I Am My Own Problem

A few years ago, while still in yoga training, my son found me buried under a pile of books, pouring over my notes and typing away on my computer.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Homework,” I told him.

“Homework!?” he asked. “Now what for?”

“Yoga training,” I told him.

He watched me for a moment longer before saying, “Mom, remember when you were stressed out about everything that you have to do all the time?”

“Yes?” I replied.

“Well, no offense,” he said, “But you don’t have anyone to blame but yourself. It is kind of your own fault”.

…My son has this fabulous way of rendering me speechless from time to time. He makes these wonderful observations, and then he finds these incredibly simplistic yet profound and blatantly honest ways of telling me like it is. He calls it like he sees it, and far more often than not, he is right. He holds up a mirror for me to gaze in to just when I seem to need it most, forcing me to stop dead in my tracks and reconsider what I have been up to.

As I do so, I often find myself adopting a new perspective and approaching life from a slightly new angle. He tends to begin many of said statements of truth with the dreaded No Offense, saying “No offense, Mom, but…” and then the words that follow are some eye-opening observation that he has made. As I listen to him, it is as if I am dying to know what brilliant statement he is about to make, while simultaneously bracing myself for some tough love.

Yet, even if he does make me wince from time to time, his insight really is a beautiful thing. Because every time he demonstrates a bit of such wisdom, he serves as a reminder that “I am my problem, and I am also my solution.” He reminds me that it is I that am the one stressing myself out. It is I that has the tendency to take on the world. And it is I that am the only one who can do anything about it, whether I keep on keepin’ on, or I give myself a break. He reminds me that, for better or for worse, I am up to me, and I had better take responsibility for myself. No matter the problem I am faced with, I must bear in mind that I represent some part of the problem, if not the whole thing. And, I must care for that part of myself differently if I am to reach a resolution.

So, today, I challenge you, readers, to take such a look at your life. And as you do, reflect on how you have become your own problem. Of course, do not be hard on yourself, but rather, acknowledge the tendencies you have that might perpetuate issues in your life.

And most importantly, ask yourself what you can do differently to become your own solution.

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Grrrr

I once read that some of the most valuable lessons we learn in life are taught to us by difficult people. You know the type of people I am referring to. People that seem to embody cynicism, judgment, and pessimism. Those that take delight in the misfortune of others or seem satisfied by having a complaint. The people that expect the worst from the world and seem committed to their unhappiness.

Being around negativity, even for a short moment, can be frustrating and emotionally taxing. Yet unfortunately, it is unlikely that we can avoid negative people all together. We are bound to have a run-in with a disheartening individual at some time or another, so it is best that we are prepared to respond in such a way that protects us from the negativity while still allowing us to learn something positive from the experience.

So, having said that, what is the best way to respond? Is it best that we ignore them and hope that they go away? Should we respond in kind and give them an attitude adjustment? Do we shower them in sunshine and encourage them to see life from a more elevated perspective? And, on the same token, how do we protect ourselves from being drawn in by the pull of their negative energy? How do we prevent an unsettling encounter from ruining our mood?

To answer these questions, consider the following checklist, presented by author and counselor, Julie Hoyle.

  1. What does this person need?

Is there a chance that positive input is being sought? If the answer is yes, share something enlightening. If the answer is no, keep the interaction brief.

  1. Are they acting as a mirror?

The answer is a resounding “yes” if we have been sucked in by their negativity. When there is a pull, there is a resonance, and we are being shown where we are resisting the flow of life. When this is the case, breathe in deeply and accept what is.

  1. Remember, this too will pass.

While we can offer compassion and point to other alternatives, we are not responsible for others. Suffering, to a point, is a choice. Be a part of the solution rather than adding to the illusion. Create space for an opening of awareness to happen.

  1. Avoidance

Protect and safeguard the sanctity of your internal state, and surround yourself with people who nurture you. On other occasions, remain upbeat and transform the negative into a positive. Do it for long enough and it works wonders. If the other person cannot turn you on to their negativity, they may eventually give up.

  1. Love really is the answer.

Everything always, always comes down to love. If we love and respect ourselves, we do not give ourselves away cheaply, and we do not stoop to negativity. Instead, we stand our ground, offering others a place to rise up to. Always listen with love, and offer kindness to everyone, even if they don’t seem to “deserve” it at the time.

Regretfully Speaking…

 

I have often read that we, as live-ers of life, should have no regrets. That we should, in some sense of the word, forget about the finer details of our past and instead be grateful for the opportunities and the gifts that have been bestowed upon us through the process of living. That we should embrace all that we are, for better or for worse, because of what we have been through and the choices we have made.

And to a certain degree, I agree with this. I agree that it behooves us to spend too much time in our past, whether we are fretting over things that we have done, or worrying about that which we have left undone. It does us no good to berate ourselves for our mistakes or relive days gone by, wishing that we had done things differently. After all, what does this accomplish? Precious little, indeed.

Even so, I have to admit that I do have regrets. I have done things that I am not proud of and over-looked things that I should have been more mindful about. I have been reckless at times, selfish, and even hurtful. As I look back on the twenty-nine years of my life, I see with unmistakable clarity that I have consciously and unconsciously made poor choices. Choices that have been foolish, short-sighted, and negatively impactful. And, these things are uncomfortable to think about. They are difficult to speak of. And they are nothing short of humbling.

Yet, even as I think about the regrets that I do have, and I reflect on where I was at in my life when I made those choices, I cannot help but to ask, “Is it really so bad to admit that we have regrets? Is it so bad to look back on the decisions that we have made and wish that we had done things differently? Is it so bad to look behind ourselves every now and then and realize that we could have done better? ” I must say that I think not.

I say that I do not think it is so bad to have regrets because regrets really are a part of life. Regrets, in essence, are nothing short of lessons that we have learned as we journey through life. To feel regretful is not to say that we are bad. On the contrary, to feel regretful is to say that we now see things differently than we had before or to acknowledge that we are no longer where we once were. It is to recognize that something was to be learned, and that we have changed or evolved because of our experiences. It is to agree that hindsight is indeed twenty-twenty.

So, when you find yourself tempted to deny ever having regrets, rethink what that word really means to you. Remember that it is a rare soul that truly has no regrets, and that there is no shame in using the feeling of regret to propel us forward as we learn from our misgivings.

The Shadow Effect

 

In 2010, Debbie Ford, with the help of Deepak Chopra and Marianne Williamson, published a book entitled The Shadow Effect. In this book, Debbie claims that we all have a dark side, or what she refers to as a shadow.

Our shadow, she explains, contains all the parts of ourselves that we have tried to hide or deny. It is the parts of ourselves that we believe to be unacceptable, both to ourselves and to others.

It is comprised of everything that we struggle to accept about other people and ourselves. It is our bad habits, our dark and lonely secrets. It is the things that we have done, and the things that have been done to us that we keep buried deep within ourselves. Most simply stated, our shadow is the person within ourselves that we would rather not be.

Because of the shame and guilt associated with this part of ourselves, our shadows have the potential to wield enormous power over our lives. If we let it, it will determine what we can and cannot do, what we are drawn toward and what we avoid. It dictates our attachments, our fears, and our feelings about ourselves. It influences how we treat ourselves and others, the way that we love, and our ability to be vulnerable and authentic. Quite simply, our shadows have the power to affect every ounce of our being, if we allow it to. Particularly when we try to keep in the dark.

On the contrary, though, this shadowy part of ourselves also has the power to transform our lives for the better. For when our shadow has been seen, heard, and embraced, it may be our greatest teacher, our trainer and guide, leading us to incredible strength, creativity, brilliance, purpose, and happiness. It is when we are able to shine light on our shadow that we are able to see that our shadow also contains some of our greatest gifts and treasured aspects of our truest selves buried inside. Rather than focusing on the ugliness of our shadow, we instead see it as a source of compassion, love, and authenticity. We no longer invest our precious energies into denying aspects of who we are, nor do we have to pretend to be someone we are not. We are no longer concerned with proving ourselves to others and we release the guilt, shame, and fear associated with this vulnerable part of ourselves.

As we further explore our shadows and make peace with it, we realize that it is not what we once thought it was. It is not a problem to be solved, an enemy to be conquered, or something that we must fear or hide. Rather, it is simply a part of who we are and where we have been, and in embracing it, we become free to experience our entire self.

Things Aren’t Adding Up? Start Subtracting

Quite often, we tend to think that peace may be obtained by adding certain things into our lives. However, it has been my experience, that the act of letting go is equally important. The following list originated from the article entitled, “Eight Things You Must Give Up To Find Peace”, and it describes eight essential things that must be given up in order to manifest peace in one’s life.

  1. Past regrets and excuses.

As most of us well know, we cannot always choose what happens to us. But, we do have the power to choose how we relate to our circumstances and what we choose to do about them. Quite similarly, we also have the choice to forgive ourselves for our misgivings and refuse to define ourselves by the things we have done, or left unfinished.

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  1. The desire to have all the answers.

Learning to accept the unknown in life is a profound lesson, indeed, as uncertainty can be rather frightening. On the other hand, however, uncertainty can also be quite liberating because it means the possibilities are endless.

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  1. The false hope of a pain-free life.

As I am sure you have heard many times, pain is an inevitable part of life, and it comes in many shapes and sizes. Pain accompanies the good in life, just as often as it does the bad. Pain is for the living only, and as long as we are living, we are bound to encounter it now and then. And despite what many of us tend to think, this is a good thing, as pain signifies that our receptors to the world are working. And it signifies that we are indeed alive and interacting with the beautiful world around us.

  1. Ties to insensitive people.

People are extremely difficult to change, and based on my experiences, they rarely do as a result of the efforts of someone else. So, rather than attempting to change people and creating space for hard feelings, opt to invest your energies into other, more worthwhile things.

  1. Obsessing over negative news.

Do your best and try not to obsess over negativity. Like pain, there will be hardship in the world. So rather than allowing it to weigh you down, use it to propel yourself and the rest of the world forward, in a more positive direction.

  1. The belief that fulfillment resides in the end result.

Like peace, fulfillment is not obtained by achieving a specific goal. Rather, fulfillment is obtained by having a sense of purpose and living with authenticity and intention.

  1. Measuring your success by material wealth.

Stuff is, well, stuff. It is of the essence. It can add to various parts of our lives, and it can send a message to those around us. But, like anything of the material world, material wealth does have its limits.

  1. The need to keep everything the same.

Change is an inevitable part of life, as everything is indeed temporary.  And while change can certainly be uncomfortable, it can also be quite beautiful, for it is change that is at the heart of all growth and progression.

Mirror, Mirror

Not long ago I had a very enlightening conversation that I have found myself revisiting from time to time. I do not revisit this conversation because it was a particularly pleasant experience; rather, it was quite the contrary: this conversation was somewhat hurtful and most definitely humbling. Yet, as uncomfortable as it was for me, this conversation was also a positive and insightful experience, because several insightful observations had been brought to my attention that I had not otherwise made on my own. And even while this insight came as somewhat of a jolt to me, it was illuminating nonetheless.

Without getting into the particulars of the conversation, I will suffice it to say that I learned several important things about myself as a result of that uncomfortable exchange. This conversation opened my eyes to patterns in my life that I had been unintentionally, yet actively, perpetuating. I suddenly became more aware of certain bad habits that I have had and the impact they have on my life. And as a result of this awareness, I was also able to finally see the solution to certain problems that have been otherwise quite difficult for me to resolve.

So, even while this conversation was somewhat unpleasant for me, it really was a positive and important experience because of the awareness and potential growth that I had gained as a result.

And so it seems to go for many of us, does it not? Sometimes, it seems, life has a way of holding up a mirror for us to gaze into. And sometimes, looking at ourselves in such a way can be a difficult thing to do, because we may not like everything that we see. We may be startled by a sudden awareness that we had not had before. We may realize that there are hard truths that we must accept and own up to, and doing so is not easy, for there is nothing easy about admitting that we are, quite often, our biggest problem. If you are anything like me, your natural tendency would have been to resist this process and instead become defensive. To explain or excuse yourself. To shut down, to guard your heart, and protect your ego. Yet, if you are able to resist these temptations and instead gaze into that reflection of yourself, and ask yourself what is to be learned, you will grow and you will evolve. Because as difficult, uncomfortable, or unsettling as these experiences may be, they are quite valuable to us, for what we learn about ourselves during these times serve as an important reminder that while we may in fact be our own problem, we are also our solution to our problems.

Ask Yourself This:

We have all heard the saying, “All that we are is a result of what we have thought”, and in my experience, this statement seems to be true. And, on a similar vein, so does the quote, “Change your thoughts, and you change your world.”

Whether this is true for everyone or not, I do like the idea that we have control over our thoughts, and therefore our lives. That at any given moment, we can change how we relate to our circumstances, the world around us, and perhaps most importantly, ourselves, by changing the way that we think.

The following list was taken from an article I recently read that challenged readers to change the way they reflect upon their experiences. Parajumpers Long Bear Jakke The article asserts that the questions we ask ourselves each day greatly influences the type of people we are. So, rather than asking such questions as, How can I earn more money? What’s wrong with me? or Am I good enough?, the article suggests the following inquiries:

What did I learn? Each and every day, we are presented with numerous opportunities to learn. Embrace them for what they are and be grateful for the resulting growth.

Who did I love? Love brings out the best in who we are as well as in those we love. As such, it is the greatest gift as well as the greatest reward that we will ever give or receive.

How was I vulnerable? While being vulnerable is certainly uncomfortable, it is truly transformative. It is about being authentic, allowing yourself to be deeply seen, and taking risks that have invaluable rewards.

What am I grateful for? The attitude of gratitude reminds us that we have enough, and, just as importantly, that we are enough.

Who did I listen to? As you well know, we all just need an ear sometimes. No fixing. No advice. No anything besides opening up to share our stories, whatever they may be. Give this gift to someone else and lend an ear.

How was I challenged? Be careful not to equate challenge with struggle, and bear in mind that challenging experiences are often ripe with valuable life lessons.

What made me laugh? Embrace humor. Be tickled. And, lighten up, for laughter is important.

Who did I connect with? Connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel understood and valued. Connection is important, as it provides us with a sense of a belonging, and it serves as a reminder that we are never alone.

How did I grow? Each and every day provides us with opportunities for growth. Appreciate these moments for what they are, and be content with your progress, no matter how big or how small.

What did I share? Never underestimate your ability to make a difference. Know that you have gifts to offer the world, and do not be afraid to let your light shine.

Breaking the Cycle

 

Albert Einstein, the genius that he was, has been credited for once saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

…While most of are not actually insane, many of us can relate to this quote, because there is truth behind it. For if we are to be honest with ourselves, we must admit that, from time to time, we fall in to patterns that do not work for us. And as frustrating and discouraging as this can be, it is for good reason, because every dysfunction has its function, and because sometimes meaningful change requires the repeated learning and practice of difficult lessons.

So, if you are like the rest of us, and you are noticing negative patterns in your life, consider the following questions to help initiate positive change:

What are my patterns?

As they say in the 12-Step Program, thefirst step is to recognize that you have a problem. Or, in this case, a pattern. What, cycles, and trends seem to continuously play out in your life? What is going on in your life when you find yourself lamenting, “I always…” or “I never…”. When you hear these words echoing in your own ears, listen, reflect, and prepare to break a cycle.

How can I be accountable to myself?

After identifying that there is a pattern in your life that you would like to break, you must take accountability. Even if you struggle to own the problem, own the fact that this is your life, and empower yourself to make a change. Problems are not solved by blaming other and making excuses. They are solved by taking responsibility for the change that we would like to see, even if we are not responsible for the circumstances we find ourselves in.

What am I feeling?

Once you are able to identify your emotions and see them as signs and guideposts of what is going on within you and around you, you will be able to get off the emotional roller coaster that you have found yourself on and instead take a better look at what you are feeling, why you are feeling it, and what you want to do about it.

What lesson is to be learned?

No matter the situation, there is something to be learned. Find the value in the hardship.

What can I do differently?

If you want to make a positive change in your life, know that you need to make positive choices, and sometimes this means doing things differently than you normally do. So, think about how you typically react to a situation, and instead, choose to respond. This can be uncomfortable, but when practiced with intention and mindfulness, it can be powerfully transformative.