How to win the battle against yourself (and everyone you know)
I’ve been reading Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now again. It was much needed but it also sent me off right onto an emotional roller coaster. I think it’s the ego feeling threatened and trying to trick you into feeding it. And it’s also the ego that’s telling you „No, no, this time you’ll be fine. No need to worry about any drama because you’re self-aware now.“ Well, guilty as charged – I walked right into that one.
Although there is tons of wisdom in The Power of Now, and much quote-worthy material, there was one paragraph that spoke to me especially when reading it this past weekend. Its content was this:
When there’s an inner conflict between your thoughts and your feelings, it’s your thoughts that are the (relative) lie, and your feelings that are true – also relatively speaking. True in the sense that they are the body’s reaction to a situation, telling you how you really feel about something at a given moment.
Naturally, I read that paragraph after I let myself get into that major argument with my fiancé. It was as if I’d followed the instructions for How To Be Unaware And Completely Identified With The Ego to the letter.
Afterwards I could backtrace the detonation of the emotional firecracker to this: we were having a conversation, and Peter questioned something that we in my mind already had agreed on. That happens. A lot. Unfortunately, the next thing also happens. Everytime Peter is having second thoughts about something that is already set in stone in my mind. What does happen is, that I freak out, and if I’m being completely honest, the feeling that surfaces is this:
This man is ruining my life with his constant doubt. All he sees is obstacles, and if I let him say no to everything, it will literally be ball and chain when (if?!) we do get married. I’ll be the prisoner of his fears, not his partner. I can’t allow him to do that to me!
But the whole thing would just be too easy if I allowed that feeling to exist, right? So what do I do? Right. I let my mind speak its, well, mind. And that line of thinking goes something like this:
You know that that is not true. That is only your view of Peter, which is tainted by your own fears. Your lack of faith in the fact that no one else can control your fate but yourself. It’s stupid to believe that he could have that kind of power. Feeling this way is unfair to him.
And you know what? My mind is 100% right. That’s where this whole thing gets messy though. For what am I supposed to do with that? I choose, as I more often than not do, to agree with my logic (since it is true), which effectively means that I forbid myself to feel the way I do. The outcome this Sunday was me standing in the kitchen, alternating between yelling at Peter and crying into the waffle batter. Because, you know, it was Sunday and I like fancy breakfast on the weekend, so the part of me that had decided to not feel what I was feeling decided it was a good idea just to go ahead and do that waffle breakfast.
But (as I would read later): when your own thoughts and feelings are in conflict with each other, the thought is the lie, and the feeling is the truth. So, no matter how logical my thinking was, no matter how right and „above“ the childishness of my fear it was – my feeling did not care.
When things where at their worst then and there, I suddenly saw myself in the situation, and saw that it was exactly the kind of drama I didn’t want anymore, and that I even had thought I wasn’t capable anymore because, you know, I knew. I thought „How the hell do I get out of this?“ I got two answers. My ego said this:
You have to win this thing. The only way to end this is to make Peter acknowledge that you are right. Then, and only then are you done with this. You cannot back down now that you’ve gone this far.
That is pretty much me in a nutshell in any kind of argument or even discussion or debate. That’s one of the reasons I don’t enjoy arguments or discussions or debates. I find it exhausting to feel like I have to be right, yet I inevitably get this feeling when I’m in a discussion/debate/argument. It’s like you tell yourself, „ok I’m playing this game but I can only let myself play it if I remember the whole time that it’s a game“. Of course, once you start you want to win, and then you’re already in the game.
I have fallen for this trap many times. I have seen the destructive outcome. Every time. There is no „win“ because that is not really what this is about. Because it’s not me against Peter (or him against me). Sure, you can destroy someone with hurtful words. But that doesn’t mean you win. Maybe it was having consciously thought about this, having observed myself, having read about it, maybe it was something completely different. Whatever it was, something opened me to the truth this time, when I was standing there, crying, and wanting to get out of this, and feeling my ego’s craving to win this argument at any cost. The truth was – is – this:
There is a way out. It is there at any moment for you. You can leave this situation by acknowldging that that is what it is: your situation. This is not you. There is nothing that says you cannot admit to Peter, and more importantly: to yourself, that you’ve just now realized that. You don’t need to follow through on this argument. And you’re right, it could last forever. Because it’s not about what Peter said or did. It’s about you feeling threatened by something he said, and resenting that feeling. And that won’t go away, it wouldn’t even if you did make Peter admit everything was his fault.
So I did that. The relief of exiting the drama came instantly, and that to me is the beauty and the truth of The Power of Now: no matter where we are in life, how deep we’ve gone into the narrative that our ego/ our intellect has fabricated to persuade us to do their bidding – it is never too late or too complicated to leave. There is no repercussion for admitting that we’ve made mistakes, even huge ones. We are allowed to and capable of freeing ourselves if we want to.
Later, I asked Peter what he thought I should have done. How I should handle a situation like this (and trust me, there will be more), so that things don’t go so wrong from the get go. His suggestion:
Say how you feel. Honestly.
He was right. As soon as we realize that we’ve gotten lost in the story, identified with a thought or a feeling, we are shining a light on them, seeing them and exposing them for what they are. And we realize that they are not us. By admitting to ourselves how we do feel, and maybe even confiding in someone we trust, we are accepting the truth of what is at that moment. It is the only alternative, if we don’t want to fight a battle we can’t win: us against ourselves. It is love.
Love what you love
I have been thinking a lot about the meaning of life lately. Probably because the The Path Into The Light seminar is coming up soon. While a part of me says, „You’ll find out there, so why even bother now“, another part knows that I am already on my way, have been for a while, and that the seminar won’t be THE answer to everything (we already know it’s 42 anyway, right 😉 ). So I do wonder, not just about the meaning of life in general, but obviously about the meaning of my life.
Here’s some random notes on what I’ve come up with so far:
1. The meaning of life in general is to be happy. Not all the time, obviously, but I do believe that deep down inside, that’s what we’re all striving for – happiness. That part seems fairly banal. The trick, I guess, is the next step. Believing that it is possible to be happy. That seems to be the part where things go wrong when they do.
2. I have been denying myself a lot of happiness because I can be very judgmental. (See my Yoga Girl book review.) I am trying to change that by promising myself to allow myself to like the things I do. That means becoming aware of the inner censor, the voice that tells you why the things you feel are wrong. Do you have a voice like that? For me working on this inner censor means becoming aware of the fact that there is a conflict – that I like one thing but also have feelings of guilt about liking it. Usually, my feelings of guilt come from some set of beliefs that aren’t originally my own but that I’ve adopted/inherited from others. And 100% of the times I like something I also feel guilty about, I have good reason for liking it.
3. An good example of how my inner censor is holding me back is that I am the kind of person who really enjoys a lot of different things, and I can be interested in many things, and yes: I can be good at most of the things I set my mind to. I don’t just have one thing I am passionate about and devote all my (spare) time to, nor is there one thing that I naturally excel at, so that it would be obvious that this is my calling. But somewhere along the road I got the idea that that is how things work: you get to be good at one thing, and you get to really like one thing. You have to decide, let everything else go, and focus on this one thing. I could get really worked up over how I seemed to be all over the place, not being able to make up my mind and dedicate myself to one thing. Until the other day it never even occurred to me that I am allowed to enjoy AS MANY THINGS AS I DO – writing, baking, photography, sewing, dancing, gardening, meditating, cooking, yoga, knitting, embroidery, film-making, … If the point is to master a craft, then I will obviously not be able to do that the same way a person could who puts all their time and effort into one craft. But if the point is to do things that make me happy, then why not simply be happy – and be grateful that I have the gift of having many things in my life that make me happy?! It seems so obvious now, but as long as my mind was limited by this belief set that you can only have one passion, one talent, I never even looked at it that way.
Getting down to business with this inner censor seems to be key to this whole happiness thing. And those of you who are into mindfulness and/or spiritual teachings are probably familiar with this concept – that we are not our thoughts and feelings but really the observers of them but that we are often unaware, and act as if we were identical with our thoughts, feelings, etc. For those of you who aren’t already into this „stuff“, I can highly recommend Eckhart Tolle (and I think I’ve done that before here on the blog). I find it makes life a lot easier = happier.
So for now I’m working on (gosh, that sounds hard but it’s work AND it’s not hard – another contradiction in terms according to my inner censor/know-it-all) just doing what I love as much as possible – whatever that may be. I will share as much of it here as I can.
Have a great Sunday, everyone!
Show me your true colors
Part of me wants to just continue with an entry about my spring cleaning mission, post a picture about how great everything looks. That wouldn’t even be untrue, since it does look a lot better in comparison. Looks can be deceiving, if anyone knows, then it’s bloggers and readers of blogs, right?
It is easy, and thus tempting to make yourself look good on the web. It’s not even like you’re really lying about who you are: you’re not making up the great things you do, you just kind of leave out the things that you’re not so proud of. In a way it’s even wise because why should you make yourself vulnerable when you don’t even know whom you’re „talking“ to?
I have felt hurt and/or humiliated many times because I just couldn’t keep quiet about something that didn’t technically need to be said. It was only I who felt like I had to let these things out of my head (or was it my heart?). Like telling someone straight out I liked them when I didn’t know whether they did – the humiliating part being that they didn’t, and that after I had said it it became clear to me that all the signs actually had pointed into that direction the whole time.
Or writing a letter to my dad, telling him how things he did made me feel, which led to the most horrible fight. I had not seen that coming, which today seems naive. I was fourteen then, so it made sense. I could go on with examples but you get the picture, right? For the longest time I thought that I needed to learn not to do that. Not to reveal so much of how I feel, and how/who I am.
I know now that I had drawn the wrong conclusion from these experiences. The lesson here isn’t not to show yourself. It’s not about not making yourself vulnerable. It is about realizing that no matter how much our ego gets hurt, our true selves cannot be destroyed. In fact, the only chance we have of truly being recognized is by showing ourselves, rather than hide behind a façade of how we think others want us to be.
I cannot claim that I have been very good at this myself. Enough though, to know that I am right. I remember one incident in the very beginning of a relationship. He texted me, asking if and when I wanted to meet up again. I answered „As soon as possible“. A friend who was with me wanted to know what I had answered. When I told her she completely freaked out, and said that you CANNOT write such a thing, that it sounded desperate, that he now must think that I wanted to get married … ??? Needless to say that this line of commenting made me feel stupid, and it made me doubt myself. At the same time I was irritated – because this is exactly the kind of thing I am not interested in: having to follow a bunch of rules, pretending you don’t want something in order to get it. Some part of me felt that if he’s going to read me the way she did, then he wouldn’t be right for me anyway. We have been together (and happy!) for five years now.
I have spent a lot of time in my life trying to figure out how the people around me expect me to be. A lot of decisions I have made about my own life were based on that. Like I wrote in the about section of this blog, I have felt the longing to finally be me, to show myself, and to take the risk both of being rejected for that but also of being liked for who I truly am. Both seem scary in their own way but I know that either way, the only significant impact approval or rejection can have is on my ego. None of it changes who I really am.
So here are some truths from the past few days that I don’t have to share here with you but that I want to because I do think they pertain to the purpose of this blog. After all, what kind of soul-searcher would I be if I saw the potential for growth in success but not in failure (if it’s even useful to think in those terms):
- After having read so much about Ayurveda and the significance of eating right, I came home from a three hour yoga class on Saturday and stuffed my face with an entire pizza AND half a chocolate bar (the first half I had eaten on the way home from class). Our yoga teacher had told us about Durga that day, the Hindu Godess that, if I understood this correctly, represents the force in our life that gives us a good punch in the face when our ego gets bloated, to remind us that we are not better than the rest but part of it. So I choose to look at this pizza incident as an act of Durga. It was called for because:
- Writing this blog and getting so much (well, that’s relative, I really don’t have a frame of reference here) positive feedback does make my ego feel flattered. Like, a lot.
- I obsessively check the stats for this blog like 19,364,920 times a day.
- I spent more time fighting with my better half over how to re-organize the kitchen than cleaning and reorganizing it.
- I haven’t tried out a single no poo method on my hair yet although it seems so easy. I just love the smell of the poo I have right now.
May we all feel free to be ourselves a little more each day.