Habit Ain’t a Dirty Word

Forming habits to give yourself more freedom and happiness

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Habit. Is that a dirty word to anyone else? I always associated two things with the word habit: doing something bad and lack of freedom. I saw nothing positive in habits.

That’s the former me, though. I like habits now, but the idea of habits (good or bad) sounded terrible until this past year. Words even associated with habit felt icky: practice, routine. Bleh, boring, right? I guess that’s the way you look at them until you see the benefit of them.

The funny thing is that the good ones are easier to form than breaking the bad ones. At least that’s the case for me. I’m thinking about habits because I’m considering trying the break the big one.

I bite my nails. I have bitten my nails my entire life. It’s a bad habit. A disgusting one, too, but there have been few times in my life that I haven’t bitten them. I’m not sure that I’m there yet, to be honest. But I’m considering trying to break it.

When I thought about my nail-biting habit and wanting to stop it, I started thinking about habits in general. My nail biting has always been a bad habit. I have always struggled to stop that. I think because it’s how my brain deals with anxiety and stress. Lord knows there is a lot of anxiety and stress in this world.

What other bad habits do I have? Social media. Which is funny. Before 2016, I didn’t have that habit. Five years ago, I refused to look at my phone on the weekends or at night. Gradually that faded. Starting around 2016, it became a habit. Maybe even an addiction. I’m trying to break that habit a little more too.

I don’t want to be fully disconnected but I don’t have to be that connected. I thought I was going to miss out on the news. Turns out somehow you pick that up by osmosis almost. There is so much information floating around, I don’t have to seek it out it. It finds me and sinks into my brain regardless. It’s weird. I’ve noticed that since I started weaning myself off of social media.

I’m still on there. I still look. But, at least for now, I don’t do it for the first hour of my day. That’s something. We gotta start somewhere.

Breaking bad ones is a hard job for me. It’s easier, I find, when we replace them with something good. But for many years — most of my life actually — I had no good ones. None. I’d try to eat healthy from time to time, but I wasn’t consistent. I’d try to do something creative or just something new, but I wasn’t consistent. So, it’s no surprise, most of those things didn’t stick.

Like I said, I always looked at habit, even the good ones, in a negative light. To me, a good habit — exercising, eating right, general self-care things — was too restrictive. It took time away from other things. It limited my freedom. I wanted to live instead of working out.

Lately, though, I’ve asked myself what are you doing with that freedom? Am I traveling more? Am I happier because of it? Am I enjoying things that I love?

No, I just had more time to sit on my ass. And that’s what I did. Sat on my ass. Plus, I felt worse about myself because I wasn’t eating right and I gained weight.

I started some time back incorporating yoga and exercise into my life daily. I also planned out my meals more and chose healthier foods to eat. I worked at these things until they became second nature. I don’t even really think about them … unless I’m creating a schedule. When I do that, those are the first things that I slot into the day. Those things must happen now. Trust me, that was never the case before.

I was recently thinking about the “best time of my life.” The time I was happiest and felt the best about myself. It was in my late 20s. Not because I was in my 20s, but how I lived my life. It was second nature to me then to have habits. To schedule. To plan things out.

I hate the idea of planning. It destroys all spontaneity. That’s the way I’ve always viewed it — even in my 20s. What I have gradually been learning though is that habits and planning help me. I’m happier. More productive. And believe it or not, freer and more focused on the things I love.

During my happiest days, I was a magazine writer/editor. Constant deadlines, how could that possibly be good? Those deadlines focused my efforts. I also felt like I was overall working for myself. Other than the pay, benefits and a little direction here and there, I was working for myself. I was assigned stories at the beginning of an issue and then I was let loose to get the work done. I had to be disciplined.

I didn’t think it was disciplined then. I was just doing my job the only way I knew how. I remember to this day. I would have four weeks. Each day was planned out. The first week was for interviews and research. I booked the interviews conducted interviews, did online research, and so on. The second week was transcribing tapes and beginning the stories. The third week was finishing up the stories (a draft anyway) and doing any follow up research I needed to do. I finished the stories and sent them to be reviewed. Made the last edits and sent them to design. Then it was production week. I had one or two down days during production week, but I often was getting started on the next issue.

But I had habits in place. A plan. A schedule. A pattern. A routine. All of those dirty words. I was happy. Not only was I happy, but during that time I would spend my lunch breaks writing a novel. A novel I never finished, but I worked on something that meant something to me. And I was able to go home and enjoy my evenings without any stress or worry.

My happiest time was my most habitual time. I just didn’t realize it was habits that caused the happiness. I’m starting to realize that again.

I’m doing more in the first three hours of my day — all for myself, too — than I have been doing in entire weeks in previous years. I’m trying to get in the habit of writing every day. Thus this blog. I’m exercising, eating right, meditating. I’m learning piano and reading every day. I’m looking for jobs every day. I’m studying to get my pilates certificate (or starting that process anyway). And I still have most of my evenings free.

I had to change my mind about habits. They don’t take away your freedom, they actually help you focus on it. That’s why successful writers have a schedule every day. That’s why they live the life we all want … or some of us anyway.

We have to stop looking at habits as a dirty word. I’m the worst at it, so I get it. But habits, planning, scheduling help you make time for what matters most to you. More importantly, it puts the focus back on you and how you spend your time.

Now, you may ask, how does this help make the world a better place? That is the purpose of this blog. Well, if you think about it, everything can be a habit. Just like everything is a choice. We choose to be happy or not. We choose to change or not. We choose to get pissed off while driving in traffic, or we don’t.

Once we choose, though, then habit is what sets it in stone. Without habit, it’s another item on the checklist. Habit makes it a life choice, not a to-do item. And that slight change in perspective can change everything.

We don’t add getting up and going to work to our daily checklist. We just do it. So why not make the things we need or want — like exercise, or eating right, or learning piano — a habit, too.

If we make it a habit to focus on ourselves. To take care of ourselves and be the best person that we can be. It’s less of a struggle. It becomes second nature. You don’t even think about it anymore. It’s just there. It’s like breathing.

If we all develop the habit of being good to ourselves, then we start to look outside ourselves and focus on spreading that love to others. That becomes a habit. A habit of bringing joy to the world. If the whole world then starts to develop the same habits, well, there you go. You just made the world a better place simply by forming good habits for yourself. Ponder on that for a little while.

Peace, y’all.

Saying Uncle

Learning that self-care doesn’t make you superhuman

Did you ever play the game Uncle when you were a kid? The game where you interlace fingers with another kid and then proceed to try to break each other’s hands. You bend the fingers and squeeze them, twist them as much as you can until someone screams, “Uncle!”

It’s a torturous game really, but it’s so much fun when you win. Sometimes I’m a little competitive. I like to win.

Life, sometimes, is a little like that game. It wraps around you, squeezes you, twists you until it almost physically hurts. For me, and I’m sure I’m not the only one out there, saying uncle isn’t an option.

That, I believe, is a fallacy of yoga, meditation and mindfulness. Or perhaps I misinterpret it through my skewed lens on life. I’m a bit of perfectionist in one sense. I am actually just learning this about myself.

I’m a perfectionist in that I don’t believe I can show weakness. That I have to be strong at all times. That I can get through anything on my own. Without help.

That’s how I view the philosophy of yoga and meditation. It helps you overcome these weaknesses. You don’t get upset. You can face any challenge. You can breathe your way through anything.

But that doesn’t allow us to be human. I am fully human when I allow myself to be.

When I played Uncle as a kid, though, I refused to say it. I refused to give in. To claim defeat. I would squirm and twist and somehow slip my hand out of the grip. Technically, I think the other person won in that case, but I wasn’t going to own it. Allow it in any way. If I didn’t say it, they didn’t win.

Some of that is competitiveness. Some of that is stubbornness. I have a little of both in my blood. But some of it, I’m starting to realize in the middle of my life, may come from trauma. I mentioned a while back that I had been told I was traumatized in childhood. This trauma subconsciously impacts everything I do.

My dad had a temper. I couldn’t make too many “mistakes.” By mistakes, I mean, I couldn’t drop things or spill things or accidentally break things. I couldn’t be too loud. I couldn’t be annoying. If I did, I was yelled at. Not a little yell either. If I argued with my dad, he called me stupid. Once he hit me in the eye.

We all go through stuff, I won’t go into my life story. I loved my dad, but he wasn’t perfect. Of course, neither was I. That way of life, though, formed how I view the world and how I behave. I’m a fighter because I had to stand up for myself. I had to believe in myself when my father didn’t. I actually think he did believe in me, but his flaws didn’t always allow that to come through.

Being the baby and 5 years younger than my brother, who was closest in age, I didn’t get a lot of attention. People were busy. I spent my summer’s alone. No form of communication. We didn’t have a phone and I lived in the middle of nowhere. Both parents worked.

So I was home alone from about the age of 9 on in the afternoons and all day during the summers. My school bus driver bought me a birthday cake once. It had green and yellow flowers on base of white icing. No one had ever bought me a cake. I used to sit by him and talk instead of talking to other kids a lot.

I never understood why he bought me that cake until now. I think he bought it for me because I always got off the bus alone and there wasn’t anyone at home. Even my principal drove me home from school when I was sick. My parents didn’t come pick me up.

So I was alone a lot. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. I entertained myself. I fed myself. I took care of myself. I did chores. I learned to be independent and strong. I could do everything on my own. That’s is a good thing. That is positive. And I enjoyed my alone time, so from that perspective, it worked out.

But it also taught me I couldn’t depend on anyone. I had no one around to depend on. It taught me I had to take care of everything myself at all costs. My survival depended on it. My dad’s anger taught me I couldn’t mess up. Be too emotional. Be a kid so to speak.

I am a soft, squishy thing on the inside. Sensitive. Emotional. Kind of a bad combination with the parenting style I grew up with.

So that skews my view of yoga and meditation. Yoga and meditation are a way to help me control those emotions that flare up in me. Helps me work through anything life throws at me. Helps me be perfect on my own.

But I’m not perfect. I’m not superhuman. I think yoga and meditation help me, but they also trick my mind. I forget I’m human sometimes. When I finally lose it, I lose in an explosion of emotion.

Refusing to say uncle. The first time I realized I did this was when my dad was dying of cancer in 2016. My employer let me work from home while I helped take care of my dad. I went home to stay with my parents for a few months.

My dad declined pretty quickly. It started in June and he passed away in September. I was there for the last couple of months. It was tough seeing him in that shape.

He was always outgoing. Talkative. Walked 10 miles a day. A natural salesperson. Made connections easily. Generally a healthy guy, too. No medications or anything.

While he was sick, he couldn’t leave his bed. He couldn’t walk. He had cancer in his bones, mostly around the hips and legs, but it spread throughout. It hurt. He lost weight. By the end, you could see where all the bones connected in his skull. His eyes and cheeks sunken. He was sad. Didn’t talk much. Not at all like himself.

Mostly he was scared. That’s what hurt me the most. He was so scared. My dad hated thunderstorms. He literally acted like a child when one came through. He would curl up and cry.

His dad had left him alone on a hill in the middle of a thunderstorm. He screamed for him to come get him. Cried and cried, he said. He told me that story once. I always remember it.

So seeing him scared made me think of that story. How he seemed like a little kid. I don’t have children but I do have a mothering instinct. So I didn’t want him to be scared. I did everything I could.

My mom couldn’t quite handle the situation. They’d been married for 50-plus years. I can understand why it was hard. My sister as her own challenges, but I’m learning that my entire family does. Myself included. My brother just can’t deal with death.

So that left me. I needed to be the strong one. The dependable one. The one to administer his morphine every 2 hours. My mom helped. I don’t want to say I did everything. But toward, the end, the harder and harder it got, the stronger and stronger I had to be.

One day, I had not really slept for a week. I had not left the house in days. I didn’t go outside because I didn’t want to leave him alone in case he needed anything. I had to watch him too. Sometimes he would try to get out of bed. It’s a form of restlessness that the dying experience.

That day, I decided I was going to go to my home and sleep in my bed for one night and come back the next day. That was the weekend before he died. I didn’t get to sleep at home, but I did leave for a while.

A cousin of mine came to see my dad as I was leaving. He hugged my mother and talked to her for a few minutes and then hugged me as I was walking toward my car. I hadn’t seen him in years. When he hugged me he asked how I was doing.

No one had asked me that. I collapsed. My legs went limp. He had to hold me up. I sobbed like I have never sobbed before. It just came out. I couldn’t stop. I didn’t even know it was in there.

I immediately reeled it back in. Straightened myself up. Wiped my tears, but they wouldn’t stop flowing. He looked at me and said, “It’s alright. It’s OK to cry.”

That’s when I realized that no matter how hard I tried to be superhuman, I wasn’t. No matter how much I thought I could handle. How strong I needed to be. That soft squishy thing that lives inside me needed someone to ask how I was doing.

I stopped crying. I told him it was just difficult seeing my dad that way. Then I left. Perfectly strong as always. But on the inside, I was crumbling.

I’m going through something similar now. This change in my life. Being let go from my job for the first time in my life. Having bills to pay but wanting to change my life at the same time. Struggling to figure things out.

Yet again, I’m trying to face it head-on. I can handle this. I’m changing my life as I said yesterday. But the truth is, I’m scared to death. I have doubts, I’m afraid I’m screwing up. That I’m making all the wrong decisions. I know I want a change, but is this the right time? Am I going about it the right way? Am I going to lose everything?

I’m scared. I’m confused. I don’t know if there is such a thing as the “Dark Night of the Soul.” You read about in certain lines of thought. If there is, I’m going through it. Have been for a year and a half. If not, then I’m just in the middle of a crisis. Doesn’t matter what it’s called I suppose.

I’m single. My friends have their own challenges. My family doesn’t quite understand it. I have no one to talk to about it. I’m not alone, but I feel alone in this.

And that’s part of the fallacy. Yoga and meditation, as great as they are, tell you that you must go through this journey alone. From my perspective, that means, I can’t ask questions. Ask for support. Ask for guidance. The answer is in me.

Well, maybe the answer is in me, but I’m struggling to find it. I’m lost. Blindfolded in the dark just feeling my way around. Trying to find my way out. There are good moments and good things about the process. But there are some really bad ones too. I’m finally admitting it.

I’m finally admitting that I’m scared. That I kind of feel like my world is falling apart. And it’s OK. I’m human. I don’t have to be perfect.

So I’m adding my own rule to the self-care philosophy. Know when to say when. Know it’s OK to reach out to others. They can’t provide the answers for you, but they can support you. Make you feel less alone.

It’s OK to say uncle. So, I’m saying, “Uncle.” I ask that anyone who is reading this blog, if you don’t mind, pray for me if you pray. If you don’t pray, please send good vibes my way. I could use some support getting through this. It will be appreciated more than you will ever know. Because my perfectionistic ass has trouble showing weakness. But not gratitude. I am forever grateful for any kind thoughts someone sends my way.

And if there is anyone out there struggling with anything in life and you feel like you have to be strong. That you can’t be flawed and imperfect. That’s not the way you handle these situations with grace. Grace is knowing your limits. Knowing you’re human and allowing yourself to be human without waiting until you act out.

It’s OK to cry. And it’s OK to say, “Uncle.”

Peace, y’all.

Before I Go

I wanted to say something before I go. I have received comments that I haven’t accepted my situation. Accepted what is happening in my life.

I just want to say those comments are incorrect. Trust me, I have accepted everything in my life. I came from a poor family with a dad who would call me stupid when I pissed him off. I accepted that he didn’t have a perfect life growing up. That he was flawed, as was I. He did the best he could. I know my childhood wasn’t ideal, but it had very good moments. Call it denial or high-functioning mental illness if you will. I prefer to focus on the good points rather than the bad even if I see and accept it for what it was.

I’m not going to detail my entire life. I’ve had to accept a lot of things in my life. This past year, I thought someone cared about me. Maybe even a couple of people. Turns out they didn’t. Oh, I’ve accepted that. I always have. Every man or boy when I was younger that I’ve ever liked has never liked me. Trust me, I have accepted that. That’s why I had given up on finding love … until l thought a possibility was presenting itself to me. But it wasn’t. Still, I accepted it.

Yes, I lost my job. I was let go as part of a layoff. It wasn’t just me, but did I help my situation there? Not necessarily. I wasn’t happy. I didn’t love my job. When asked what I was proud of at work, I couldn’t offer anything. Unfortunately, that was the truth. I was never allowed to do my best work there. My morale suffered. So, did I play a part in it? Probably so.

But two days later, I sat on my sofa and I told myself, “OK, you’re unemployed. You were let go … for the first time in your life. That’s OK. You’re not the only one to go through this.” And I’m not. Millions of people have been let go. So I began my job search.

Do I suffer from depression? Yes, I suppose I do. I’ve never been diagnosed, but I know I get down. And yes, I have done so more in the last few years. Yes, I was told by a therapist that I had suffered some sort of trauma in my childhood. It surprised me. It took me a minute or two to process that. I thought and I thought what could have possibly caused the trauma, and I had no idea. At least not in the traditional sense. No big event or anything. There were little things like being called stupid. Seeing my dad’s anger do harm to other people and pets. Car accidents. A close family member dying when I was a child. So I determined it was that. Just a lot of small ongoing things. I accepted it and moved on.

Yes, I have accepted all of these things. This is my life. It is not perfect, but it is mine. And I can choose to wallow in the bad stuff, or I can choose to pick myself up and move on. Two days after being laid off, I started applying for jobs. And I kept applying and I have done many, many interviews. And I’m still applying. I’m still looking. I’ve accepted I may not find the same kind of job I had before at the same pay rate. So, I’m going to retailers and gyms and applying to their jobs. I’m OK with that. I just need to pay my bills. I’m practical like that.

I’m looking at different ways to make a living. Like getting certified in yoga and teaching yoga while working part-time somewhere else. Maybe I’ll write a book. Maybe I won’t. Maybe it will all change three weeks into starting it.

But to those who say I haven’t accepted it. Trust me, I have. I have sat on my sofa and cried for hours. I have gone to bed crying. I have slept for 12 hours straight some days. I have reached out for professional help. I’ve talked to psychics.

And this blog. My meditation and yoga. My applying for jobs — even those that don’t pay near what I’m accustomed to earning. My understanding that no one has or more than likely ever will love me. All of it means I have accepted it and now I’m trying to move forward. To walk away. There is nothing else I can do with it. I can sit here and do nothing. I can sit here and bemoan how my life has fallen apart. The blog has let me do that to some degree. But it has also let me work through my feelings about some of it so I can move forward and walk away.

I have accepted and I am moving forward. It’s not always pretty. Sometimes I get sad, but I keep moving forward. Otherwise, you will get stuck and stay there. I’m not staying there. If that’s what you consider accepting, then no, I won’t be accepting.

Despite all of these things. Despite being at the lowest point in my life. I fight. I get up and I keep swinging. Sometimes it’s messy. And others watching just want me to stay down. Don’t want me to get up and get hit again. But that’s not life. And although my choices and how I handle it may not look the way you want it to look, I’m accepting and I’m dealing with it. But what I do and the way it looks is not for you, now is it? It’s for me. Is it the right way? Is it perfect? No, it is not. But it has gotten me through my life so far.

And you can call that high-functioning PTSD. High-functioning anxiety. High-functioning depression. Whatever you want to call it. But it is me moving forward. It is me taking responsibility for my life. It is me trying to improve my situation. I wouldn’t be doing any of those things if I had not accepted my life and what is happening in it. You can’t move forward without accepting. That’s just the way it is.

Perhaps I have all of those disorders. All of them. It’s unfortunate. It may be true. But what am I supposed to do? Stop living? Give up my home and everything I’ve earned in life? Is that what accepting is? I guess I don’t even understand why someone would say I’ve not accepted it. I also don’t understand how taking steps to change my life is not accepting it and moving forward.

There are so many things that have happened to me this past year that I don’t understand. Things people have said. Things that have hurt me. Things I have tried to use to better myself, only to fail. I have asked for answers. Explanations. Confronted a lot of things. I haven’t received any answers. And I’m told that my looking for answers is part of the problem. That I’m not accepting.

Well, to that I say I realize you don’t always get closure. There are things in my life, especially this past year, that I will never understand. I will never get answers to. I have accepted that. As painful as it is, I have accepted it.

And you want me to walk away? OK. I will walk away.

But here is one piece of advice that I offer to some of you. If you don’t care about someone. If you are just pretending to care for someone to teach them a life lesson. Or to drive them in a direction you think they should be heading. Or any other reason other than actually sincerely caring about them. Don’t. Even if you think it is the right thing to do. Don’t break someone’s heart unnecessarily. Never lead anybody on for any reason.

You don’t know what someone has been through. You don’t know how they think and feel. You don’t know how they will react. I don’t care if you have some of the best therapists in the world working with you. You can’t fully predict human nature or human experience. You just can’t.

I did this once to a boy in fourth grade. He was my friend. His name was Bernie. We were good friends. He had a crush on me, but I didn’t feel the same about him. Of course, I had a crush on someone else who didn’t know I existed.

Bernie was smitten and I felt badly because I didn’t feel the same. I thought I would help him. I decided that I would agree to be his girlfriend and then break up with him. That way he would move on and start liking someone else. Eventaully we could go back to just being friends.

He played football. He wasn’t a tough guy but he wasn’t one of the softer ones either. Just normal. After I broke up with him, he started crying. I saw tears running down his face. The look he gave me devastated me. It wasn’t the result I had expected.

I had the best intentions. I truly did. I thought it was the best thing to do. It wasn’t. In fact, that was one of the worst things I have ever done. It doesn’t sound like much, I suppose. But it was. I have never forgiven myself for that. I probably never will. I didn’t mean to hurt him. My fourth grade brain didn’t undestand that it would hurt him. I just thought he would like someone else.

That look. To this day, I can still see it. He had on his football jersey and tears hanging onto his eyelashes. I had never seen a boy cry … or not like that. Not for that reason. I never wanted to see that again. I didn’t want to hurt anyone ever again. I have tried my best to never hurt anyone again.

I have, of course, but I try not to. People think that makes me fake. Or something. No. I just don’t want to unintentionally hurt someone. My intention with Bernie wasn’t to hurt him. It was to direct him elsewhere. But it was the wrong thing to do. I shouldn’t have done it and it has impacted my life every since.

Funny how something that small – or in the grand scheme of things is small – can affect you. So yes, I’m conscious of how I interact with others. Yes, maybe I err on the side of not being myself in order to not hurt someone. But I’d rather be alone and not myself than to hurt someone like that again.

So that’s one of the things I’ve dealt with this year. Someone pretending to like me in order to move me in a different direction. Or, as best I can tell, that’s what was happening. Again, I have no answers.

Maybe that’s what this whole thing has been about. Bringing me back around full circle. To that time I hurt Bernie. It was the wrong thing to do. I accept that. Forgiving myself for it? I don’t know yet. It was fourth grade. I was dumb. But I should have never intentially hurt someone — although that wasn’t exactly my intention. I meant to help.

Anyway, there is no point to all of this. It’s a ramble before I close. The death throes of a fucked up year.

I guess in the spirit of this blog my point is to be kind to one another. Be honest. If can avoid hurting someone, avoid it. If you must, try to be honest and caring. Never deceive anyone. And even when you don’t have answers, accept it. Accept it all. Then dust yourself off and carry on.

 

Strange Things Are Afoot

All,

I know there are a few folks out there who follow this blog. I feel like I should give you a heads up out of courtesy. I’ve had some strange things happen online since I started this blog. I’m not sure if they are related to the blog or not. Regardless, I’ll be taking the blog offline in a day or two. Maybe one day when the strangeness goes away (or at least doesn’t feel so strange anymore) I will come back to it.

Thank you for reading it. I appreciate it.

Peace, y’all.

Re-focusing the Unfocused

I want to let you know that I understand I have gotten off track a little on this blog. I’ve stepped more onto the philosophical side of things rather than yoga, meditation, and other self-care topics.

Although I do believe getting to know yourself, clearing out obstacles is part of yoga and meditation and, therefore, part of self-care, it may not be why everyone is here. I will start to steer back toward those traditional topics. It’s just been part of my process. A part I thought may help others.

I am open to your thoughts and comments, however. Thank you!

The Sound of Birds

The importance of mindfulness for making choices that better serve us

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It’s funny how people can see things so differently. Choice may be the most powerful tool we have as a species. It can change our behaviors, our thoughts and, as far as that goes, our environment.

But we have to be in the right frame of mind to make our best choices. The pace of this world right now … we’re probably not making the best choices. We’re not thinking things through. We’re not mindful.

I can tell you that I don’t always make the best choices. I make them out of anger or frustration. Sometimes out of fear or uncertainty. In a rush because I need to get to something else. That is not the best place to be when making a decision.

That is why yoga and meditation are so important to me. It slows me down. It connects me to who I am. Let’s me control my emotions a bit better. And that’s where I make my best decisions.

Choice from the right state of mind.

I read a quote from Kurt Cobain’s journals yesterday. It said, “Birds scream at the top of their lungs in horrified hellish rage every morning at daybreak to warn us all of the truth, but sadly we don’t speak bird.”

I admire Kurt Cobain in many ways. Very talented, and was super smart from what I can tell. And, he had a sense of humor … or at least that’s always how I read it. That quote, for example, made me laugh. I have a morbid sense of humor myself, so I fully appreciate that sort of comment.

Knowing how he died, though, and the songs that he sang, there may be some true sadness in that quote. Probably more than I read into it, to be honest.

It’s hard to be that smart, I suppose. To see the world for what it is — with all of its flaws and frailties. To hear the horrors in the sound of birds.

To be honest, I see the world that way, too, sometimes. Probably not as informed and intelligently as he did, but I’ve seen that vision of the world a time or two. The difference, I suppose, is that I choose not to live there in that vision. Not all of the time, at least.

I’m grounded there, for better or worse, but I can see something promising out on the horizon. I choose to see how we can be despite the flaws and frailties. Or, better yet, using those flaws and frailties to improve ourselves … so we can be better. The world can be better.

The birds are not a sound of warning for me. In reality, I’m sure that was a joke on his part, but even humor is based in reality. We know what his reality was. There was a grain of truth in that comment. That makes me sad for him. But even as a fan at the top of his success, I was always sad for him.

Gratitude To Go

Today, I am grateful that I can make choices about my life and how I see the world. I’m grateful that, in the end, no matter how I get there, my choices tend to end up on the side of light.

What are you grateful for today?

Today, I woke to the sounds of a bird festival outside my window. It would have made Hitchcock uncomfortable. So many birds, so many different songs. For me, though, they weren’t sounds of horror or sounds of warning. They were sounds of who we are in our natural state. Songs of what we can be.

I heard songs of life. Of existing in the moment. Songs of love, mating, and nourishment. Songs of protection and brotherhood. No two birds were singing the same song. They all had a different sound, for a different purpose, for different species.

Yet that cacophony of birdsongs put me in a peaceful frame of mind. They were sounds of joy and blissful existence. Harmonious and unified.

We choose how we see the world. I choose to see it through the eyes of love and possibilities. Yoga, meditation, and mindfulness help me keep that vision. Although it is the same world as Kurt Kobain’s, with the same birds singing the same songs, I’d much rather live in my version of the world.

Peace, y’all.

Bathing in Forgiveness

Allowing meditation to wash away your pain and help you heal

woman-rain

Letting go is one of the hardest things any of us ever do. Some of us pretend that we don’t care. That we’re better off. Although that may be true in the grand scheme of things, if there is anything to let go, there is some sadness or hurt around it. We don’t hold onto things if we don’t care about them.

Meditation, like prayer, can help with letting go. For me, sometimes, it is the only way I can do it.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes my mojo just gets gunked up. A sludge slows down my juju. It drags me down. Hurt feelings, regrets, bad decisions, unfortunate situations, dashed hopes, unrealized expectations build up in my system. They take the shine off my sparkly, little soul.

When that happens, it affects everything. My mood goes sour. My heart sours. My brain gets groggy. My body becomes exhausted from dredging through the waste products of life.

I don’t even realize it most of the time. One day I find that I’m dragging. Barely making it through life. Too much stuff is weighing me down.

Then I wake up in a funk like I did today. A deep, nasty funk.

Lesson 1: If you are struggling or in a funk, look inside and see if you need to forgive someone or something.

Now, I had sort of already forgiven my former employer for letting me go. I hadn’t let go of my feelings about being laid off. I hadn’t stopped beating myself up for some of the things I did or said in the past years that likely had no role in the situation or maybe they did, but at this point, it doesn’t matter.

Also, there were a couple of people I had been dealing with on a personal project. Things fell apart. A miscommunication of some sort. I don’t know what the miscommunication was about or how things escalated to the point they did. I stopped contact with them, though.

I was hurt and confused. Angry, too. Then I remembered one was getting ready to celebrate a special event, and the other was in process of launching a new project of his own.

I was upset with myself for overthinking and being angry and lethargic. I was upset that I was thinking negative things about someone as they prepared for a special day and while another was in the middle of something potentially wonderful for him. All because of poor communications and misunderstandings. Dashed hopes and unrealized expectations.

Gunk layers just building up and building up. That’s when I realized I needed a little forgiveness session in the church of the mind.

Forgiveness, though. That’s a tough one, ain’t it? We like to think we’re not at fault. That it’s the circumstance or the other guy. Forgiveness, though, makes you look at yourself as well as the other guy and the situation.

Admitting you are part of the downfall ain’t easy, especially if you feel that you are in the right. Sometimes there isn’t a right or wrong, though. Even if there is, it doesn’t really matter after it all falls apart.

All you can do then is forgive. Forgiveness goes both ways, too. You have to forgive yourself and others. That can take some soul searching. I’m not ashamed to say that meditation is the only way I can accomplish it.

Lesson 2: You can’t change the past, but forgiveness can help you move forward.

This morning, I realized the grime coating my soul needed to go. I was going to shut down if I didn’t do something. My only solution was meditation.

Now, when I meditate looking for forgiveness — for myself or others — I listen to music or recordings that feature rain. You’d think I would want sunshine and rainbows to lift my spirits, but no. When I’m looking for forgiveness or letting go of negative feelings, I need to listen to rain.

Rain during my meditation let’s me first feel the sadness of the situation. My mind’s eye sees the tarnished version of my soul standing in the drizzle. As I seek to understand and to find in my heart the ability to let go of those feelings and let go of the situation, the rain begins to wash that tarnish off my spirit.

By the end of my meditation, I have bathed my soul in forgiveness. It’s a visual that helps me process the feeling of letting go. It washes away the hurt and disappointment.

Lesson 3: Meditation helps release negative feelings that you can’t let go.

A little sadness remains, of course, but I’m washed clean of the negativity. The sadness will fade. And then I can think to myself that I wish all the happiness and prosperity in the world to them. I truly do.

They may never know that I wish them happiness, and they may never read this post. Still, I have put the vibe into the universe, and the universe forgives me a little, as well. That gives me peace.

That’s when the healing begins and when your soul starts to shine again.

The Layer Cake Lotus and the Droplet of Light

Finding the magic of mindfulness

fiery-throated hummingbird d

Let me ask if you could save the world, would you? Not in some grandiose, Marvel comics kind of way. It wouldn’t come with glory and fame. If you did only one small thing each day, consistently and purposefully, that gradually day by day made the world better, would you do it? Would you save the world if it was just part of your routine?

I like to think we all would if we’re conscious of the option. More importantly, though, I think we all can.

Meditation. I cannot stress enough how powerful this self-care tool is — not only for you but for the entire world. I realize that sounds like a stretch, but I don’t think it is. It’s that whole “if a butterfly flaps its wings” kind of thing. Let me explain. I’ll start from the beginning.

I hesitated about writing this post. I wasn’t sure how to approach it. I wanted to talk about my experience with a recent meditation or two to give you a feel for what it can do for you. I was going to make it silly and fun in hopes of encouraging more meditation, but I’m feeling a little more serious about the topic for some reason.

I can’t say that meditation has saved my life, but I can say that it has saved my soul on more than one occasion. I’m going through a major shift of some sort in my life. I have been for a few years now. Is it an awakening, enlightenment, a mental breakdown? I can’t tell you to be honest, but I feel like I’m moving in a better direction, and that’s all I can hope for.

However, I can tell you that meditation, when I’ve incorporated it regularly into my life, has eased my worries, calmed my spirit, and yes, I mean it when I say it saved my soul.

I have experienced a few times in the last few years when I sank all the way to the bottom trying to find myself. Meditation lifted me back up. Now that I’ve added yoga, it’s even better and a stronger connection to all that is. For me, though, it began with meditation.

In the grand scheme, I think the two should be done together. The purpose of yoga is to prepare you for meditation. We leave that part out in the western world. We see yoga as exercise in and of itself and not related to anything else. In reality, it creates space for meditation and for Spirit, God, Light, Love — whatever you want to call it — to enter you and fill you.

It’s a beautiful thing, really. But what about saving the world?

Lesson 1: Mediate regularly. If you can, perform yoga to prepare for the mediation and see if it changes your experience.

OK. The idea for this post began after my meditation session yesterday. I finished it up and actually wrote down what I saw and felt during my mediation.

I should explain that when I become fully invested in meditation, my meditation changes. I see visions — images, almost like a mini-movie — while I meditate. Hopefully, they aren’t hallucinations.

If you’ve ever tried a guided meditation where someone walks you through the visuals of a golden light washing over you or something along those lines, it’s similar to that. Instead of having a guide, though, I let my mind wander and do its own thing. Afterward, I try to understand what the visual or feelings that may arise mean to me and, as I mentioned, I’ve started journaling about it.

Lesson 2: Consider journaling after a meditation to understand and cope with any thoughts or ideas that come to you while you meditate. It may reveal something to you.

I should also say, I have a tendency toward fantasy. So you may want to keep that in mind as you read the rest of this post.

Yesterday’s meditation started to open me up. It’s the first time in a while that I maintained one of these mini-movies in my head. They have sort of sputtered out in the last few weeks … if they started at all.

To be honest, I struggle sometimes with quieting my mind. It takes practice to move past that, and all I can tell you is you just have to keep working at it. Once you get there, though, your world will change, I promise you.

My mind races a bit when I first start my meditation practice. There are a few tricks that can help you. Chanting is useful, so if you are first starting out with meditation, I recommend chanting or using a guided meditation. It focuses you on something other than your thoughts. You can also focus on your breathing.

Headphones and new age music help me. Certain tones do something to my brain. I can’t explain it really, but a didgeridoo, Native American flute, Tibetan singing bowls, certain tones of a human voice, an Arabic drumbeat, these sounds enter my brain and push my thoughts out. That’s my go-to when I meditate.

Lesson 3: If you struggle to quiet your mind or push away your thoughts in the beginning, try a variety of mediation ‘tricks’ to help you find peace.

So, now to the world-changing meditation session. Yesterday’s meditation brought about a visual in my head. Sometimes the visuals are similar; other times not at all. Yesterday’s was similar to one I’ve had in the past — at least the setting of it.

I find myself in an open field, sitting in meditation. The colors of my meditation world are deeply saturated. It looks like an enchanted world from a film or a dream state. Everything has a glow about it.

To my left is a forest and, to my right, a mountain. The sun is in front of me about third-eye-level high in the sky. I can never tell if it’s a sunrise or sunset.

Small, lightly colored butterflies begin to fly around me. A few land in my hair. Others on my shoulder. A bird lands on my knee. It’s as if I’m a part of nature. I belong there.

From the crown of my head, a flower begins to blossom. It pops up in layers like a layer cake. Each tier slightly smaller than the last. It continues to grow throughout my meditation until it reached far into the sky. The petals were pinkish, fading to yellow toward the center. A light glows from within the middle of the flower. It is somewhere between a lotus and a passion flower, but the “tendrils” of the passion flower part grew very long.

Sparkles of light drift out from the layers and float around me like seeds. I would describe it as a new age Dr. Suess kind of flower.

Once it reaches a certain level, a white light spills down the length of the layer cake lotus. It envelops me like a droplet of light. The visual turns to simply white light and nothing else. I feel like I’m being lifted into a different atmosphere.

I felt at peace after that meditation. I felt like I was gaining power over my own life again. I felt connected to something higher. It changed me and wiped away what I had been feeling over the last few weeks. I wrote it down because I wanted to be able to go back to read it when I was feeling down.

I read it as I wrote this. I had the same feeling as when I experienced it.

So now that I’ve reached that level in my meditation practice again, I’m sucked in. For me, I have to reach that 30-minute mark. I start off smaller — 10 to 15 minutes a day and add on from there.

Once I hit this place, I want to do it every day for as long as I can. If I could do it for hours, I would, but that’s not a reality. I will most definitely make sure, however, that if I do nothing else as part of my schedule, I will meditate.

That’s what happens when you reach that level. It takes time. It takes practice. It is so worth it, though. There were times when I first started meditating years ago that I thought I would never get there, but I did. I stuck with it.

Lesson 4: Stick with meditation. Practice it like you would practice a musical instrument. The magic will happen.

I was going to leave the post at this point in the discussion until I had an even more powerful meditation today. I decided I would just copy it as I wrote in my journal. I’ll end the post with what I understood as the meaning.

Please keep in mind, though, that what I experience in meditation is not necessarily what you will experience in meditation. We’re snowflakes — each and every one of us. My experience will be unique to me and how I see the world. Your meditation experience will be unique to you.

What you see (or don’t see) and experience is your gift. It’s your happiness and joy, and it should never be compared to anyone else’s. That’s why for me, sometimes, guided meditations don’t work, but they can be helpful if you’re struggling to get started. Once you get there, though, I hope you can find your own magic within.

Lesson 5: Meditation is a personal thing. Your happy place, your peace of mind is as unique to you as your physical appearance. Look for what’s inside of you, not what others see.

From my journal:

Today’s meditation was beautiful, too. Perhaps more beautiful than yesterday’s.

It starts with the vision of a beautiful bird covered in shiny, colorful feathers. Think fiery-throated hummingbird. It’s deeply hued, saturated with vibrancy.

I climb onto the bird’s back and it begins to fly through a rainforest. I feel the rush of the wind against my face, while the rest of me is nestled down in the bird’s feathers.

At first, I mostly see the feathers of the bird. They’re so beautiful and the feeling of flying brings me great joy and excitement. I’m awestruck by the beauty below me.

We fly higher and higher. The bird is carrying large pieces of straw in its beak. I have no fear here, which is good because, in reality, I’m afraid of heights when I’m not strapped in. The scenery is beautiful. The rainforest is lush and green.

We pass over a giant waterfall, and the mist creates a dancing rainbow in the sunlight. I recall an enormous spider web and equally large spider. It is not frightening in the least. Rather it is part of nature, simply doing its part.

The bird and I finally reach our destination. It is a tree that’s flat on top. Branches span out and tips reach upward like a hand waiting to receive something. The bird lands, and we begin to build a nest.

The nest is in the shape of a water drop — similar to yesterday’s meditation. There is a small opening in the front of the droplet for me to enter. This is my home.

The bird leaves to get more straw. I stand in front of my new home and look out at the view. I see that my home is built on the tallest tree in the rainforest. I look down and birds are flying in and out of the trees below me. In the distance, the ocean is on the horizon and I see where it meets the shoreline. There’s an opening of a river that flows throughout the rainforest — appearing and disappearing through thickets of greenery.

I hear and feel the wind that moves the earth. I can’t imagine a more beautiful place to live … or more magical. It is filled with life, and it is life.

I feel humbled and grateful, honored and privileged all at the same time. It is pure happiness and joy. It has nothing to do with money or status or things. It is all about the beauty, the joy, the connectedness to this place and the world as a whole.

Perhaps sometimes I get lost in the depths of the jungle. I need to see it from a different perspective. This meditation helped me see that and feel the wonder that this world has to offer.

Now, that’s how I started my day. That’s the mindset I’m in as I venture out into the world. I will greet the world with that same joy and wonder. I will greet everyone I meet that same way. I believe as one butterfly flapping my wings, I can change those around me.

Now imagine if we all did that — one by one. Millions of butterflies flapping their wings. Couldn’t we change the world?

Peace, y’all.

Salon Chair Enlightenment and the Magical Mystery Gift

Honoring yourself and others through balance and acceptance

self acceptance

I’m still on this love kick. When you love yourself then you’re more open to loving others. It can change the world. I know it can. I feel it in my bones.

Some say that it’s more about accepting yourself than loving yourself (see articles listed at the bottom of this post). For me love and acceptance are the same. Well, more accurately, love is dependent on acceptance, but not vice versa. You can’t love without accepting, but you can accept and not love. I say acceptance in terms of understanding, not necessarily agreeing with it.

If you don’t accept someone for who they are, then you can’t love them. Not really. The same is true for yourself. That’s why I talk about balance, understanding your shadows, and all of that. It’s rolled up into one big package.

I have a temper, for example. I know that. I understand it and accept it from the perspective that it is part of who I am. Do I agree with it? Do I think it’s beneficial? Most of the time, no. It has it moments of usefulness but in general it is more of a deterrent to growth and inner peace than helpful. By understanding and accepting it as part of myself, however, then I can better address it when it raises it’s ugly head.

When you accept and love yourself, then you are more open to others. More importantly, you have such a good sense of self that you can accept others despite your differences. If you can accept your own flaws, then you can at least see past other’s flaws. You also open yourself up to other’s opinions.

Lesson No. 1: Love depends on acceptance — whether it’s yourself or others.

We need a little of that right now — we are too polarized as a society at the moment. We need to move a little more toward acceptance of others.

My recent visit to the hair salon prompted this train of thought and this post. My stylist and I have long visits. We talk about politics and societal woes. It’s a special stylist-customer relationship like that.

The funny thing is that we are on opposite ends of the spectrum politically. Opp-o-site. My last few visits kind of irked me. I just didn’t want to hear what she had to say. Like I said, I’m not a perfect example of wisdom and enlightenment. I’m working on it … that’s all I can do.

So, last night, I listened more. I usually listen, but I voice my side of things. This time I listened more instead of automatically reacting. See, the enlightenment is coming round.

As I listened, I could see holes in my own line of thinking. She made legitimate points that I had not considered. I knew I didn’t have all the answers, but I had always felt like I was morally right. Although I may still feel that I’m morally right to some degree (again, no perfection here), there are some practicalities that have to be dealt with when you are trying to come to a solution. That’s where listening and understanding other’s points of view are critical.

None of us have all the answers. Even when we think we do. We can all learn from one another — see things from a different perspective. We’re not going to be able to make the world better, to heal our wounds, if we can’t listen to other people’s perspectives. Answers are almost always in the middle. Everything really is about balance. It may sound hokey, but it’s pretty true.

Lesson No. 2: Loving and accepting yourself allows you to listen and hear other people’s perspectives. Sometimes we even learn from them.

To get there, though, to see other people’s perspectives, as crazy as it sounds, we have to love and accept ourselves first. Unfortunately, we live in a society dead set on striving for perfection and not accepting our flaws. Therefore, it is difficult for us to love ourselves fully. We may take care of ourselves. We may eat right and exercise, meditate. But we have to accept ourselves. Be comfortable with who we are, so we can fully embrace and love ourselves.

Stepping away from the things that make society go around right now, can help. Abstain from the phone, the tv, shopping, going out — all of it for a little while here and there. Get to know yourself. Take care of yourself. Accept and love yourself.

These things are best achieved in quiet moments. At some point you will be able to master them most of the time, but you have to start from scratch. Make it easy on yourself. Give yourself a break. Take some quiet time for yourself. It takes the pressure off. It truly does.

Lesson No. 3: Give yourself a break from technology and “doing” in order to get to know yourself.

I keep coming back to this idea that romantic love is a stepping stone in developing your love skills. We look at childhood development in phases — you learn these things from birth to age x, and at age y you start to develop these things.

I feel that we go through development phases in love as well. In our early years, we learn to love family, friends, pets, and that sort of thing. The basics. Then we learn to love others romantically, which requires more acceptance of others that we choose rather than inherit. We get there because it fulfills a need in us that happens to become more pronounced as we hit puberty. Just saying.

If we then take those love skills that we learned in our early years and as we developed relationships, then we can build on them and start looking externally. How can I share that love without looking for something back?

Now ain’t that the magical mystery gift? That’s a gift that keeps on giving. It’s a gift you give to the world, and I truly believe good comes back to you. You may not see it. It may not be obvious. It may be as simple as the lack of bad — it could be that subtle. But when your mindful, conscious and aware, universal subtlety is not so hard to notice either.

I felt like I kind of loosened the tape the end of the gift and got a sneak peak inside last night. I can’t be the only one who did that with gifts from family, right?

I listened. I heard what she had to say and could even accept some of it as legitimate concerns.

Even better, I noticed that she didn’t get as upset either. In the end, most of us just want to be heard. Once we’re heard, we can move forward.

The last few times we’ve visited, my stylist had gotten a little frustrated. I could see it and feel it. But last night was a peaceful night. Good conversation. A learning experience … for me at least.

Lesson No. 4: Listening and trying to understand others is an expression of love — even if you don’t agree with them.

Now when I think about Immigration policy, for example, I have a fuller picture of the topic. When I develop my ideas or solutions, then I try to incorporate solutions from the other side’s point of view.

And yes, that’s how I spend my free time. Call me a dork. It’s OK.

In the end, this is the only way we’re ever going to find answers. It’s the only way we’re going to learn to live together again. Right now, we’re not living together peacefully — not in the US, and not throughout the world.

Lesson No. 5: Build on your love skills to go beyond the self and fulfill something greater. Good always comes back to you.

I know there will be parties on both sides of the political spectrum that will disagree with me on this. That’s OK. Maybe, like me in my stylist’s salon chair, both sides can see something legitimate in my argument — even if they don’t agree with it entirely. A nugget, a seed planted is a start, and that’s all I’m looking for.


Related articles:

Why You Have to Love Yourself First

To Love Someone, Do You Really Need to Love Yourself First?

Therapists Spill: 12 Ways to Accept Yourself

A Bagful of Diamonds

Opening your heart as a form of self-care

love

Love. In the grand scheme of things that’s what this blog is all about. If you love yourself, you’ll love your neighbor and they’ll love another neighbor until the world is one big lovefest. To me, love is everything. But I’m kind of sappy that way.

It’s funny when you think about love, though. Saying I love you is a big deal. You open your heart and soul to someone when you say those words. You become utterly vulnerable — no matter the context.

So we hold onto it. Keep it for those who mean the most to us or the ones who earn it. It’s a coveted phrase. It should be coveted. It’s precious and perfect — just like a diamond.

But does a diamond become less valuable or less beautiful if it’s dropped into a bagful of other diamonds? I don’t think so.

Pour the bagful of diamonds onto a table and you see a sparkling mass of beautiful. Radiant and glorious. Could society be that sparkling mass? What if we told each other on a regular basis that we loved one another? It could be a beautiful thing.

Lesson 1: The phrase “I love you” doesn’t lose value if you say it more often to more people.

Say a friend or a coworker helps you with a project. Of course, you’re grateful and thankful and hopefully we all express that. But somewhere deep down is there a part of you, the grateful, thankful part of you, that loves that person for being who they are? For helping? For being a kind human being? I think if we took a moment to think about it, be mindful of the interaction, we would find that we love them.

So what if we told people we love them a little more often than we do? We should.

How nice does it feel to be told I love you? No matter the context — friends, partners, family, people you haven’t spoken to in 20 years? It doesn’t matter who says it, hearing those words changes everything. It changes your constitution. It breaks down any barriers, melts any frozen spots in your heart. Nothing feels like hearing those words.

What if we told a stranger on the street that we loved them? Yeah, they would look at us weird. It’s not the norm or expected. But in my head, I think it would be nice. I haven’t put it into practice yet, but I can dream.

Is it possible to love someone you don’t know? Absolutely. We’ve all seen someone at some point in our life and our heart ached for them. Be it the homeless. The bed ridden. The addict. The stripper or prostitute. We have all done that at least once. I refuse to believe otherwise.

That, in my opinion, is a form of love. That ache in your heart. The urge to reach out to them, help them — that’s love. That is the greatest human emotion there is. Pure and simple. It’s selfless. It’s beautiful. It’s the essence of being human.

Lesson 2: Yes, you can love a stranger.

But if we remove our brains a bit, we could move beyond having that urge for only the needy. We could have that urge toward everyone we meet. Imagine what your life would be like if you were filled with love all the time.

What if the whole world felt that way at one time? You kind of get that feeling in a stadium full of people singing along to their favorite band. It’s magical. I love it.

I’m realistic, though. Practical. I don’t always embrace that aspect of myself, but it’s there. Still, I know we don’t all feel love all the time toward every single person. I get it.

But we could try to feel that way a little more often. Say it a little more often. It would be a step in a better direction, don’t you think? Appreciate someone for just being a human being.

I’ll be honest. I am one who covets the phrase I love you. I say those words to very few people. I hold onto it for dear life.

Something happened to me recently. An epiphany I was unaware of, I believe. I said those words to someone unexpectedly. I meant it wholeheartedly. And this was in that romantic love kind of way. I said it with no expectations. None whatsoever.

This person has motivated me. Helped me. Encouraged me. So I said it. I meant it. And it felt good.

The reaction, I won’t go into. The reaction, you see, doesn’t matter. Well, of course, it matters a little, but the point is that I had struggled with the feelings because I didn’t know what the reaction would be. That struggle caused turmoil in myself. I became frustrated, angry at times. Sad and depressed other times.

Then I said it, “I love you,” and every other feeling that had built up around it disappeared. All I felt was the love I had wanted to express but was afraid to.

So, I should say that I’ve been learning about detachment, non-attachment. Whatever you want to call it. There’s an interesting little podcast on this topic on the Secular Buddha. The host mentions Thich Nhat Hanh’s quote, “You must love in such a way that the person you love feels free.”

But if you are the one who is loving, that emotion, love, can also become an attachment. You covet it. You hold onto it and don’t let it out for fear of not hearing back what you want to hear.

In that sense, that emotion then owns you because you start building up things around it to protect yourself, to force the situation, or whatever. That emotion owns you. Sometimes you have to free yourself in love, as well.

Yes, I always skew these philosophies a little. Put them in my own personal context. That’s how I think. But my feelings for the person was owning me. Letting that love out, freeing it, without expectation from the other person, I opened myself up. I felt better because of it.

Lesson 3: Becoming “non-attached” to your emotions frees you and opens your heart.

It may sound odd, but by letting go of all the BS that surrounds romantic love, and just saying we love someone when we love them regardless of their reaction, we honor ourselves. We honor our emotions. We honor our hearts. We also honor the other person because we don’t put them through all of that angst that we tend to build up around it.

My philosophy is that we know pretty early on if we love someone in a romantic way. Maybe not consciously but subconsciously. If we are in touch with ourselves, our feelings and our thoughts, we’ll recognize this earlier too. Pull it up to the conscious level. It saves a lot of frustration to be conscious of it.

If we can learn to express those feelings without expectations (or at least regardless of expectations), we can save ourselves a lot of suffering. A lot of suffering.

We’re not robots. Humans have expectations. I have a lot of expectations. When you’re born with an irrepressible, unbreakable hope in your heart — and trust me, I have tried to break it — you are also cursed (or blessed) with expectations. So, for me, non-attachment means that I may have expectations but I am learning that I’m not going to die if my expectations aren’t met. I’ll pick myself up and go on as I always do.

Lesson 4: Don’t let expectations keep you from honoring your emotions and yourself.

Most of the time that is easy for me — doing something and coping with the results (good or bad) afterwards. Love is a little trickier for me, the romantic kind. So that’s why I covet it and covet the phrase.

But I’m learning to release it. Not let it own me any more. And it feels amazing, including this specific incident — even before I knew the results. I felt relieved and happy.

And, by the way, saying those words feels as good as hearing them. Now that I’m learning to detach from that emotion a bit so that it doesn’t own me, I hope that I say it more often — whether it’s romantic or not. I want to honor myself and my feelings more. I recommend giving it a try.

And maybe one day we will be one big hippie commune. That’s kind of a secondary goal.

Peace, y’all, and I love you!