Fear is the biggest obstacle you will ever encounter in life. I speak from experience, not just my own. Talk about fear and everybody cringes. We are wired by it, it tell us how to live. Until it doesn’t. If we want.
First sign post is: It’s ok to feel scared. Let the emotion take space. Let it occupy the entire room. Then comes the time to create awareness around that space. Imagine pointing big flashlights onto that space -room- and inspecting everything that the light hits. In that case you will notice that by holding the flashlight in that space, you are stepping away separating yourself from what it holds and acting as the inspector not just the experiencer. You then are not afraid, you are merely inspecting the state of fear. Recognizing this distance between your true self and fear is a big accomplishment, because then you can inspect your ability to overcome that state. In other words, you can determine how to leave that space or room and enter another one. You can equally then let yourself into another space. Let yourself into a space of courage where you can inspect and experience the state of being brave.
What comes before courage?
All our favorite heroes and heroins share one thing in common; bravery to face difficult challenges. They face things, they do not cower. They might hesitate and go back and forth, because all those experiences exist while they are inspecting that state of fear. However, taking action from that state into the next automatically propels them into champions; especially if there is purpose, growth and common good behind the action.
If you can take anything from this perspective let it be this: We must first accept the state we are in right now, and then assess what we need to move out of it.
A little more than a year ago I sat on my yoga mat and set an intention for how I want to be during my 28th year on this planet. I breathed and I made a vow to myself to BE HERE for all of it. I would actively practice my state of presence no matter what. Little did I know that 28 would be the most difficult and trying year of my life so far.
Here is a top 10 list of things I was absolutely present for, and its not all but its enough for this post.
The Grand List to End All Lists: Be Here for it
1- I participated in the biggest protests Lebanon had witnessed since its inception
2- I caused an involuntary fire
3- I maintained my job (you read this again, YES it is an achievement)
4-A 2 week trip to India became 5 months of lockdown in Rishikesh
5- The slow and sad decay of my 7 year relationship, and a divorce
6-I survived the insane Beirut explosion
7-Took an unhealthy number of flights to make my way out of India, Beirut and EU. I spent too much time in airports during the worst time possible for that. (COVID anyone?)
8-I bought a one way ticket to Mexico and moved to Tulum
9-Survived my first Carribean Hurricane
10-Stopped eating meat. Full on vegetarian diet and Im still alive.
Had I known all this and more would happen, I would have still set the same intention honestly. To be here for it all. During the hardest moments I found nothing but myself to truly rely on. I learned that radical presence can allow us to withstand crazy experiences. I learned that no matter how much we try to distract ourselves, there are certain states we have to experience, especially those related to pain. There is no way out but in.
This is still a jolly birthday post don’t get me wrong. To be here right now, celebrating my existence on this realm is super exciting. I have come to realize two absolutely simple truth, and as my favorite person in the world says: Boom!
There is a huge difference between what SOUNDS good and what FEELS good. Always pay attention to the latter.
We think that just because something sounds good to us mentally then it is what we need. It doesn’t always have to be this way. Paying attention to what really feels good to us no matter how small can change our day better yet our lives. It requires listening to our bodies, and paying close attention to how we feel after we do something or after we eat it. Learn what puts us in a better place and do that. Eating a big fat burger from Mcdonalds might sound great for your hungry mind. Though usually you find that you feel shame and guilt after it. However you feel amazing after eating a pesto pasta. EAT THAT. Master level of this lesson becomes doing that with the thoughts you have, but let’s take it easy now.
Everything ends especially those bad bits, nothing lasts. So just allow the experience to take space. BE HERE for it,and then let it be.
Radical presence allows us to accept our realities regardless what they seem like. Truly experiencing the moment be it happiness, sadness, glory, shame, defeat, disgust, pride…anything at all starts with acknowledging that this is how we feel RIGHT NOW. It will end.
So I welcome 29 with a humility I had never known before. I release this year’s birthday post to you my dear readers, as I drink my morning cup of coffee and my cake is on its way. This year’s intention is to FEEL. I hope you enjoyed this and see you next year. Making it to 30 one fleeting feeling at a time.
Who are you really now that COVID has put you on time out from your old life?
Are you the job title, or that person who once won that thing? Maybe you feel represented by the brand you wear, better yet the one you created for yourself? Are you the person your parents expected you to be, when as a child you first started developing a personality? Are you your failures and the things you almost did?
Perhaps you don’t think about these things very often. But let’s give it a try.
What if the job disappears, and you no longer have a title next to your name? What would you write to express your power of contribution?
Imagine that your favorite brand goes out of business and you have to start dressing yourself differently? What would you wear to express yourself?
Here’s a good one: What if your parents were wrong? and your failures were actually core life lessons? How would you live your life and what kind of choices would you start making?
Shaky Identity 101
There are many ways for us to create a solid identity. I mentioned a few of them already, especially job, appearance, family and experiences. Our identities help us make day to day choices, small ones (like what to eat) and big ones (like where to live and who to make babies with) it allows our brains a break from constantly trying to solve existential problems. We usually don’t even have to think about these things if we function within a society. The most basic identifying factors are chosen on our behalf without our conscious approval. Thank your school, your local food store, the TV in your living room, the government, your unsuspecting parents…the list can go on and on. Essentially society tells you to say YES and move on to the next fake choice you think you are making.
Spirituality I have come to find, comes at crucial times for most of us. Many people seem to be exploring themselves now due to the significant loss of jobs from COVID, and/or the changing nature of our lifestyles. The first thing that happens once you delve into seeking higher truths is all those ego crushing questions come out to the surface. Essentially, if I am none of the things that I identified with before, then who really am I?
This is where it gets fun and juicy and terrible for our egos. At this point you welcome in that fantastic identity crisis that most of us lost souls out on spiritual journeys either are experiencing or have experienced before. Mindset comes in hard and heavy, and you get to really sit face to face with your insecurities, choices and triumphs equally.
I, in no way am claiming to know answers, all that I know, I write. I think we need to create space for questions like this not only in Sathsangs or philosophy lectures but over coffee with friends too. Normalizing self exploration is a great way forward to create a happier more authentic society.
Did you recently breakup? Did people ask if it had anything to do with covid? Perhaps you shrugged with your blank face and said:” maybe! I don’t know.” People looked back at you quizingly hoping that you let out at least one juicy secret about your ex.
But we both know that you know. No breakup occurs out of thin air, even the ones that seem like they do; well lets just check under that rug shall we?
Im not going to discuss my own recent breakup over this blog post, I think it deserves a few insightful chapters in my glorious book. But no really, I just have some more realistic discernment on the matter, now, let’s get back under that dirty rug.
The Infamous Relationship Rug
As soon as we start a relationship with somebody we buy a metaphorical rug whether we know it or not. It’s a beautiful piece. Imagine a baby blue hand sewn Persian carpet lined with traces of hope and passion and high expectation. You place that rug under your clean feet and start loving and arguing on top of it. Truth is that most of us have to go through some dysfunctional relationships before we get to the gooey healthy ones. So in our dysfunctional relationships we start tucking little problems under the rug very early on.
We secretly think our partner is perfect on some level in the beginning, and my kind of perfect is definitely absolutely different from what you perceive as such. Slowly and unfortunately, as we start falling off those pedestals, we crash into arguments that seem petty. Those silly issues are the first to usually go under that fresh new carpet. What follows are the things you don’t want to deal with, and the questions you have left unanswered about yourself and them. Dysfunctional attachment gets stronger, and our own troubles and demons grow. We might deal with some, that’s granted. The problems however that we choose not to handle pile up and they begin to trip us even when we think nothing is wrong. Call it turning a blind eye.
The Trouble with Dealing with Our Issues
Let’s establish this irrevocable truth:
TO BE REMOTELY CAPABLE OF REAL LOVE FOR OTHERS
WE MUST LOVE OURSELVES FIRST.
No amount of lovers in the world will convince me of my own worth if I am incapable of feeling it alone. No amount of kind words, kisses and love making will allow me to accept that I am lovable if I firmly believe that I am not worthy of love. Harsh! but real and tested and true.
So we find ourselves stumbling into the breakup of something we once really appreciated and cherished. Reasons may vary like night and day but something always remains, the fear(s).
Breakups are horrible experiences for both parties in a dying relationship, those who choose to leave and those who get left behind. It is the worst!
I will take some liberties in listing some high ranking fears you may have before, during or after the breakup, IF you are not a robot.
The fear of:
Being wrong/ flawed/ imperfect
….and so many more
We cannot really know how good or bad something is for us. The relationship and its breakup were probably both good and bad. Brain tease, I know! But if we consider that most things in life can teach us something then we will put a lot more effort and attention into dealing with our own issues than trying to fix a dysfunctional relationship. We have fears that keep us hidden, and we choose to turn that blind eye sometimes way too often to avoid facing those fears.
So no! Covid probably was NOT the cause of your breakup or that of the neighbors. Being around each other with no distraction, with nothing between you both but that relationship rug will bring all existing issues to your attention.
The issue with letting people walk all over you is that you do not truly understand your own value as women.
You grow up hearing many things the top two of which are either you are a smart and strong girl, or you are a beautiful girl. If you heard both, then you were lucky because the system approved of you as a young female. You fit perfectly in the box of useless social recognition. There is nothing more damaging to how we perceive our own value as women as fitting into the box too well.
What does it mean to know your value as women?
Your value as women is born with you.
First accept your value as a human being.We honor the breath inside our body and the heart that continues to beat irrespective of life’s conditions. You are a living being this is your first added value to this earth. Every living breathing being has a place, has a contribution has VALUE.
Your value as a woman is not what others agreed upon only.
We are all so deeply conditioned to be certain people. Parents and friends and the general society you grew up in wanted you to become one or many different things. They transferred value to certain aspects within you and diminished others to shape you into a being that would be accepted and active in the community. People do this out of love. They do it out of ignorance too, and a deep seated fear of having to deal with your difference in a society that generally idolizes sameness. So just because those around value certain things over others, it doesn’t mean that your less acceptable qualities are valueless.
You create value wherever you go.
We are all put in similar containers growing up. Good families or broken ones, schools and jobs that slowly either build our self esteem or obliterate it. We explore romantic relationships that range from subpar and mediocre to perverse and violent ones; depending on our self esteem and our boundaries and our need for love. Life has the capacity to kick us straight in the ass, if we allow it to be a beating it will become one. The alternative however, is to put a damn end to the beating and call for a pause, even if it was an internal one. PAUSE and then assess your position if you could. Are you creating value? Do you feel like your presence matters? Is it crucial or are you filling space?
Make decisions that reflect your value and worth to yourself not just others.
We make decisions about everything. Appearance, lifestyle, personal growth, emotions, thoughts, experiences and diet, to name just a few. Do your choices reflect your value? Do they have the weight of accountability and the lightness of awareness? Essentially are you making choices out of love for yourself or neglect? That is the most profound expression of all.
So my dear, the keyword in letting others walk all over you is this: LETTING THEM. We must cultivate agency in the smallest aspects of our lives and then build up from there. Determining our value as women is simple and difficult at the same time. Will you eat this piece of crap or will you honor your digestive system with something a lot better? Then will you love your body or will you think the worst things about her? Automatically, we become better at noticing our nourishing thoughts and behaviors and the damaging ones.
We have a problem. Many people are unhappy, and unsatisfied with the lives they lead. Most people stop dreaming because it is not sustainable in modern society, and only fantasize about a different life. People are manipulated into believing that they need so much more than they really do; and with that they become slaves to a system that murders every child’s dream in its wake of adulthood. There is an alternative though. We can be happier and healthier.
The desk to bed life never compelled me in any way. Imagine growing up with a passion for learning and exploring but never picturing a future that included a job. I was very good at school because I enjoyed it, not because I wanted an awesome job. Don’t many – at least those of us who had been privileged enough to have dreams- start off like this?
The perfect story goes that we get to choose what we love and pursue it, if lucky, we can excel. However, we must also make decisions that shape our lives at very young ages. The dreams we had as children would only make sense at that point if they could be transformed into money making careers. Understandably so.
The problem is though that we are so young at those times that most of us have barely experienced any alternative options. At 17, 4 years after I got my period, 5 years after I stopped playing with Barbie dolls, 7 years after I stopped being afraid of the dark, I had to choose what my adult self would do for money. And stick to it.
Truthfully I never bought the story too much. Since the beginning i was looking for a way out. I never wanted too much money, I didn’t expect to find happiness in mansions and fancy jewels. I always imagined travel, walking through different places, smiling at faces from different races and that was the goal. Happiness to me was simple; its headlines were good people, good food and beautiful places, at the heart of it all would be a love so deep. The rest was background.
A white picket fence life looked good in the American movies I saw, but then the husband or wife either ended up cheating or dead or with Alzheimers. So that didn’t appeal too much to me either. This teenage girl was more cynical than the rest; now more than 10 years later; I stand my ground with similar cynicism and a little more wisdom and faith.
The white dress seemed like a distant vision, one that I also never dreamed about. I did however get to experience wearing it; my joy lasted for a short while until things ended, thankfully neither with death nor Alzhiemers, but a very broken heart. That, I could handle.
Bringing the Dream Back to Life
Now I know. Life is NOT only black or white. Life is NOT a matter of living up to standards set for us by others who have not had our dreams and visions. We must be more vigilant to the fairytales, and less cynical about what’s real. Children know something we as adults forget. Dreams are the fuel of joy, and experience is our best shot at learning something new. When we finally harmonize the child within with the adult that operates now, we can finally make our dreams materializeand live a different life.
Living goes forward and it never stops, it will never stop as long as the universe continues to expand infinitely. So planting ourselves in one version of the truth is imprisonment. The only surreal thing about life is our assumption that we are in control of every aspect of it, surely we can control a few things at a time, but not everything. Regret is the opposite of learning, and joy is the center of all that was, is and will be.
The Old Self Looking Back
I always picture that adorable 80 year old lady sitting on her old bones and staring into the ocean. Her eyes look like mine perhaps yours too, but a lot older, and she nods in approval. Life can be well lived if we allow ourselves the full experience. If we accept the ultimately wide spectrum of emotion, and navigate it truthfully and with grace. So if my old self looks back at me now, from where she is, with all of the wisdom she has carried, will she be proud of the life I’m living right now? I would sure hope she is.
Now my friend, enough about me! Imagine yourself in your later years, what do you look like? what and who do you love? Is your elderly self happy with the life you lived and are living today?
This is a post about exposing ourselves to the foreign.
I hope the image that I chose gives you an idea of what it felt like for me to explore the gorgeous and foreign Beatles Ashram in Rishikesh, India.But anyways, let’s get to it!
What is foreign?
I live in Lebanon, moving to India for 5 months is/was foreign to me. That is one way I am exposing myself to something different. You may eat cereal everyday, skipping breakfast all together for a few days could be foreign to you. Exposing yourself to contrast could simply be watching a genre of movies that could make you feel slightly weird. There really are no rules, except one.
THE ONLY RULE
SWITCH THINGS UP.
Why do I need to switch things up you may be thinking?
There are things in life that we will never understand until we experience. So, as I expose myself to newness, or novelty or the foreign, I can learn to have a taste of what is different from me. We can then develop new opinions and ideas; we might even change our lives. It is a way to gently create better relationships with the world around us. We become compassionate to differences.
Best case scenario for you? You learn something that will make your life significantly better!
What is the challenge?
Many things are easier said than done. You know that, I know that!
We create comfort in order to shield ourselves from the high stimulation of the world around us. I mean that’s why we create those comforts in the first place. The challenge usually with opening ourselves up to foreign experiences, emotions, opinions, or people is that we are afraid of change on a subconscious level. It becomes easy to feel insecure when we are not in our comfort zones. Which is why mindset is the most important thing here.
Have a safe zone, explore it and make it your own. Nevertheless outside of that safe zone let there be experiences that you can learn from, things you can pick up; and places to grow.
Here’s s secret just for you
Choose curiosity over fear every day, every moment and plunge right in. We are not meant to survive life; we are meant to explore it deeply and intensely. Every decision counts, and as the incredibly funny JP Sears says: