The Awakened Life

Wisdom, Simplicity, & Authenticity

Experiment 1 Results: One Week of Simplifying My Tech

Unplugged

Last week, I decided that I would go a full 7 days without, or limit, many of the technological amenities that I’ve come to depend on (see previous post for details).

Major changes included absolutely no TV, videos, video games, or time-wasting websites (Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, etc.) I also limited my iPhone in many ways and put limitations on when and how I could check my email. I did stumble a few times along the way (you’d be surprised what a reflex it is to click on a YouTube video), but overall, I think the experiment was a success.

Reducing the technological noise in my life gave me some space to reflect, and I think I learned a lot during the process. Here are a few of the insights I gained, and differences that I noticed, along the way.

1) I should learn to treat my technology more like I treat my food/diet.

I made this analogy a few days into my tech hiatus, and the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. To use technology responsibly in our lives, we need variety, moderation, and good judgment.

Just like we should eat from a variety of food groups, we should make sure to supplement our stream of YouTube videos with a good novel. We should moderate our intake and tech choices just as we do our diet. While it’s ok to visit the buffet every once in a while (2 hour StumbleUpon session, constantly checking email, TV marathons), doing so too often will leave us technologically bloated and disgusted with ourselves.

It’s also helpful to use our judgment. Much like we might ask, “Do I really need that third scoop of ice cream?”, we might also query ourselves, “Do I really need to check my email for the 30th time today?”

Lastly, remember that no single “diet” is right for everyone. Allow yourself to experiment with how much technology you let into your life, and see what works for you.

2) I have more time than I think.

Usually when I get home around 5:30pm, I feel that the night is a bit of a rush. Between winding down, dinner, computer, social time, making lunch for the next day, entertainment, cleaning, etc, I’ve found myself almost as stressed as I was at work. Furthermore, I almost never get everything done that I’d planned to do.

I don’t know how, but cutting out my tech seemed to slow down and expand my time. Jobs that usually took a half an hour seemed to take only a few minutes. I cooked a leisurely dinner, tidied up, and even got my clothes ready for the next day. By the end of the night, things felt “complete,” and I was de-stressed and ready for the next day.

I found the same thing at work. Rather than running around like a chicken-with-my-head-cut-off, I often found myself practically bored and looking for new things to do. I was able to plan and do background reading for clients. I even walked around the halls more slowly because I didn’t feel rushed. It’s a good feeling, and one I hope to hold onto.

3) Wanting to rush to my next form of entertainment often leaves me dissatisfied with the task at hand.

In addition to slowing my pace, I also found that I enjoyed my tasks more completely.

When my tech is at full strength, work never seems quite as good as the next text message, YouTube video, or friend’s Facebook comment. But when I was able to step away from these things, this contrast died away and even somewhat mundane tasks became more enjoyable. I swept my kitchen, rearranged my office, did the dishes, and listened to music. All with a kind of mindful simplicity.

4) I paid better attention to when my body needed rest.

As a therapist, my job can leave me physically restless. I’ve long suspected that when I come home and watch TV, I’m providing my body with a form of stimulation that is preventing me from getting the rest I need. My experiment this week proved it. Without the TV blaring or video games staring me in the face, I was more likely to take a much-needed nap, go for a walk, spend some time outside, or lie around reading the book. These leisures were more genuinely restful, and my body definitely noticed a difference.

5) I make more meaningful connections with others.

With my iPhone relatively crippled, there was often no real need to check it. There were no dings and buzzers distracting me from my surroundings. As such, I was genuinely more interested in my friends and almost always achieved a higher level of engagement with my environment.

Conclusion:

All in all, I think my experiment was a success. While I won’t continue to restrict technology from my life so completely, I think I will adopt some of the changes from this week. Namely, I hope to decrease my tech use on weekday evenings. My hope is that this will leave me more rested, recharged, and mindful for the next workday. On weekends, when I have a lot more free time, I’ll allow myself to splurge in healthy ways.

Setting the Stage for Experiment 2

Sometime during the next month, I hope to take on an even more ambitious experiment: Refraining from needlessly negative communication.

This doesn’t mean that I won’t express “negative” emotions (sadness, anger, jealousy) if they come up, but I will instead try to eliminate complaining, gossip, criticizing, and the like. If you’re interested, keep an eye out for Experiment 2 to begin sometime during the next month.

As always, thanks for reading. See you next time. 🙂

Wholeheartedly,

Neil Martin

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Experiment 1: Simplifying My Tech

Sleeping TV Man

Sleeping TV Man by Evan

“If there is technological advance without social advance, there is, almost automatically, an increase in human misery, in impoverishment.” – Michael Harrington

Over and over, I think, “I should simplify my technology.” But I never do.

The truth is that I think it would be really healthy for me, but I’m also terrified of what the change would look like. So I started asking myself, “What am I really afraid of?” Here’s what I came up with in terms of both my fears and my rebuttals against them:

Why I’m Afraid to Simplify My Tech

1. I’m afraid that I would feel disconnected and lonely.

Fear: I’m a busy person in a lot of ways nowadays, and some of my closest friends and family don’t live near me. Part of reducing my involvement with technology which would also diminish my access to these friends. As a person who tends to get a lot of happiness from others, I’m afraid that, instead of leaving me with peace and solitude, this separation would leave me feeling lonely and isolated.

Rebuttal: Technology sometimes makes me feel more connected, but often I think I use it as half-assed method for maintaining friendships. Instead of facebook posting, I could call. Instead of calling or texting, I could set up one-on-one time. Maybe by not having the crutch of Facebook, I’ll be forced to make time for more organic, personal interactions with those I care about.

2. I worry that I would seem uninteresting.

Fear: Whether we like it or not, a lot of our bonding nowadays comes from sharing YouTube videos, Facebook posts, recent TV shows, webpages, memes, etc. Without the constant flood of these things, what would I have to talk about when I do hang out with people? I know it’s a shallow fear, but it’s still a real one for me.

Rebuttal: Chances are that getting more involved in reading books, playing music, and having new experiences will make me a much more interesting person to talk to. Not only that, if I’m more well rested, I’ll be a happier, more engaging person in general. In fact, my disconnection from superficial media might challenge me to take my interactions with others to a deeper and more meaningful level.

3. I fear that I will become insanely bored.

Fear: This whole simplifying my life thing may seem all well and good eventually, but what if I find that, after a couple of days, I’m just climbing the walls out of frustration and boredom? How quickly will I cave in to reloading my Facebook app? How fast will I turn on TV for “just one show”?

Rebuttal: I am likely to experience a media withdrawal, but I perhaps I should take that as a sign of just how addicted I am. I have to ask myself, “How much are you actually enjoying this?” I watch TV and movies, but rather than being fully engaged, I’m usually passively watching them, or I have them on in the background while I’m doing something else. This leaves me kind of bored and unfulfilled anyway, so what’s the point? By giving up TV and movies, I can start to find more fulfilling ways to use my time. Besides, this probably isn’t forever. I can regain my control and choice over these activities and then, if I want to, reintroduce them in healthier and more fulfilling ways.

4. I’m afraid I would miss out.

Fear: People say that “missing out” isn’t a big deal, but in a lot of ways, it plays on our secret fear that we’re somehow different from others and that we aren’t included in the group. All of us have this fear from time to time. In my experience, it’s both completely irrational and surprisingly difficult to overcome.

Response: The truth is, I will miss out on some stuff. But another truth is that I you can’t keep up with everything, and my attempt to do so often leaves me exhausted and dissatisfied. By facing this reality, I can more actively choose how to utilize my time and focus on the things that matter to me most.

The Bottom Line:

When I look at all of these fears together, one main theme: Fear of Being Alone.

Deep down, I’m afraid that if I give up the artificial tether that I think connects me with others, I will end up rejected, out of place, and lonely. But in reality, most of our fears are misplaced. By removing this white noise from my life, I may actually make room for healthy introspection, quality activities, and more meaningful relationships with others. It’s worth a try, and at worst, it’s only for a week. We’ll see where it goes from there.

The Plan:

I will make the following changes for the next week (8/19/2013 – 8/26/2013):

Reduction/Eliminations

  • No TV, movies, or videos. None at all.
  • No video games or mindless iPhone/iPad games.
  • One healthy exception that I will allow myself are mentally-stimulating puzzle games
  • No time-wasting websites (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, StumbleUpon, Reddit, etc.)
  • I will be cutting off my access to or removing non-essential apps such as Facebook, Twitter.
  • The only “notifications” that I will allow myself to receive are phone calls and text messages.
  • I will sometimes check email on my phone, but it will be a manual task.
  • I will not check email in the morning before work or during weekend mornings.

Replacement Habits

  • Blogging
  • Reading (books, news, catch up on Pocket articles!)
  • Exercising (walking running, cycling, rollerblading, or yoga)
  • Cleaning (general housework, finish restoring bicycle)
  • Decluttering/Reorganizing my house/clothes
  • Cooking
  • Sleep
  • Meditation/IFS Work
  • Learn Spanish with Duolingo
  • Learn/play guitar
  • Social time with friends/girlfriend
  • Reconnect with people via phone calls
  • Try new teas
  • Yardwork

Sometime after 8/26/2013, I’ll write again about how my week went. Wish me luck. 🙂

Wholeheartedly,
Neil Martin

How Surrendering to Life Can Be the Ultimate Victory

white flag bandiera bianca

white flag bandiera bianca (Photo credit: PORTOBESENO)

“Surrender to what is. Let go of what was. Have faith in what will be.” – Sonia Ricotti

When people consider the idea of surrender, it conjures mental images of white flags, weakness, and cowardice. While surrender does entail a kind of “giving up,” I believe it’s better described as an act of letting go that can be extremely beneficial, and often necessary, in many contexts. So consider this radical idea: Surrender isn’t a sign of cowardice or weakness; it’s an act of courage.

Struggling Against the Nature of Things

So much of our suffering in life comes from struggling against the nature of things. We try to make ourselves into people that we’re not. We attempt to maintain relationships that should be let go. We take pills to keep our hairlines from receding and get plastic surgery so that we can keep up a vestige of our beauty long past. We wish that our children will not grow up. We wish that our parents will not grow old.

But these things will happen, and the more we struggle against these inevitabilities, the more we suffer. To avoid this suffering, it helps to accept things in the way they appear to us in our lives.

Letting Things Be As They Are

Surrender means letting things be as they are. It means that we cease fighting, stop arguing, and quit throwing existential tantrums. We find that, when we finally stop and let our lives just be, we can enjoy what we have rather than always crave something more or something different. When we do, we find that something funny happens: everything is ok.

So if surrender is so great, why isn’t everyone doing it? Because letting go of control is scary. Letting go means admitting that we don’t always know best, that we may have to rely on others for help, and worse, that these people may fail us in our time of need. In other words, surrender means being vulnerable. But with vulnerability comes openness to life and those in it. When we learn to relax and let go, we can stop being disappointed in others for not fulfilling our expectations and accept them as they truly are. As we do this, our relationships become more organic and authentic. Rather than acting through our personas, we can make genuine contact with the true selves of others. Daily events follow the same pattern, becoming opportunities instead of obstacles. All in all, life starts to seem more like a flowing stream and less like a raging river.

Raising the White Flag (in a healthy way)

To help you on your newfound path to faith and vulnerability, here are a few ideas to keep in mind along the way:

1. Know the difference between what is in your control vs. what is not

The serenity prayer, often used with members of Alcoholics Anonymous, says:

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

This prayer helps remind us that surrender does not mean being helpless or apathetic. It means that, when we have the power to change something in our lives, we should act; but when things are truly out of our control, we shouldn’t needlessly struggle. Do what you can, and let go of the rest.

2. Accept that you don’t always know what’s best

Most of us like to think that we have a pretty good handle on our lives and know what is best for us. While in many cases this is accurate, we can also fall prey to our own personal blind spots and make unhealthy decisions at times. No reflection allows us see ourselves in a full 360 degrees, so we need the perspectives of others to see our whole selves. Use your judgement, but don’t be afraid to give the opinions of others careful consideration.

3. Let go of your “shoulds”

Surrender can also mean letting go of the idea of who we “should” be so that we can make room for who we truly are. Sometime during the next week, mentally track how often your mind is bombarded by “shoulds.” Some familiar “shoulds” may include “I should be… working harder/in better shape/more fun/a better person/spending more time doing X/harder on myself in general.”

Then, ask yourself whether these are genuine, healthy desires or whether they are a result of some emotional burden or negative self-belief that you carry. While personal development definitely has its place in life, it’s important that your desire to be a better person comes from a place of compassion, not one of relentless self-criticism.

4. Allow yourself to grieve your losses

It’s almost impossible for us to accept the way things are until we have allowed ourselves to let go of the way things were. But just because life changes may lead to something positive doesn’t mean that the transition is necessarily painless. Allow yourself to grieve your losses, whether it be crying, laughter, social time, or your own personal ritual. The personal grieving process is as individual as our own thumbprint. Do what makes sense to you.

5. Pay attention to your “never agains”

A great deal of the fears come from past emotional injuries. After being hurt, many people develop “never again” mentalities which can make the idea of surrender seem impossible. They unconsciously shout, “Never again will I be hurt/betrayed/disappointed/afraid like I was before!”

In order to let go, these tender parts of our psyche need some comfort and attention. Take a moment to reassure yourself that being vulnerable doesn’t mean having to get hurt again. You have the power to decide what kinds of behaviors you will or will not accept from others, and doing so is a great way to practice self-compassion.

6. Surround yourself with people you trust

When you’re first learning to let go and be more vulnerable, there’s no need to throw yourself to the wolves. It’s important to take small steps to build trust with life, so start by being more open with loved ones that you trust, and then working outward from there. By beginning this way, you reinforce the message that “People will love me the way that I am. And even if they don’t, I’m still proud of who I am.” If you’re even nervous about exposing your inner self to your trusted friends, be explicit about what you’re doing. Don’t be afraid to say, “I realize that I’m a little closed-off, so I’m practicing being more open with the people in my life. I’m surprised how scary it is sometimes.” You’re likely to find that other people will sympathize and share their own experiences.

7. Have a little faith

Sometimes, life may feel full of insecurity and uncertainty, no matter how hard we’ve tried to make it otherwise.  In this case, “giving up” struggle entails a certain amount of trust in life itself. We go on blind faith that our loved ones, and even fate itself will take care of us in the grand scheme of things. When the opportunity for us to have some healthy control reasserts itself, we will act, but until then, we will ride the highs and lows of life as gracefully as possible.

Conclusion:

Like anything else, learning to surrender to life is a process. Be patient with yourself and take small steps. Find a balance between trusting your own inner wisdom and placing faith in others. When all else fails, try to have a little faith in life itself, that, given a little time, things will turn out ok. Slowly but surely, you’ll find that you can lead a more relaxed and happy life. 🙂

Until next time!

Wholeheartedly,

Neil Martin

6 Life Lessons I’ve Learned from Tracking My Calories

Scale_Food

 

 

“People have to realize that dieting is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. If you celebrate the small victories, you will eventually win the war.” – Ian K. Smith 

 

Two weeks ago, my girlfriend and I decided to start tracking our calories (we use MyNetDiary Pro), and I’ve been surprised at what an enlightening, and sometimes challenging, experience it’s been. Here is a summary of what I’ve learned along the way:

1. Change Isn’t Always Linear

Everyone who has ever tried to lose weight has quickly found that the path to a slimmer waistline is full of peaks and valleys. Much to our chagrin, some days of calorie restriction still result in a weight gain and, sometimes, pigging out can result in a miraculous weight loss.

In life, like in weight loss, the key is not to take the outcome of any one day as the absolute truth about your life but to keep in mind the overall picture. While a person may “fail” on any single day, they can still work towards a healthy lifestyle, balance, and good health over the long-term. Progress over several months or years is still progress.

2. Exercise Makes or Breaks My Day

When counting calories, 30-60 minutes of exercise can allow me to eat an extra half of a meal or so, and when you’re dieting, that half-meal can seem like reaching Nirvana. On other days, just staying within my 2000 calorie daily limit can be pretty trying, so exercise is often the defining factor that keeps me below my calorie limit and on the way to weight loss.

But calories aside, I’ve learned that exercise is also a pivotal part of my mood, motivation, focus, and daily satisfaction. As a person who’s struggled with anxiety and mood issues for most of my life, exercise is a healthy way for me to calm my mind and body and make time for personal reflection. Above all, that brief run, bike ride, or yoga session just makes me feel more like my true self.

3. Seeing Through Illusions (A.K.A. The “Is It Worth It” Scale)

Last week, I was in a terrible mood, and I decided that treating myself to some carb-filled, cheesy goodness (read: Kraft Cheddar Explosion) would be just the thing to provide a pick-me-up. And it did — for about an hour or so. Soon after, I was hungry, irritable, and out of calories for the day. Now Mac N’ Cheese ranks very low on my personal “Is It Worth It?” scale. For the same 600 calories, I could have eaten two chicken legs, a half plate of mixed vegetables, and two scoops of ice cream for dinner. Much better.

But foods aren’t the only illusions in our lives. We’ve all had at least one relationship, job, etc. in which things are “cheesy goodness” starting out but ultimately leave us dissatisfied. These reminders that “all that glitters is not gold” leave us wanting in personal, social, or spiritual nourishment that we need to be healthy people. Sometime during the next week, take a moment to think about one such figure in your life and ask “Is this providing me with real nourishment? Is it worth it?”

4. The Importance of Setting Realistic Expectations

Expectations set the standard for whether we perceive ourselves as “successes” or “failures.” So when I started being more careful about what I ate, I paid careful attention to my expectations. I didn’t expect the pounds to melt off easily or consistently, but I also didn’t expect to fail over the long-term. I was realistic. Because of my expectations, I’m not discouraged when I step on the scale and have gained a pound. Where this is a peak (weight gain), there will later be a deeper valley (weight loss).

5. Discomfort Won’t Kill You

While dieting, there are many times that you have to deny yourself something that you really want. Or times that you’re just plain hungry. But hunger pangs pass and, in the end, I’m proud of myself for making healthy decisions. The discomfort is temporary, but the mindset I’m developing and physical changes I’m making can have positive effects for the rest of my life.

Working through discomfort is a skill that can be highly valuable in all areas of our lives. We need to run that extra mile, be a little more patient with our kids when we feel like exploding, or have that difficult talk with our friend or partner so that we can maintain a healthy relationship. And when we do, we often find that pushing ourselves past our self-imposed limits can have wonderful outcomes. We take pride in our physical accomplishments, watch our child make the right decisions, or see our partner display a new level of vulnerability.

6. Sometimes Rules Need to Be Bent or Broken

I believe “cheat days” (where you can eat whatever you want) are healthy things. Making healthy changes is all about balance, which means that being overly stringent in our new healthy habits is not really healthy at all. It’s important to give ourselves some elbow room when we’re making big changes. If we don’t, we often begin to feel like we’re suffocating within our own need to be healthy. So every once in a while, take a deep breath, and indulge that sweet tooth of yours.

Conclusion:

Weight loss, like most things in life, is a process. In both, we must learn to practice patience, to have realistic expectations, to expect high points and low points, and occasionally, to bend the rules. Life is a dynamic experience and one that requires adaptability in order to survive. So when you’re dieting, or making any significant life change, be consistent, and be easy with yourself. Practice self-compassionThrough persistence and care, change will come.

Wholeheartedly,

Neil Martin

Fear of Expressing Self-Compassion

Fear_of_Expressing_Self-Compassion

Love Always by Justin Rumao

“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” – Buddha

This post is the third in a series about compassion towards self and others. In my past two posts, I talked about fears about showing compassion to others and accepting compassion from others. Today, I’ll talk a bit about how our mistaken beliefs about self-compassion are harmful to our happiness and well-being. To use as examples, I’ll take a few items from the Fears of Compassion Scale:

“I feel that I don’t deserve to be kind and forgiving to myself.”

This fear often arises because people believe that, if they forgive themselves, they’ll let their guard down and make the same mistake again. We offend someone with our words so we learn to stop expressing our opinion. We become disappointed when we fail at something we care about, so we become relentless in our pursuit of perfection. We break someone’s heart, so we swear to never love again so freely and completely. But contrary to our belief, condemning ourselves in this way rarely works in the manner which we intended. In reality, failing for forgive ourselves often causes us to obsess about the past and makes us less able to love in the present.

The key in these situations is to realize that forgiveness and change are not mutually exclusive. In other words, forgiving yourself does not mean “letting yourself off the hook.” In the case that you’ve really done something wrong, be gentle with yourself. Try to accept that, as a human being in this world, you will inevitably hurt others in your life. In response, you can forgive yourself and make a commitment to do better in the future.  Practicing self-forgiveness frees us to see such events clearly and take corrective action instead of dwelling on past mistakes. In essence, self-forgiveness is best for everyone involved.

“I fear that, if I start to feel compassion and warmth for myself, I will feel overcome with (insert negative emotion).”

My clients, and most people in general, have compartmentalized their negative experiences and traumas for so long, because they are terrified that the floodgates will open when they finally do try to heal their past experiences. I want to be clear: this is a concern that I take seriously. When we open the doors to the dungeons of our inner selves, the experience truly can be overwhelming at first. But here’s the important part: it doesn’t stay that way. When a person has the courage to make it through the first visit to their painful past, they often find that returns to the topic are less emotionally charged and significantly more manageable.

But how do I get past the scary part when the emotions are overwhelming?

  1. First, understand that your initial exploration of the topic will probably be emotional and messy. This is normal. Take deep breaths. Allow yourself short breaks, if you need them.
  2. Give yourself permission to be an emotional wreck and allow your mind, body, and heart to have the catharsis that they need.
  3. After the first emotional purge has ended, make a commitment to revisit this subject within the next couple of days. While you’re still likely to experience strong emotions in these subsequent times, you’ll find the strength of your negative emotions to be much more manageable.
  4. On a special note, many people have strong negative emotions like these because their past experiences were just that negative. If you try to address your painful emotions but find them too overwhelming, consider getting help from a therapist. A trained professional can be your “eye in the storm,” and offer you a sense of safety and stability that will leave you free to explore your thoughts and emotions more fully.

“I fear that if I become kinder and less self-critical then my standards will drop.”

Leading self-compassion researcher Kristin Neff has commented,

“I found in my research that the biggest reason people aren’t more self-compassionate is that they are afraid they’ll become self-indulgent. They believe that self-criticism is what keeps them in line. Most people have gotten it wrong because our culture says being hard on yourself is the way to be.”

Most of my clients are terrified of practicing self-compassion. In our competitive culture, most of us have learned to strive and achieve by being both internally and externally relentless. When we perceive that we have failed as something, we are instantly assault by our inner critics, who seem more than happy to detail our every inadequacy and flaw. We also fear that our mistakes will somehow cause us to be beyond redemption in the eyes of our loved ones, that no one could love someone as flawed as we are. In fact, we’ll see that our inner critics want to protect us from just that kind of rejection and abandonment, if only we have the courage to be curious and listen to them.

But the truth is that people love our little imperfections. Not only do our little idiosyncrasies make us who we are as individuals, this sense of shared vulnerability and imperfection can help connect us to those around us. By realizing that none of us are perfect, we learn that we need our loved ones to help “fill in the gaps” and complement our particular set of traits. If we were perfect, we would never be able to find this sense of connection and wholeness with others. Imperfection can be a blessing.

Conclusion:

Compassion for self and others is not a weakness; in fact, it can be one of our greatest strengths, if we let it. Compassion can connect us others and allow us to be kinder to ourselves. But being compassionate is not easy. It takes an attitude of courage and willingness to be vulnerable. We must accept that, when we express loving-kindness to others, it may be thrown back in our faces. But more often than not, we find that our compassion is met with kindness in return, and our world is a little better for it.

Want to see how you rate on the fears of compassion? Click the link below to take the Fears of Compassion Scale.

Fears of Compassion Scale

Until next time!

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Fear of Accepting Compassion from Others


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Photo: “Help!” by pangalactic gargleblaster and the heart of gold

“I know what I have given you… I do not know what you have received.” ― Antonio Porchia

In my last post, I wrote about many of the common fears that are experienced when people consider expressing compassion for others. While practicing compassion for others can be quite difficult at times, most people it easier than either accepting displays of compassion from others or practicing compassion towards themselves (a.k.a. self-compassion). Here we will continue to examine some of the common fears related to compassion, this time focusing on what we fear will happen if we allow ourselves to accept compassion from others.

“Wanting others to be kind to oneself is a weakness.”

At first, this statement may seem to be powerful, independent, and self-sufficient; however, if you look just beneath the surface, you’ll see that a person who says something like this is reacting defensively from a past hurtful experience. A more accurate quote from such a person might be “When I most needed people to be kind to me, they weren’t. It was absolutely devastating, and I’ll never risk feeling like that again.” The truth of the matter is that being open to kindness from others, also means being vulnerable to disappointment or hurt as well. It’s up to each individual to decide if it is worth the possible risk of emotional harm to gain the benefit of receiving compassion and experiencing compassion with their fellow human beings. It’s my personal belief that a life that does not entail some level of vulnerability is not a life worth living. By being open to all kinds of experiences, we may undergo pain along with our joy, but we can also learn to better care for ourselves and other through these difficult experiences.

“I’m fearful of becoming dependent on care from others because they might not always be available or willing to give it.”

First, notice the subtle but extreme nature of this statement. How likely is it that you would become so absolutely dependent on the care of others? If others were not able to care for you at some point when you expected it, would you be so completely unable to care for yourself? Would the emotional hurt from this lack of help be so devastating? What seems more likely is that care from others is pleasant, helpful, and heart-warming but that, if such help were not available, you probably have the skills and ability to help yourself.

In other words, if people aren’t there for you in the way that you expect them to be, it may hurt at first, but it will be ok. In fact, we often find out that what we thought we needed at the time would not have been what was actually best for us anyway. To quote many people who have come before me, you may not get what you wanted, but you may find that you got what you needed.

“I worry that people are only kind and compassionate if they want something from me.”

This is a fear I’ve often shared as well, and I applaud you for remembering that kindness does not have to mean weakness! That said, there are two basic causes of this fear: one that is real and one that is based on fear from past experiences.

1) In one case, you may be perceiving a real sense of insincerity from a person in your life.

Perhaps a coworker that usually snubs you is suddenly very complimentary. However, you soon find out that they need a special favor, and you end up feeling that they have taken advantage of you. In a scenario like this, when someone is being kind to you and your “spidey sense” goes off, I encourage you to listen to it. In today’s highly competitive and political world, people often do have ulterior motives for kindness, and it is not compassionate to anyone involved to allow them to take advantage of you. Stand firm, don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions about what they need, why they need it, and why now. If someone is unwilling to get you the necessary details or seems overly uncomfortable with your questions, chances are that deception is waiting in the wings.

2) On the other hand, some people who have experienced betrayal or insincere kindness in the past may have an overdeveloped since of mistrust.

This extreme and protective part of themselves swears that it is better to mistrust everyone’s kindness than to be disappointed and hurt again. If you get the feeling that you may be a better fit for this category, do a quick check-in with yourself. Beneath your mistrust of the person or situation, do you feel an underlying sense of sadness or disappointment? If so, take a moment to sort out what is true and untrue in this situation. It could be that this person is very trustworthy and that your past hurtful experience is clouding your judgment. On the other hand, this person may also have similar qualities to the person who hurt you in the past, thus activating your defenses. It’s ok to take the time to feel out what is true for you. Tell the person, “I’d like some time to think things over. How soon do you need me to give you an answer?” Your needs are important too, so make sure you’re giving yourself the time and respect you deserve.

“When people are kind and compassionate towards me I feel anxious or embarrassed.”

This concern is usually a result of low self-esteem. When others practice lovingkindness towards us, it activates a part of us that says “I don’t deserve love/kindness/appreciation like this.” We feel guilt and embarrassment and want to escape the situation because we are unconsciously scared that people will find out that we are somehow a “fake” for accepting this “undeserved” love. If this is something that you relate to, try to keep in mind that there is nothing that you can do be unworthy of kindness and compassion. Even if you have done something that has caused harm to others, it does not mean that forgiveness is impossible. Ask yourself, “What people or experiences have led me to believe that I’m unworthy of love and compassion? Are these beliefs truly mine? If not, what do I belief about my worth as a person? If I have done something truly wrong, what steps do I need to take to redeem myself or seek forgiveness?”

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Overall, we can see that many of our fears regarding accepting compassion from others are based in our own insecurities or on mostly groundless concerns. By taking a closer look at each of these concerns in greater depth, we can see that we are indeed deserving of compassion and that being open to lovingkindness from others can be a great source of strength in our lives.

Want to see how you rate on the fears of compassion? Click the link below to take the Fears of Compassion Scale.

Fears of Compassion Scale

In my next post, we will finish our exploration of compassion, for now, by discussing fears of self-compassion. Until next time!

Wholeheartedly,

Neil Martin

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I am happy to respond to any questions or comments that you might have through:

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Your thoughts, comments, and suggestions are encouraged and appreciated. Thank you.

🙂

Fear of Expressing Compassion Towards Others

Spirit of Compassion

Spirit of Compassion by Wayne Wilkinson (original sculpture by Jeff Adams)

“Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism.” – Hubert H. Humphrey

Despite my ten years of study in psychology and my chosen profession as a therapist, practicing compassion on a continuous basis has been one of my most difficult personal struggles.

As I mentioned in a previous post, compassion, also called “lovingkindness,” is defined as the wish to alleviate or the act of alleviating suffering in another person. While the concept of compassion has been important in eastern culture for millenia, it is just now becoming a serious subject of study in the western world, specifically in the field of psychology. Our explorations thus far seem to indicate that compassion for self, others, and the world is related to a wide variety of positive physical and psychological outcomes. In fact, evidence is mounting that practicing compassion is one of the key factors that can lead to overall health and happiness.

I believe that compassion is the natural response of our true selves when we see someone in pain, yet so few of us feel the freedom to practice compassion openly. This difficulty often arises because people inaccurately perceive what real compassion looks like and often confuse it with being unfailingly kind, always putting others needs before their own, or even being a proverbial “doormat.” As a result, we become disillusioned with the idea of practicing lovingkindness towards others; we develop our own set of experiences and beliefs that prevent us from forming connections with others, displaying vulnerability, and acting in a compassionate manner. By reviewing and dismantling such fears, we can learn to move through them and practice lovingkindness in a more complete manner throughout our lifestyle.

According to a leading compassion researchers, compassion can be broken down into three main categories. Today we will examine the first category: expressing compassion toward others. I will be using items from the Fears of Compassion Scale to help us look at this issue in further depth (Gilbert, McEwan, Matos & Rivis, 2011).

Fear of Expressing Compassion Towards Others

“People will take advantage of me if they see me as too forgiving and compassionate.”

Let’s be clear: compassion does not imply weakness. I sum this up with one of my favorite quotes “Soft, yes. Weak, no.” In fact, allowing yourself to be treated as a doormat is the opposite of compassionate. To truly be compassionate to others, keep in mind that allowing someone to treat you poorly teaches them that this type of behavior is acceptable and even beneficial to them in the real world. This is actually harmful to others and in no way relates to lovingkindness. To practice compassion in a healthier manner, let others know through your words, actions, and presence that you expect to be treated with respect. If you feel as though you have been mistreated, hold the other person accountable by firmly explaining your thoughts and emotions about the situation and seeking resolution. Also practice self-compassion by knowing what your values and boundaries are and standing up for yourself in a way that makes you proud when those boundaries are crossed. Compassion shouldn’t be harmful, but it can definitely be forceful, if necessary.

“I worry that if I am compassionate, vulnerable people can be drawn to me and drain my emotional resources.”

This may, in fact, be true. People who are vulnerable and in need often seem to be able to sense others that are capable of being the “eye in the storm” and can weather their emotional turmoil. If these people are not handled appropriately, they can indeed become a mental and emotional drain. Compassion can help here as well. In this case, compassion denotes keeping a sense of perspective on what is best for yourself and the other person. If you fail to maintain appropriate emotional boundaries, you will end up drained and the other person will never learn the coping skills needed to directly address their own problems in times of crisis. In this case, the most compassionate action is often to practice love through helping the individual connect with their own sense of inner wisdom. Ask them questions that will help them consider what they consider to be the best course of action rather than what you think they should do. Then help them take small steps towards making healthy changes while always emphasizing that their choices and life is their responsibility and nobody else’s. If at any point you feel drained, state this directly in a kind manner and make your personal boundaries clear.

“People need to help themselves rather than waiting for others to help them.”

You’re right, but “helping themselves” may look very different depending on the personal, social, and financial resources that person has available at any given time. Thus, your role in being compassionate towards them changes as well. For one person, being compassionate might mean that you help them to make ends meet financially until they can find a new job. For another, it might be necessary to cut them off financially so that they can enter a period of growth in which they learn to become more responsible for their own well-being. The important thing is that compassionate help always needs to have a foundation based in a sense of perspective and a strong undercurrent of love.

“Being compassionate towards people who have done bad things is letting them off the hook.”

Again, compassion is anything but weak. Being compassionate means showing respect and holding perspective for both others and yourself. In other words, holding someone accountable for their wrongdoing and being compassionate towards that person are not mutually exclusive. For example, if your significant other lacks good communication skills and is constantly starting fights, it is easy to lose compassion for such a person and become angry or hurt. However, you do not have to choose between the polarized decisions of screaming at them or continuing to take their verbal abuse. First, take a moment to gain perspective on the situation. Even if your significant other does lack social skills, isn’t it a little sad that this is the only way they know how to communicate in their most secure and intimate of relationships? Where did they learn these skills? What is being triggered inside of them that they feel the need to start fights? In other words, get curious about their motivations and actions. Ask them in a non-aggressive way about what is going on with them. Later in the talk, you can express your own feelings about your fights and the strong need for things to change. Make sure that you don’t get caught up in their story and ignore your own needs and opinions, which are equally as important as theirs.

Overall, we can see that compassion is more creative and dynamic than it first appears. With a bit of practice, you will learn to more quickly see how compassion can be applied to different situations. This will help you gain a sense of perspective and clarity throughout your life while also spreading positive emotions and helping to bolster your mental and emotional well-being. But keep in mind that this practice is harder at first than it may seem. I suggest starting with small acts of compassion and working your way up.

Want to see how you rate on the fears of compassion? Click the link below to take the Fears of Compassion Scale.

Fears of Compassion Scale

In my next two posts, I will be discussing the other two domains on the scale: Fear of Receiving Compassion from Others & Fear of Expressing Compassion Towards Oneself. See you then!

Wholeheartedly,

Neil Martin

Works Cited

Gilbert, P., McEwan, K., Matos, M., & Rivis, A. (2011). Fears of compassion: Development of three self‐report measures. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice84(3), 239-255.

Simplicity in the Home

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home (Photo credit: karthik c)

“Beauty of style and harmony and grace and good rhythm depend on simplicity.” – Plato

When considering making a change, start close to yourself, then expand that change outward.

In my last post, I wrote about how the concept of simplicity can be a thread that runs through many areas of our lives. To practice simplicity, one’s home is a great place to start. The essence of simplicity in the home can be boiled down to one word: declutter.

We are all familiar with the experience of moving to a new apartment, house, city, state, or country. As part of the moving process, we tend to purge our non-essential belongings. Much like “Spring Cleaning,” this purge can be extremely refreshing, leaving us with a sense that we have reclaimed our living space; however, it can also be very emotional because we must make judgments on whether to rid ourselves of possessions to which we have strong emotional attachments. For a little help with this process, I’ll propose a general outline for decluttering your home.

Neil’s Guide to Decluttering

You will need:

1) Trash bags (and lots of them)

2) One small/medium size container. This can be a bin, box, envelope, or anything else that works for you.

3) An important documents box (I recommend one that is fireproof)

4) The information for your local Donation/Charity and Recycling centers.

5) A ruthless attitude

Step 1:

Pick an area of your home. It could be a large area such as your kitchen, bedroom, or closet, but I recommend starting with something smaller and more specific, such as a drawer or desktop. This will aid in preventing overwhelm while also helping you to gain momentum.

Step 2:

Have your trash bags and container ready. Your small/medium size container will function as your “Keepsake Box.” This container is meant for items that you absolutely cannot part with. The small/medium size of this container is meant to emphasize that the items you truly can’t stand to throw away should be few and far between.

Step 3:

Start getting rid of things. BE RUTHLESS. Go quickly, with minimal hesitation in your decisions.This is a good time to follow the motto, “When in doubt, throw it out.” I generally have three labelled trash bags ready at all times: trash, recycling, and donations. I also have my important documents box nearby if I come across old bills, receipts, contracts, etc.

During this process, you’re likely to run into mental and emotional resistances. Some common reactions include:

“Oh my god! I haven’t seen/used this in forever, but now that I know that it’s here, I’m going to use it all the time.”

No. No, you’re not. If you weren’t actively looking for it or didn’t know it was lost, you’re not going to miss it.

“What if this comes in handy in the future? I’ll keep it, just in case.” – It might come in handy, but I really doubt it.

If you really think you might use an item in the future, try this little experiment: put the item away in a special place for one month. At the end of that month, if you haven’t needed that item, it’s obviously not that important. Get rid of it.

“Awww… this reminds me of (insert memory here).”

Keep in mind that these objects are not your actual memories, just objects that remind you of those good times. Getting rid of the object does not mean losing the memory. On the other hand, if the item reminds of you a painful memory (i.e. old love letters from an ex), ridding yourself of it can be a powerful closure activity.

Step 4:

Rinse and repeat in different areas of your home. Also consider other, less obvious areas that you can declutter. Examples might include your car trunk, car glove compartment, wallet/purse, medicine cabinet, toiletries bag, attic/basement, kitchen cabinets, under your bed, and your garage.

Step 5:

Now that you have gotten rid of the excess, you can begin to reorganize what you have. Alphabetize your books. Reorder your DVD collection. Stack your plates by size. Put all of your clothes on hangers. Flex that perfectionist muscle!

Step 6:

Enjoy the newfound simplicity of your home. You might be surprised how this activity will make your living space feel invigorated, fresh, and new.

Simplicity in your home will function as the foundation for simplicity throughout the rest of your lifestyle. If you choose to experiment with this activity, please feel free to comment below and let me know how it goes. Good luck. 🙂

Wholeheartedly,

Neil Martin

Simplicity

Minimalist

Minimalist (Photo credit: Moonrhino)

“Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.” ― Henry David Thoreau; from Walden and Other Writings

Simplicity emphasizes things in their most basic form.

Related to the idea of simplicity is one of my favorite Taoist concepts: “The Uncarved Block.” To paraphrase, the Uncarved Block is that idea that things are most powerful and true in their simplest form. It naturally follows that many of our difficulties in life come from unnecessarily complicating our relationships, our work, our daily routine, and even ignoring our own basic natures. When we live simply, we lack pretense in our relationships and act in ways that are more consistent with our true values. In addition, we are more in touch with, and mindfully present for, our everyday activities because our experience is not obstructed by distractions and complications.

Simplicity can take many different forms:

  • Simplify your home. – Declutter your living space. Establish simple daily routines and practices.
  • Simplify your relationships. – Be authentic in your daily interactions. Be honest, and speak directly. Simplicity can even help your romantic relationship. Fun dates don’t have to be complicated dates. Many a bond have been made over coffee and good conversation.
  • Simplify your actions. – Resist your need to take action. Do without doing. You’d be surprised; most things will resolve themselves when given enough time. If you must act, be as efficient and direct as possible to achieve your goal. Practice mindfulness. Do one thing at a time as often as you can.
  • Simplify your work. – Learn to say no. Express your needs and ideas appropriately but directly. Single-task. Take breaks.
  • Simplify your diet. – Avoid processed foods whenever you can. Shop on the perimeter of the grocery store. Emphasize real foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts (unless you’re allergic like me), and meats. Think twice before using items that are “ready-made” or “instant.” These are complicated foods masquerading as simple.

In the coming months, I will write about each of these topics in more depth. Stay tuned. Until then…

Be simple. Be uncomplicated. Be direct but appropriate. Be natural. Be true. Be you.

Recommended Readings:

The True Self

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Photo Credit

“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” – Carl Jung

You feel calm, grounded, and completely present. You are aware of the subtleties in your body. Each movement feels like an independent exercise in coordination, fluidity, and precision. Your mind is a crystal stream, allowing you to directly experience your surroundings rather than filter them through the chaos of thoughts, emotions, and beliefs that usually flood you. In fact, the entire world around you seems to have slowed down. While everyone else appears to be suffering and struggling, for you, life in this state is effortless. In this moment, you know this is both you are meant to be and who you really are.

Most of us have experienced this state at one time or another. For some, it comes during sports, when every movement feels fluid and natural, and no matter what you do, you just can’t seem to miss. For others, it pervades simple tasks like mowing the lawn, painting your house, folding laundry, or sweeping the floor. Some find it in yoga, a good conversation, dancing, writing, a favorite book, a day at the beach, or driving along to the gentle hum of the highway. Just as each of us is unique, so are the circumstances when our true self can appear. Despite these differences, one large similarity is apparent; when the true self shows up, we know THIS is who we really are.

Over time, the True Self has been called many names such as the Self, authenticity, being self-actualized, self-realization, the fully differentiated self, Atman, Buddha Nature, soul, and our spiritual center, to name a few. In all of these disciplines or viewpoints, the True Self is the seat of wisdom within the individual. From this place, we can see the world clearly, relate to others more easily, and better understand our place within the world.

My favorite conception of the True Self comes from my preferred therapeutic orientation, Internal Family Systems (IFS) Therapy. According to IFS, the True Self is characterized by what are known as the “Eight C’s”:

Compassion
Compassion, also commonly referred to as loving-kindness, refers to witnessing and wishing to alleviate suffering. It is important to delineate compassion from empathy and pity. Empathy implies connectedness, so much so that a person may relate to another’s suffering so much that it can become highly personal. In contrast, pity denotes a sense of slight separation, feeling sorry for someone but being glad that it’s them and not you. Compassion, on the other hand, utilizes both connection and separation in healthier capacities. When experiencing genuine compassion, the witness may feel connected to the sufferer, but through the common bond of humanity rather than overly personalized or self-centered emotions. Likewise, the compassionate witness can also maintain a sense of healthy separation, which promotes perspective and lends itself to be helpful rather than overwhelmed. In addition to compassion for others, compassion can also be used towards oneself. While the concept of self-compassion has existed in spiritual teachings for thousands of years, it is a relatively new area of psychological research and, so far, has been linked to healthy outcomes across a wide range of psychological and physical constructs.

Curiosity
As we become better connected with our True Self, we find an increased sense of interest, curiosity, and wonder in both ourselves and our natural world. All subjects seem more interesting and relevant as we begin to see the connections between topics and subjects of which we were formerly unaware. Similarly, we become more curious about ourselves and those in our lives. We follow our intuition to probe a little more deeply, reach out to make new connections, and really figure out “what makes people tick.” In my experience as a therapist, “stay curious” has become a mantra that has led me to many unexpected, yet wonderful, places with my clients.

Calm
The True Self is also defined by a sense of physical and mental calm. While the average person’s thoughts and emotions may be similar to ripples in a pond or waves in an ocean, the mind of the True Self is a lake whose surface is as smooth as glass. When a disturbance enters this mind, the ripples are easily distinguished from the otherwise serene setting. Awareness is effortless, and the calm mind can simply wait and observe the ripples fading away on their own accord. In more real-life terms, a person who is “in Self” tends to feel grounded and secure rather than pressured, restless, or irritable. This sense of calm facilitates clear thinking and actions rather than impulsivity and reactivity. However, this serenity does not imply passivity. Instead, it is similar to a strong, steady current; it does not rush but is firm in its path.

Clarity
Clarity is somewhat synonymous with the Buddhist term of “clear-seeing.” This increased perception allows the individual to see life truly as it is, without the filter of previous experience, projections, negative emotions, or burdens from the past. Children are often wonderful masters of clarity. Because of their youth, their experience of the now isn’t colored by what they’ve been through before. This freshness allows them to perceive their environment and explore with a sense of wonder that adults often lack in all of their age and experience. In addition to experiencing one’s environment with clearer perception, clarity can also be focused back on oneself. In this state, we become more aware of our own motivations, needs, desires, strengths, and weaknesses. If we’re lucky, clarity is also accompanied by an intuitive knowledge of how we can best understand and heal ourselves.

Connectedness
One of the common fears of developing these leadership capacities is that this new, powerful form of being may alienate oneself from others. In a phrase, “It’s lonely at the top.” However, when relating to others from the True Self, you find that there is no “top” or “bottom.” On the contrary, all of your relationships begin to take on a subtle but more organic feel to them. Conversations require less effort. You’re naturally interested in the lives, experiences, and opinions of others so personas and feigned interest are no longer needed. You feel bound together in a common sense of humanity, and a feeling that “we’re all in this together” becomes a more consistent presence in your life. You may find that you’re also more connected to the world around you. Colors, smells, tastes, and physical sensations may take on a new appeal as you become increasingly aware of your surroundings and your place in them. We may even become more connected with our own bodies. As we experience our bodies from the True Self, we are more in tune with our biological needs, when we push our bodies too far, and what our bodies may need to rebalance.

Creativity
Because the True Self is less bound by expectations, fears, and experiences of the past, it has fewer restrictive boundaries in the present. This flexibility naturally lends itself to an increased sense of creativity, and parts that once seemed separate now come together in innovative and dynamic ways. Paths that, at one time, seemed closed become reopened and new; previously unconsidered possibilities become available to us. This creative capacity can be seen in various aspects of our life such as work, recreation, home life, and relationships. For example, a couple who has experienced negative relationship patterns may find new and interesting ways to listen to, communicate with, and support one another.

Confidence/Courage

While confidence and courage do have somewhat different qualities, I will group together here for the sake of discussion. The natural leadership qualities of the True Self are accompanied by a sense of wisdom, knowing, and self-assurance. This sense of confidence and courage does not bleed into arrogance; it is merely an accurate and appropriate assessment of the internal resources and skills that one is aware they have. In addition, this confidence/courage helps us recover when we make mistakes, as all humans do. We have confidence in the idea that, despite our “failings,” we are still a worthy person, and our errors do not define our being. We have courage that, even in the face of criticism, we can admit our wrongs and seek redemption because this way of living is more true to our own personal values.

In his book, “Yoga and the Quest for the True Self” Stephen Cope outlines some of the factors consistent with his personal experience of the true self, but many of these points also align with my own experience as well. Below are excerpts from his text:

  1. A return to the body – “After the second day, she actually had a visceral experience of “landing” on the meditation cushion… After her experience of “landing,” she had a heightened sense of smell, of sight – ‘colors are more vibrant!’ – and of touch, like discovering an entirely new subtle realm of physical reality.”
  2. Relinquishing the attempt to dominate the body – “Even our attempts at creating a healthy or beautiful body may really be saturated with this subtext of domination. Even our practice of yoga may really be about “whipping our bodies into shape. [Eventually] this quality of domination begins to soften naturally. A deep level of exhaustion often surfaces, and the obsessive attempt to override the body begins to collapse under its own weight.”
  3. A new quality of authenticity in caring for the self – “We experience a new quality of authenticity in our caring, which redirects our attention to our health, our diet, our energy, our time-management. This enhanced care for the self arises spontaneously, and naturally, not as a response to a ‘should.’ It feels naturally satisfying.”
  4. A stand against habitual self-sacrifice – “When driven to meet our ego-idea, we do whatever the job takes, not counting the cost to our bodies or minds. As reality emerges, there is usually a very strong stand taken against this ongoing self-sacrifice.”
  5. An enhanced awareness of likes, dislikes, interest, and curiosities – “The person who is waking up to reality is often amazed at the extent to which he’s remained completely ignorant of his own likes, dislikes, interests, and curiosities. For the first time, hobbies and other interests may be pursued not for secondary gain or external rewards, but for simple pleasure in the activity itself. This can be quite a revelation.”
  6. More genuine self-expression and the increased capacity to say “no.” – “But when we know who we are, saying ‘no’ is not a problem, because we know, also, who we are not.”
  7. The relief of being ordinary – “The false self lives with a chronic sense of separation and isolation – born simply of trying too hard. As it begins to fall away, there can be a sense of utter relief at rejoining the human race. There is a new lightness and a new sense of humor.”
  8. The preciousness of particularity and the emergency of idiosyncrasy – “We also begin to value our particular voice, our particular contribution, our particular way of doing things. We become, and others experience us becoming, more and more ourselves. We experiment with a surrender to a deep, and deeply unseen, inner self that only wants to emerge and speak. And we care less about what other people think.”
  9. Using relationships with important others to explore and reveal the real self – “The experience of relating to important others from the core of the real self is the heart of the healing experience. Through this experience comes the proof that the newly revealed self can be borne not just by the self, but by others as well. Many of us undergoing this “waking up” experience are surprised by the enthusiasm of others for the newly discovered self within us.
  10. An increased capacity to see previously denied aspects of reality – “As the false self becomes more transparent, we will probably have some dramatic moments of realizing that the world is not what we thought it was. However painful the truth may be, its recognition is accompanied by a visceral sense of relief. The body likes living in reality. Stepping down onto solid ground of reality always feels better than living in delusion. It may be painful, but there is life in it, energy in it, and, like the ground, it holds us up in a way that delusion does not.”

As I have read and reread these points, I see many of these qualities in my past and current self. I sense my own capacity to live more fully from my True Self, to take on these qualities of self-leadership more regularly in my daily life. I’m equally aware of my fears regarding this transformation, of the things that I will have to let change and let go in order to live in this way.

From where I sit now, I believe that I will inevitably make a return to who I truly am, perhaps many times. In retrospect, I think I will find that it was both one of the most difficult and easiest things I have ever done. I think that, for this journey like many others, there is no skipping to the end. Every step along the path is an important, and I hope that, when all is said and done, I will be grateful for each and every one.

Wholeheartedly,

Neil Martin

Additional readings:

Introduction to Internal Family Systems Therapy

Internal Family Systems Therapy

Yoga and the Quest for the True Self

I Have Nothing New to Teach the World

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“I have nothing new to teach the world. Truth and Non-violence are as old as the hills. All I have done is to try experiments in both on as vast a scale as I could.” – Mahatma Gandhi

I have nothing new to teach you.

In fact, that is the main reason that I have postponed starting this blog for so long, until I came across this quote. After all, the Taoist masters say “Do not speak unless it improves upon silence.” For a long time I asked myself, “What do I have to contribute that has not already been said?”

Here, Gandhi reminds me that teaching is not solely the act of giving knowledge to others; sometimes it is serving as a source of activation for people’s innate, underlying wisdom. In other words, to awaken self-knowing in others. Like a tuning fork that is struck and placed by its brother, resonance in one awakens resonance in the other. I believe that the important messages of life haven’t really changed over time. Instead, it seems that there are internal truths that we all know by our very nature as human beings but need to have reawakened at different points in our lives.

In the coming months, I hope that this blog will serve as a focal point for wisdom, exploration, and guidance for myself, others, and maybe even you. Current topic under consideration include the following:

Hope
Surrender
Enlightenment
Anger
Shame
Minimalism
Simplicity
Skipping to the End
Beginnings
Vulnerability
Strength
Productivity
Multiplicity of the Mind
Being alone
Connectedness
Compassion, Self-compassion, Compassion for others, Compassion for the world
Forgiveness
Emptiness
Play
The Wisdom of Children
Loss and grief
Impermanence
Letting go
The true self
Self-care
Motivation and interest
Your first therapy session
Clarity or Clear-Seeing
Equanimity or Holding the Center
Yoga and the True Self – Qualities of a Transformational Space
Love
Awareness
Non-judgment and Curiosity
Balance/Balancing
Enoughness

Many of the ideas herein are mirrored by my fellow bloggers or in other forms of media. I may not be the most poetic, insightful, or entertaining writer among these artists, but that can be ok. All I hope for is that my perspective on these issues will speak to you in a new way, simply because it is mine.

In conclusion, I feel that most people already know their truths; they’ve just lost touch with them somewhere along the way. We shy away from our own potential out of a fear of what we might become, or out of what we might have to let go to be the most authentic version of ourselves. So, similar to Gandhi, my message will be an experiment. One which I hope will help awaken your own curiosity, wisdom, and authenticity.

Wholeheartedly,
Neil Martin