July 29, 2016

How Your Mind Affects Your Life And How You Can Rise Above It


Oh, the mind . . . With all of its fears and worries, it sure can make our lives difficult.

Every day, I'm trying to be aware of the thoughts in my mind, filtering out all that is untrue, harmful and not needed. I've been doing this for years. And throughout these years, I've learned a lot about my mind.

Your mind determines your life.

The way we think affects more aspects of life than we might realize. The way we think determines how we see the world. If we view it as hostile or friendly. If we are afraid of a stranger on the street. Or the dark at night.

It determines the way we see ourselves. What we think of ourselves determines how we will act. If we label ourselves in our minds, that's how we will act, since that's who we think we are.

What we think about the events in our lives affects our reactions to them. If we tend to see the problem in everything, we will be tired and moody a lot of the times. If we constantly worry, we will be anxious. These are all thoughts in our heads. Unnoticed whispers that dictate our lives, who we are and how we see the world around us.

The mind is creature of habit.

And that means we act out of habit.

I have always been an anxious person, even as a little girl. I don't remember a time when I wasn't constantly worrying about something, even when I was three years old. Now that I'm aware of the thoughts in my mind, I see how my mind's impulses never changed. It still has the same habits as it had when I was a child.

Day-to-day we have the same thought patterns. The same things make us angry, anxious or sad. It might seem like something new, but it's always the same thing. Every single time.

The mind can even find new triggers to achieve the same response if you're over the usual one. But it always finds ways to make you feel that usual feeling that you should be used to by now, but you're not, since it seems like something new every single time.

The mind's habits are hard to break.

We should learn to let go of our thoughts. Not to take them seriously. Know that they are just thoughts and nothing more. Not let them limit us or the people around us. Not let them taint the world we see with darkness.

Yes, it is possible. But the mind is stubborn beast. If life were a video game, the mind would be the final boss. Because if you clear that level, you clear everything. The world opens up. And you're free.

It's hard not to listen to the mind.

What makes rising above the mind so hard is that it's not easy to doubt our own thoughts. What can we trust in if not our own thoughts, right?

But that's the thing: our thoughts are just thoughts. They don't portray reality, they bend it and make us believe that that distorted picture is the truth. What we think of others is not truth. What we think of ourselves is not either. And how these thoughts taint the perception glasses in front of our eyes: How can that be anything more than distortion?

The mind does not know the future. It distorts the past. It even ruins the present with its worries and delusions. And it limits people. But in order to rise above it, we have to realize that we really don't know anything. And for us humans, who cannot leave a single question unanswered, even if it means inventing an answer, that is an incredibly hard thing to do. Like I said, final boss.

You can respond to your mind.

Humans are unique in the sense that we can be aware of our own thoughts. And that means that we can choose our response to our thoughts if we want to.

How this goes by default is that the mind produces some kind of thought, and we just go with it. Take a dog for example. You cannot explain to it that the sound of thunder means no danger. It will be afraid, because it doesn't know better. That's kind of our default setting as well.

When we think our partners might be cheating, we get jealous, even if they haven't done anything. When we think we might not be good enough for someone, we get sad or angry, even if we mean the world to that person. And if we think we're getting sick, we get anxious, even if it's only caused by the usual anxious thought in our heads. But humans can do better. That's the hidden level of the game--the level above the mind.

Even if that instinctual fear of thunder kicks in, we can respond to it by saying that there's nothing to be afraid of. And that fear inside of us might not pass until the storm does, but we won't run around in circles or hide under our beds like our dogs do. Because we know that the fearful thought and feeling inside of us does not coincide with reality. All it takes is a little bit of awareness.

And this is when we circle back to the fact that the mind is a creature of habit. Because once we know the habits of our own minds, we can recognize them. When we are angry or anxious or sad, we can know that it is the same thing that happened yesterday. Or the week before. We see the thought pattern behind the feeling. That thought pattern that is unique to us. And now we know that just like our instinctual fear of thunder, we don't have to take it seriously.

So we can react to it with peace. We can calm the mind that wants to rise above us so bad like a dark cloud. We can start being the masters of the mind, instead of being its slaves.

It is not easy. It is the biggest boss of the game. Maybe it's not even a boss, but the game itself. And every day we have to make an effort to go through a level. We might not be able to leave the game behind, but we can learn to master it. And even if it's hard sometimes, we can make it hella fun, that's for sure. It's just a game, after all.

“Mind: A beautiful servant, a dangerous master.” - Osho

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July 22, 2016

What To Do When You Don't Like Yourself


I'm sure everyone reading this is familiar with the feeling of not liking who you are. Sometimes the hardest people to be around is ourselves.

It is great to recognize our faults and work on them, but it's easy to fall on the other side and end up criticizing everything about ourselves.

Our goal is always a happier, calmer life. And that cannot be reached if we don't become friends with ourselves.

It's so easy to think about all the things we don't like about ourselves and how we want them to change. Wanting to be a certain type of person can be like wanting to own a big house or any material possession--no matter how much we achieve, it will never be enough.

There will always be something bigger, something better to strive for.

Our human minds want to label and define everything they see, and that includes ourselves. What kind of people do we want to be? Do we always act like that? Do we fit that mold? Of course we don't, because human beings cannot be labeled. We don't fit a single mold. And that's fine. That's how we were meant to be.

Even the most peaceful person is angry sometimes, even the happiest person is sad. Because we are not one dimensional characters that exist to fit some kind of mold. We are all complex, undefinable creatures, and that's how we should be.

Kids in school often make fun of each other when someone comes to class one day wearing something different than they usually do. I remember always being so nervous whenever I wanted to try something new, because I knew my classmates would point it out and make fun of me. If someone dressed in a different style, they could even get called "fakes" or "posers" or something of that nature.

And that makes one feel like we should never try to be anything else than what we are right now. Because that's who we are. But who is that exactly?

These are the roles we assign ourselves, and they can be anything. Good mother, peaceful meditator. provider husband, successful businessman/woman, independent guy/girl, nerd, jock, pretty girl etc. We think these roles are who we are. And if we ever act outside of them, we feel like we have committed an unforgivable sin.

But these labels, these roles, exist only in our minds. We cannot be defined. Because what happens to the provider husband if he loses his job? What happens to the peaceful meditator if they get angry? Or the jock if they get injured? Will they cease to exist?

No, but they will have to realize that they were not who they thought they were. Because our thoughts can often be unreliable.

The ones who truly love us do not love us because of a role we fill. If they only love our roles, it is not us who they love. A person who truly loves you will love you no matter what mood you are in, no matter what job you have or house or amount of money. Because true love knows that a person cannot be limited--it just loves, unconditionally.

So what is there to take away from all of this?

1. You can be anyone, so be no one.

Without roles and labels, life is so much more comfortable. Because stuffing ourselves under these labels is like living in jeans one size too small. It's uncomfortable, because it's not what we were meant to wear.

2. It's okay to just be.

You don't have to strive to be something all the time. You don't have to think about who you should be. If you live from your heart, without thought, you will be the best version of yourself. You will love to be around yourself and so will your loved ones.

3. Imperfection is natural.

Forgive yourself for not being perfect all the time. Once we embrace our faults and realize that they are normal, they become a lot easier to carry.

4. You can be your own best friend.

Just like you accept your loved ones as they are, you can accept yourself as well. It's okay if you don't feel amazing and perfect all the time, you can embrace the uncomfortable feelings inside of you just like you embrace the highs. As we have established, true love doesn't simply love a role. It loves the person, unconditionally. Your unconditional love should include yourself as well. 

5. Love knows no boundaries.

The best thing about the ones who truly love us is that they love us, not an imaginary picture of us. And we can never lose who we are. So don't worry about not being enough for people. For those who truly love you, you will always be enough by simply being

So don't strive to be anyone. Because ultimately, you can only be someone in your mind. In reality, you are undefinable, wonderfully infinite. So just let your mind rest, and move the way your heart makes you move. You are enough, complete and perfectly imperfect, always.

“Give up defining yourself - to yourself or to others. You won't die. You will come to life. And don't be concerned with how others define you. When they define you, they are limiting themselves, so it's their problem. Whenever you interact with people, don't be there primarily as a function or a role, but as the field of conscious Presence. You can only lose something that you have, but you cannot lose something that you are.” - Eckhart Tolle

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July 15, 2016

How to Worry Less About Your Health


Health anxiety is an extremely common problem, and even if we're not typically anxious people, we all worry about our health sometimes.

Many of our anxious thoughts center around our health or our bodies in some way. Everyone knows what it's like to worry about getting sick or to fear we'll faint in a stressful situation.

For some people, however, worrying about health is a more frequent thing. This post is for them.

I'm a person who tends to worry about my health and my body as well. But I'm also a person who aims to live mindfully and who is always working on her unhealthy habits.

Worrying about our bodies is a useless habit.

It accomplishes nothing besides making us feel bad. So the very first thing we should realize is that all that work we put into worrying--it accomplishes nothing.

All of our worries reside in our minds. Worries are no more than thoughts in our heads. And when we believe said thoughts, that's when anxiety arises.

It is the thoughts we must respond to when trying to eliminate this habit.

Usually, one's response to a worrisome thought is the following: First, we believe it, of course, because we don't know better. We must have this thought in our heads because there is something wrong. So we grab onto the thought and think about it again and again, twisting and turning it in as many directions as we can. And with that comes the feelings of anxiety, sadness and the like.

Worrisome thoughts will continue to pop into our minds. That's just how our heads are--they produce thoughts, and that's okay. What matters is how we react to these thoughts. That's what determines everything.

When the thought arises, that's when we should step in. Since then, we can recognize that it is just a thought, and we can choose our response carefully instead of going with our habit of spiraling it out of control.

We all have our own habitual thought patterns. So it's a great idea to come up with responses to these thoughts that you can easily bring to mind when you need to.

To thoughts that target health and the body, you can respond by saying:

It is not my problem.

Well, that sound weird. Let me explain why this is a powerful and appropriate response, and if you'd like to word it differently, you can, of course.

Our bodies take care of themselves. Whatever we think in our minds does not affect it. For example, our thumbs won't start hurting suddenly, no matter how much we think about it. We might make ourselves feel uncomfortable, but that's all we can do with our heads.

Our bodies are magnificent machines. Even if we eat unhealthy foods, they work their hardest to dump all the bad stuff (no pun intended). If we break a bone or get a wound, they heal themselves without us ever having to think about it.

Our bodies take care of us without us having to spend a single thought on them.

So that's what I mean when I say we should respond to anxious thoughts about our bodies by acknowledging that it's not our problem. By not my problem, I mean not the mind's problem. Our physical health is our bodies' to take care of. And they are doing a better job at it than our heads could ever do.

And isn't that the most comforting realization? I noticed that the most profound ones are also the most comforting.

As long as we feed our bodies healthy foods and keep them fit and rested, there's nothing more we have to think about. Our bodies are the ones taking care of themselves, they are the ones taking care of us. The mind just likes to believe it is calling the shots.

So next time when a worrisome thought pops into your head about your health, tell your mind to stop making a fuss, because it's not its problem. You are taken care of.

A guided meditation on the topic can be listened to here.

"Our body is a machine for living. It is organized for that, it is its nature. Let life go on in it unhindered and let it defend itself." - Leo Tolstoy

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July 8, 2016

Make a Bad Day Into a Good One: Forget What's In Your Head


There are days when we are feeling good, and there are days when we are not feeling so good. I've noticed one key difference between the two.

What we think.

Even if we try to live a mindful and peaceful life, worries sometimes get the best of us. Last week, I was worrying left and right. Needless to say, I wasn't feeling so great. But I tried to accept it as if I had chosen it and react to my discomfort with peace. To a peaceful mind, everything surrenders.

After a couple of days, I stared feeling fine again. And now I can look back and observe what the difference was between my two states of mind.

My external circumstances didn't change, still, I was feeling horrible one day and great the next. So what did change?

Everything in my head, that's what.

When I was feeling good, I had forgotten about everything I had worried about the day before. Those thoughts were not in my mind anymore. That was the only difference--the thoughts in my head. And yet, they made all the difference in the world.

Even if my feelings were caused by external events, the mind can make us see reality a lot worse than it actually is. Our brains automatically notice the negative in everything and stick to it, that's just how we're wired. But we can make an effort to see the world a little bit more neutrally, closer to the way it actually is. The eyes we choose to see with determine the world, after all.

How we feel is always determined by what we think.

Once we realize that our thoughts don't serve us, and we would be better off not thinking them, we can start letting them go. But how do you forget a thought? Trying to forget is basically the same as remembering.

Step one: Calm the waves

First, realize that the thought is just a thought, not reality. Then, you can practice emptying your mind, calming the waves of that ocean inside your head. You can even close your eyes for a short while and calm your mind as you rest your attention on your breathing.

The key is not to entertain the negative thoughts inside your head. Don't engage with them, snowballing them into something even bigger. Let them flow through you without attaching to them.

Step two: Step out of your mind--live

What is extremely important when it comes to any kind of thought induced feeling is that we shouldn't think it can define us or how we live our lives. All too often, I hear people say "I can't do this because of my XYZ."

That is allowing a thought, something not even real, to influence how you live your life. That is insane. So after calming your mind as much as you can, step out of it and live your life. The way you want to live it. You can do anything. The only thing stopping you is the thought in your head--something that's not even real.

Conclusion

A great burden is lifted off of our shoulders once we realize that the problems we have are only in the mind. That the difference between a good and a bad day is what we harbor in our heads. We can allow life to happen without constant thinking, analyzing and preparation. So let's practice stepping out of that thought cycle together, into the place where life actually happens: outside the mind. I promise you, it is the greatest place to be.

"Problems only exist in the human mind." - Anthony de Mello 

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