Browse Tag For

mindfulness

Showing: 1 - 4 of 4 Articles

How to deal with conflicting emotions

Recently, I have been through quite a few emotional roller coasters. Since my intuition and I have become pretty good friends, I was able to accept this state even when I didn’t understand what triggered this process at first. Nevertheless, my mind wanted to know. It always does. Here’s the answer I’ve come up with, and what I’ve found to be a good way to deal with conflicting feelings.

The major change in my life has been that I have made some decisions that broke my routine. Well, actually, there hasn’t been much of a routine, that’s the thing: I ended my life as I knew it, and after a period of regrouping I am now at the point where something else is starting to fill the space. Since I have been making a conscious effort to shape this new life, of course, the new that is coming or about to enter means a great deal to me! Somehow I just hadn’t factored in that that is enough to trigger all kinds of emotions.

I finally realized that there is nothing „wrong“ about this process, there is no mistake. Whenever I am engaging in something I care about, I always have seemingly conflicting emotions. I am never only overjoyed. I am never only terrified. As long as I am not indifferent, there is always both – excitement and anticipation at the prospect of change, but also fear and anxiety over the possibility that things might not turn out the way I wish for.

I wrote „seemingly conflicting“ because I believe that those emotions are not in fact conflicting. They are two sides of the same coin. Whenever I feel like there is something to win, naturally part of me is afraid of not winning = losing. I have done enough things I didn’t really care about either way, so that I can confirm that that is the best recipe for complete loss of energy. So that is not the alternative I am planning on applying.

Then what to do without becoming the figurative stoic that says „I knew I had fathered a mortal“ when confronted with the death of his son? Because I definitely don’t want that kind of indifference, either.

Here’s what I’ve found works for me:

1. Accepting that I have feelings and ideas about how I should feel. On everything! It appears to come with the being human gig. It’s only when I step into that trap where I try to deny or fight my feelings that things get ugly, and they end up controlling me.

2. Therefore, the number one priority is to allow all my thoughts and feelings to be heard. I make a point to check how it would make me feel if I listened to any of them. For instance, when the prospect of doing something makes me really happy, but there are some concerns, I accept the concerns but go ahead anyway. Either with a plan on how to tackle the concerns or with the confidence that any problems will be resolved if the need arises. They’re probably not even actual „dangers“ but just my fear’s way of saying „Don’t go there!“.

However, when I realize that the thought of not doing something I had set my mind to actually fills me with relief, and the reasons for doing it are mainly ideas of of what I am „supposed to be doing“, it’s safe to say that it’s a good idea to lay low. Maybe it’s not the right timing, or maybe I the underlying idea of why I should be doing this is misguided. This is the part where it’s helpful to trust that gut instinct, even when I can’t see all the whys at that time.

I believe that I came here into this life with a plan, where the most important milestones are already decided upon. Our ego is a lot less in control than it likes to make us believe. When I look back at my life, I was hardly ever aware of the significance of the events that really shaped its course. The things that seemed important, which I worked myself up over, turned out not to be. The things that were, were never entirely up to me. In fact, I could even „mess them up“ and „somehow“ they worked out anyway – because that was the way things were needed to be for me to stay on my path.

3. The real challenge then is to achieve that balance where I accept that I have feelings but where I also trust that they are not the complete picture. Yes, of course achieving certain goals makes me happy. And yes, sometimes I experience loss and it feels awful. But the thing is, that is not the totality of life, there is a happiness that is not tied to any achievements or fulfillment of desires – or loss thereof.

This moment right now is something I’ve once longed for: having alone time, being able to use my cell phone and my computer at home (long story, another time). And it’s also something I’ve once been afraid of because I got here losing things and people on the way.

There is nothing wrong with having goals and desires, in fact I am only now beginning to (re-)discover their importance. The happiest life is the one where we can gracefully combine the two: setting goals, acknowledging our heart’s desires, and setting out to achieve them with the confidence that we in fact already have everything we need to be happy right here and now. Anything we set out to do is all about experiencing a variation of happiness, not earning the right to be happy if we achieve a certain goal.

Everything we need along the way will be provided for. No feelings (our own or others‘), mistakes or accidents can jeopardize what is truly meant to be ours. Detours are part of the road, getting lost is, too. Whichever path we choose, it will lead us closer to home – our true self.

More thoughts and feelings

It’s been an intense week. Lots of things happening around me, and I find myself getting drawn into this stream of external stimuli and events. Ironically this week was not just the week where I realized that there is time for everything. It’s also been the week where I skipped my morning ritual (writing and oil-pulling, meditating, a few sun salutations) a twice because I wanted to make time for other things.

I’m a person who loves/needs structure, planning ahead, to do lists. Deviating from my schedule usually scares me. I start worrying that making exceptions is just the beginning of a downward spiral into chaos. I told myself instead of writing and meditating before work, I could still fit that into the day somehow, which has proven true for writing more than meditating, although I try to remain/go back to being self-aware as much as I can. But I can still catch myself getting scared that that is a lie, and I’m just slacking off.

And that’s where the flipside of the coin becomes apparent:

When we’re abiding our schedule for fear of not being “good” otherwise, then it seems to me we’re kind of missing the point, and maybe we need to learn how to handle the “chaos” of not having a schedule and just going with our instincts?

This morning I sat in front of the fireplace for a few moments. That feeling that it somehow wasn’t right that I’d just get dressed and drive to work crept up on me. Interestingly, I thought I was being self-aware when I told myself:

“You know that that’s not true. Don’t let this thought take you over. Be in the present and you’ll see there is no problem.”

And I was fine. For about half a second. Then I thought:

“That’s weird, why is that feeling still there?”

In hindsight, my mistake is obvious: I was not taking measure to not let my thoughts steer – I was suppressing an emotion. Realizing this, I tried the opposite – going deep down into that feeling, allowing it to presenting its case, taking it all in, being interested in what it was.

“What if this is just a lame excuse? You said you could find time for everything, so why didn’t you get up earlier to make time for this? You’re slacking off, and this is the beginning of you neglecting the things that are important to you. Soon you’re days will be all work and no play, and you’ll be back to where you never wanted to be again! You’re on your way to the life you never wanted. Being a drone, working, eating, sleeping – nothing more until you die.”

All that sounds really dramatic and terrible – and the hardest exercise I find is not objecting to anything. But it’s like when your best friend is going through a rough time: she does not want you telling her that her feelings aren’t justified. She isn’t expecting you to fix her situation either. She just needs you to listen. It took me a long time to understand that when it comes to others. Seems like now is the time to learn to accept that the same applies to myself. Just allowing the feeling – however dramatic it is, which it always is because on some level it’s ultimately always about the fear of death – is all it takes.

Our feelings want one thing: to be acknowledged. If we fight them, they’ll just fight harder to get our attention. If we accept them and acknowledge their existence, they dissolve eventually.

 

You’ve got time

It seems to be either the only thing we have, or the thing that doesn’t exist at all – or both. Either way, observing my own thinking more I noticed that a lot of stress for me comes from just this one thought:

I don’t have time for this.

„This“ can be both pleasant and annoying. I don’t have time for the things I really do want to do, and I don’t have time for things to go wrong. Whatever it is I feel I don’t have time for – me not having time invariably seems to become a fact as a result of the thought. Very stressful.

Magically – and luckily – it seems to work both ways: More and more frequently, when I’ve noticed myself get worked up over something, and thinking „I don’t have time for this“, I made a conscious effort to let go of that thought, relax, and think:

I do have time for this.

And there it was. By taking time – and I am talking allowing things to take the time they require instead of trying to rush them – I somehow made time. I still managed to do all the things that needed to be done, plus the things that I often don’t feel like I can afford to squeeze into the day.

I always thought it was somehow „unfair“ that I felt too tired at the end of a work day to do the things that I do just for the fun of it. Again, it was reading The Power of Now that steered me back towards the right track:

When we can feel the joy of simply being, it doesn’t matter what we do. That joy is always present, always there for us to choose.

I find this to be true.Whether I’m folding laundry, enjoying the company of a friend, sitting in a traffic jam or at work doesn’t matter when I am self-aware enough to choose to truly be connected to myself and thus the divine source. I find Eckhart Tolle’s metaphor of the sun and the candle very helpful, too:

The joy of being is like the sun light. It’s always there. When we don’t see that light, we can get exstatic over the comparatively small light of a candle. When that light goes out, we’re upset, frightened. When we have the sunlight in our life, we can still appreciate the beauty of the candle light – but it’s not as dramatic when it’s not there. Our happiness is not dependent on it.

I try to remind myself of this whenever I find myself stepping into that mind trap where I go through an episode of „fighting time“(or its lack). It’s as if I am fighting for the right to be unhappy with something. It is completely possible to do that, sure. But what does that really do for me in the long run?

The biggest difference for me when I manage to tell myself that there is time, is, that I am not as tired at the end of the day as I get when I live in a state of frustration over time running through my hands like sand through the hour glass.

It seems as though I might have accused „time“ somewhat hastily of being the villain in the drama of my life …

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.