I noticed upon waking this morning that I almost immediately began worrying, and I was able to bring myself back into the present of the body, which was a relief. It’s frustrating that my habitual tendency is to worry, because I know it just causes suffering, but I feel like it was a small win today to recognise that and make an effort to respond skilfully using some of the practices I have been taught.
Afterward I reflected on how the mind really does create (our interpretation of) reality and if we can become more aware of our habitual thought patterns and do the work of editing them, we can change (the way we perceive) reality, and by changing that perception we may as well have changed reality because the state of our perceptions determines our happiness and wellbeing more than the state of reality actually does.
This is my current understanding of what people mean when they say our thoughts create (our) reality: our perceptions are more real than reality itself. I understand this is something taught in Buddhism … “mind is the forerunner of all states” and “perceive all dharmas as dreams” … but I’m curious to know what the modern psychology and neuroscience says about this.
It could be the difference between happiness and suffering, because whether we are happy or suffering depends on our relationship with / interpretation of events, does it not?
So my affirmation today: remain mindful as much as possible, and know that awareness of thought patterns empowers me to choose how I feel; negative thought patterns do not have to be allowed their habitual free reign.
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.
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:
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.
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.
I set up to do some righting by this beauty tonight. There is something about working by fire that makes me feel immensely grateful. Something about the fire circle being the original story-telling place perhaps.
I haven’t been able to use this space as my own for a while, due to a situation with a tenant at home. So I’m especially grateful that we have access to this, somehow both a privilege and a rite.
I’m grateful for what I’m learning through this domestic situation about the issues we humans have with control, and that’s what I’m exploring in the journal at the fire tonight.
… rather than achievement as a prerequisite for self-esteem
I’ve been taking stock today — taking it slow and allowing myself to get back in the groove of being a bit more organised than I have been lately. I’ve been posting a lot more here recently, but a few other things like life-admin and chores have gone by the wayside a bit.
This is okay — I’ve been riding the enthusiasm I feel for this blog and the community we can build here. It’s been making me happy. I will find the balance between running this blog and running the rest of my life, as the pendulum swings to and fro.
When I’m taking stock I like to go through my various browsers, closing tabs I’ve had open for yonks. It helps me feel a bit more organised by cutting out some of the mental noise I feel at some kind of subconscious level when I know I’ve been opening tabs like they’re going out of fashion.
Something I stopped on today was this article about how some overachievers turn to drugs for escape because no achievement is ever sufficiently satisfying. It’s published by an addiction-recovery and mental-health clinic, and covers a lot of ground (in three short sections) about 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 understand this compulsion intimately, though I’m not sure I had quite made the connection between the constant need for achievement and the temptation of drugs that promise a reprieve from this pressure.
I am pleased to be able to say, though, that since I’ve been working more full-time on Kokoro 心 Heart and the business around it, I can relate more to this statement from the article:
Our attempts to achieve and succeed should have their roots in a healthy, already-existent sense of self-esteem, rather than being motivated by its absence.
I can honestly say that I wake up each morning feeling committed to doing this work that fulfils my purpose. Not because I need to supplement a low self-esteem, but because doing this work feels as natural and necessary as breathing, or making nutritious food, or walking in the bush. It’s an act of self-care, this work, and feels like something I am just meant to do — no one else expects me to do it.
I value the work I am doing here, and I do it because I believe it has worth — I wouldn’t be able to do that without others’ expectations if I didn’t have a higher sense of self-esteem than I had previously recognised.
So that’s a nice thing to have realised, and was well worth taking stock for. I am grateful, and very fortunate.
Check out the article, and let me know what you think. I think it’s essential we question the narratives telling us we need to achieve more — always more, never enough.
What is your enough?
If societal expectations drive a lot of us to be always achieving, never satisfied to just exist and accept ourselves for our inherent worth, but also no achievement is ever sufficiently satisfying, what to do?
(The title of this post should be sung to the tune of “For Whom The Bell Tolls” while imagining James Hetfield doing the splits.)
We’ve got a situation here. This last week our domestic environment exploded in fits of verbal violence that leave my family and I mostly displaced from the dwelling that was intended as a shared home. We’ve been spending the days in our car or with family, coming back to sleep fitfully at night. Our son has thankfully avoided a lot of the fallout, though not for any positive reason – his friend is missing, so Zane and his mates have been roaming Brisbane to find him. Things are calming down now – the main aggressor is talking about moving out, which is a huge relief.
These events are the symptoms of a maligned culture in demise – they are the cracks that result from collective ways of being that are unsuitable for our nature. I say this not to exonerate myself from my part in the verbal violence – I made the mistake of retaliating, yelling, have accepted my responsibility for the maladaptive reaction I contributed to the escalation of a situation that could have been avoided if I and others had been more skillful, and I resolve to learn from this how to do differently next time. There’s more of that at the end of this draft.
I love that dialogue is emerging around this: “psychosis” is not always inherently pathological. I know that from my own experience of what progressive psychologists (Grof et al) are calling “spiritual emergency”.