When Life Beats You Up!

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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

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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.

Why Do I Judge Myself???

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“Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged.”

What a difficult lesson to learn!  Unless you’re living in a cave and have no contact with the outside world, then you’re fully aware that the problem of judging is alive and well.  Not only does judging never fix the other person, it actually does a great deal of harm to yourself.

When I was more religious and less aware, I would look around at the people who fell short and scoff at their inability to keep their life in line.  If they fell on hard times, instead of being empathetic and helpful I would make a comment along the lines of, “You made your bed, now you have to lay in it.”

It was especially easy to be judgmental towards the people I didn’t agree with.  For hours on end I would entertain thoughts in my head of endless arguments with these people pointing out their faults and the errors in their thinking.  I scoffed at them.  I talked down to them. I told them to go fuck themselves with enough charisma and authority to make even Al Pacino or Clint Eastwood blush.

I obsessed about these people and how dare they not see my actions as innocent!  Why couldn’t they see I was an angel and they were acting like Lucifer himself?  You may be smiling at me because you can see the silliness in my position. But I suspect you’re smiling at me because you see yourself in my very real struggle with judging.

The difficulty with trying to lose the judging is it’s so rampantly permeated through our brain.  It bleeds through our mind the way Merlot stains your white carpet after it’s allowed to soak in overnight.  You can try and scrub your mind clean but the problem is the scrubbing can be never-ending.  As soon as you clear one stain of judgment, another is waiting in the wings to take its place.

When you judge another you do not define them you define yourself

Jesus was a pretty clever guy!  He understood the human condition and our struggle more precisely than any Bible scholar could grasp. In this situation he suggests not to judge for your own sake, not for the sake of your neighbor who you’re judging.  In every recorded interaction that Jesus had with people, he attempted to free the person from the pain of shaming, guilting, judging, or condemning themselves.

With all our technology and all of modern man’s advancements, we seem to be no better off today than we were in Jesus’ day.  I’m afraid that’s because they missed his point back then and we still miss the point today.  The world’s great religions all point to the same truths and are desperately trying to point us into a direction we seem unable to go.

Love your neighbor.

Love yourself.

Don’t judge your neighbor.

Don’t judge yourself.

I have to be careful even in the way I write this because I have the natural tendency to judge the well-meaning religious people for missing the point.  When I deliberately walked away from the religion of my upbringing, I went through a negative phase where I judged all religions and all people of different faiths.  My religious dogma turned into nonreligious dogma.  The script I was adhering to had changed but my mind played the same theme song on a never-ending playback loop. The recipients of my judgments changed but my mind still occupied the same prison it always had.

I suggest this was a phase or a season of negativity because my mind has since shifted.  But not everyone makes it completely through the negativity–in fact, very few make it through it no matter what dogma or worldview they subscribe to.

When you first set out to control your judging mind, you can no easier control it than you could stop all the waves of the ocean from crashing onto shore.

Where do your judgments come from?

Where do your thoughts come from?

Where do ideas and inspirations come from?

A while ago I came across the work of Byron Katie.  In Loving What Is she says, “You see who you are by seeing who you think other people are.  Eventually you come to see that everything outside you is a reflection of your own thinking.  You are the storyteller, the projector of all stories, and the world is the projected image of your thoughts.”

I was dumbfounded to say the least! I had to think about that slowly–I see who I am by seeing who I think other people are. Wow! Well at the time–and most my adult life–I was focused on all the negativity and just naturally judged anyone and everyone all around me.  I had never considered the problem was an internal one.  I naively assumed the problem was always external and never my own doing.  The profound lesson that Jesus was trying to convey (and every wise prophet before him and after him) had nothing to do with your neighbor or your brother.  Instead every wise sage understood that whatever you did to your neighbor or brother you were doing to yourself.  If you can believe that everything outside of you is a reflection of your own thinking, then you can see that to judge your neighbor means you’re really judging yourself.

Hate your brother (or sister)? Yup, you hate yourself.

The wisdom of what Jesus mentioned here was advice we all could use on a daily basis.  We are so quick to judge anything and everything around us that we completely miss the truths of our situation.

We judge the Democrat if we consider ourselves Republican.

We judge the Jehovah’s Witness if we subscribe to being Catholic.

We judge PETA or the liberals if we’re an outdoorsman who belongs to the NRA.

We judge the weather when it doesn’t cooperate according to our plans.

We judge the trash man or gas station clerk as though we’re somehow better than them.

We judge the CEO or rich businessman because they aren’t giving enough away.

We judge our spouse because they can’t read our minds and comply  the way we think they should.

We judge our parents because they didn’t raise us how they should have.

We judge our exes because they didn’t love us like we wanted them to.

We judge our children because they refuse our input or make choices without our consent.

We judge the pro-lifer when we’re pro-choice,

the Muslim when we’re Christian,

the black when we’re white,

the gays when we’re straight,

the unemployed when we’re working,

the overweight when we’re skinny,

or the skinny when we’re fat.

It’s an ongoing battle but I believe it’s one we can win if we choose love.  By ferociously loving your neighbor or brother or sister, you are making the clear choice to love yourself along the way.  It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it!

Peace my Friend!

~Travis

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