Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Do you choose your habits, or do your habits choose you?

An interesting fact about habits...they're all around us. If you can repeat it, it can become a habit. Whether you look in the mirror each morning and think you look great or awful, the more often you do either, the more likely you are to do it again. That's just the way the mind works. Connections between nerves in our brains (called synapses) grow stronger with repeated use. It's why studying involves repetition. Those signals are more likely to fire the more often they are used.

Our thoughts and feelings too are under habits' influence. If you don't put in the effort to form the habits that you want, others will form in their place. Now it's not as simple as forming a new habit, you'll probably have to break some old ones.

The more you indulge in negative emotions such as anger or sorrow, the more often and intensely
 you'll feel such emotions.

It took some time to realize I'm responsible for my own state of mind and through it my emotions. Although most people would say they understand this, few are willing to take responsibility and put in the effort that comes along with that acknowledging it.

You can't blame other people and every situation for every bad feeling or thought that you have. It won't lead you where you want to be. The only helpful solution when faced with difficult emotion is to make a realistic plan. Let go of the negative feelings and take action. Or realize there's no problem at all. Most of our 'problems' don't really exist. We've decided at some point that we must get what we want in order to be happy. When reality fails to deliver we blame the world. Change your perspective and change your world.

Is is so awful to realize you're more or less powerless to change the world? No, not really. When you take that knowledge along with the understanding that the power you have over yourself is greater then you ever imagined. When you realize your perspective is under your control.

Accepting the 'randomness' of life allows you to focus on what remains constant. You're potential to feel. You didn't choose where you were born or the family that raised you. You probably didn't choose the public school you went to. Although you may choose who you spend your time with or the job that you find...the choices choices available to you at any given time aren't under your control. You couldn't have chosen anything you wanted. It's best to work with what's in front of you. Never spend time wishing things were different. Wishing may seem innocent on the surface, but in reality we're forming a habit of being dissatisfied. We cultivate desires that can't be fulfilled and so we're left discontent and 'wanting more out of life'. The more time you spend in that feeling of craving, of really wanting something, the less time you spend being grateful. The less time you spend being happy with all that you have. If you reinforce the idea that you'd be happy if only you could get what you want want (be it money or love) then you'll begin to believe happiness is something you achieve or obtain. The idea that it's something outside of yourself is what makes you restless. What leaves you wanting more. The potential to feel love and happiness exists whether or not we get what we want. The emotion comes from within and is inspired by the good that exists all around us if only we change our habit of wanting into accepting. Change our habit of feeling dissatisfied into gratitude.

To change the way we think takes mindfulness. You need to notice when you're indulging in negative habits in order to change them. You can practice being mindful any time you want. Most of us are constantly thinking, and that's not such a good thing. Thinking takes us out of the moment. Thinking often alters our experience with feelings we have about the past and the future (which we have only imagined). Mindfulness will help you be present and help you realize when you're indulging in negative thinking. Now that you're aware you can stop it as it happens.

One of my greatest lesson was learning that most of our thoughts have little to no value. You can practice being mindful by cutting off your day dreams. Once you're aware that your mind has wandered just cut all the imagery short. Don't feel as if you've left it incomplete. None of it was real, and it probably doesn't matter. Give yourself permission to 'forget' what you were day dreaming, just let it go.

It might take some time to get there, but when you find yourself frustrated by the actions of others take a moment to consider whether or not you're being hurt. Whether you find yourself wishing that people didn't; eat with their mouths open, drive or walk so slowly, or dress a certain way, take a deep breath and realize you can't change what's happening. And it really isn't hurting you. Frustration can be painful but it's coming from within. Have patience and give yourself those five extra minutes you may need at the mall or the grocery store. Then when something like that comes up you have no 'real' excuse to be bothered because you're not in a hurry. You'll be left asking yourself 'is it really worth being bothered?'. Is it worth thinking about? You'll also be less likely to judge other people when you realize how insignificant their different choices are.

It's when those bigger, more difficult experiences come that you'll be glad you were practicing this. When for example, your partner cheats on you and you repeatedly have angry fantasies of fighting and yelling. You're plagued by awful day dreams of your partner in the act, and the disgust that you feel is so overwhelming you might actually vomit. Yes, it's at times like that you'll be glad you developed your ability to concentrate, to be aware. You'll be quicker to notice when your mind moves in that direction, and you'll be able to say "it's not useful to think about that now, I've already thought plenty about it, it happened and it can't be changed. I accept it as it is and it can no longer hurt me. Only the thoughts are hurting me now and they'll simply disappear if I let them".

You must pair mindfulness with realistic action or else you'll find it incredibly difficult to keep upsetting thoughts at bay. I speak of this from personal experience. If you feel fear, then you need to make a decision. Fear is great at drawing us into our minds. The fear won't go away until you've found acceptance and assurance that either it won't happen again or that you'll be okay if it does. Otherwise it lurks within you, dulling you to the world. The pain will only leave you when you make the choice your heart has beckoned for. The same goes for being honest with others about how you feel. That fear of their reaction never goes away and may remain a constant source of stress until you express it.

This experience inspired me to take control of my mind. When I realized I was helpless to change other people, even those closest to me, or to prevent them from being able to hurt me, I suffered for a while before realizing I had to take care of myself. It takes practice and attention but life can be improved through changing how you think. It's not as simple as some people would have you believe. Telling someone to "think positive" or "be optimistic" isn't helpful at all. I find it's more useful to ask what good comes from a thought, how do those thoughts make you feel and if it feels bad then why keep doing it.

Ask yourself these questions, and always ask yourself, "what can thoughts alone accomplish?", you'll be driven to both action and to letting go of useless thoughts and desires.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Earth Owns My Body

I thought I'd share with you a poem that I wrote. Here's the idea behind it.

My body is literally made from and sustained by the Earth. Now a part of me, the atoms that make up my body once belonged to countless other living and non-living things. The Earth owns my body. I'm merely renting it. We try hard to immortalize ourselves with caskets, urns and tombstones, but we will all be forgotten, there is no endless fame.

We level forests to make caskets and leave graveyards in their wake. We use non-renewable metals to make urns just to seal them away forever. We see ourselves as so exalted, so above nature that our bodies are too precious to give back to the Earth which has made us.

"Bury me naked in an unmarked grave, cover me in soil and let go of my remains, plant a tree in that place, and let that be my crest, give life to the Earth, she'll take care of the rest. May life come from death as it always has been, let my body be food for other life's needs.

This is my wish and this is my dream, a world of forests, where beauty remains. Instead all around me are grey tombstones, shiny metal urns and long forgotten bones. So lay me down and let me rest, the Earth will do what she does best. We're the seeds the Earth has produced, by eternal life, I will not be seduced. We must follow her example, we must follow her will, since it's her bread that gives us our fill. Creation, elation, joy not dread, in death there is peace and let it be said, that through giving in death the Earth shall receive, that future life will be conceived. Doing that will set me free, that I may live and love this way, knowing to the Earth, I'll return someday."

Monday, January 16, 2012

Like looking out a window...

'you may think you're looking outside, it's a window after all, but you may have failed to realize the reflection in the glass, the ghostly renditions of what's inside, appearing as if it were outside'

We experience our lives only in first person.

It may not seem strange to you, it may seem rather obvious. But only after reading about it did I realize I'd never thought that way at all.

It might be all the TV and movies we've seen but there's something inside too that makes us feel as if we see the world in third person. My memories and dreams, I see them all in third person, at least most of the time. I see myself interacting with the world as if from a distance.

It's funny how quickly we come to accept what we see or hear as truth Think about your vision, look straight ahead but be aware of how far you can see above you, below you, and to each side. Only the center of your vision is clear. You can never see your own face, ever. Every single moment you've lived has been experienced this way. Looking through this window and this window alone. Even when looking in the mirror or watching yourself on screen, the watching of the tape is still in first person, you still have the screen in the center of your window. You still don't see yourself.

Every experience you've ever had or ever will, is perceived through this space. We can only know the world from our own experience. I look around me and it becomes incredibly obvious how little I know, and how much trust I have in what other people tell me.

I look at my computer and I wonder, where and how were all those materials mined, where were they assembled and how far have they traveled to reach me. I can look at just about anything and ask that question. I'll never really know the answer. Not only am I ignorant about where and how things came to be, but also how they function. I have little understanding as to how electricity in metal circuits can retain information. I'm not the only one.

It's frightening but humbling as well to realize how little you know, and how lucky you are to be surrounded by tools you'd never know how to create on your own.

Think about the conclusions that people have come to by relying on their own experience. They thought the world was flat. I can't say from personal experience it isn't, I've never been to space and looked down upon it but I trust that it's round. Just as I trust if something says 'made in China', it is. If we need other people, if we need life times of experience and perspective and diligent testing to understand the physical world, is it that unlikely that we're just as wrong about ourselves, coming to the wrong conclusions based on personal experience.

As true as anything may seem, it's all just belief. Just keep an open mind and know that you know very little. Remember when those thoughts come to you that you are this or that type of person, that you are or are not beautiful or capable that people thought the world was flat, and that seemed rather logical.

When it comes to how we feel about ourselves, our lives and the people around us, it's mostly our perspective that matters. Feelings come and feelings go. One day the world's bright and the next it's dark and dreary. Are we seeing the world at all? Or is it just a reflection of our state of mind. How can we live unaffected by the churning sea of thoughts and beliefs within us? Don't take it all so seriously. Whenever one outlook comes another's on its way. A bad mood will color the world. Like bright lights in a room at night you think you're looking out at the world, that somehow it has changed, but all you see is your reflection. Don't be fooled by your emotions. You may feel stupid or ugly but since when do feelings make things true. Don't form beliefs when in this state of mind. If you're upset and concluding that the world is a terrible place or that you're not deserving of love then you're wrong. As true as it may feel, it's not. Remind yourself of that. Hear those thoughts and say "that's bullshit". You don't need to see clearly right now, you just need to know that you're not seeing clearly and wait for a new tide to come. It will. Remember that the past does not exist. At any given moment, you are there, looking out your window and that is all there is. The past is a collection of thoughts you are having right now in this moment, the only moment that exists. The same goes for the future, it's nothing but a thought you are having, an event you are creating right now in your mind.

It's not possible to maintain this perspective at all times. You will get caught up in thoughts of the past and the future. Scenarios will continue to play out in your mind, but it helps when lost in thought to be remember where you are. The only world I know is through this window. I can only interact with what it's in front of me now. No one can see my thoughts, no one can hear me thinking about misery, failure, fear or regret. Letting go of the thoughts may not be easy, but there's no harm in trying, they're not 'real' after all. They're just thoughts, not facts.

It may not seem profound at first, but this idea is far reaching. If somehow you managed to go all day acutely aware of the window through which you see, while remaining unaffected (but aware) of all the beliefs that you hold, you'd see that the world is colored more by your thoughts you would have believed. It's hard enough to know ourselves let alone other people. If you've ever thought you knew someone better than they knew themselves just remember you've never looked out through their window and you never will.

Like looking out a window at night, the brighter the inside (the more full of thought), the less you can see. Dim the lights, quiet the mind and you begin to see outside. But until the lights are all the way off a faded apparition of yourself is projected on the world whether or not you try to look past it.

A helpful way of attaining this perspective can be found here.

Sunday, January 1, 2012



You are not your mind. And most of your opinions are worthless. But there's no need to worry. That's good news!

All your worries are for nothing. All your fears unfounded. Since when have your thoughts alone had the power to change the world?

You may have beliefs about who you are but they're nothing more than self-limiting thoughts. The result of mental habits formed through repetition; conditioned by your upbringing and the choices you've made. Beliefs are just thoughts we cling to in order to define ourselves and our place in the world. As I said before, most of your opinions are worthless so you might as well start over from the beginning.

You are so much more than you realize.

You are so much weaker than you know.

Find stillness. Choose to be present. Take control of your mind and make it your tool. 

You are consciousness itself. Potential. You are not your mind but it has taken over. It thinks it knows what's best for you...it's wrong.