When Life Beats You Up!

Standard

FB_IMG_1455133742338

Sometimes life hits you upside the head and you are left defenseless.  Sometimes life takes your breath away and it’s all you can do to get out of bed in the morning.  Sometimes it seems like life is piling on the trouble and you feel helpless to control anything.  It feels like you can barely make it from your bed to the shower.  The thought of even going to work makes you sick to your stomach.

What do you do when it feels like life punched you in the gut?  What do you do when it feels like you’ve been knocked off center?  What do you do when you can’t seem to regain your composure?

Do you call in sick from work or school?

Do you turn to food and overindulge?

Do you increase the alcohol, caffeine, sugar, or smoking?

Do you become easily irritable and take it out on your loved ones?

Do you turn to religion or a higher power to rescue you?

Or do you put your head down and just charge forward like any other day?

We all handle stress and drama differently.  We all have our own unique way of dealing with the pain life throws our way.  There is no right or wrong way to cope with life’s difficulties.  You deal with it the best way you know how at the time and that works for you.

I used to get stressed out a lot easier than I do now.  I used to let life’s burdens pile up like imaginary weights being added to an imaginary backpack I was carrying around.  I felt powerless to deal with whatever the newest stress was that needed to be dealt with.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a very laid back guy on the outside but on the inside I constantly struggled with the newest burden life piled on.

Eventually I came to discover the power of the present moment through authors like Eckhart Tolle, Alan Watts, Erich Fromm, Wayne Dyer, and Byron Katie.  I have been reading authors like these for several years but their message never quite sank in until I applied what Byron Katie had to say to my life.

FB_IMG_1454213440693

I never realized before that life isn’t the problem, the people around me aren’t the problem, my job isn’t the problem, or my car breaking down isn’t the problem.  Once I truly grasped the burden is never life, it’s what I’m thinking and believing about life that causes me stress, then I finally saw with open eyes the role I played in my own drama. My thoughts come and go on their own.  I’m powerless to control the thoughts that enter my mind.  But, I am able to question those thoughts and choose not to believe the ones that aren’t true for me.

I watched several videos on YouTube of Byron Katie helping people question their thoughts.  I began to see how when we let our minds run unchecked and our thoughts and beliefs unquestioned, then we allow suffering and frustration to rule our lives.  I watched in amazement how people questioned their thoughts and then released themselves from their suffering.  Byron Katie’s approach can be found on TheWork.com where she suggests every thought we have can be met with four questions in order to find peace:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
  3. How do you react–what happens–when you believe that thought?
  4. Who would you be without the thought?

Before, I felt helpless to slow the onslaught of negative thoughts once they came rushing in.  Now, as long as I take the time to question my thoughts and beliefs I can usually find my way back to peace in no time.  By peace I mean I can find my way back to the present moment (Reality).

FB_IMG_1454727273291

Anytime my mind leaves the present moment I can expect suffering.  If I go to the future in my thoughts, I can expect fear, anxiety, and worry.  If I go back into the past with my thoughts, I’m sure to be met with regret, shame, and pain.  The only way back to peace is through Reality and the Now.  If I question my thoughts and come back to the present moment, I instantly realize I don’t have any stress or drama.  The stress or drama I thought I did have actually came from my unquestioned thoughts and beliefs.

Byron Katie’s message about Reality made more sense when I came across this quote from Erich Fromm the other day:

“The average person, while he thinks he is awake, actually is half asleep.  By ‘half asleep’ I mean that his contact with reality is a very partial one; most of what he believes to be reality (outside or inside himself) is a set of fictions which his mind constructs.  The average persons’ consciousness is mainly ‘false consciousness,’ consisting of fictions and illusion, while precisely what he is not aware of is reality.”

Why have I never considered this before?  Why have I let my thoughts control my life for so many years when they were mostly fictions and illusions?  I completely related to the “half asleep” reference.  I have spent large portions of my life unaware of the reality that looked me right in the eye.

Now instead of being half asleep, I attempt to live my life fully awake and fully aware.  It has made a difference for my life internally and externally.  Now when it feels like life hits me upside the head and I’m left defenseless, it doesn’t take me near as long to come back to the present moment. I question my thoughts, find out what reality is, regain my composure and focus, then allow peace to flow back into my life.

FB_IMG_1454891433895

Trust me, life still punches me in the gut on occasion, it just doesn’t take my breath away like it used to.

How are you dealing with stress and drama in your life lately?

 

Peace my Friends!

 

~Travis

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Four years ago, I wrote a blog post I Have Friends that Have Relationship Issues!  It’s a pretty good one and worth sharing again.  Peace.

What If You are Wrong?

Standard

What if you are wrong?

What if your view of the world is wrong?

What if every assumption you hold tightly as reality is wrong?

What if your idea of love is wrong?

What if your view on relationships is wrong?

What if your beliefs are wrong?

These are difficult questions, I know.  I wrestle with them daily.  With each new day I make assumptions about what I believe to be right (i.e. to be true), and I also make assumptions about what I believe to be wrong.  These assumptions wreak havoc with my mind and can create an internal hell if I’m not careful.

Simply have a conversation with anyone about politics, religion, sex, racism, refugees, or heck even a little red cup; and you will come to realize that everyone holds tightly to their opinions and beliefs.  At some point, we have believed something to be true and made a decision to not waiver from that so-called truth.  But…..

What if you are wrong?

Alan Watts weighs in on this in his book The Wisdom of Insecurity and it’s appropriate to share here:

We must make a clear distinction between belief and faith, because, in general practice, belief has come to mean a state of mind which is almost the opposite of faith.  Belief, as I use the word here, is the insistence that the truth is what one would [desire] or wish it to be.  The believer will open his mind to the truth on condition that it fits in with his preconceived ideas and wishes.  Faith, on the other hand, is an unreserved opening of the mind to the truth, whatever it may turn out to be.  Faith has no preconceptions; it is a plunge into the unknown.  Belief clings, but faith lets go.  In this sense of the word, faith is the essential virtue of science, and likewise of any religion that is not self-deception.

Most of us believe in order to feel secure, in order to make our individual lives seem valuable and meaningful.  Belief has thus become an attempt to hang on to life, to grasp and keep it for one’s own.  But you cannot understand life and its mysteries as long as you try to grasp it.  Indeed, you cannot grasp it, just as you cannot walk off with a river in a bucket.  If you try to capture running water in a bucket, it is clear that you do not understand it and that you will always be disappointed, for in the bucket the water does not run.  To “have” running water you must let go of it and let it run.  The same is true of life and of God.

Quite some time ago without even realizing I was doing it, I let go of belief and allowed myself faith.  It has been a long and arduous journey–one I’m still on.

bucket-of-water

I especially like Alan Watts’ description of trying to walk off with a river in a bucket for a few reasons.

  • I’m intrigued by the mysterious flow of rivers and the parallels our lives have with water.  Along those lines, I think faith is similar to flowing down the river as with the mystery of life, while belief is like willingly stepping out of the river and standing on the riverside.
  • Holding a river in a bucket is similar to the idea of “having” versus “being.”  Once we make our minds up about something, we hold tight to our belief and attempt to own it as our possession.  We put our bucket of river on a shelf  and proudly display it to our friends and neighbors.
  • Along the same lines as my previous blog I Don’t Know, I began to realize much of my frustration in life was coming from my inability to accept reality and simply allow the river to flow.  Instead of grasping tightly to a belief that wasn’t even mine in the first place, I saw that faith was malleable just like the water in a river.

Do you have the courage to let go of all belief and accept a life of faith?  You may mistake my talk about belief and faith as purely religious, but I’m talking about so much more than religion.  In every area of our lives, we must let go of certainty and be willingly accept faith.

When you talk about faith, is it really a belief?

What if you are wrong?

 

Peace my Friends!

 

~Travis

Advice for My Dear Friend

Standard

I have a great friend who recently retired and while messaging she mentioned she’s struggling with commitments.  She said, “I can’t seem to make them.  When asked to join bible study, weekly classes, or take on a part time job I just can’t do it.  Perhaps it’s because I was so committed to my job (for over thirty years).  I love grabbing life at the moment and shaking it for all its worth.”

The following is my personal response to my dear friend.

FB_IMG_1445637973867

Dear Susie,

(Name changed to protect this rock star’s identity)

Let me be the first to tell you there’s nothing wrong with you!  You just finished a long and rewarding career that anyone should be proud of.  You have given of yourself for the betterment of others.  People looked to you to get the job done because you were reliable.  But more than that–you cared.  You cared deeply for the people you worked with.  They looked up to you–as they wisely should have–because they knew you would be there to take care of them.

Maybe some of these people took you for granted but they’re getting a clear dose of reality now that you’re gone.  I know I speak for many people when I say you are truly missed!!  Your presence is one that cannot be denied.  When you walk into the room, you bring a zest for life and a deep knowing.  Your presence is truly undeniable!

So now that I have reminded you of what you already know about yourself, I would like to touch on the commitments you referred to.  There are several good things you mentioned that you could commit to; bible study, weekly classes, or part time job.  All are very good things you could add to your life and they may even add some enrichment.

But the question I have is where does the urge to completely fill our calendars come from?  Why are we so inclined to feel like we need to be doing something all the time?

I am no expert on such things.  I will, however, attempt to shine light on our humanness and will try to answer the question of what you should do with your time.

Life gives us an infinite amount of choices from which we can choose.  Is there any choice we can make that is wrong?  Let’s look at nature and see: take for instance the wave crashing onto the beach.  Do we look at the wave and say “You’re doing it all wrong! That was a terrible choice for a wave to make!”  Or how about the clouds?  Have you ever seen a cloud in the sky that was grossly in error for its choice of shape?  What about the banana or apple?  Do we scold them for their poor choices of becoming bananas and apples?  Have you ever looked at your newborn grand-baby and been disgusted by their choice of eye color?

I realize I am making some large exaggerations but for very good reason.  Your life will unfold in perfect timing and with such crystal clear purpose as soon as you realize one thing: What you are doing this very second is what you are supposed to be doing.  In a world of infinite possibilities, whatever you choose to do needs to be with this attitude; “I’m going to try this for awhile.”  Then, upon making that choice to have that experience you may decide instantly that you want to have another experience.  That’s perfectly acceptable!  Do we criticize the cloud for joining another cloud and giving us rain?  Do we fault the grape for being the wrong variety to mix into our Cabernet Sauvignon?

I believe you answered your own question to me without even realizing it. You said you want to “grab life by the moment and shake it for all its worth,” which I wholeheartedly applaud!  To me, it seems you don’t want to join a bible study, weekly class, or take on a part time job.  That’s perfect, don’t!  In a world of infinite possibilities, what do you want to do?  Do you want to go fishing, play with your grand-baby, share a bottle of wine with a friend, or drive your dad around in your fancy new car?  There is literally no wrong choice you can make.  Which brings me to another question:

Are there people in your life that suggest you need to be in a bible study, weekly class, or take on a part time job?  If so, are these well-meaning people a source of guilt for you?  Remember, no one can make you feel guilty without your permission.  You no longer have to explain yourself to anyone since only you can experience life for you.  Your well-meaning friends and family can’t experience the life you choose anymore than you can experience the life of a racoon.

FB_IMG_1445608514033

I came across a quote earlier that reminded me of your situation: “Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.”  So I must ask you; what sets your soul on fire? If you’re worried about making commitments then only make one and let everyone know what it is.  Commit to making the best choice for yourself in every situation.  Some weeks that may involve a bible study or a weekend retreat but you will unapologetically commit to living your life one day at a time, moment by moment.

One of my favorite philosophers, Alan Watts, once said, “Paradoxical as it may seem, the purposeful life has no content, no point.  It hurries on and on, and misses everything.  Not hurrying, the purposeless life misses nothing, for it is only when there is no goal and no rush that the human senses are fully open to receive the world.”

So we are given this life of infinite possibilities and we stress about what we should do with it.  What if the answer can never be found in the “doing?”  What if the only real answer is in the “being?”  We are called a human being not a human doing, but somewhere along the way we forget that.

As we go through school growing up we are told the world is a certain way, so we believe it.  We are told we are supposed to either go to college or get a job, so we believe it.  We are told we need to buy a house and save for the future, so we believe it.  We are told we need to get married and have a family, so we believe it.  We are always striving for the next thing we are supposed to be doing, all the while, forgetting the importance of being in the present moment.

What if we’ve been lied to?  What if being nothing more than a cog in the giant economical wheel is not what our souls yearn for?  What if your worth has nothing to do with the choices you’ve made but instead has everything to do with the person you are?  And in your case, you’re a pretty amazing person!

Here’s my final plea for you, my friend; ruthlessly and unapologetically commit to only what makes your heart explode with joy.  Life is short and none of us are getting out alive, but oh how beautiful living can be while we’re here!  The world needs more people like you who “grab life by the moment and shake it for all its worth” so please don’t stop being you!

In a world of infinite possibilities, I suggest you be your bad-ass self every single day, for your sake, for the world’s sake!

Peace my Friend!!

~Travis

FB_IMG_1445569355854