Thursday, November 3, 2011

Life is a series of choices.

Do you like who you are? Great, decide to stay on that path. Do you hate things about yourself? Stop deciding to be that way then. A lot of people feel as if they are being pulled around by life, never stopping to realize that they are holding the reigns which guide them. In other words, too many people don't take responsibility for themselves. I have often pondered what being an "adult" really means. I have decided that it means not turning 18, or getting a job, or even moving out or starting college, but taking responsibility for yourself. It is when you become mentally self reliant and stop needing constant validation from others to prop you up. It is when you decide to stop spewing your negativity all over other people when you are frustrated, because you realize that your problems are yours to deal with(this doesn't mean we shouldn't all vent every once in a while), and you don't need to bring others down to your level. We all have this potential within ourselves but we often forgo it.

To become aware of the multitude of choices we face each day; (deciding how we will react, the choice to hold onto anger, the choice to make things either hard or easy on ourselves), is to experience freedom. How hard are you on yourself? One thing I have noticed about myself and multiple others is that though we may treat others with great respect, listen to them, and encourage them, we belittle and punish ourselves. Why shouldn't we treat ourselves with at least an equal amount of respect as our closest friends? Would you tell a friend of yours who just confided in you that they are probably going to fail, because they have so many times before? Or that they should just keep quiet or give up to avoid embarrassment? Hopefully not. A great challenge to give yourself is only allowing your mental dialogue to stay in as respectful of a zone as a conversation with your best friend would. We are human just as they are and though we may have to live with past choices we regret, this doesn't make us any less worthy of respect and understanding. Learn to let go of regret. Stop reliving painful scenarios and agonizing "what-ifs". Develop an ever present awareness so that when you get stuck in a circular mode of thinking, you can realize how pointless it is and snap the hell out of it!

Wake up to the choices, they are present in every single moment. It is never too late to start changing. Every breath shapes who you will be. Quit your negative tirades and realize that this is your life! The one and only. Accept nothing but the best! Give nothing but the best. It's too short to half ass your way through it. Your external actions and demeanor reflect your inner-self... What vibe are you giving off? One of confidence and joy or one of self hatred and insecurity? Humans are impressionable. Every single interaction, no matter how seemingly miniscule or insignificant, affects you. Ever noticed that coming into even brief contact with a joyful person leaves you feeling a bit joyful yourself? Ever sit in a room with an emotional vampire who literally seemed to suck the life out of everyone within a 10 foot radius?

We are all inter-connected, affecting each other without even realizing it half the time. Any idea you currently hold is just another version of an idea someone else had, or the combination of ideas that already existed. We all influence each other. Take the time to shape yourself into something good, something inspiring. Take the time to get to know yourself. Question your beliefs and how they got there. Ask people questions. Stop worrying about how stupid you look; if anything the only thing making you look dumb is your hesitation and self doubt. Life doesn't wait for self doubters. There are plenty of vibrant people out there spreading happiness and taking advantage of all of the opportunities they are presented with because they look for them. Which type of person would you rather be?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Why pain and joy are 2 sides of the same coin.

     Here's something I'm starting to realize and want to pass along... It's okay to be sensitive. I am just now derailing my long held subconscious belief that emotion = weakness. The ones able to feel deeply are the luckiest ones, for though they may suffer more pains in the heart than their fellow humans, they will also feel the deepest awe and appreciation. They will see magic in every day occurrences that leave others saying "what's so special about that?" I still marvel at the beauty of the moon each and every time I see it, and I hope that never changes.

I've seen more than one person cry in front of me and then apologize for it. They may as well say "Sorry for being human." It's simply nonsensical. When I see someone cry, I feel it. This means I, like many others, am gifted with empathy. This is what connects us and makes us alive. No one is made of steel and no one should pretend to be and then feel bad for failing.

A smart person I know said this yesterday:
"Any experience is better than no experience. Only the body-mind qualifies some experiences as bad and others as good. So enjoy your suffering cause it means you EXIST, you lucky bastard!"

So let's stop automatically placing certain emotions in the "bad" category while classifying others as good. I'm glad to feel sadness because it makes my happiness that much sweeter. I am glad to feel joy because there was a time when I did not:
I used to be hooked on Oxycontin and was a literal zombie. Having the drug was a prerequisite for (false)happiness. I have a memory of Christmas over at my ex's mom's house and getting off work to go over there, and being so pissed and feeling so hopeless that he had not found a way to get some. I had to fake the happiness I displayed over there. I needed OC to do anything, even go open presents that my boyfriend's mom bought me. I remember barely being able to eat any of the amazing meals they had over there for Thanksgiving or Christmas because I ate so rarely and my stomach couldn't handle more than a few bites. It was bittersweet because some of it was almost enjoyable, would have been had I not been so far from normal, yet my mind was hijacked by this craving and angst present due to the absence of being high.
My life was nothing but angst. It was such an odd feeling being around normal people who didn't need drugs or even alcohol, hearing them banter good-naturedly and being unable to have a genuine smile in response. I did not feel anything but craving. I could never fully relate to them because I was in such a different universe, constantly. I tried and probably often failed to look normal rather than empty. It's rather uncomfortable to recall these things but I would not trade any of those experiences because I appreciate things so deeply now. This is an extremely personal experience that I'm externalizing because though I would have been ashamed of it once, I am not now. I felt what it was like to feel like a walking dead person and now bask in simply being alive! So don't apologize for your emotions, embrace them!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Do you suffer from anxiety?

Stop over thinking things!

Ever have one of those days where you wake up feeling fine and before you know it you're a tense-shouldered ball of stress? This may feel like the result of a phone call, rear ending someone, a comment from a friend or enemy, or some other various external force, but in reality is the result of your reaction to said external force, which no one but you can claim responsibility for. I believe things like this can be traced back to one thought... often times a "What if...?" As a recovering chronic over-thinker, let me tell you that there is hope for those of you suffering this inconvenient and mentally debilitating ailment.

First of all, every thought is a choice, a window of opportunity if you will. Most people simply have a thought, that leads to another thought, that leads to another thought, and so on. They end up somewhere down the negativity river, drowning in stress, either wondering how this happened or automatically attributing their problems to "who they are". What a lot of people overlook or never bother to realize is that our ways of thinking are there because we've spent so much time ingraining them habitually without even realizing it. They end up getting stuck on a negative thought and seeing everything through a lens of self hate or irritability. Often times this has little to do with "who we are" at our core, since we are all in a constant state of change at any given moment, and more to do with habit. The beauty of this is that we can undo these harmful mind-habits and form new ones. Your mind has been trained a certain way. If this way is unsatisfactory, re-train it! Blaming something you don't like about yourself on "the way you are" is a cop out. It's pure laziness.

The trick to worrying less or becoming a less angry person or what have you, is not contingent upon getting rid of those thoughts, but learning to have them, acknowledge them, and decide not to let the thoughts consume you. The first time you do this will be extremely empowering, and you'll see how much of your stress has been completely pointless and preventable. Compare your obnoxious, negative thought (be it a craving, a self depreciating mantra, judgment, etc) to a kid throwing a temper tantrum when he doesn't get his way. Do you bend to the will of the child every time? Do you get angry and snap at the child every time? No. But you also can't pretend he isn't there. What you want to do is acknowledge the child's concern and watch him.

Maybe whatever situation you're stressing over at the moment feels worthy of stress to you. You may be thinking to yourself, "I have a valid reason to feel this way! Why should I stop?"
Maybe you do have a valid reason to feel the way you do, but unfortunately, that is completely irrelevant unless you plan to testify about your situation in a court of law. This isn't about whether or not you feel justified in your concerns, this is about deciding to deal with them in a healthy way, while hurting yourself as little as possible.

Maybe you need to figure something out and it's weighing on your mind heavily until you do. That's all well and good, but many of us seem to have a tough time finding the cut off point for "figuring something out". We either make a split decision, and spend a lot of time worrying over whether it was the correct one, or we're slow to decide but agonize over the variety of choices.

I find that if I'm doubtful about which choice to go with, I select the one that can be reversed most easily. That way, I have a chance to test the waters and can amend my decision if necessary. Some people look down on those who change their minds often, as if being mature enough to admit you made a mistake is a bad thing.  Think about it, would you rather be consistent regardless of new information you acquire proving your previous theory wrong, or advance along with your knowledge, and know you're making the right choices for yourself? Don't let those proverbial and arbitrary "rules" get you down. YOU decide what you think and do.

It's hard not to over think the variety of options we're sometimes faced with, and though it's very difficult, one of the best guidelines I have discovered is that stepping away and coming back later will give you a fresh perspective, and more often than not, a gut feeling to work with. Our intuition is correct a lot of the time, but nothing squashes that killer insight faster than being overly analytic. The best secret I've discovered to getting rid of anxiety is simply choosing to realize that most things don't need to be analyzed, and if I choose to analyze them anyway, I'm only torturing myself.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Keeping a Journal.

      No matter how much you progress as a person, chances are you usually feel as though you still have a long way to go and a lot to improve. You are, after all, your own worst critic. There's nothing inherently wrong with wanting to improve yourself, but it's easy to forget how much we accomplish with new goals constantly popping up all the time.

The best way that I've found to keep track of progress or personal evolution is keeping a journal. Though I always have things about myself that I want to work on, reading over entries from a few months ago give me no choice but to accept that I have moved forward from where I was and deserve some credit. Also, it's a great way to organize thoughts or find out how you feel about something. You may feel like you know what you think about everything, but a lot of times without some type of structure our thoughts turn on themselves, start to be cyclic, or wither and die. A lot of times I find my opinion along the way when I'm writing. Something that may seem like a mundane thought at the time(and would've otherwise been forgotten) can be a spark of inspiration when we look back on it a few weeks later. You find patterns in your thinking, consistencies are realized, dots get connected.

Writing shows you that you've got some interesting stuff up there if you just organize it. I learn something each and every time I write, without fail. I have journals dating back to age 10. I've never kept one consistently(until now), but on and off. It is always interesting to review them and see how much I've changed.

Oddly enough, a lot of times you don't realize how many changes you go through until you have a record to put it in perspective. An example of this would be watching a movie you used to love that now seems ridiculous. I read about the things I spent time fretting over at age 14 and laugh aloud. Those entries can be funny, but it's also good to know that had I not written down my experiences at the time, the memories would be gone. I can read pages from 10 years ago and be transported back to that age, day, and mindset. Reading over these pieces of the past give me a holistic view of where I came from.

A good chunk of the writing I've done throughout my life has been when I'm upset about something. It always helps me slow down and get my nerves under control. Writing is very therapeutic. If you're stressed but can't pinpoint why, sitting down to a notebook and getting your pen moving can bring your troubles into plain sight. So start a journal already. You don't have to be a good writer, this is for no one but yourself. And it doesn't matter if you have no clue where to start. I guarantee if you sit down and force some words out you'll find your direction.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

"I don't know."

     Why do we feel the 
need to know everything, or at least appear like we do? Everyone must be aware of the sheer impossibility of this... So why are we so uncomfortable with saying we don't know? I can't tell you how many times I've thought something about myself would never change; I'd always hate kids, I'd always love cigarettes, most recently that I would never like onions. 

Needless to say I use them almost every time I cook now. I just have to cook them so they aren't as crunchy and I love the flavor. In fact, it feels like something is missing if I go without them now. I like to use concrete examples, such as me disliking onions and coming to find out I just had to tweak them a bit to suit my taste, as metaphors that apply to life. 
Think about what your onions, that you could appreciate only if you treated them differently, might be. I know this is a cheesy example, but bear with me. ;)

I hear people use absolutes all the time; "Always", "Never", "Destined", etc. But is anything really absolute? Even the most obvious examples you can conjure off the top of your head (e.g. "The sun will always be hot") is up for debate. We once thought the world was flat. Einstein's Theory of Relativity was recently challenged. There is even evidence that The Sahara used to be a rain forest. Newsflash: We don't know anything!

    What illusions might you be carrying around that you could benefit from banishing or maybe just questioning?

     So back to the original question, why do we do this? It's because of something that nearly (see me dodge that absolute there?) has; Ego. In my own words, the ego is our own idea of what we are like.
Upon the attainment of some self awareness you'll discover how often you feel the need to defend your sense of self, or ego. This happens when you want to correct someone, or "put them in their place", or when you're afraid to say you don't know the answer to something. This happens when you are afraid what someone will think of you, when you try to impress somebody, or when you say things to come across as a certain way. As ever changing beings, clinging to this notion of "self" is bound to bring torment. And I found that once I started asking questions, such as "Who am I trying to impress here?", "Why do I want myself to seem this way?", "What am I afraid of?" the weak foundations of my ego came crashing down. This may sound like a frightening concept, losing your sense of self. But it is exactly the opposite.

     Once you embrace the notion that you shouldn't cling to a self since you're always changing, you realize you're free to be whatever you want. No more torturing yourself for failing to keep up with the personality you thought you had, or changing your mind about something. Yeah, we all want to be in control of our own lives, but as tightly as we grip this desire, does it ever happen without fail? Absolutely not. You can meticulously plan your life, day, or personality and the only things you can reasonably count on without fail is that you and/or your circumstances are going to change. You'll decide you like or don't like someone after all, or the proverbial rain on the day of your planned picnic will happen. So are you helping or hindering yourself by giving yourself the illusion of being in control? Would it not make more sense to surrender to the fact that you are not? If this sounds a bit radical, try it out for a day or two and see what you think. Every time you hear the voice in your head try to define or judge something, try replacing the assumption with a question. Embrace the power of "I don't know"!

"Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death."

"To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, remove things every day."

Friday, September 30, 2011

"Unexpressed Emotions Will Come Forth Later In Uglier Ways."

        Now I may not agree with Freud about everything, but he was spot on about that one. I am sure you have experience with feeling an emotion of some kind that you didn't want to be feeling or felt like you shouldn't be feeling, repressing it, repeating that process a few times, and then finally blowing up or bursting into tears.
First of all, there is no such thing as things you "shouldn't" be feeling. The things you feel are the things you feel and the best way to deal with them is to accept them at face value, rather than pretend they don't exist. Next time you catch yourself beating yourself up for holding an opinion or emotion, ask yourself whose standards you are judging yourself by. Chances are, you won't be able to think of any. We live in a society where strong emotions tend to be frowned upon, so people end up acting as if things don't bother them. This is not the only option you have for dealing with an emotion. No, I'm not saying whenever someone pisses you off you should yell at them, or that your road rage has always been justified. I'm saying you should confront your emotions instead of letting them control you(whether directly, or indirectly.)

Here are some alternatives to blowing up or bottling up:
  •  Write in a journal about it. You'll be amazed at how well this works.
  •  Take a walk, or run if that's your thing. Stretching helps too.
  •  Talk to a friend or significant other... but be conscious of the way you do this. No one wants to listen to someone bitch to them and then turn down every suggestion they give them to try to improve the situation. Ask yourself, do you want to fix your issue, or just complain? If I find that I'm just looking to complain, that's when I choose to reason through it alone or write it out rather than verbalize it to another.

On that note, try not to vent your complaints all over a public internet space. I know that posting a negative status update and letting everyone know how pissed you are feels like you're letting some of your stress out, but in actuality you're just spreading bullshit all over anyone who happens to be your friend on that site.
      Websites like Facebook, Twitter, or yes, Blogger, are a responsibility. You are writing things that will be seen my multiple pairs of eyes. What kind of message do you want to send to the world? Whatever I spend my time online doing, I end up spending at least some time later on in the day thinking about the things I saw or read. This includes everyone's little one sentence status updates on Facebook, and the last thing I want invading my conscious mind is how angry you are you broke your phone, or that so and so talked shit about you to so and so. Even the smallest interaction (or status update, tweet, or blog) has a ripple effect on those around you; be conscious of this.

Here's another great tip: When it doubt, WAIT! Curious about whether you should buy that new expensive item but unsure about whether it's the right choice? Wait. Want to send an e-mail expressing discontent over someone wronging you? Wait. Wanna flip off the car behind you? Wait. If it's that important, it can wait a couple minutes. Take some breaths. Yeah, that's cliche advice but it's cliche for a reason; it works.

They say that stress is a sign that something needs to be dealt with. In my experience, this is nearly always true. This could refer to either a concrete situation or your mental disposition about the situation. The trouble that a lot of people(myself included) have is that they stress over things regardless of whether they can be changed or not. This is not practical and is yet another thing that can only be fixed by staying conscious and aware of what goes on inside your head.

To use a metaphor, thoughts are seeds that will harvest a tree bearing fruit the flavor of the seeds you plant. Chopping down a tree that bears sour or rotten fruit will take much more time and energy than simply planting productive seeds in the first place.
When in stressful situations it really helps to think about how short your life is. I am 22 and though that is young, a third (or fourth) of my life is already over! When I reach middle age, what sort of youth do I want to be able to reflect back on? One spent yelling at cars in traffic, spreading negativity all over the internet, and talking down to myself? Definitely not.

"Fill your head with what's important and forget the rest."

Monday, September 26, 2011

Some ways to be an awesome individual.

Be your best. The best girl/boyfriend, employee, cook, reader, artist, thinker, student of the universe. Any doubt of your ability to follow through with these things will only seal the exact face you wish to avoid.

-Don't take things personal! Most of what people say has nothing to do with you, even if it seems to be directly about you. When you're feeling good, do you feel the need to say negative things to people? Hurting people hurt people. Have compassion rather than responding in anger to critical or judgmental people.

-Don't over analyze things. People are so good at torturing themselves. Buddha was right when he said that "Your worst enemy can not harm you as much as your own unguarded thoughts." You have to live in your mind all day, and you're the only one who can choose the decor. Is your living space enjoyable or painful?

-Be present and aware, respond to your environment rather than reacting to it. Be slower to respond to things, catch yourself each time you feel yourself wanting to label or define everything you see or hear. This is a reflex of a know-it-all and we've all been guilty of it. You don't know everything and neither do I! Practice being okay with not knowing.

-Drink a lot of water; this helps physical energy and mental clarity. It makes your skin look better and your system feel cleaner. Yeah, you might be taking a lot of trips to the bathroom but this is just a little extra exercise.

If you're feeling disenchanted with life, look at it as though you're seeing it for the first time. As though you've just been given a body as a vehicle to explore your surroundings in. None of this is yours, really. It all came from the universe and to the universe it will return. The world will not accommodate those who resist the natural order of things. You'll be left dependent, lost, or disappointed.

Expect nothing, and gain everything... most of all, insight.
Know that no matter how any situation ends up, you gave it your best. This way you can never have regrets.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Black and White.

I don't believe there are many objective truths out there. Lots of people would disagree with me on that, and have a list ready to prove me wrong with. To use a common example that I think a lot of people would agree with, I'll say:
"Murder is wrong."

This belief seems reasonable enough, I mean you do go to prison for doing such a thing, but let's question it for a moment. If someone would have murdered Hitler to save millions of lives, would murder have been wrong? Even the most obvious truths are really not that obvious. It's easy to dismiss things as true or false when you're just looking at them topically.
The more you know, the less you know, because the more you see that nearly every situation differs... especially situations involving human beings. I believe a whole lot of the world's problems as well as individual issues could be solved with this simple fact kept in mind at all times. To think that everything is a certain way, or if not that way, then this way(or "black and white") is to deny personal growth. We have a lot of silly metaphors that end up confining us. What if nothing is black or white? What if it's all gray? Red? Hell, what if it's a rainbow? What if color doesn't even exist?

You are basically throwing in the maturity towel as a human being by assuming that you know absolutely everything, or even everything about a certain subject, person(including yourself), or group of people. You may want to resist this truth with all of your might but you cannot, no matter who you are, deny that you have been proven wrong more than once in your life time. How much resistance did you present in the face of that situation? How agonizing and grueling was it to have to re-design your belief system in the face of defeat?
Why is that? Why do people hate to be proven wrong so much? It's as if they are saying, in so many words, that they despise learning new things.

All great inventors or thinkers of our generation and the ones before it had one thing in common. They questioned what they knew and what they were told. Nothing innovative would ever happen if everyone took what they were told at face value.

If everyone, collectively, decided they were done learning, and that truth as they knew it was truth, plain and simple, where would we be? Where would we go? I'm guessing nowhere fast.
What possibilities are you closing yourself off to by clinging to this metaphor? I ask you to question your personal truths, however seemingly obvious, and see what happens.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Creating your universe.

What is it that makes up you? Take a moment to really let this question sink in.

Is it your personality traits, your outward appearance, your job, your university, your bank account?

What are you? Who are you?

If you answered with personality traits, let me ask you this. Are you the same as you were 5 years ago?
If you answered with your outward appearance, do you look the same as you did when you were 10?
If you answered with your job, how long have you had that position?
None of these things are concrete or unchanging enough to base who you are off of them. They are all circumstantial. Just as your height and personality traits and interests have changed over the years, so has your conception of yourself. We often say that we are "not the same person" as we used to be, and we are absolutely correct. If you think about it, you're not the same person you were yesterday, or an hour ago, or even one minute ago. Each new thought or piece of information you absorb changes you. We, as the saying goes, "learn something new every day". In learning new things or hearing new things we adopt new beliefs and shed old ones, thus consistently existing in a state of change.
Considering all of this information makes the question of what makes you up even more complex.
I asked myself these questions and realized that walking around each day and thinking led me to a conclusion that a "me" existed in objective reality. I never stopped to question it, I just knew it. If someone would have asked me this question I would have said something like, "I can see myself in a mirror and move things around me so of COURSE I exist." But when you stop to ask this question a little more specifically, things start to get  foggier. Circumstances change all the time and people change all the time, so is a consistent self ever really existing? If you still answer yes to this question, can you answer the question of where this "self" exists? You might think your "self" is your body, but if that's the case, how can people experience head trauma only to become completely different people? Is your self your brain? If so, would your personality still exist if your brain was floating in a vat of fluid? All of these questions simply proved to me that the more I pursued or pondered them, the less I realized I knew. Therefore, I concluded that I cannot reasonably assume that a "me" even exists at all.

I came to this realization and my reality was shattered. It was terrifying and liberating at the same time. Once I glimpsed this startling truth I knew I'd never be able to think or live the same way again. It's a little scary to have nothing to identify with, but also freeing to know that you never have to hold yourself to ANY standard again. For example, I've been a smoker for quite some time. Always trying to quit and always failing. Therefore, whenever I'd start another one of my righteous quitting stints, I'd have in the back of my mind that I've done this so many times and failed each time, I just have such limited self control, etc, etc... and in "knowing" these things about myself, I was helpless because of them. I failed every time before that so it was only a matter of time before I failed again.
Another example would be the social anxiety I tend to have. "Knowing" that I am a shy person only causes me to act like one. What if I instead decide to experiment and tell myself I'm not shy? I have tried this and it works. With no conception of a set personality that I subconsciously honor and live up to, I am free to be absolutely anything.

It never crossed my mind to wonder if I was causing these attributes by "knowing" they exist, until very recently. If you really take a second to think of the hugeness of the universe and the pathetically tiny portion of it we understand, and how much of what we understand could be hugely mistaken due to literally everything being perception, it really is absurd to assume we "know" much of anything. Could we then reasonably assume that all this time, we have been wrong about ourselves? Holding ourselves back by holding ourselves to standards of what we did or didn't do in the past? We've all heard the quote that "the best indicator of the future is the past" and you know what? I say fuck that quote. I say that quote is the denier of change, which is inevitable. The only thing permanent is impermanence and the sooner we all realize that, the better off we will be. Try to think of just one example that proves that statement wrong.
The best way to be happy and live to your fullest potential is to approach each day with a blank slate. No day is ever the same so no day deserves to be categorized the same as any other day. Likewise, you are not the same today as you were yesterday, so why hold yourself to the standard of how you were yesterday?

Be open to any and everything that crosses your path. Smell your morning coffee as if for the first time, feel the warm water of your shower as if you never have before, enjoy your meals! We all rush through our daily events or obligations as if we're hurrying to get to something else, only to rush through that when it arrives. What are you rushing towards? What are you preparing for? Your life is NOW. Your life is all these mundane tasks you rush through each day. You are in complete control over the way you're going to perceive yourself and the events around you. It is scientifically proven that the mood you are in affects how much you notice. If you're in a bad mood, you literally have tunnel vision. In a foul mindset, everything that happens to you throughout the day is going to prove to you that your foul mindset is justified... So why not try living without judgement and see what happens? You create your reality.

"To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts." -Henry David Thoreau

Racism? Bigotry?

    If you are like me, you despise bigotry. It is so easy to hate those who engage in these ideas. They are mindless and intolerant. They got 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust, they crucified Jesus, they assassinated Gandhi and JFK. They are everything that is wrong with the world, society, human nature. How can they think the way they do? How can they just devalue an entire group of people for looking or believing a certain way, like placing those sticky little garage sale price tags on items to determine their worth? People aren't tea kettles! Don't they realize that human beings are complicated, each one is different, and the color of your skin does not always correlate with certain behavior?

If you identify with any or all of what was said above, I ask you to adhere by your own standards when considering bigoted people. They, as easy as it is to devalue them for their intolerance, are also individuals, trying to make sense of this messy world in any way they can by categorizing human beings, as you do when you think of them in that sort of light.
Lots of reasonable people think racists would benefit by having a taste of their own medicine.
Let me ask you this, for I am sure you are good intentioned in your hatred of hatred... Are you helping or hurting your cause? Is refusing to view people with refusing views as people that much better than labeling an entire race or religion ignorant or petty or lazy or any other blanket term?

Labeling an entire group of complex individuals is pure laziness, plain and simple. Any time you want to call all ____ people this way, or all racists assholes, you are over simplifying human nature. You are devaluing that individual for obvious reasons, that group for saying they are all some undesirable term or another, and you're devaluing yourself for holding yourself to a mindset of tunnel vision. You may get kicked in the ass somewhere down the line and be proven wrong, but would that happen sooner or later with you being set in a certain belief that discourages new perspectives?
None of us are destined to be a certain way, however strongly we may lean toward accepting the contrary. A lot of good would come from people not holding themselves or other groups to a set standard and being appalled when they don't adhere to it. Imagine the habits you could  break, the insecurity that would cease to exist, the oppression of minorities that could no longer take place.

Are you the same as you were last year? Would you appreciate someone you haven't seen since high school coming up to you and talking to you as if you are still your 15 year old self? No. Treating a racist with intolerance is only perpetuating that which you claim to be so against. They are just people, and although people who hold or have held similar beliefs have played a hand in a lot of misery, more segregation (whether literal or mental) is not going to help. Your first reaction may be to respond with aggression, or interrogate someone who comes out as a racist person. Do you think this will cause this individual to thoughtfully consider your words, stop and think "Wow, you know, I think you're right Bob. I really see the error in my ways. I'm going to stop this." Or do you think this person will go on the ultra defensive and become even more polarized and vehement in his hatred, feeling the need to protect and nurture a belief he holds that he considers part of his identity? Think about it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Importance of Being Aware.

Take a look at your life right now. What emotions are evoked when thinking about the day ahead of or behind you? How do you feel when you think about waking up tomorrow? Are you excited to jump out of bed or do you groan when reviewing your obligations for the day?
As human beings (or working cogs in the great machine that is America) we all, to some degree, accept obligations we'd rather not do as inevitable. For example, I bet you've met some people who were less than excited to get their wisdom teeth removed, or for the proverbial blues-inducing Monday.
Do I believe the time we spend drudging through activities we hate should be limited? Yes... but how do we make those obligations we tried to escape and saw no way out of more manageable?

What makes these obligations groan or not groan worthy is our attitude about them. Yes, I'm stating the obvious here, but hear me out. Where do attitudes start? Certainly not the moment they enter your consciousness. They go much deeper than that. Your brain makes thousands of associations a day, many of them subconscious. These may come from friends giving you opinions, the way your parents raised you, a television program you follow, the music you listen to, etc, etc, you get the idea. Every attitude you currently hold is due to a previous association. Are you one of the many who find themselves in a slump and wonder how they got there, feeling powerless to get out of it? Do you get lost in thoughts and seem to "wake up" from them, realizing that you just spent the last 35 minutes entertaining self reinforcing and circular thoughts? Perhaps you find yourself going on autopilot, or "zombie mode" when completing monotonous tasks. You are not alone and this is normal... For people who are not mindful.

To rid yourself of painful associations, to cure bad moods, to kick a habit you've been wrestling, you name it, you must start with identifying your thought patterns. No exceptions! Changing something about yourself that you don't like is so much easier than it is made out to be. Awareness does wonders. Simply acknowledging your thoughts(without judging yourself, this is key) consistently will make the less than beneficial ones disappear.
The reason why you have associations or attitudes that you feel are hardwired into your being is because you've spent so much time being unmindful and have no idea how those attitudes came to be. You just attribute them to your personality, or in other words, accept them as inevitable. In staying mindful and aware of your thoughts, you never have to demolish a building of negativity surrounding a core idea you hold because you'll stop the seed of the idea from being covered in soil and nourished unwittingly. In being unaware of each thought you have, you are unknowingly serving thoughts that you have no control over.

"A wise man will be the master of his mind, a fool will be its slave."

In truly acknowledging each thought as it crosses your mind rather than having a knee jerk reaction to it, you can decide which ones are worth covering with soil and watering. You will have many thoughts a day that are not worth nourishing. That's okay. In a world of constant external stimuli, you're bound to soak up some of the rays every now and again... but don't rent space in your head to just any idea! Make it a good one. Encourage empowering ideas and question ones that try to steal your joy or confidence. Question the less than satisfactory ones until they show themselves for what they are, flimsy, no-good notions that don't deserve any more of your head space than necessary.
We have all had thoughts that rob us of our personal power, and I probably wouldn't be venturing too far to say that we've all attempted to suppress those thoughts. It makes enough sense, right? Bad thought, don't want thought, terminate thought. Wrong. The trick is, that trying to squash or resist or combat a foe of a notion is only going to reinforce it. You must accept the craving, the jealous pang, the insecure emotion, for what it is, and deal with it from there. Telling yourself it doesn't exist isn't going to get you anywhere(not for long at least).
Get to the root of why these thoughts come up so much. How did this habit form? Trace it back to it's logical starting point and tackle it from there. Each idea has equal merit at it's presentation. It is what you do with these ideas that counts, for those ideas will soon be you.

 "Fill your head with what's important, and forget the rest."