Are your actions coming out of wholeness or anxiety? A meditation on why I write.

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Recently I read a book about Buddhism and one of the main messages that stuck with me was:

Examine your motives for doing anything that you are about to do. Is it out of wholeness or is it out of anxiety?

It’s interesting when you start asking that question each time you are about to do something.  I haven’t posted in a while, because I’ve been examining my motivations for my writing, which led me to write this poem:

Why I write – a poem

I don’t know why I want to write,

is it for me, is it for you?

Is it because I want to seem bright?

Is it because my ego craves the spotlight?

 

Of course I tell myself and you

that it’s because I want to share my thoughts,

and inspire you.

I want to share what I learn with the world,

so that it may also benefit too,

but is this really true?

 

I look deep inside.

Writing is a creative expression that I love,

sometimes things come out, that I wasn’t even aware of.

Sometimes they are like messages from above.

 

Other times though, it’s just my ego,

wanting to collect more likes and shares,

counting the clicks and views,

the comments and praise.

 

Does anyone care if I write?

Does anyone even read it?

In the end it doesn’t matter.

It makes me happy when I put finger to keyboard,

when all thinking ceases and just a stream of words come out,

sometimes sounding good and sometimes not.

It’s my connection to myself, to consciousness, to God.

 

Perhaps no one cares about these words,

but that doesn’t really matter.

I don’t want to tailor for the crowds,

because that wouldn’t be from the heart.

But if you find some inspiration in what I write,

it’s also a good start.

And I’m happy for that too,

although I write for me, and not for you.

With that I want to wish all a happy rest of the holidays, and remember to always put yourself first.  By making yourself happy, you’ll make others happy too.

Lots of love and peace.

 

Posted in Happiness, Poems | Tagged | 4 Comments

Towards independence

desertWe are moving from dependence towards independence. In the past, we were dependent on our communities, families, spouses to look after us, but now we are forced to take care of ourselves. This is a good thing. We need to learn to look after ourselves before we can help others.

Financial and emotional security comes from you

I’m only slowly beginning to see this. In the past I would expect my parents, friends or partner to help me out if I needed. Of course, I still hope they would do that, but I don’t want to rely on them to the extent that I get into the mindset of thinking “ah well, no need to save money or think about where I’m going to live in the future. If worse comes to worse my family or the state will look after me.”

Sometimes we might need others’ help, but firstly we should aim to set ourselves up as best as we can to be self sufficient in meeting all our needs by pretending we don’t have a support network to rely on.

Equality in relationships

The days when men would pay for women in restaurants or secure them materially in exchange for housework and child rearing are almost gone. Older people too have to be more independent in their later life, because often their children are far away and can’t look after them as much.

Some  bemoan this sorry state of affairs as the loosing of family values, but independence gives us freedom and self worth. If you are reliant on someone for emotional and financial support you are controlled by them . You can’t be honest with them, because you fear losing them and the things they provide for you.

By relying on someone to meet your financial and emotional needs you are also suffocating them and taking from yourself the chance of creating your own happiness. Any independent and free spirited person cannot bear to have someone around that depends on them too much and wants to share everything with them and be with them all the time, which can sometimes happen in relationships – the inseparable couple syndrome.

If you are not good at providing for yourself emotionally or financially then learn it. Relationships are now between equals. They surely provide support, friendship and love but this cannot be in the right balance if one person is disproportionately dependent on the other all the time.

Make your own plans

Everyone needs to have their own plans for life, and a partner, family  and friends are an important part of life, but there needs to be that knowing that I’ll be happy whether or not I am in relationship or if I have a supportive family or friends at this moment or not.

If I support myself, put myself first and make plans that do not depend on anyone but me, then I will know how to make myself happy all the time. If I rely on others to provide happiness for me then I can’t be happy for long, because I can’t control what others do and inevitably they will disappoint me as they’ll put their needs and plans before mine.

It might sound selfish but putting yourself first is the way to happiness. How many times have you done something when you didn’t feel like it and then felt disappointed when someone didn’t do the same for you in return, because they put themselves first?

Only by being selfish and putting yourself first are you actually creating more peace and happiness within yourself, by taking care of your needs and not doing what you don’t feel like doing.

If you are happy and at peace, you are going to emanate this to those people in your life instead of being frustrated and angry that you have done so much for others, or are running around wasting your energy  on things you should be doing, when actually you’d actually rather be doing something else. If you are doing things out of this negative place, then the results cannot be good anyway.

By being selfish, you can be selfless. You can only have a positive effect on others if you yourself are feeling balanced. So putting yourself first is not really that selfish, as by doing this you will be happy and relaxed and so when those close to you really do need your support, you will be able to give it from a positive place of willingness and peace. By being there for yourself first, you can be there for others when they need you.

Photo credit: Kostya Kisleyko

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Can you work on your spiritual development?

1257518_silent_doorFor me spiritual development was always a part of personal development. It was something you could work at. You could work on your career, relationships, money, health so why not in developing your spiritual side too?

I thought the more I read about different spiritual teachings, and practiced meditation for example, the more spiritually aware I would be. What I’m realizing though, is that while we can work on the worldly things in our lives by learning and then implementing what we learn, the spiritual side is not like that.

I came to this realization during the book I am currently reading “The Diamond in Your Pocket” by Gangaji. Gangaji is an American woman, who was constantly searching for the truth. Despite living a privileged life, having a successful marriage, a daughter, enjoying good health, and loving her career she still felt like something was missing. She worked on herself quite a lot but, she says:

“I was still aware that I was living  my life on a ground of suffering. I had tried many avenues to alleviate this sense of suffering – psychotherapy, affirmations, meditation, various workshops, channellers, astrology, visualization, automatic writing, dancing, psychotropic substances, acting out all my desires, and repressing all my desires. I had tried loving myself, and I had tried hating myself. None of it worked…I didn’t know what to do. How was it possible to be relatively happy, even deeply fulfilled at times, and yet continue to have a deep longing for something I couldn’t ever name. Finally, I recognized I needed help. I needed a teacher.”

The secret to enlightenment – stop now.

“Within just six months of praying for a true teacher, through a miraculous set of circumstances, I found myself in India, face to face with H.W.I. Poonja (Papaji). He said, “Tell me what it is you want.” I told him “I want freedom. I want to be free of ally my entanglements and misconceptions I want to know if final, absolute truth is real. Tell me what to do.

First he said, “You are in the right place!” Then, he said, “Do nothing. Your whole problem is that you continue doing. Stop all your doing, Stop all your beliefs, all your searching, all your excuses, and see for yourself what is already and always here. Don’t move. Don’t move toward anything, and don’t move away from anything. In this instant be still.” I didn’t know what he meant, because I was still. Then I realized that he was not speaking of physical activity. Instead he was directing me to stop all mental activity.”

This message is similar to what the Power of Now says, but it made me see, that spiritual fulfillment can only be reached when you stop searching for it. When you are present, and realize that is all you’ll ever have, then you become free of all your thoughts and fantasies around the past and the future. You become free of everything. You see that everything is impermanent – your life, your thoughts, your emotions, your possessions or status. The only thing that is permanent is what you experience a connection with when you stop your mind. When you become conscious of the consciousness that is behind all your thoughts and emotions. You become aware that it was always there and it will always be there, it never dies.

It feels strange that you never saw it before, or perhaps you did see it, on the rare occasions your mind stopped,  but you never realized that’s what it was. Suddenly though you can see it clearly, but you can’t define it by thought, because you only become aware of it when thought stops. It is beyond the mind, beyond true explanation, it is your true self. You can only know what it is by experiencing it directly, as soon as you start thinking about it, it disappears.

Meditation is the practice where I first became aware of this observing consciousness, the realization that something else then my mind was watching my thoughts, like clouds passing along the sky. Meditation taught me to experience gaps between thoughts, and a state of no mind.

Getting rid of the story

Gangaji writes that every negative emotion, is there only because we tell ourselves a story around it. When we stop telling the story the emotion lingers for a bit and then goes away. For example “I’m annoyed, because it’s raining and I’m wet and cold.” The story is that you are judging the rain and coldness to be negative. When you stop judging it and creating the story, then you are just wet and cold but you don’t see that as good or bad, it just is as it is. So the annoyance slowly goes, because there is nothing to be annoyed at without this story. Stop telling your stories and observe the feeling, realizing that it’s only in your head. When you see this, the feeling will loose its power and fly away.

So if stopping is the key to spiritual fulfillment, what’s the point in doing anything?

You can still work on areas in your life, like career, relationships, health and enjoy them. But at the same time know that they are not you. They are not important, they will too be gone one day. Then you can enjoy them for what they are, and the fact that your life and your sense of self doesn’t depend on them, might make you even better at them. It might make you enjoy everything you have and the journey even more. As you relax, you are more present, savoring every moment, taking action and making decisions with a clear mind, because you are not letting fear or worry take over your mind, you are free.

PS: If you haven’t already, check out my new blog SelfDevelopmentReads, where I will post about this book in detail next week.

Peace,

Maia

Photo credit: Tomislav Alajbeg

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What is the now? (A poem)

You can’t understand the now.

You can only feel it,

when you be it.

 

When you rise above your thoughts,

then can you be free,

when you are in no mind,

then you can just be.

 

There you can access everything,

if only you stop now.

Stop your thoughts from distracting you,

and defining who you are.

 

The world and truth are already here,

they are nearer than your heart.

All you have to do to see them,

is stop and look inside.

 

What is real can never cease,

what is false will break.

Recognise this now,

and you will awake.

 

This life is but a dream you’ll see,

what is real will always be.

It’s inside you, it’s your being,

when your thoughts end, you stop dreaming.

 

Now in the now,

feel the light,

feel the space that is all around,

feel the peace and the love,

the complete bliss.

This space is you, the world,

nothingness, and all there is.

 

This space is God, the universe,

you have it now,  it’s not a vision.

To be free of all illusion, is only a decision.

It’s not when and if, and how,

Stop your search, the truth is now.

 

 

 

 

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A tarot card reader told me that I need to work on my finances

tarot cardsLast week I first experienced what it’s like to visit a Tarot card reader. I expected her to point me to spiritual insights, but instead she told me that I have to create material security for myself.

I’ve always been skeptical about Psychics and Tarot card readers and never believed in anyone telling you what your destiny is. But when I saw a video with Zdenka Blechova where she talks about general topics and spirituality, I liked what I heard, so I made an appointment whilst back home in the Czech Republic.

Zdenka’s method is this: she would lay out different types of tarot cards in front of me and I would then have to tell her what I saw in them. After I told her what I saw – she would relate this to an area in my life.

So for example she lay down three cards. One was a man with a staff looking into the distance – I said I saw this as looking up to something. The next card was a man turned upside down and I said that meant doing something opposite to what you are doing. In the next card was a woman sitting in a blue cold looking throne and I said this was separation.

She then said this is how I act in relationships – the first card symbolized that I look for partners whom I admire and look up to, the second card was that I need to do the opposite and not make partners into idols, because when they don’t live up to my expectations I separate from them.

Zdenka lay down a card with a king in a large majestic carriage with two lions at this feet. I said that what I saw in this card was material security. “This is the reason you came here today, she said. You need to give yourself material security. Instead though you are acting like a crazy person with money” (literally “the fool” was depicted on the card). She was right. I had been frivolous with my spending habits and saying to myself that money didn’t matter. But really I needed to be authoritative and disciplined when it came to my finances in order to be free.

“Everyone has to firstly look after themselves materially and emotionally,” she said. “When everyone has what they need, then we can all help each other. Not before that. If we help others before we have fully helped ourselves then we expect others to help us in return, because we did it for them. But often we get no help and then we feel resentful.”

What’s the point of accumulating money, when one day it will be gone, and we may loose it all anyway? We might die tomorrow and then what good will money do us? That’s all true, but most often what happens is that people don’t save enough to be free. They buy material things like clothes or expensive cars to be happy, but financial stability would make them happier.

Joy is something that is within us always, but money gives us freedom. Living on less, but saving and having a financial cushion will give people the freedom to do what they want with their lives, to travel, to grow, to do the job they love, to pursue their hobbies, because they don’t need to work for money anymore – they already have enough of it to be free.

It’s true that money is not permanent. In this sense money shouldn’t matter. But if you look at money as a type of energy, that if you have enough it can set you free to enjoy your life, but only if you use it wisely. If you spend it frivolously you are throwing away your life energy. If you work out what you make in an hour in your job, and realize that an expensive dinner costs you three hours of your life then you can see how you are literally wasting your energy.

Through my sitting with Zdenka I realized that financially my life is still not in balance even though I have been making steps towards it by getting excited by blogs such as Mr Money Mustache, but then having a relapse after two months of budgeting. I realized that using money wisely is a lifestyle. It’s like you cannot loose weight by dieting, you need to change your whole lifestyle forever if you want to be slim, it’s the same with finances.

The cards didn’t tell me how many children I will have or who I will marry, it wasn’t that kind of reading. The things Zdenka told me were only things that I told her. I found out my own feelings reflected back at e and that made me see what I needed to focus on. Changing my financial habits was one area, my approach to relationships was another, and there were a few more which I will keep to myself because they are too personal to share.

The experience gave me some amazing moments of clarity. Uncomfortable moments of insight, which I never consciously saw, but when Zdenka identified them I knew she was right. I believed her when she said that she spoke to my soul, because I felt her words to be true.

Photo credit: Ruxandra Moldoveanu

 

 

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How to have real conversations and connect with people

Kids are not afraid to show their emotions

Kids are not afraid to show their emotions

Be vulnerable

I admire people who are real, and tell you stuff that reveals their most personal feelings. They don’t just tell you, they tell everyone. Blogger James Altucher has this quote on his Twitter profile “For some reason, I’ve turned myself inside out and all my guts have spilled onto my blog.” His last blog post is called “Claudia is worried I’ll get killed for posting this”, where he talks about how he stopped a 10 million dollar robbery.  Another blogger Penelope Trunk stirred up a media frenzy when she tweeted about having a miscarriage in at work “I’m in a board meeting. Having a miscarriage. Thank goodness, because there’s a fucked-up 3-week hoop-jump to have an abortion in Wisconsin.” She also regularly writes about her problems with the “Farmer”.

Who are these people? They tell their innermost personal lives not just to their friends, or even their colleagues, but to the whole world. How do they do it? Often I can be more honest about what I’m really thinking in my blog, because it’s easier then saying it to anyone in person. It feels like it’s removed from me and no one who cares will read it anyway.

In my blog I talk about heavy topics and what I feel, whereas in real life I try to make light of everything with sarcasm and hide my thoughts or emotions. But in my blog I also hide when I write about books and about what other people said, because it saves me from having to write what I’m thinking and so make myself vulnerable.

Having a conversation with my friend the other day, I realised that when talking to her I modify what I say depending on how I think she will judge me for doing certain things. Instead I tried being (almost) completely honest, even though I knew she would judge me.  The best thing was she didn’t judge me, it had only been me that was judging myself.

If I don’t put myself out there as I am, and make myself vulnerable and share my real thoughts and emotions, then I can’t expect to really connect with anyone. Unless I expose myself, the other person won’t expose themselves and I’ll always have relationships that are superficial.

The same goes with blogging. The bloggers that expose themselves the most, are the most popular. People are interested in real stories, real hardships, they want to read that you hit rock bottom, that you experienced fear, loneliness, sadness, but also happiness and love. Showing the real you connects you to others, because they can relate.

There’s no such thing as over-sharing. The worst thing, the most embarrassing thing or the most weird or amazing thing that’s happened to you, has happened to others ten times worse, or better. Sharing a personal story with someone might help them comprehend the things happening in their own lives, and might prompt them to share their insights with you. In any case it will create realness and connection.

Be interested

“I never learn anything talking. I only learn things when I ask questions.”
Lou Holtz

Asking questions creates better conversations, mainly because people love talking about themselves and secondly, because you can actually learn from being curious.

I often leave a conversation feeling, like I should have asked this or that question, but I didn’t because I got too busy talking about myself instead. Now I’d like to know the answer, but the moment and sometimes even the person is gone.

Listening and engaging with someone in conversation requires focus, instead of already thinking what YOU want to say after they finish talking, making a genuine effort to be interested in what they are saying, asking questions about what they said and responding to them.

Be there

Often I already have a predetermined idea of what I want to get out of a conversation or what I’m going to say. This makes things worse, because I go in saying my prepared spiel, which might be out of context now, and it stops me from really listening and responding. This means I miss out on finding out or imparting something useful.

Dale Carnegie, in his book, How to win friends and influence people said that anyone who is a good listener is a good conversationalist. He gives an example of a man who said almost nothing about himself the whole evening at a dinner party, but let his companions talk and only listened and asked questions. At the end of the evening, his companions commented on what a wonderful conversationalist he was.

Like most people, I love talking about myself, so for me to actually shut up and listen is a big effort. When I do it though, I really feel like it made a difference. It feels rewarding, I learn something, I connect with someone and have a real conversation.

PS. It’s ironic that only after writing this post, I recognised that I struggle to have real conversations with people. I always thought I was really good at it, until it dawned on me that actually I’ve been unconsciously putting up a barrier around me to protect myself. This prevents me from being real and connecting with others, because I don’t show them what I’m really thinking or feeling. I am constantly trying to guard my self-image, by not admitting weaknesses or showing emotions, by not sharing my real thoughts. This post obviously came from my desire to tackle this issue in myself, so I should be the first one to follow my own advice.

Photo credit: Milan Jurek

 

 

 

 

 

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What is love?

heartIs love a purely biological connection or is there something more mysterious about why we choose the people we love? Psychologists, anthropologists and biologists will tell us that love has developed as  a purely evolutionary function to ensure the survival of our species, but most of us still believe that love is something  magical, unexplainable and arbitrary.

Love explained by science

Scientifically speaking, love evolved to basically hold two partners together for long enough to raise a few kids. “Romantic love,” social anthropologist Helen Fisher says, “is a powerful and primordial mating drive that evolved to find and keep life’s most precious gift – an appropriate mating partner.”

Love is blind

An article on love in the Independent tells us why love really is blind:

“Scientists have discovered that certain parts of the brain become deactivated when we’re in love, including areas linked with negative emotions, planning, critical social assessment, the evaluation of trustworthiness and fear.

Biological studies have found that this phase of reduced cognitive function, during which faults are ignored, can last from one to two and a half years. This temporary state of delusion has a vital human function. If we immediately saw all our partner’s faults, we would be less likely to form a stable relationship in which to produce children.”

Love as a drug

Fisher says that when we fall in love the same area lights up in the brain as when feeling the rush of cocaine. No wonder we can get addicted to the feeling of being in love then.

Why do we fall in love with some people and not others?

Timing – experiments have been done that if we are going through something exciting or a dramatic change in our lives or we’re in a good mood we are more likely to fall in love with someone.

Excitement – doing something exciting together is also more likely to make you fall in love with someone, because you are sharing a new experience.

Proximity – if you see someone every day, you are more likely to fall in love with them as you get to know them better.

Obstacles – the common wisdom of playing hard to get, actually works because it’s proven that what you can’t get easily you want more. Studies have shown that when someone breaks up with you, you actually love them more.

Love doesn’t last

Intense romantic love can’t last for too long – a year or two maximum. It’s too distracting for real life.

“I think romantic love evolved to enable people to focus their mating energy onto just one person at a time, thereby conserving mating time and energy,” says Dr Fisher. “It’s not conducive to real life to live in this state for 20 years because you’re distracted by it, you can’t think of other things, you forget what you are doing, you probably don’t eat properly, you certainly don’t sleep well and you go through highs and lows.”

Problems can arise when the pink mist eventually lifts and we see our loved one for what they really are – as flawed as we are. It may to wise to wait until brain function is fully restored before making a decision to marry. By then you may well feel sufficiently attached to your partner to put up with their irritating habits. “I think attachment evolved to tolerate someone at least long enough to rear a child together,” says Dr Fisher. But don’t dismay that the best bit is over once lucidity returns. Couples can feel peaks of romantic love throughout their relationship.”

Science vs. magic

All these scientific reasons and experiments are fascinating, but I can’t help feeling that they take the magic, mystery and beauty out of love. In science terms we are just meat and bones wired to mate and produce offspring, to preserve our race, just like sophisticated bacteria multiplying on a rotten piece of food.

Science disregards us as primarily spiritual beings, and makes us into material beings. I’m sure there are all these factors that make us pick one mate instead of another. But ideas like men just like women for their beauty and youth, and the size of their hip to waist ratio (most conductible to producing babies),  women just like men for their money and status (making sure they provide for the family), or it all depends on our DNA and how we smell because intuitively we pick partners with whom to product the most healthy offspring.

These are great things to know, and partly they are true, but we are more complex creatures that go beyond just mere physiology. Otherwise how could you explain the ugly woman with the fit guy, or the beautiful woman with the fat guy that has no money?  For me love is the connection of the soul and the mind primarily, and secondary to that is all the physical stuff. Or am I just deluding myself?

The idea that mind and soul are what really matters in love is what I’d like to be the case, but as a male friend once asked me, when I was accusing him of being shallow because he said he would only go out with someone beautiful. “Well you wouldn’t have gone out with someone if he was an amazing person and your “soul mate” but was small, fat, old, overweight and you found him repulsive would you? Sadly, I had to concede that my friend was probably right.

Still, I feel that love is a spiritual connection as well as a physical one, because if everything could be explained in simply scientific terms, love and the world would lose all it’s magic for me. Undoubtedly being in love, being alive as well as the beauty of the world we live in, does feel magical, so why reduce it to mere science?

Photo credit: Ahanir

 

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3 things that inspired me this week

877271_pencil1. Love the process independent of the outcome

Do things because you love doing them and not because you want a certain outcome. If you worry about the outcome you’ll never do anything. Enjoy the process and sometimes the outcome will be good, sometimes mediocre and sometimes rubbish, but the main thing is that you’ve had fun doing it. And you’ll get better at it the more you do it, because practice makes perfect. This is advice from Penelope Trunk’s blog post: 3 Rules high achievers never break.

I love the process of writing because it feels like I just let my ideas flow out through my fingers. Sometimes the outcome is good and sometimes bad, but I love doing it. Another example is painting. I want to paint, but I keep putting it off, I’m worried the result won’t be any good, but after reading this I’ve realised that it doesn’t matter, I just need to do it and enjoy myself.

2. Genius comes from outside of us

When we have a creative success or an amazing inspiration or idea, it is a source outside of us that has inspired us, it is not us that did it. The ancient Romans used to believe that creativity did not come from humans but from a divinely inspired spirit called a “genius” who whispered inspiration to people. It wasn’t until later, that we started associating the genius with the person instead of the spirit.

The author of Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert talks about this in her Ted talk: Your elusive creative genius. She’s petrified that she might never again be able to recreate the freakish success of Eat, Pray, Love. Her biggest success is probably already behind her. In this sense it is easier for her to believe that inspiration is something that comes to her, rather than something that she does herself. She puts in the hard work and keeps writing, hoping that inspiration will enter and guide her.

Inspiration is a mystical creature. It comes at unexpected times, you have a brilliant idea, but if you don’t write it down you forget it. So it does make sense to think of it as something outside of us, that we have to connect with and be open to.

It also saves us from our own ego and suffering. Artists are known to be depressive and suicidal, is it because they are tortured by the idea that they can never attain the level that they aspire to, or match their past success? If you believe that inspiration comes from the outside, you shouldn’t feel bad about creative failure because it wasn’t your fault, it was just that the genius didn’t come to you.  Similarly, you can’t take the credit for any success you have. You can just be thankful that inspiration chose you as the vehicle to make it happen.

3. Ask for what you need to know and it might come to you

I think that meditation is amazing, and creates the space in your mind for more creative ideas to enter. If your mind is cluttered with junk and constant chatter there isn’t much space for anything fresh. Meditation helps clears out some of that junk depending on how much of it you do.

Lousie Hay has a meditation in her book You Can Heal Your Life, where before she sits down to meditate she asks the question “Please tell me what I need to know.” Then she sits and observes her thoughts, watching patiently for something significant to come up. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

Try it. Do it all because you love it, don’t worry about the outcome, because if it sucks it isn’t your fault and if it rocks then thank your genius.

Photo credit: Vjeran Lisjak

 

 

 

 

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Practicing non-judgement

Toad or prince?

Toad or prince?

Practicing non-judgement is key to silencing the mind by stopping the constant flow of thoughts analysing and evaluating everything and everyone we meet, ourselves included.

I am constantly thinking about stuff in my life – is this good or bad? Am I on the right path? Should I be doing something else right now? And if yes, what should that be? The mind likes to evaluate and categorise and it’s really hard to not judge others and especially ourselves sometimes.

Today I was walking and I realised that through my entire walk my mind hadn’t stopped thinking. It was like a constant humming. As soon as I became aware of it the humming stopped and my mind was silent for a while, and I tried to keep it that way, but I realised that trying to keep the mind silent and present is a lot of effort. Soon I lost focus the thoughts started up again.

I try and do this excercise: When I realise I’m resisting the present moment I try to focus on what’s around me and go back to being in the present. This often happens when I’m riding to work on my bike, taking a route that is now automatic for me. I keep thinking of myself further ahead than I am, because I just want to be there already. When I realise this is happening, I stop and focus back on where I am now, my surroundings, take in the buildings around me, the temperature and so I stop thinking about where I want to be instead.

Connecting the dots

“Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.” ~Dalai Lama

Sometimes I would bemoan the time I’ve wasted doing one thing or another, or the wrong choices I think I made in life. But with hindsight I often realise that what I did had a purpose, a purpose I didn’t see before, but I can see it clearly now.

As Steve jobs said we can only connect the dots later, and that’s why we have to believe that whatever we are doing at this moment, the situation we are in, and the people around us are there for a reason.  How do you know you are doing what you should be doing? Because you are doing it.

“Stress is caused by being somewhere, when you want to be somewhere else” ~ Eckhart Tolle

So essentially you need to want to be where you are right now. If you are fighting against the present moment, you are fighting against the entire universe.  And of course you can never beat the entire universe.

Often moaning about one thing or another is a social custom, which I sometimes indulge in as well. Not many people will say what a lovely rainy day it is today. Or I’m so glad it’s a Monday! But as much as I can, I try not to moan or be negative and it works most of the time.

Although sometimes moaning can be a way of bonding. You confide your problems to someone and you can share a moment of understanding, but I’d say that wouldn’t be moaning about things that can’t be changed like the weather or the fact that you’re stuck in  a traffic jam.

What if something really is bad?

It’s hard to accept and see the positive side in “bad” things that happen in life, or even in the world. Why are all these bad things happening ? Should we actively take part in stopping these bad things happening by going on rallies and signing petitions and spreading awareness?

If we are not meant to judge things as good or bad, should we for example fight for certain causes which most people can agree are “bad” like torture or peaodphilia or that Hitler and Stalin? How can you not judge things like these?

“Whatever you fight, you strengthen, and what you resist, persists.” ~Eckhart Tolle

Using positive ideas to fight a cause is more effective. Instead of fighting poverty, we can fight for everyone to have enough, instead of fighting pollution, we can fight for a clean environment. Organisations and movements with a positive message, are more popular.

Want to be where you are

If you accept and want to be where you are now, you become more open to moving along your right path. If you are present, you pay attention to everything and everyone around you – the beauty of simple things and the conversations you have. You see the signs and ideas that are there to move you forward on your journey. If you are not present, you miss all those small moments of happiness and inspiration, because you are already somewhere else in your mind.

Photo credit: Lisa Marris

 

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Things I wish I had been taught in school

Class of 2006. Was it all worth it?

Class of 2006. Was it all worth it?

1. Don’t go to college! Instead do as many internships as possible.

There is an argument that internships are actually even better than going to college, especially if you are doing something really non-specific like English literature, or Ancient history. What is the point? Unless you want to go into academia, doing these degrees will only show, that you had to pay someone to make you read books.

Instead doing as many internships from at a young age as possible,  will more likely show  you what you want to do,  and what the real world of work is like, more than any degree could. Take the example from Roman Krznaric’s book How to find Fulfilling Work of a 30 year old who didn’t know what to do with her life,  so for a year she tried out lots of different careers. Only to find out that she loved advertising, it just clicked.

Thinking that you might like doing something, doesn’t actually mean you’ll like doing it, because the idea we have of a job is not the reality. So you might end up studying a subject for a degree and then realise you hate the job after you start doing it. You could have been saved from this if you’d actually done a few weeks work experience or shadowing in your chosen field instead.

2. Public speaking

Many people have a phobia of public speaking. At college and school, most of us had to do a few presentations, but we didn’t get to do many of them, and at least at my college there was no option to do a public speaking course.

Yet public speaking is a skill that you will need in your career and in your life too, and it can be improved by practice. If you can’t speak in public you cannot ever have positions of leadership in your company. You even need speaking skills just to tell a story down the pub to your friends, or give a speech at a friend’s wedding.

I know from experience that when in a group of people I sometimes avoid telling a story, because I don’t want to be the centre of attention, because I’m not confident speaking in front of a larger group. This is all going to change now as I’m joining Toastmasters, which is a great way to get experience in public speaking.

3. Managing your finances 101

So many students end up being in debt after finishing university, especially in the US, but also increasingly in the UK and elsewhere. One argument is that it’s better not going to university in the first place, because it’s expensive and useless.

We should have been taught this at college – the arguments for how to save money and become financially independent, interest rates, how to invest, budgeting and expert opinions about ways to manage your financial affairs. What’s better, work in a job or have your own business?

 4. Personal development

A class on the effects of positive thinking, time management, flow, confidence building and meditation and all the things I’m discovering years later after leaving college, should have been included in my basic education.

Some would argue that this is not an academic discipline, but it’s definitely a life enhancing discipline and if school and college are not there to prepare us for life then what are they for?

Let’s face it how many facts do you remember from biology, chemistry, world history etc? Facts are useful, but not at the expense of learning other, more essential life skills.

6. Starting your own business

I was in a bike store the other day and there was a little kid and a man there.

I’ve got such and such free hours in a year”, the boy announced proudly. It was a LOT of hours.

The man told him “So think of how you are going to use that time to make money.

I thought this is amazing, this child is so lucky. Hopefully by the time he’s sixteen he’ll have his own business and not live off his parents handouts.

I wish I had been encouraged to do the same thing. Adults seem to think that children should enjoy their childhood and just play, because they’ll have to work when they’re older so they might enjoy it while they can. But the reality is that they’ll be unprepared for real life when they grow up and then it will be harder for them to start up their own business while working full time in a 9 – 5 job and paying off their college debt. Kids should make their own money as soon as possible (staying within legal limits of course!).

5. How to apply for a job, have a good CV and interviewing skills

Did you have this class at some point during your studies? I certainly didn’t and I’m educated to a Master’s degree level. This class should be mandatory. By the time you’re sixteen years old you should have a good enough CV to get some sort of job and know how to write good application and interview well. I didn’t even have a good CV by the time I left university, that’s the first time I started thinking of putting a proper one together.

I had to learn the hard way, by trial and error of what makes a good CV and a good a covering letter and how to interview well, and looking around me it seems to be the case for a lot of people out there.

6. Don’t stop looking until you find the work you love

Finding work you love is like a relationship. Some relationships are great in theory, but you just don’t feel they are right for you when you’re in them. Some don’t look so great on paper, but somehow they just click – and it’s the same with jobs.

As Steve Jobs, a college drop-out himself,  said in his now famous Stanford University commencement speech:

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”

So these are just few things I wish I’d been taught at school or college.  What about you, what do you wish you knew earlier?

 

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