the foundational prerequisite of psychological wellbeing

My affirmation today:

I am enough; I come back to the present through my senses whenever I remember, and by doing so I gradually become more and more aware of reality, more grounded in the present, less fixated on the past or the future.

There is an internal narrative telling me that I need to be doing more of one certain thing or another – more productive, more efficient, more materially secure, etc,

but this is not all there is, not the whole story. Mental training, emotional resilience, psychological integrity … these are things I need to prioritise as the foundational prerequisites of holistic wellness.

how to contribute to the worth economy

upon reflection during this post, it turns out there was a reason I have always eaten the cupcake first
~ photo by Chanhee Lee on Unsplash ~

I’ve been prioritising what I call “happiness habits” lately and it’s doing me well. I have a routine of rituals I do each morning, and a few other must-do’s each day, but otherwise I’m trying to refrain from having expectations other than this in my day. The situation with our co-tenant persists, which makes it hard to do much each day. Sometimes if all I can manage to maintain is my meditation practice I am happy.

I was talking to Nikki the other day about how much a regular practice of compassion meditation is helping me cope with our situation, and we talked about how such foundations must be built before anything else, and I really appreciate that.

I’m proud of having got myself to a place where I’m actually feeling pretty good among the pretty shitty situation we’re in with our co-tenant. I made the affirmation this morning that

I will keep up with observing the basics and not have majorly high expectations of myself to do a lot more

because I understand that’s where we start to go wrong in our culture: we try to achieve all this stuff because we think we need to prove ourselves, but in doing so we neglect the practices of being that would have us feeling worth without having to prove ourselves;

all motivation/intention must come from a place where we already recognise our inherent worth, otherwise that motivation will become tainted by the wish to be validated by others and we’ll be chasing this forever without satisfaction because no amount of external validation can fill the void where our self-worth should be;

anything we achieve to supplement our self-worth is going to suck worth out of the worth-economy, whereas anything we achieve from a sense of inherent self-worth is going to contribute worth.

I wrote about something similar recently, in a post called “on self-esteem as a precursor for achievement …” where I mentioned how societal expectations drive a lot of us to be always achieving, never satisfied to just exist and accept ourselves for our inherent worth.

I didn’t go into how we might cultivate that sense of inherent self-worth, but I’d like to drop a few thoughts here because a big part of the narrative shift I’m contributing to with Kokoro 心 Heart is about internal self-talk, which is where our sense of worth (or lack thereof) begins.

I believe the path to a sustainable and harmonious future on this planet is paved by creating a culture of individuals who are internally sustainable and harmonious. Because individuals create culture as much, if not more, than they are influenced by culture. We are culture, and the future is determined by the state of our present.

One way we can begin to create that culture of internally healthy individuals is by looking at our own self-talk. For me, there are some essential meditation and contemplation practices that are indispensable in healing my negative self-talk, and they are:

  • mindfulness
  • (self-)compassion
  • (self-)forgiveness
  • gratitude

I spend some time each day reflecting on and practising these, and sometimes I find it hard to justify the time because I feel like I should be achieving something else … anything else, just not wellbeing.

But that’s absurd, and there’s a logic to be understood here: no amount of external achievement can satisfactorily supplement the sense of worth that comes from laying the foundation of these practices first; so the foundational practices need to come first, and are justified on these grounds.

Anything extra I can do, after I have done these exercises, is just the cream on top. If I have a really productive day, that’s just a cherry on top of the cream. Please excuse the shonky metaphor, but without that foundational cupcake we’re left with just a handful of whipped cream and a slimy glacé cherry.

The understanding we live by is arse-about in Western culture: we live for the external, and neglect the internal. But the internal is all that exists. This is a fundamental aspect of the narratives we need to change in ourselves and thereby our culture.

Does this make sense?

What does this mean for you?

dear Bodhi 心, we can’t pour from an empty cup

I wrote myself a love letter to practise an emotional first-aid exercise I learnt from Elizabeth Gilbert on Insight Timer.

Dear Bodhi,

I love you and I’m here for you. You’re going through a hard time right now and finding it difficult to cope. That’s okay – you’re doing a better job than you think. You’re always learning, and you try to be honest with yourself. That’s a great quality. You are aware of your feelings and are able to recognise when you have reacted because you feel triggered. This awareness is the first step to being able to regulate yourself during episodes of difficult emotions.

The training in Cultivating Emotional Balance is coming up soon and it’s really great that you’re wanting to pursue this training and be responsible for your thoughts, feelings, emotions and behaviours, especially reactive behaviours.

The space between stimulus and response is accessible and you can expand the interface by practising awareness through training such as CEB. You will learn a lot during the training and it feels like it will be a fulcrum period around which your life and being will be changed forever. You want to learn this training so that maybe you can deliver it as well – I think that’s a great idea and I think you can do it.

It’s okay and good even, that you’ve taken the time you need for yourself today. It is not selfish to meet your needs, especially because it makes it easier to be present for others’ needs when your cup is full.

We can’t pour from an empty cup.

By taking this time you’ve gained the space to see that you need some emotional first-aid and that’s something to be proud of. You have the psychological skills and techniques you need to help yourself when you’re in pain. I’ve attached them along with this letter, for your convenience.

You are deeply committed to understanding suffering and its true causes so you can be well and guide others on this path. What a beautiful thing to be doing! You’re a caring soul and you’ll help many because you feel deep compassion for yourself and others. Your lived experience of suffering is a rich resource and motivation from which you can learn a lot, about the true nature of reality and how to be happy.

You’re a good fella and you’re doing your best.

Keep up the good work 🙂

Love,

Bodhi 心

PS The toolbox of psychological skills and techniques I mentioned.

a PDF worksheet for emotional first-aid

Photo by Roger Brown on Pexels.com

On the Resources page here I have published a worksheet I use to process emotional episodes in a healthy, supported and guided way. It’s a practice of self-soothing and -regulation. Here are the .odt and .docx files if you want to modify the worksheet for your personal use.

The worksheet guides you through asking, What sort of things did you think, feel and do before, during and after the emotional episode?

Then there are some prompts for self-care and emotional first-aid you can try, and some reflection questions about things like, What are you grateful to have learnt from this experience.

I’m proud of this resource because it has helped me a number of times already when I needed to change the narrative around some event that was emotionally distressing. The worksheet is inspired by the work of Guy Winch, which was my introduction to this practice.

There are more resources on that page, such as Dr Kristin Neff’s website about compassion, and a compassion meditation guided by Sharon Salzberg.

enough time

“The Persistence of Memory” by Salvidor Dali

My affirmation today is, again, I am enough. I am enjoying this theme and I think it’s worth reflecting on regularly. It can be expanded to include this is enough, and it makes me think now about gratitude. A quote we had on the wall for a while:

Gratitude turns what we have into enough.

That which is, is enough.

I got up early enough. There is enough time to do whatever needs to be done. I do enough of what I want. The weather is warm enough (this is easy today because the weather is perfect). I have enough energy to be productive enough today. I am enough without being productive.

The last few days have been “hijacked” by life, resulting in me not being able to do what I wanted to do, which was work on kHeart projects. Life has been this way a lot lately – enough to show me that there is something for me to be seeing.

What does that mean? What am I supposed to be seeing?

I am supposed to be seeing and looking at the reality that life doesn’t always go as we planned – in fact, it never does. We know the saying, “Life is what happens while you were busy making plans.” The future is never as we imagined it would be.

In the space between the present and the future, there is a line between getting our way and getting out of the way, between getting what we want and going with the flow.

I am beginning to see that the idea of attachment and non-attachment applies to time and events as much as it applies to material possessions.

I understand non-attachment in the material realm and am generally okay with not getting or having possessions. I am learning now that I have something to learn about accepting and adapting to situations where I don’t get what I want in terms of controlling the way I spend my time.

For most of my life I have been a loner, and I don’t mean that in a self-disparaging way: my upbringing lead to me being comfortable with being alone, and I was mostly happy with that. Sometimes I was lonely, but I adapted and came to enjoy having lots of time alone. I am mostly an introvert as well, so I need time alone to recharge. The “lone wolf” is a descriptor that applies better than “loner”: I have friends that I see now and then, but mostly I’m pretty self-contained.

I am seeing a narrative emerge here – a story I tell myself about myself – and I’m seeing that a guided journaling practice might help others to see where narratives are running the way they think about themselves.

I see it as a narrative because I see how I am telling you how I was or am. If it can be told, it is a narrative, and if it can be told one way it can be told another. It makes me think of the Taoist idea: if it can be named, it is not the Tao.

Meaning that if I can tell you about it, it is not the truth – if I can tell you about myself, I am not telling you about my true nature. Everything we tell about ourselves – every narrative we create to explain ourselves – is a fiction, a construct. It is not the truth, but a choice between various and myriad lies or fictions, illusions.

I’m getting obscure again, but this is ephemeral territory, the metaphysical and the esoteric. The exoteric is an example.

My son Zane has told me things about himself, like “I’m not the sort of person who … [insert character trait here] … likes to talk about his feelings … likes learning … likes slow movies.” When Zane has done this I have recognised that these are very much choices he is making about identity, not expressions of his true nature. These claims have been made over the last five years, between the ages of 9 and 14, a time of development when children begin realising they have an identity they need to understand. They are seeing that they are not just expressions of their parents, but individual entities and there seems to be an urgency to claim their own identity. When he has made these claims I have tried to say variations of “maybe that will change one day”, because I want for him to not become locked-in to one identity-choice or another. Imagine a person believing their whole life that they are not the sort of person who likes to talk about their feelings. (Like human beings can be sorted into this or that category like so many biscuits behind a barcode!) That would be a prison on the island of the illusion of independence – no man being an island and all that.

Something I don’t have to imagine is a person believing their whole life that they are happier when they are alone. I don’t have to imagine this because it is a belief I have been narrating to myself my whole life – because a bunch of people let me down early in life, and I decided I would be better of without them and they would be better off without me. Trouble is, “they” was a specific group of people back then, whereas now “they” applies to the whole amorphous group of people known as everyone other than me.

As an adult I choose to share my aloneness with a few select others who show that they care about me and are able to let me care about them, but because I was mistreated by a select few as a child – my brother, father and some kids at school – I must have told myself at some point that I am the sort of person who doesn’t need friends to be happy, that I am the sort of person who is happy to be alone.

After a slew of toxic relationships in my young adulthood (before I met Nikki) I had resigned myself to believing that I would be happier to be single my whole life than to continue from one toxic relationship to another. I had resigned myself to dying alone, using justifications such as “we are each alone at death anyway”.

I’m rambling a bit, but that’s okay because this has become an exercise in questioning the narratives that dictate my beliefs about my nature, true or otherwise.

I have been thinking, these last few days when I haven’t been able to get what I want, that I need to figure out how to get more solitude in my life(style).

That word “more” is a clue and a key. If we are saying we need more of this or that (more money, a job that is more fulfilling, more time, more time alone, more time alone doing this or that … it’s an endless list of more and more qualifications of what we want from what is) then we are not living from the awareness of enoughness.

Understanding this in relation to time is the challenge I am currently facing, which I choose to accept.

When I am frustrated that I am not getting the time I want, I see that attachment is at work and I remember that this is enough. That which is, is enough.

That is my affirmation today, should I choose to accept it.

Frustration is a red flag that attachment is operating. I can try to make that which is different, or I can choose to adapt and feel grateful and allow whatever is to be. I can choose to get out of the way and allow my resistance to that which is to dissipate. And in this way I can allow a new narrative to write itself: I am equally happy when my time is spent alone or with people; if I cannot change the external conditions/situation dictating that I must spend more time with others than I am used to or would like, then I must accept only that which I can change, which is how I feel about the situation/condition. Remember Frankl:

When we are no longer able to change a situation,
we are challenged to change ourselves.

more enoughness ;)

A reader liked an old post today, “on self-esteem as a precursor for achievement …” and it showed me there is a theme running through my thoughts about enoughness, which I wrote about yesterday.

Societal expectations drive a lot of us to be always achieving, never satisfied to just exist and accept ourselves for our inherent worth. Our self-esteem is dependent upon achievement.

I think it’s essential we question the narratives telling us we need to achieve more — always more, never enough.

What is your enough? Do we need more enoughness 😉

What would your life look like if achievement was just something you did for fun? Because you didn’t need to achieve to just feel good about yourself.

enoughness

My affirmation for today is that I am enough.

That should be enough said, but we all know I like to get a bit long-winded.

It is enough to just be a kind and present observer in and of the world, a being that brings laughter and lightness and other authentic qualities to their experience and to that of those around them. Or to be a kind and present observer who is grouchy. We don’t need to add or subtract anything from ourselves to be worthy of joy, happiness and love.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t do. Just being is not enough.

Is that a paradox? I don’t think so.

It just means that from our place of being enough, everything else we do comes with ease, is additional, expectation free.

It means that whatever I do today it’s because I choose to add this to my already-enoughness. It also means that if something gets in the way of what I want it doesn’t matter because I am already enough without getting to the thing I wanted.

Alan Watts has a nice quote about this:

photo by Felix Mittermeier

the weather behind the curtain

I feel inspired this morning. I woke earlier than usual and, seeing the beautiful weather behind the curtain, I decided to sit myself up and be awake. That’s a nice metaphor about what we’re doing here: seeing the beautiful weather behind the curtain, where the beautiful weather is our already-enlightened nature, and the curtain is the network of conceptual obscurations that prevent us from living out of that place each moment. It’s like waking up and remembering I live here:

the bushland suburb of Bunya in Southeast Queensland (not to be confused with the Bunya Mountains, which is real out-bush)

I feel inspired to do my purpose, which is to observe and report the world anew, to investigate the nature of reality, to write my own narrative and help others to do the same. I’m drafting a post about what I even mean by changing the narrative and psychospiritual wellness — coming soon. But meanwhile, I can say this much:

without really knowing it, in our subconscious we tell ourselves stories about the way the world was, is and will be. If we are not vigilant about the content of these stories, they can be limiting and even harmful. We can get stuck in the past, and from there all we can expect is that our future will reflect that past. If you’ve had a good past, then bully for you — but most of us haven’t, and we want to see a brighter future.

Continue reading “the weather behind the curtain”

psychological first-aid

I have added a video to the Resources page on Kokoro 心 Heart, about psychological first-aid.

The practice of psychological first-aid falls somewhere between acute and long-term self-care. It baffles me that I was nearly 40 before I had it pointed out to me that we need to treat psychological wounds as they happen, the same as we treat physical wounds.

Here is the video by Guy Winch, which was my introduction to this practice.