Have you ever felt lost? Not in the Google Maps kind of way but in life? Do you sometimes feel like your life is not going anywhere? You feel overwhelmed, you don’t know what to do, where to go, who to turn to—you simply don’t know what to do with yourself. It happens to the best of us sometimes. But why?
In our connected world, too many people and other stuff find their way to us competing for our attention. The digital world, particularly social media, gave birth to a new way to get us addicted to consuming content that’s not always good for us. In truth, even those that are seemingly inspirational and beneficial for us, can prove to be detrimental.
There also seems to be way too many experts, teachers, influencers and gurus who claim that they could change our life and solve all our problems. How many times have you fallen into that trap? Reading countless books, enrolling in courses, attending workshops and seminars that’s supposed to change our lives but we end up in the same place—lost, confused and even more overwhelmed than when we began. Why? They’re supposed to help us, right? What gives?
When I was young, my Dad would always tell me to “think and breathe before you speak.” He was one of these very thoughtful men who never went anywhere without a book in his hand. He was all about learning, about expanding our view of the world, and he was all about being grounded and centered before opening one’s mouth. He spoke 14 languages fluently (although with a strong accent.) He taught me words were everything, and even more to listen deeply beyond the surface to what is not said too.
I, on the other hand—rebellious, reactive, noisy, always challenging everything asking “Why?” and not giving much credit to his love of clear focus and being discerning with one’s words.
He’d remind me, “Be careful once you say that because you can’t take those words back.”
This week, in particular, I’ve made a commitment to do that. Think and breathe before I speak. But that actually doesn’t work (sorry dad) because it’s backward. Breathe first, think after—then speak!
The path next to our home opens up to unlimited hiking, biking and horse riding trails. It also leads the way to a stone bench that is situated on a saddle between two peaks. I have fallen in love with both the trail and the mystical meeting place. It is here that I connect with family, friends, spirits and always Mother Earth. Or maybe, it is here that I stop and really open up.
I leave my house by 8:00 in the morning, this is when the temperatures are only in the high 80’s. Durning the weekdays I might see a couple people, usually I encounter no one. Most of the path is a mild climb with dirt and sharp rocks. It is not until you choose a trail that climbs to one of the peaks, that you get steep terrain. Even the mountain bikers have to get off and carry their bikes on parts of the technical trail. Everyone I meet is happy and enjoying the sun and the expansive feeling. Or maybe, my happiness is just being reflected back?
There I was recently, my mind darting in different directions about projects in process, frazzled about little tasks backing up, uneasy about a tax record from 2010 we couldn’t find, feeling irritated about being irritable, hurrying to get to work, body keyed up, internal sense of pressure. Not freaked out, not running from an attacker, not suffering a grievous loss, my own troubles tiny in comparison to those of so many others – but still, the needle on my personal stress-o-meter was pegged in the Red Zone.
Then that quiet background knowing in all of us nudged me to cool down, dial back, de-frazzle, take a breath, exhale slowly, repeat, start getting a sense of center, exhale again, slow the thoughts down, pick one thought of alrightness or goodness and stay with it, exhaling worry about the future, coming into this moment, just sensations, calming, mind getting clearer, focusing on what I’ll do this day and knowing that’s all I can do, the body sense of settling down yet again sinking in to make it one bit easier to settle down the next time. Leaving the Red Zone, not all the way to Green, more like Yellow, but no longer even Orange. Whew.
How do you try to avoid the painful feelings caused by others and events, and what is the result?
We all learned many way of avoiding the existential pain of life when we were growing up, because we could not manage feeling it when we were little. Now, as adults, most people continue to protect in the ways they learned, even though today, adults, we can learn to manage our core pain through Inner Bonding.
Most of our core pain comes from others being unloving to us or to themselves, disconnecting from us and from themselves. We all desire connection with those important to us, and we naturally feel these deeper painful feelings, especially when someone important to us disconnects from us with their own protections – their anger, blame, withdrawal, and so on.
“If the path you are on doesn't lead you deeper into yourself, it's not the right path.” – Lalah Delia
I've Been Thinking...
I’m all for getting back into the post-Labor Day swing of things, so long as it’s not the same swing that I was in before my break. (And, to be honest, I hope Congress feels the same way, because none of us want them to swing back into business as usual — especially when it comes to critical life and death issues like gun reform.)
My pre-break life was harried and hurried. I felt more distracted than present. I had more “should’s” on my calendar than “want to’s.”
More often than not, I felt like I was running in place. I was doing way too much, all while feeling like I was either not doing enough or wondering whether I was doing anything at all.
Breaking a pattern is never easy, but I’m determined not to go back to the way I was. I’m determined to move forward with focus, ease and this new feeling of calmness that has eluded me most, if not all, of my life.
At our current level of consciousness, as different emotional energy states come into us, they define and shape our interaction with each moment. Seeing this, we identify with each state, thinking it is who we are. For example, when anger comes through us, we believe “I am angry.”
But the fact of the matter is, there is no such self. Not really. There are only these states of energy and the fleeting sense of self produced as each one surfaces. If it’s a negative state we fight and resist it. If it’s a pleasing one, we embrace it. In either case we believe we’re acting for ourselves, from ourselves, and that we’re unique for our experience.
Then in a heartbeat, because that momentary state isn’t really ours and only washes through, the minute its nature has moved on, so does the sense of self we had derived from it. Now a whole new and unwanted feeling floods in, leaving us asking ourselves, “Hey, I seem to be missing something here. Where did my life — my sense of self — just go?”
We’re usually aware of our own suffering, which – broadly defined – includes the whole range of physical and mental discomfort, from mild headache or anxiety to the agony of bone cancer or the anguish of losing a child. (Certainly, there is more to life than suffering, including great joy and fulfillment; that said, we’ll sustain a single focus here.)
But seeing the suffering in others: that’s not so common. All the news and pictures of disaster, murder, and grief that bombard us each day can ironically numb us to suffering in our own country and across the planet. Close to home, it’s easy to tune out or simply miss the stress and strain, unease and anger, in the people we work, live – even sleep – with.
I’ve known this world in all its splendor and breakage for a lifetime. Or has it been a moment, the blink of some cosmic eye that let’s anyone still enough see the script of history all at once. I only know that when the forces of life and I move too fast, we author violence. When we stop and open, we discover a softness at the center of all things that gives rise to a music of acceptance. Very few things evoke this soft equanimity, which feels like a violin exhausting itself at the center of a symphony when the composer has spent his creative storm and is wondering if there’s anything left to say. Every day, the things we love sprout and emerge, or break and wither, as the vine grows quietly up the wall toward the light. Perhaps this is all we can hope for. The other day, we watched a butterfly emerge from its chrysalis, it’s wings still wet. It had to wait for its wings to dry before it could flutter its way into life. Perhaps loving ourselves and each other and life itself is how we dry and open our wings.
The ego has a thousand goals. Are they really yours?
The fast-track Western world reveres productivity, measured by what we “get done.” But I invite you to consider becoming undone, letting go of ill-fitting self-definitions, freeing yourself from beliefs and patterns, becoming naked, available, and present to your present life. The Universe wants to talk to you. Do you want to listen?
Sometimes you have to stop scoring points in the life you have in order to win at the life you desire. A Course in Miracles teaches, that “the vision of one world will cost you the vision of another.” Albert Einstein said the same thing: “You cannot solve the problem at the level of the problem.” Are you so busy maintaining the structures of your existing life, that you can’t hear when Great Love is calling your name?
In the moment you find yourself stressed, tense, worried, irritable, or angry -- when you find yourself in a negative state, thinking about what to do about your negativity -- all you have to do to break free is realize that you're in the wrong place. Don't think about what to do with where you are. Admit to yourself you're in the wrong place, and then...just don't go there.
You may, at any moment that you wish, become aware of yourself sufficiently enough to know where you are inwardly. When you find yourself living a resentment over again, all you have to do is see that you're surrounded by thoughts and feelings that were produced by your resistance to a remembered event. That's all you have to do. Who made you remember what you now wish hadn't happened to you? Who made you picture the person you resent? Who brought up the failure from your past? Who did any of that in the moment you're sitting by yourself, or driving in your car, or eating your cup of coffee.
One of my favorite places for my morning meditation is the earth right next to our home. It holds a small cactus garden. There is a Buddha statue, a variety of cacti and some rocks that look like a stream. There is also a very soft chime and some prayer flags in the distance. The early light shifts and offers subtle changes. The sun slowly rises in the sky. I see the world of wild bunnies and quail. Some times all the animals head on the little path, in the same direction, looking like they share a secret destination. This is my world in the simplest form.
Everything shares a feeling of calm. To experience the world without worry, stress and upsets is a skill set we each have. Peace is something I have learned to value in my life and home. I am sharing with you the blue print for a life of well being. We are the architect of our world; design what you love.
Our minds have an annoying habit of continually warning us to watch out, be careful, stand back, or say no to any new situation. Perhaps left over from prehistoric times when humans often encountered oversized predatory beasts outside the safety of their caves. Not so helpful today though. Certainly there are things to be concerned or cautious about, but not every choice we make is fraught with danger. Over-cautiousness keeps us frozen in fear and inertia.
I’m not very compliant when it comes to things I SHOULD do.
Things like taking ALL of my vitamins everyday.
Or, cutting back on carbs to reduce the chances of full-fledged diabetes and dementia (not to mention belly fat) or sleeping with my night-guard to stop grinding my teeth and getting middle of the night headaches.
Just “knowing” these things are good for me have never been enough of a reason to do them.
A part of me screams, “I don’t want to” and “you can’t make me.”
BUT……eventually, I get a good enough reason to become compliant.
I now take my vitamins (in spite of hating to swallow so many pills) because my new story is that “I do it for Brian” so he can have a healthy wife on the planet.
We’ve all met people who shrug off their lack of knowledge by saying, “Ignorance is bliss,” but who takes that seriously? The modern world is built upon levels of understanding and knowledge. Our life isn’t blissful, but without a doubt the sciences and technology we base our lives upon represent mountains of knowledge and mountain ranges of data, experimentation, and research studies.
It is baffling, then, to consider a famous remark attributed by Plato to his mentor Socrates: “All I know is that I know nothing.” Why did the greatest Greek philosopher claim that his teacher said this? It makes Socrates seem to be anti-knowledge. In fact, he was, because the kind of knowledge Socrates opposed was specious knowledge. His philosophical antagonists, the Sophists, taught the better class of young men in Athens, and what they transmitted, if we translate it into modern terms, was the validity of objective facts. What Socrates taught was intuitive inner knowing. That’s why it is possible to say in the same breath, “Know thyself” and “All I know is that I know nothing.”
To unravel his meaning even more deeply, Socrates wasn’t claiming that intuitive inner knowing was superior to objective facts. As we all experience—and as scientists constantly remind us—the subjective world “in here” is capricious, changeable, unpredictable, and filled with imagination and therefore unreal things.
Fear is one of the strongest responses our physical bodies possess. When you fear, your heart begins beating faster, your blood pressure rises, your palms start to sweat and you may feel intense anxiety. This physical response is part of the “fight or flight” mechanism that our brain and body uses to deal with danger. This extreme response is warranted if, say, we were being chased by a saber-toothed tiger. In today’s world, we rarely experience life-or-death situations such as these, but still, our bodies have held on to this response.
Many times, our negative cycle of fear and worry can bring about this response, and it can be miserable! It can last just a short period of time, or it can last for many years. Experiencing a high level of fear and worry over an extended period of time can actually change the very chemistry of our brain. For this reason, it makes sense to learn skills and techniques that can help calm our mind and body when we get too far “in our head.”
Aside from the negative physical and biological effects of fear and worry, there are myriad psychological effects as well. For instance, worrying about the future and worrying about things you simply can’t control can eliminate any positive feelings about the life you’re living right now! You get so worked up about what could happen, that you miss what is happening right before your eyes. This will greatly reduce the happiness, joy, and peace that your life should entail.
Both Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo left a trail of unfinished art greater than anyone else in modern history. Still, they are regarded as two of the most talented artists who ever lived. They are extraordinary examples of how the journey of expression is more important than the final product.
William Blake is another inspiring example. Toward the end of his life, Blake endeavored to illustrate Dante’s Divine Comedy, the medieval epic poem that follows Dante’s transformative journey through Hell and Purgatory into Paradise. Blake created 102 watercolors, planning to engrave them all, but he only had time to begin seven.
More than his immense effort to create art, Blake’s innate devotion was to immerse himself deeply in the thickest currents of life. Though he couldn’t finish engraving his illustrations, I imagine that, at some point, the life-force Blake was so devoted to began engraving him. What more can any of us ask for but to be created by the very thing we feel compelled to create? This is where the holy work of effort leads, regardless of its trail.
“We are always facing the consequences of our own actions. It’s the actions that you take now that will go forward to sculpt your future.”
We have all experienced periods of great turmoil in life. Times when we feel powerless and nothing seems to go right. During these challenging times, it is easy to give into victimhood. Listen to this episode to learn how to take responsibility for your current situation, reclaim your power and shift your karma.
Some Questions I Ask:
Do you feel powerless, like a victim in the face of a challenging situation?
Where and how did you take actions that co-created the challenging situation you are in now?
What is the reason you are going through this experience and what is your soul seeking to learn?
What does your life right now show you about the seeds you have planted in your past?
What different actions will you take in your life, so you don’t repeat the same mistakes?
We all know what it is like to be held captive of the little things in life — those petty concerns and small desires that steal their way into how we look at our lives and pit us against anyone or anything seen as trying to take away our anticipated desire. Here is a short list of these little troublemakers that often make big trouble for us whenever we mistake them for being our friends:
• Unrealistic expectations that others should treat us only as we imagine they should
• Strong attachments to even the smallest and strangest of our possessions
• Pressing convictions that no one else sees things as clearly as we do
• Nagging resentments from relationships past and present
• Perfect certainty that no one is permitted to interrupt our pleasures
How can we say for sure that these conditions are little more than big nothings in the scheme of things? We have all been through those telltale moments in our lives when, due to a crisis of some kind beyond our control, we are momentarily able to see where we had lost sight of what was really worthwhile.
Join Panache Desai every morning and for support in reconnecting to the wellspring of calm and peace that lives within you and that has the power to counterbalance all of the fear, panic, and uncertainty that currently engulfs the world.