constant snacking to break out of the routine, to add a little pleasure sensation throughout the day.

There are three things essential to our survival in the physical realm: air (oxygen), water, and food, respectively. Notice that food is only the third requirement on the list. We can survive weeks without food, days without water, but only minutes without oxygen. We need to fill our lungs with oxygen and make it available for assimilation by our cells almost immediately. Water makes up about 60-70% of the average human body, and balance must be maintained between intake and output. Food takes a much longer time to be processed and integrated into the tissue and eventually to the cellular level.

The process of digestion and metabolism of the food has been studied extensively but still remains among the most controversial sciences. This, in turn, is responsible for the myriad of opposing dietary theories that float around the media, are propagated by the government in the form of food pyramids and guides, and are taught on all different levels at schools and universities. However, with mixed messages from food and health industries, and a focus on convenience and consumerism rather than sustainability and nature, people are as confused as ever about what to eat. According to Michael Pollen, author of “Omnivore’s Dilemma,” the human body is nourished by only about 1/4 of what we eat, and the rest of what the average person consumes is only detrimental to the health (see interview here).

Industrialized countries in particular have become obsessed with staying healthy and fit and determining the proper eating habits. Third world, countries, on the other hand (which, incidentally, have the lowest rates of psychological illnesses such as depression) don’t seem as concerned.

Even if you genuinely try to eat well and lead a ‘healthy lifestyle’ – the overwhelming presence of food as the centerpiece of our society is evident. We are constantly setting up lunch and dinner work and romantic dates, and checking out the local spots for good food and drinks to socialize. Our schedules revolve around food, and our day is broken up by eating times. We are habitually bombarded with food imagery from the media, and enticed by the smells of food encountered wherever we go. We let our stomachs govern our entire existence!

There is no question about it, food gives us more than just cellular nutrients – it has complex interaction with hormonal and neurotransmitter systems, which make us feel good. This may sound shocking, but here is a consideration: shift focus away from food and towards fulfilling your life with satisfaction on a much deeper level. Think about what spaces you are trying to crowd out by temporary “food highs.” Things like meaningful relationships, a career where you feel valued, a spiritual practice you believe in, physical exercise and ways to express your creativity are all areas of life that are often overlooked. Yet these are the things that truly count, that make us fully human on an emotional and spiritual level. It is no wonder health is defined as the sum total of physical, emotional, and social well-being (WHO definition).

Living healthily entails more than what you put in your plate and into your physical body. Living your life according to your dreams, goals, and values, with the people that you want to share it with, needs to be addressed. Only then can full health be achieved by proper nutrition.

What a difference a day makes

What if you only had a day left to live? How would you spend your last 24 hours? What would be the items on your bucket list that you could tackle in a day? Would you be concerned with regrets or qualms that have weighed you down? How difficult would it be to resolve some of these issues? Who would miss you the next day? Who would you want to know that you love them?

These are all questions that have crossed our minds in some format or another. For even while we live, we are aware that we are mortal and death is inextricably connected to all living things. Even if one day in our lives may seem uneventful or insignificant, it is one more day that we have at our disposal. We do not live in the past or in the future; we live in the moment, and each moment is precious. Although breathing is an involuntary function that is most often taken for granted, we should in fact be grateful for each breath we take. We need to take time out of every day to revel in the fact that we are alive, that someone cares about us, that our presence has made a difference to someone today.

It has been said that the three hardest things in life to say are: “I love you”, “I’m sorry”, and “Help me.” We shouldn’t let our regrets or fears plague us. If there are relationships in our lives that are toxic or unresolved, they need to be dealt with rather than swept under the rug for tomorrow. If you were wrong, apologize; if you were hurt, allow yourself to accept it so that you can heal;  if you need help, ask for support; if you want to tell someone how you feel, do it. Put yourself out there, no matter how vulnerable, because each moment is precious, and you don’t know if you will get another chance to express yourself. How would you feel if the person is gone the next day, and never got to know how you felt? Fear of rejection and pride often stop us from having fulfilling relationships. But you may be surprised (although you shouldn’t be) to learn that other people have the same kind of fears, problems, and hopes as you. Reaching out may be easier than you think, and saying things out loud to someone puts you on the path to acquiring what you are feeling. The point is, unless you try, you won’t know, and the road not taken can haunt your subconscious and manifest itself in the most unexpected ways.

We have today, and that is all we know. So today, say what you mean and mean what you say, because life is too short to leave things for tomorrow.

Creating crowds out the negative space

Love is the opposite of hate. Courage is the opposite of fear. Life is the opposite of death. Creation is the opposite of destruction. More than that, creating is the antithesis of every negative state. When people create, they transcend the limits of time and space, and breathe life into the previously inanimate and uninhabited.

Creating is the ultimate purpose of life, because life breeds life, or Omne vivum ex vivo (Latin). It gives our lives meaning, it lets us interpret life and express it in our own way. It gives an outlet to our deepest, most intimate feelings. In Greek, there is a word for this: meraki. When we create, we share with the world a part of us, but no one can judge our creation. It is a legacy that lives on long after we are gone.

But people don’t do it for the fame, or the glory, or the money – none of that is even guaranteed. People that create do so because they don’t have another option. They don’t wait until they have the time, or the space, or the money, or the studio… They don’t make up excuses. They just create, no matter the circumstances or setting, because that is part of their existence. It is as essential as breathing, and it bubbles its way to the surface one way or another. It is a rush, a high, an adrenaline boost that gives them a reason to continue forward. This burning passion drives them to create and express their ideas, but it comes at a high price. Other things in life take a back seat; sacrifices are made in social life, family, and loved ones. It is a lonely journey, and it is not for everyone. Dreams have to take priority, while something’s gotta give.

But why are some people more apt in the creative process than others? Why do some people have more ideas than they know what to do with, while others draw a blank? Perhaps our brains are wired differently, or perhaps we develop our creativity based on our upbringing. Some people are more drawn to the careers of their parents. Artists, musicians, and sportsmen usually come from families where the craft has already been practiced. This gives them a system of support and understanding when they need their space, as well as the encouragement to follow their dreams in the face of adversity.

Whatever the case is, everyone can participate in the creative process. You don’t have to be an artist, musician, photographer, choreographer, world-class chef or Olympic competitor to express yourself. Cooking your meals, setting the table, decorating your home, and playing games with your kids (or your peers), or writing in your journal or blog, are all ways to get out there and get your creative juices flowing. Creating something, no matter how small, can make a big difference in your self-awareness and brighten up your daily routine. It is the best gift you can give to yourself and others, because it is a piece of you, and from it new life can be born.

How to use your time effectively

Time heals all wounds. Time will tell. Timing is everything. We have crafted all of these lofty adages and cliches, and yet..it is such an elusive and vast concept, it is difficult to wrap our minds around it.

“If only we had more time, then…,” we tell ourselves. Or should I say, we delude ourselves into thinking. The fact is, you can have all the time in the world, and still be the same procrastinator who is not progressing in life. In fact, the emptier your calendar is looking, the less likely you are to get up and do something. When we don’t have the motivation of time constraints, it is very difficult to get anything done. You keep putting it off, thinking you can afford to be lazy and not suffer consequences, and still get it done. You occupy yourself instead, with social media and meaningless browsing on the internet, or on the couch in front of the other big screen that sucks you in like a black hole. Have you ever sat down and calculated how much time in a day you spent with your computer and TV? That time just became your opportunity cost to do something, dare I say it, actually worth your while – something productive, meaningful, helpful in some way.

On the other hand, I find that people are most productive under pressure. It’s only when you have a deadline looming over them that your wheels start turning extra fast. It’s only when you know you don’t have that extra day, or hour to work on something, because you have plans that you can’t cancel. When your “time” is scheduled rigidly, suddenly, you have no time to waste. When there are all these activities planned ahead of time, somehow you find a way to fit everything in. There is a surge of energy, your endorphins start pumping, and adrenaline helps you accomplish everything you set out to do.

Most people get comfortable with a routine daily sequence of events, and get too overwhelmed to try to change even one tiny habit. We are comfortable with our phones, our electricity, our easy entertainment, our fast food..and yet are left unsatisfied. We say, “well, it’s too late to change anything now; it’s been too long; it will take too much time.” But we have to realize, Rome wasn’t built in a day! The fast-paced world surrounding us deludes us! We are still human, we need to eat, we need to sleep, we need to love and be loved, and we need to work! We need to work and feel worthy, feel like we are contributing to a greater good. We need to look inside ourselves and feel satisfied with the day we lived. And we always need to strive to the next goal, to keep moving, to have meaning, to have purpose.

That sounds complicated – how does one do that? Well, the hardest part, as usual, is to start.

  1. Step one: figure out what is important to you, what you would like to see change in this world and in yourself.
  2. Step two: list the long term goals of what you want to accomplish; be realistic yet include some out-there ones.
  3. Step three: break these up into shorter-term goals, that you feel can be managed during a short span of time.
  4. Step four: dedicate a set period of time each day to tackle some of these goals. Even if they don’t get done in one day, this time will add up and eventually allow you to realize your goal!

Thinking about your dreams is a good start, but you must take action! Even 10 minutes each day spent working toward a goal will help! In fact, you may find yourself wanting to spend more and more time on it. You may get into “the zone” and enjoy the project so much that you won’t even realize the passing of time! And eventually, you will get more and more productive, and it will take you less time to accomplish what you set out! I encourage you to set deadlines for yourself, and schedule your time with fewer periods of “free time.” Schedule your time for pleasurable leisure activities instead of lounging on the couch staring into a black box. There is a world of exciting things out there – and no time to waste!

I have a Reputation

I am by no means a mind reader, but I imagine that people judge me without getting to know me. I think most of us are predisposed to prejudice based on superficial perceptions. No one can truly gaze into another person’s soul and see the depth of all that is hidden within the infinitely complex layers inside. We can only see what a person projects outward with our most basic senses, and maybe a little something extra for those of us attuned to our intuition.

I imagine (more like dread, but have a feeling that it’s true) that people see my worst qualities first. Although I don’t mean to be, I’ve been told that I am difficult to approach and intimidating. I am a perfectionist, and I think that plagues me in terms of social networking (and I mean the physical social scene, not the virtual). I read an article recently that explained this phenomenon. People feel like they can relate to people when they see that they are flawed and make mistakes, which makes them more human, evokes sympathy/empathy and therefore makes them more likeable. I, like many perfectionists, have always tried to overcome or hide my flaws, always wanted to excel in all aspects of my life – not to rub anyone’s nose in it or appear better than anyone, but simply to try to be the best version of myself. I thought that that is what would make me more likeable and attract positive attention.

In my teenage years (cringe, glad that’s over!), I was probably seen as a goody-two shoes/nerd/teacher’s pet. Then in college/grad school, I was mostly a loner/outcast. I placed the most emphasis on my studies, most likely due to the fact that I was brainwashed by my parents that school should be number one. And I know where they were coming from, and that they always wanted the best for me. I appreciate all the values they instilled in me, and I love them very much. But I think a lot of people (in my own culture and in America) miss the big picture. We study hard, then work hard, to make money for our boss and the industry we are working in. We spend such a big proportion of our time working to make just enough to survive and save a bit for a rainy day, and are too tired at the end of the day/week for any real, good-quality downtime. And life takes on such a whirlwind pace that we barely have enough time to pause and look around us, or self-reflect, or enjoy the moment.

In the end, what do I want to say? That reputations are only a scratch on the surface. Who we are on the inside is usually a very private, vulnerable self, and it takes time and effort to project that true self (in most cases, only a handful of special people will go the effort and get that opportunity). We should stop and think, and reevaluate what we are doing and why, and if it’s worth it. We inherently need to have a meaning and purpose to our life in order to continue wanting to live. Feeling needed and useful inspires us to move forward. That’s what is important, and that, kiddies, is not really taught in school.

ZeroToHero DailyPrompt

Stop. Breathe. Repeat.

You know what we don’t get enough of? Air. We often forget to breathe. We run around all day like wind-up dolls and it takes great effort to bring awareness to what is essential: breathing.

Today I literally stopped what I was doing about every hour to deepen my breath. All day long I was feeling suffocated, like my lungs were not getting enough oxygen. New York, the capital of changing weather 24/7, is in the middle of another topsy-turvy climate – the humid/cold/rainy weather probably had something to do with my condition.

Every time you feel anxious, nervous, or hyper-stimulated, try to bring your awareness back to the breath. Focus on the here and now, breathe all that tension out. Fill your lungs with air by inhaling, slowly and deeply, through the nose and low into the belly. Try to feel your breath moving, and follow it diffusing through the lungs and into the blood, until it reaches all the cells of your body, down to the fingers and toes.

There are breathing techniques that are used for different effects on the body. For example, breathing through your left nostril calms you down, which can be useful during stress or before an exam. Breathing through the right nostril, on the other hand, wakes you up and gives your energy, so you can use this on a long car ride (especially useful for the driver).

We really don’t give enough credit to the power of the breath. But if you think about it, each breath is essential for maintaining our life force, until the next breath. We can go days without water and weeks without food, but we can only survive minutes without oxygen. So oxygen is the number one nutrient to nourish your body; water is the second; and food takes third place. Honor the breath and bring awareness to it periodically to get the full benefit of it.

Reasons to forgive…starting with yourself

In life, there is no right or wrong. There is no black and white. Everything is mostly in shades of color, and is really all about choices. We can’t always choose what happens to us, but we always choose how to react to something. As cliche as it sounds, we have the power within ourselves to choose, and with great power comes great responsibility. Every choice made has its own repercussions, and we can only hope that the consequences will be positive and reassuring. Every time we make a choice, we also have the power to readjust the choice by evaluating which road it has led us down. And that is the greatest power of all – we have the chance to make a new choice based on new-found knowledge from a previous decision.

This means, of course, that the system is not perfect. There will be times when you look back and see that somewhere along the line, your choices have steered to a path you don’t wish to stay on. And you may even look for that one key choice along the web that was flawed and led you astray. You will not rest until you find someone responsible, someone to blame – and it will most always be you. Since you have the power of your own destiny, it must be you who has failed your own self. Inevitably, regret, guilt, and shame will envelope you and convince you that you are not to be trusted with your decisions.

Well, this kind of thinking will just drive you mad! Although easier said than done, you have to overcome these irrational thoughts. They are irrational because you did not know then what you know now. You cannot blame yourself for making an educated choice to the best of your ability, with the brightest of intentions. You didn’t know how things would turn out, but you made the best decision at the time, with a little bit of faith. And a lot of the times, your decisions probably brought you to good outcomes. But you don’t pay attention to all of those times you got it right, it is the less-than-desired outcomes you focus on. That is human nature, to devote more energy to negative thoughts due to an unfavorable phase than to be grateful for the sea of good that has happened in your life.

  1. Be grateful for the things that went “right.” We must re-train our brain to appreciate all that is good, and give ourselves credit for getting us on that good path, most of the time.
  2. Accept that you cannot change the past. To err is human, and from time to time we will prove that we are human. Sometimes we will make a choice with unfavorable outcomes. But what’s done is done, and since no time machine has been invented to date, we must leave the past in the past and deal with the situation at hand.
  3. Take the unexpected turn of events as a lesson, not a curse. Just because you have suffered a setback doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to keep going. Having learned how you got into the mess, and having lived through the experience, you can keep going stronger than ever.
  4. Develop a healthy relationship with yourself. You are the only thing that you can be sure of. You have gotten yourself thus far on your journey, and you have to be able to rely on yourself to get yourself to where you want to be. You are the one living in your body, taking care of yourself, and thinking all of these thoughts. So appreciate yourself, value and cherish yourself, and most importantly, trust yourself. Most of us have a problem with this last point, because we tend to not keep our own word to ourselves. We need to get out of this habit, and make it the utmost goal for our word to matter to the person who matters most – your own self. Start with little things, like “I will go to bed at 10 p.m. tonight, no matter what” or “I will have a salad for lunch instead of pizza.” Gradually build up trust by keeping your promises to yourself.
  5. Forgive yourself. Think about all of the above, realize that you can only change the present and future, and promise yourself that you will do your best. Regret is useless and unfair, because you did not have all the facts back then. Meditate on it, take a bath, or write it down: “I forgive myself. I accept what I cannot change and I can move forward with my new knowledge and experience.”

From this point on, you can look at life as a series of choices, experiences, and lessons. Some will be more rewarding, others will be more teaching. In order to avoid harsh teachers, reevaluate your choices often. As soon as you see yourself veering off the desired path, make adjustments. Make another choice that will get you back on your true path.

The “true path” is different for everyone. Hence one decision may work for one person, and not work for someone else. We have to accept this and respect the right of others to choose. We can advise them to the best of our ability, but in the end, it is up to an individual to choose. And they have to reevaluate their own choices later on. The universe and karma usually help with showing the outcomes of a decision. If that’s not enough, when they are ready, they will seek out advice and that’s when other people can really help.

[ZeroToHero]

[Inspired in part by Still Standing.]

Tired of using technology…

Sometimes I just want to hibernate. Or at least regress into an age of less technological advancement. I want to spend an entire day free from mass media and social networks; I want to free my fingers from typing away on my iPhone, and free my eyes from being glued to the computer screen.

I want to look at my surroundings and absorb them in without distractions. I want to make eye contact with people I meet along the way on the street, and in public transport, instead of seeing everyone’s nose in their phones and eReaders. I want to hear a ring in my doorbell from a person who came by to visit instead of calling or texting (although a phone call would be the preferable alternative to texting or the latest fad, Facebook messaging!).

I want less technology and more human touch.

Basically…..Ayo….I’m tired of using technologyyy….. (Listen to really good acoustic version here.)

Metanoia

I found this definition via a Facebook page I follow, called “WordPorn.” It symbolizes what many people go through in life, when they don’t like how things are going. I am going through a similar process myself. Except I think I am more on a journey of self-discovery. I want to change certain aspects of my current way of living so that I can be true to who I am. So I think I am going through more of a major meta-analysis of myself, and tweaking stuff as I go along, to gradually be in harmony with my inner desires.

But going back to the concept of metanoia – can people really change themselves entirely? Maybe, if like me, they realize they are not being true to who they are, they would be motivated to change so they live out their potential. However, I don’t think a person can change into something they are not – at least, not for long. Sure, they can temporarily change to fit in with current trends, or to mend broken relationships, to get on someone’s good side, to get a certain job… but eventually, all pretenses will collapse. A person can’t survive on someone else’s terms or ideas of how to live. Eventually the pressure will build and the dams will break, and the oppressed inner self will demand justice. Real lasting change is only possible if a person is changing in the direction of their true nature, towards inner peace and balance.