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the power of now

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On living truth vs. speaking truth

For the most part of my life I have been hasty in my actions. I always thought that if I don’t do things right away, that means I will never do them. Or – another classic – if I don’t do them, no one will.

Last year I was finally able to see that that sort of reflex-like compulsion has nothing to do with acting on your gut instinct, let alone going with the flow. The real gut instinct kind of impulses don’t even give you time to consider – you just find yourself doing what needs to be done, and your actions come easily, there is no fear, you’re so engaged in the task that the mind doesn’t have time to fret over what will happen if you don’t do this or that.

First there was a situation at work, a meeting, where I felt that there was a huge gap between the content of what was being said and the truth of the situation addressed. Really, an elephant fit snugly into that gap. The „If I don’t say how I really see things, then I am responsible if this continues“-reflex was beginning to kick in. At the same time, I suddenly knew with absolute certainty that if I did speak my truth, the only thing that changed would be that I exposed myself to people who were not interested at all in changing the situation.

I said nothing, and for a while I felt like I was going to pass out or have a heart attack. Then that feeling passed, and suddenly I was completely at peace. With everything. Myself, my work place, the world. Literally everything. For the rest of the day, I could see everyone and everything for who and what they really were, and I had nothing but love for all of it. The shyness and awkwardness I normally felt when entering an office full of people was gone, I could joke around with anyone, and everything I said came straight from my heart, sans detours via the mind.

I didn’t understand it at the time but this is how I interpret the situation today: If I had said what I thought I had to say that day, it would not have been me living my truth. It would have been me looking to others to confirm what I myself wasn’t able to face. Which they could not have done. So when I realized that speaking up wouldn’t have gotten me the reassurance I wanted, that was the moment I had to do the job myself: acknowledge my truth.

The second situation was also work-related. A colleague said something that I suppose was well-meant advice but it pushed a button, and I felt „I need to blog about this because everything about what she said is just so backwards, and I cannot let that fly! If I don’t make a stand and say how wrong this is, then it’s my fault that people thinking like that rule this world!“ Thanks to the no internet at home situation, I was yet again stopped from acting on my compulsion.

When I turned to my friend and healer La for advice, she suggested that I write it all down just to get it out of my system. She also recommended that I don’t publish anything as long as I am emotionally involved. That, my friends, is some of the best advice I have ever got, and I can not stress its value enough. I found that writing alone was medicine for my bruised ego. There was nothing that sharing my rage could have improved on. Through writing I reached the core of what was really my issue here. Again, it was a truth that I had not been able to accept myself, and therefore I wanted to direct my anger at someone whom I wanted to assert it for me. Which she didn’t do.

This situation taught me that it’s not always a good idea to share everything on your mind instantly. There is greater benefit in working through the rough stuff in a protected environment, alone or with someone you trust one hundred percent.

The most important part about truth is that we ourselves understand and acknowledge it. Only then can we live it. And truth wants to be lived more than it wants to be spoken. That might sound a little strange coming from someone who spends so much time on finding the right words to express her truth. For a while I did in fact struggle with the point of my writing when I understood that words really aren’t that important. Then I realized that for me writing is a big part of living my truth. Regardless of whether or not that means anything to anyone. When my writing comes from my awareness that I do it mostly for me, not to convince anyone of anything, I can do it with ease. Those who „get me“ do so no matter what. Those who don’t will always have an opportunity to find wrong both in my words and my actions.

Eckhart Tolle writes about that phenomenon in The Power Of Now: that words/language can be used as signs pointing to the truth but that they themselves never are the truth, never can be. If that is the case, there is no need to burden my head with the struggle to find the perfect words. Instead I may trust that when I write from the heart and keep the editing to a minimum, I am producing the best kind of signs. You know, not the ones that point you to my truth but the ones that point you to your own.

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.

 

Facing our demons | Say yes

Yup. More rantage coming up. Writing yesterday’s post felt liberating but it upset parts of me that are afraid of the path I’ve begun to walk, parts that are afraid of letting go, afraid of letting something new (= unknown) in. Parts that try to hang on to the old, no matter how destructive it may be.

I ended up doing what I do when I am deeply anxious – binge eat. Or rather: it is what I do when something inside of me tries to raise its voice to tell me something I don’t want to hear. And it works, too. By creating another problem that I can focus on – eating till I feel sick to my stomach, beating myself up over it, asking myself why I keep doing this to myself (but only on a physical level, of course) – I don’t have to look at the real issues. Really convenient, right? Except for the part where I’m destroying my body, and oh yeah: that keeping an issue from coming to the surface of my mind doesn’t solve anything, it just suppresses it – until something else triggers it. Apart from those minor details, this method works perfectly well.

I have been using food/eating as means of reacting to emotional stress since I was about 16. I don’t find the clinical terms („eating disorder“, „anorexia“, „bulimia“, etc.) helpful anymore, although I used to define myself that way. I could recognize myself (to a t) in the various descriptions you find in self-help books etc., which I read at some point.

It is definitely comforting to know that you don’t do the things you do because you’re crazy but that your behavior can even be construed as „normal“ given the circumstances. From that perspective, this rational/scientific/psychological way of dealing with these issues has its merits. However, putting a label on things can also become a way of stigmatizing yourself, of locking yourself into a box. A box that is difficult to climb out of, even though really it only exists in your own mind.

Every time this „happens to me“ (well, if you read my previous post you know I don’t believe in that), when I am overcome with the feeling that I just have to eat, and that nothing else will make this anxiety go away, it scares me. It makes me feel like a failure that no matter how far I seem to have come I still resort to this self-destructive  measure. Sure, these binges have decreased in frequency. There was a time in my life when they could go on for days, I couldn’t even go to school, I was completely overpowered – now there can be months in between. Sometimes I even think I have „beaten“ this „thing“. Usually, that’s when it comes right back to prove me wrong. I have laden this behavior and its side-effects with a lot of meaning. Doing it means there’s something wrong with me, not doing it means everything is ok. One side-effect is obviously my weight, and me attaching meaning to that as well. So, in accordance: weighing less would mean I am normal, gaining weight = failure.

I don’t like to talk about this part very much, not because I am ashamed but because I find it frustrating that no matter where you turn, no one seems to be happy with how they look, and somehow it usually boils down to their weight. I know that I am not obese, that my weight in fact is „normal“. I know that I could, SHOULD be happy with myself, and I really wish I were. I would love to be one of those examples that I myself am looking for everywhere – someone that has not been affected my the media brainwash, someone that is truly happy with themselves and how they look even though they don’t fit the mold. Sadly, on a lot of days I can only pretend to be that person.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, binge eating = something’s wrong, not binge eating = everything’s peachy. I’ve come so far to realize that the key is not to think in these kind of opposites. I find myself best protected against these self-inflicted attacks when I am aware and accepting of the fact that this is part of my life. I guess just like alcoholics or addicts of other drugs still refer to themselves as addicts even when they’ve been sober for years.

Obviously, this is not easy, because who wants that, right? I don’t want this in my life, so why should I have to accept it, let alone embrace it?! Someone (I should probably know who, like Buddha or the Dalai Lama, ehem) once said that pain is not something we choose but suffering is. And if you’re into this „spiritual stuff“ (I only got into it two years ago, so a lot that may be old news to you is still new and revolutionary to me) you run across this realization sooner or later, and maybe you run into it even if you’re not into „spiritual stuff“: the only way we can suffer is by trying to reject what already is, which of course we cannot succeed at. No matter how much I don’t want something that already is, my not wanting it to be cannot undo its existence. It’s a waste of energy.

So, if you cannot change something, allow it to be. Obviously, this permission isn’t really about the external thing, for it is what it is no matter what you think about it. That permission is for you. Allow yourself not to judge. It will spare you the suffering that you will inevitably go through if you try to fight what already is.

Please don’t get me wrong: this is not to say that there aren’t things we should change in the world, that we should just sit back. But you have to know what is and isn’t in your power to change, and when the time is right.

This concept may seem simple, and in theory, I guess like the best concepts, it is. I can also see how I could/should/want to apply it in interactions with others: there is no point in me getting mad over something someone else already has done. I mean, getting mad is important, too, to not let anyone run over you but there has to be a limit. After you’ve expressed your discontent, you should try to get over it and move on, instead of dwelling on it. As I said: simple in theory …

Where it gets tricky is when it comes to one’s self. For intuitively I want to claim that anything I do is in my control, so how can I accept the things I don’t like about myself? Well, I think just that last part kind of questions my premiss: if I am fully in control, how can I do something which I do not approve of? Sounds kind of schizophrenic, don’t you think? Yet I am going to be so bold as to state that we all do things we later regret, we even do them over (and over and over again), and regret them over (and over and over again) – and that at least most of us would say that they are in control over our own actions – who else would be? I mean, sure, you can argue that we are products of our environment, the society we live in. But on some level, the individual does make a choice for a concrete motion it is about to undergo (whether physical or mental), right?

I have gotten side-tracked again here, I see the term „ego“ coming up, which is not what I had in mind when I started this paragraph out, so please excuse if I am bringing this one to a screeching halt before I get into something I cannot possibly cover in a paragraph or two. Once again: yay for the internet, feel free to go ahead and read about the ego elsewhere now – or continue here with me.

What I did want to get at was this: our experience tells us that – for whatever reasons – we are not free from contradictions, we do things that we later wish we hadn’t, we detect character traits in ourselves which we’re not happy about. Therefore, this notion of allowing what is applies to ourselves just as much as it does to our interactions with others/external factors.

I try to do this with my eating habits, and obviously, it’s not easy. Because I really don’t want to have this in my life – but somehow that is not for me to choose. I don’t feel guilty about it afterward as much as I used to, even though that is hard, too. I try not to punish myself. Again: not easy.

Yesterday, I tried something that in a twisted way felt especially difficult because it made the whole binge-eating episode obsolete: I looked into myself and asked that voice that I had shut up by stuffing it down with food to speak to me, and tell me what had upset it so much. It spoke to me, and this confirmed what another part of me knew all along: there is nothing to be afraid of when facing our demons. They are parts of ourselves that cannot actually threaten our existence. They are scared themselves and need healing.

May we remember that there is nothing to fear but fear itself, that our souls are indestructible. And may we be kind and forgiving to ourselves when we act cowardly.

PS: I first came across this concept of „allowing what is“ when I listened to Eckhard Tolle’s The Power of Now and Realizing the Power of Now, something I can recommend to anyone. I think it is pretty accessible even if you think spirituality is „mumbo-jumbo“ but then you probably didn’t read this far, so …