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Can your skin reflect light?

How is it easier for us to rationalize unhappiness than it is to create joy?

This question has been on my mind lately, mostly because of the melancholy that comes and goes into my space for numerous reasons. There are silly reasons and existential ones, and true ones and fake ones. You know when you just have too many reasons, and your brain begins flooding itself in untruth, in logical acceptance that growing up entails all of the above, and getting a grip on life means losing a grip on personal pleasure.

Life is hard, and the struggle remains where it is, ready for whoever seeks it, runs away from it, fears it and embraces it. We can stay there in that space, in that world. We can all develop sore souls and carpel tunnel fingers. We can all be there together; or that is what I truly feared most.

The fear that your days would blend into one elongated life were you sat behind a desk and typed. The fear that your relationship with your significant other had a limited life span and it was bound to implode. The fear that just because people agreed that we all must live in a certain way, then you too must conform. People “grow out” of those thoughts, that’s what is generally accepted. People “accept the pain” and carry on. People begin to live in bumper sticker logic and it becomes awfully sad to watch them do it.

How do you process your life and the lies it entails?

Photo by Julia Kuzenkov on Pexels.com

Imagine being a tree in a pot. A tree exists to live and to grow, in the same with humans. But our human experience disillusions us into despising growing older, but still wants us to grow up. So how do you make peace with growing only as much as your pot allows you to? Not a centimeter more because that would mean unhappiness and thirst. What would happen if your tree gets moved into earth, with no limits to its growth? It begins to reflect unapologetic life.

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Look, I know there is a reason for my relentless need for growth and change and evolution. A therapist once explained to me- and therapists like to know best- that that was my brain’s way of responding to anxiety. So it is where I, and you, if you feel the same begin; exactly at the end. We begin at the end of things and move backwards to determine whether the life we are living will reflect light. We do not close our eyes and press the gas. For some reason our bumper stickers keep falling off.

So how do you know if your life reflects light?

Well, it begins with you. If I were to tell you that you will live your life like this exactly everyday, would you like that? Would it be a reflection of light onto yourself and those who cross your path?

The brave ones dive into the fear of failure, and the fear of not being loved, and the fear of being rejected and misunderstood. We are all frail bodies but do not underestimate the power of a well fed soul, a soul that overpowers the brain, a soul that can speak to you and guide you, where you just need to follow. Do not overestimate the power of logic. Our brains are beautiful tools but they are servants and not masters. Our brains allow us to create wonderful thoughts, plans and tricks to serve the purpose of our souls. So why not press a little softer on your heart and quiet down your brain and just create the safe space for your timid child soul to walk out.

Growing older does not mean we must break the locks and toughen up. Growing older is life manifesting itself in our skin and in our hair, but it has no qualms with our child soul.

It is NEVER too late; take that bumper sticker and paste it over your bed.

So if you seek peace in a glass of wine, or in the arms of strangers, if you spell your name and feel an immense weight glued to it, be gentler to yourself. And to be gentle we must stop and come to a complete halt of thought.

In that halt, we must go inside ourselves and discover what we have been burying in the dark. So we breathe and we might shed a few tears, we forgive and re rack our weights. We do this a few more times, and say thanks for all our blessings, and then slowly get back up. We imagine pushing a heavy rock down over a ledge as we walk away lighter and surely brighter.

That my friends, is how we reflect light.


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A Getaway wagon Not named Panic.

What could you possibly be nervous about on a Friday at 2:23 AM? Your heart pounds once, twice, three times in your well fed, nicely comforted body. Anxiety works like that, because why not?

I start talking to myself, politely at first but with an undertone of suspicion. What am I anxious about now? And without further ado, my mind takes the bait, and there I am cuddled in a nice bed, with a roof over my head, making a list of why I should be nervous. With every negative thought, I hear my heart pound in approval. I had been experiencing such cycles for a while now, except I no longer get sucked into them so easily. All of a sudden, my eyes are wide open, and I find my body ready for a fight and unfortunately not for sleep.

That is where I stop myself. I have done something good by recognizing the pattern, but I have also done something much better: I found myself a meditation getaway wagon. Hear this:

I have panic wagon parked in my mind, one that I have made a routine of jumping into when negative thoughts take over. The panic wagon obviously drives in a panic, has a manic route and clearly goes nowhere but down. However, due to incessant practice, I have built a meditation wagon, one that I park right next to my panic wagon. That way, I have a choice when I feel stuck in a negative process.

So I lay in bed, at 3 AM on a Friday, wanting to panic but not allowing myself to get on that ride. So I chose my meditation wagon over my beat up panic mobile. Why? Well, the presence of a choice predisposed me to choose what was good for me.

What happens on the meditation wagon?

I jumped on and I felt disoriented at first, but as soon as I focused on my breathing, it started to move, and I recognized what I was doing. Imagine your mind is a book, and your thoughts are words. I was cramming all of the contents of my book into a single page, better yet, a single paragraph. The mess was blinding.

So as I rolled in my smooth meditation wagon, I visualized that book, and I started removing thoughts from the page I was on right then. One by one, most of the thoughts were cleared out, and many had been quite repetitive. My page became cleaner, and my mind got clearer.

The wagon came to a slow stop, I got off and I lay back down unto myself. The tactic goes as such:

Bury the dead thoughts, conserve the ones that produce good energies, and recognize the negative patterns in time, and always, ALWAYS have your getaway wagon ready.

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Me, myself, anxiety and I: An R rated love story

Almost a year ago in an April a little less beautiful than this one, I made the worst acquaintance of my life.

Due to my knack for drama, I call it the shadow of my existence, the world likes to call it anxiety.

The Fall

At first it was this dreadful, sticky and relentless pest; it screamed in fear, it woke me at night, it told me to listen to how fast my heart is beating, and I would hold my breath fearing it might just stop. My sleep paralysis got so bad, I was afraid to close my eyes and go to sleep every night. It showed up at work, while I exercised, as I ate, it became vicious and I started crumbling under its shadow. I had no name for it, I had no idea what was happening, I just thought that my existence is suddenly and abruptly being interrupted by a fear so furious, that I had to stop and pay attention to it. I was so scared, I stopped drinking coffee to slow down my heart rate, and I started eating 2 bananas a day (rich in magnesium etc…). Funny now, f**king terrifying back then, when I would still get attacks, hyperventilate and break into random sweats for no real reason.

That was the shadow of my existence, the anti-experience, the anti-life, the anti-love and it wasn’t even death. Think internet, and the dark web, well my life was the internet and my anxiety was the dark web and it was creeping into my daily nonchalant life. Imagine scrolling through your Facebook watching cat videos, and then suddenly seeing a human trafficking ad. You become THAT tangled, you have no idea when something terrible will come into your consciousness with no real cause. [Bad metaphor, but serves the purpose I hope]

The Rise

After some tests, a doctor came to my aid: There is absolutely nothing wrong with your heart; you have been experiencing anxiety attacks. She said with a smile.

ANXIETY!? Really? I had seen a Buzzfeed piece on Facebook about it before and I gave it no mind whatsoever. I suddenly felt silly, but then I felt awkward; now what?

Step 1: I started announcing it to whomever was around me when it would hit, because my face would turn pale, I couldn’t hold eye contact, and I would just focus on getting my heart rate back to normal, it was impossible not to notice how strange I suddenly became.

Step 2: Breathing exercises, meditation and detachment practices were on continuous reruns. I decided that if I were to regain control of my regular functioning, the second step after acknowledging that I was anxious, was to let go. Breathing in I would think “Just be”, breathing out I would think “let go”. Enough times it started to work; I’ve been doing it since then. Very difficult step for sure.

Step 3: Truly addressing my fears; the real ones! became a daily goal. If i were going to be afraid my entire life, I might as well find something worthwhile to fear. No more petty fears for me. My real journey towards personal growth started right then and there.

The Lesson: A Big F*** You to Fear

If anxiety, or my shadow self were going to be my life long companion, then I was going to pick myself apart, I was going to learn everything I could, and I was going to lead by example. Shine the brightest light into every darkness within, and then pick all the skeletons in your chest apart. Take control.

Avoiding Mount Aso by @noraneko_nyankichi
Winning

I dare say, that anxiety has made every decision I had to make a crucial one. Being constantly aware of the underlying despair of your human experience, and the fragility of everything you hold true, propels you onto another level, one where you are a choice away from fearing everything, and a choice away from facing it all.

I promise you it comes down to that, choosing every day, every minute, and passing heart beat that it will not be wasted on fear; it will be used to ignite fires everywhere you go, because there really is no escape.

Anxiety has become the best friend I had ever made, it has nudged me so violently into acknowledging the vulnerability of my short presence here, it has pushed me off the ledge to discover that there was no safety to start with; we are all hanging in thin air, so might as well glide through it.

Make it brave, make it glorious, embrace the surreal and keep it simple.

 

 

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Where is the White Space?

Rolling through YouTube’s suggested list, I come to realize one very important effect of our modern life and access to the internet.  I noticed that all that music almost sounds the same, just as most influencers look the same, and bloggers (sometimes including myself) are saying the same things. As easy as changing our lives seems to be through marketing campaigns, it actually is immensely difficult because every click we make, and every decision we take molds us into certain people, possibly not the people we really are, but mere consumer personas. Comfort zones are created around us so organically, that reaching out of those spaces becomes hectic sometimes even impossible.

I was inspired this morning listening to an interview on InsideQuest (IQ) between Tom Bilyeu and Jim Kwik. What really kicked me right in the gut was the concept of White Space. And my mind automatically went into overdrive “I NEED WHITE SPACE”. All my spaces are inhabited by thoughts, people, objects and generic content, some introduced by me, and others suggested, and I am overwhelmed and anxious.

How can anyone really think with all that noise? Where do we hide in this bombardment? When hair style x is going make me more daring, and brand y is going to make me sexier, and person z is telling me how to tie my shoelaces… the list goes on and on with people telling me things, buying out every ounce of attention I have; FOR FREE!

In our pursuit of well-lived, exciting, and constantly educational experiences, we end up being victims of our own choices in this self replicating noisy space. It appears to me that our social fondness for grouping is an ultimate and absolute construct. It might be that attempting to break free of all groups will eventually land us with yet another one.

All that brings me back to my absolute infatuation and fascination with the concept of whitening out a page and starting again, purposely leaving everything and beginning again, as dangerous, unaccountable and anti-social as it sounds. But, there are more family friendly versions of this attitude. One thing that really works but requires countless practice is a form of meditation, essentially allowing the creation of white space inside your own mind, and then moving on from there.

Becoming the creators of our spaces can happen in two ways, either building over and modifying  pre-existing constructs, or annihilating them and starting over. Yet in annihilation one cannot escape the wisdom preceding the experience, actually one would be foolish to ignore it.

So where is the white space after all, and do you really need it?

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High Diary of Footsteps in the Snow- the Amsterdam experience

The airplane sat on the runway for an hour in delay, and I was unsure whether it was the weather or my anxiety keeping it down. As soon the plane took off something snapped, my mind stopped; there it was: there I was, trapped by the moment. It happens so often it’s like an unconscious ritual by now. My tears start falling every time I leave a new destination, every time that the ground lets me go, my masks fall. All my heaviness is brought down by gravity and all that remains is a soul yearning to soar, and it does. It goes so far away, that I am a changed person the moment I touch down again.

So I keep on searching, and every time I think that I have arrived, I am weighed down by a trembling fear, a fear so tragic that time will not stop again, my eyes will not see the same wonder in the same way again. All the tricks I play on my mind become obsolete and I am left with myself, the self I have been getting to know slowly, and yet most of my light is still foreign, only to be found in the deepest quests inside, and the farthest trips shocking my senses out of a practiced sedation… And so I click my feet again and I leave the mud of familiar spaces.

Where do you go when you leave? What happens to your soul when you let it be? When you unburden yourself of all the excess weight? How do you fix the unnecessary glitches in your day to day conscious experience?

The search for wonder continues and I am nothing but a footstep in the snow. Almost never existed, melting into the bigger fluid experience. All i can do is dig my feet into the snow as violently as possibly and then just lift off lightly, as not to disturb the delicateness of the experience. But then again, nothing remains the same.

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The Power of Anchoring

Look here,

A ship drops its anchor so that it doesn’t drift away. It sails through waters shallow and deep, through conditions stormy or mellow. It adjusts. A ship’s most important purpose is to sail, not sink. Sounds simpler than it is?

You might think that this is an article about sailing, and you are right, it is. Except, you are the ship in this scenario. Try to entertain the image for a second; hold on to it, I’m going somewhere with this.

Now that the ship metaphor is set, remember Inception? you know, the movie about the double and triple layers of dreams; where nobody knows what’s real? Leonardo DiCaprio? I hope it rings a bell. If you’ve seen the movie, then you surely were left questioning its end. Was he still in limbo, or was that his reality? His totem never came to a halt.

Totems are objects carried by the characters through reality and in their dreams, where a single aspect of the totem (rotation, falling to one side..etc) helps them determine whether the current situation is a dream or reality. Those little objects were important queues to their sanity, to their perception of reality, they determined the kinds of decisions they made.

Can you tell where I’m heading with this?

Introducing the concept of anchoring in your daily life

Fortunately for most, determining the difference between dream and reality is not a major problem, Yet acknowledging the ridiculous levels of stress you have is. Wanting to stop mid day and scream that you profoundly don’t care about most of the things you pretend to pay attention to is not unusual. But, that stress is yours, your thoughts are yours and those experiences are yours to be lived. Still with me? In the chaos of everyday, you deserve a pause, a small time out where you anchor, where you remind yourself of what’s real. Anchoring helps you assess your surroundings, and act accordingly. To panic or not to panic? That is the real question.

How do you anchor?

There are many techniques to help you anchor despite the difficulties. Here are two that I’ve experimented with:

1- Carry your own totem, could be a bracelet, a key chain, a marble…etc anything tiny and portable. The trick is to mentally link that totem with a series of thoughts that center you. Picture this: You are in a stressful situation, you reach into your pocket to find your phone, but your fingers graze the soft surface of the marble. Now there is your queue. That is your anchor. Take a deep breath, don’t say anything, another deep breath, think about anchoring, as though your mind took a break, assess your situation, are my thoughts necessary? are my actions necessary? Do i really need to feel this way right now?

Consider your totem a stop sign asking you to calm down, a sign to straighten up your thoughts. It requires practice, but it is highly beneficial.

2- Physically remove yourself from the situation even if for a few minutes and take deep breaths, with the mental plan of calming down. Take yourself on a visual imaginary journey to a location you love, if only for a few seconds in your mind. I usually take myself into the center of lake Como, in Italy; it always does the trick. Other times I imagine myself seated at the highest top of a snowy mountain but feeling absolutely warm, and distant from every human and place on earth; also does the trick. Our minds can’t tell the difference between a physical and mental vacation, it’s all about conviction and attitude.

Lastly, Why is anchoring important?

In the midst of anger, frustration and hotheadedness you rid yourself of clarity, when you let your intense negative thoughts take over, you become blind, and most of the times you lose. So try identifying the situation and attitude you are having right now. Does it seem too difficult, overwhelming, stressful, dark and ominous? Then there is your queue to anchor. Once you do, your temper goes down, your heart races less and you notice the little clues surrounding you telling you exactly what to do and say.

Anchoring allows you to slow down and let go, it allows you to recalibrate. Think of it as a reloading of energy, reassigning of seats. You are the captain, not the situation. And a captain either sails with her ship or sinks with it.

So learn your anchoring techniques and give yourself a tap on the shoulder for not sinking today.

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Here.

My arms are fire and my head is set free. I close my eyes and I ask, one question becomes a thousand, and I am back at square one. No real answers. But then I sense the flame and it pushes me face first inward, into my deepest fears. The memories, the inadequacies, the needs from love to acceptance, all of my failed pursuits, they dance around me as I flare my arms at them. But those are fears and they are not real, they are not me, they do not control what I am, who I am. I torch the first fear, then the second and I realize that there is nothing in there, just air. Empty air. Until the fear of insanity comes running and howling at me, am I insane? No. Just another fear, the most powerful one of all. So where did all my pain and panic come from? No answer, nobody in that room. Nobody behind the steering wheel, nobody holding the pen. So I sit back and I let that let down happen. I hoped for a mastermind, I hoped that I would get to face a stronger opponent, and Yet here I am, baffled. What lay inside when all the fear is gone? How would I live when it’s no longer about avoiding fears and reacting to them? Where will I go when I stop running? Who will I become when I simply am ?

Words roll out like red carpets beneath the feet of worshipers, and I cannot hold them back. As though prisoners have been let out. As though nothing can ever be said again the same way. Words form and collapse right infront of me and I am letting it all slide, no filters or fillers, nothing to add and little to subtract. A complete cycle of renewal, nothing is pale and everything is sincere. I set this space free, my arms are fire and my words are here.