Tag Archives: ego

Goal the first: Meditation

I have not yet finished my goal setting for the coming year. I need to feel that the juju is just right before I break out my magic moleskine and light my special candle (coconut and elderflower scented – definitely the scent of success!!) and so far, the right mood just hasn’t struck me.

However, one goal that I know will be on my list (it always is) is meditation. ‘Develop a meditation habit’. Along with ‘reach goal weight’, this little beauty is a repeat appear-er (or repeat offender) on my list of New Year’s resolutions. I have spoken about my meditation battles in the past.

As always, I believe that this year will be different.

However, unlike previous years, I am actually going to approach this baby from a different perspective this time (what is it that Einstein said? That to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result is the definition of Jessica?!)

Anyway. I am reading Danielle LaPorte’s wonderful The Desire Map. And she asks you to focus on your ‘core desired feelings’. If you work towards feeling those desired feelings every single day, then you will be creating a more fulfilling life for yourself, regardless of whether you actually become the Gold Medal Winner or Editor-in-Chief or General King Ding-a-ling.

Why is it that I want to develop ye olde meditation habit?

Because sometimes when I do it, I feel amazing.
Because sometimes when I do it, I know that I am a better person.
Because sometimes when I do it – just sometimes – I feel bliss. I reach my very innards in a way that electrifies me and calms me and ‘whole-ifies’ me. In a way that is so singular yet universal, and entirely, frustratingly ineffable. All at the same time.

But I suppose, mainly, it is because I want to feel centred. I want to feel calm and peaceful and present. I want to feel that I am fully living in the present, and meditation has always been a wonderful tool to help me do that. Even if I have raged and railed and struggled against it from time to time.

So this year, I am going to develop a meditation habit because I desire the feeling of calm, peaceful centredness. Not because I think I should. Not because I need to. Not because my grandfather had Alzheimers and studies have shown that meditation increases brain health/power/longevity and bloody-well-just-do-it-already-you-procrastinating-idiot-of-a-time-bomb. (Yes, because if self-guilt and self-placation don’t work, you should definitely try self-beration.  It’s super fun and garuanteed to work!)

I’m going to do it because I desire to feel centred and peaceful and myself.

This month, I am attending a group meditation session and I am meditating everyday for five minutes. Because goddammit if anything but babysteps just leave me feeling overwhelmed right now! But five minutes I can do, five minutes I can handle. Starting small seems like the way to go. And I am doing it for a feeling.

I will keep you posted.

 

PS – In line with the whole idea of reaching health goals this New Year, my gorgeous friend Jessica Nazarali from Live Healthy Simply is a holistic health coach who is kicking off 2013 by offering a limited number of lovely ladies a free discovery coaching session. These sessions are designed to help you make those lifestyle changes that have seemed just-out-of-reach for oh-so-long. Jess is great at chunking things down so that even the most veggie-averse person can see how implementing small, simple steps can add up to a life of wholehearted health. And if you’re already a green-juice-guzzling-gal, she can help you push it to the next level. If you would like to learn more, click here or email Jess at jessica@livehealthysimply.com.

 

Looking at the world from the bottom of a well

I have a tendency to dwell in negative thoughts. Ages back, I had depression for quite a long while. It was due to so many factors – some tangible, some completely ineffable – but I believe that one contributing factor was my tendency to get stuck in negative thought spirals. I delve down and down, dwell in the muck down there at the bottom, and then find it very difficult to pick myself back up. (Indeed, for a few years, I couldn’t pick myself back up).

Even now, years and years later, I still retain the residue of this pattern. I am prone to analysing things into the ground, and as a law-school graduate, I’m trained to see problems (although truth be told, I’ve always done this, maybe law school just honed my skills!). And I don’t think that this way of existing serves me.


Sometimes I wonder to myself: What would my life be like if all the time and energy I spend thinking about
  • my weight
  • my skin
  • my job
  • my future
  • my relationship
  • what I should be doing
was instead spent constructively… or even just NOT spent DEstructively.


What would that be like…?



Learning to consciously choose my thoughts is an ongoing journey. Sometimes I am awesome at it, sometimes I fail miserably. Many people who are much smarter than I am have wondered and pondered over this very issue.


Henry David Thoreau said: “As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”


Eckhart Tolle said: “Forgive yourself for not being at peace. The moment you completely accept your non-peace, your non-peace is transmuted into peace. Anything you accept fully will get you there, will take you into peace. This is the miracle of surrender.”


Siddhartha Gautama said:

“In the end
these things matter most:
How well did you love?
How fully did you live?
How deeply did you let go?”


These quotes remind me that it is up to me to actively shape my thoughts. It can be very difficult in the moment to actually do it, to remember to do it, to even be aware that my thoughts are spiraling downwards into a depressive dirge. But I had an epiphany not long ago: you know how merely the thought of someone you don’t like (your crazy boss) or something you don’t like (that pile of laundry) can cause you to feel actual suffering (pain, anger, crankiness, sadness, moodiness etc)? I decided that I wanted to experiment with the flip-side of this equation: consciously choosing to think of something that genuinely makes me happy or gives me pleasure, to engender the associated emotional response (peace, calm, hope, love, warmth). The trick to doing this is to think of something that you actually have a positive emotional response to. It’s not merely enough to think of puppy dogs and cupcakes and rainbows, you need to think of your beautiful little schnauzer’s wet nose when she begs for a treat, and the red velvet cupcakes that your sister made you specially for no reason at all except she’s awesome, and the rainbow you saw after hiking to the top of Mt Glorious with your boyfriend. The emotional connection is the key here.



And if you’re struggling with that, then here’s another thing to try: studies have shown that the physical act of smiling can trigger internal physiological responses regardless of whether or not the smile is genuine. Meaning, if you just smile, your body is somehow tricked into feeling just that wee bit happier. Whilst this sounds mental (and maybe manipulative?), we’ve all used it. It’s a great example of the whole ‘fake it til you make it’ sort-of philosophy. You know, like when you have to go to a party that you don’t want to go to, but you put on some killer heels and a smile, and eventually you realise that you are genuinely enjoying yourself.

I used this trick the other day, in an emotionally challenging situation. I had received some really bad news, had a fight with my boyfriend, and was feeling fat, all in the one afternoon. And as any gal knows, even one of these things can be enough to send you off the deep end, but the combined effect? Well, let’s just say that there was an hour or two where I lay on my bed in a pool of tears, feeling very sorry for myself indeed. If I had to pick a word to describe how I was feeling, it was despairing. I was over the edge, lamenting anything ever being right again. Despair. (Ummm, I think I was hormonal too. This was clearly NOT my best moment!).

I reached a point where I realised that the best, most constructive thing that I could do for myself, was pick myself up and go for a walk. If I just did that, I knew I would feel better. After much inner to-ing and fro-ing, I finally got my arse out the door, and (surprise, surprise) felt So. Much. Better. Like, I had been in the middle of guttural, gulping sobs not twenty minutes earlier, but outside in the fresh air with my body moving freely, I was taking deep, gut-soothing breaths. My body felt so much better, but my mind was still… well, it was still flirting with negativity. It was still leaning towards ruminating. It was still on a very delicate precipice above the dark pile of negative sludge.

I couldn’t seem to *think* myself out of it (like, I didn’t even feel like trying to think of relevant puppy-dogs and cupcakes and rainbows). The simplest thing, in the moment, seemed to be to simply smile. So there I was: running (by this stage I had progressed from walking) with a big smile plastered on my face. I felt like a bit of a fool. (Umm, a lot of a fool). And it took effort to do (I kept on wanting to stop, I had to concentrate to keep on smiling). But dude: it worked. Within a couple of minutes, I could actually feel my internal energy shift. I could actually feel my head just relaxing that little bit, letting go of its tight grip on my problems, and at the very least, finding some sort of pleasure in the sheer lunacy of how I must look to passing cars.

This story is meant to be a reminder that we can choose our thoughts. It can be so tricky in the moment, but it can be done. I think it’s something we all struggle with in this crazypants world, but little adjustments in our thinking patterns can make an enormous difference to how we experience the world.

The first step is to be conscious of this fact, the rest will follow…



Images from Poisoned Ivy + Kill War + Here + Simply Stated

No Sir, I am not pregnant, but thanks for asking.




So I had one of those really mortifying moments on the weekend. Super-awful-cringe-worthy mortifying. I was at the massage parlour that I sometimes go to, hoping for my neck, shoulders, arms and head to be pleasantly pounded into blissful relaxation. It’s one of those cheap places in a shopping centre where you can just walk in, no appointment necessary, and I love it because they’re all really good and sweet and lovely. A nice, little cheap and cheerful place.


The usual process happened on my way in – I spoke to the receptionist, then was greeted by the masseuse, who sits me down in my chair and asks me if I have any sore spots, to which I reply ‘no’, and the pleasant shoulder pounding begins. Just the usual.


Then, after about five minutes of massaging, with me slowly zoning out, I hear him call the receptionist over, and they begin to converse in Chinese for about a minute. Then she leans in and taps me on the shoulder and says ‘Excuse my, are you pregnant?’


At which point I am mortified.
At which point I am astounded.
At which point I am kinda gobsmackingly flabbergasted and embarrassed and can only smile and shake my head.


No. I am not pregnant. But thank you so much for asking. And so loudly, too!


Needless to say, I did not really enjoy the rest of the massage. I kept half opening my eyes and trying to surreptitiously squint downwards to see my tummy area and try to determine whether I indeed did look pregnant. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. With my brain screaming its mortification and shame at me, it was more like trying to determine if I did look as fat and awful and worthless as I suddenly felt.


I’m lucky that a slightly rational part of my brain was able to maintain a slight foothold on my general countenance. I didn’t look pregnant. This wasn’t denial or ignorance or oblivion: looking down, I knew that I didn’t look pregnant. Maybe I’d been slumped into some bad posture or something in the moment that he felt the need to have my gestational state questioned. Looking down, in fleeting moments, I could see that there was no basis for what he’d said. And yet in every moment between those fleeting rational thoughts (which were tiny and few and far-between), there was an element of puzzlement and confusion mixed into the mortification. And let’s not forget, a very healthy does of shame.


On top of my confusion as to why he had even asked the question, I was then further confused as to why the hell it would matter if I was? The entire massage takes place in a chair, so he can only reach my upper extremities. I just didn’t see what the hell it would matter whether the shoulders and neck he was kneading belonged to someone who was up the duff, or whose uterus was quite happily (for the moment) unoccupied. They’re shoulders, for goodness sake!


After riding out the rest of the massage (twenty minutes of repeated thought-cycling through the following: mortification, shame, resolution to never eat again, squinting downwards, realising again that I don’t look impregnated at all so WTF, puzzlement, confusion, and anger. Repeat at full brain volume), I then hastily made my retreat from the parlour, barely able to make eye contact with either the masseuse man or the receptionist girl. Or anyone else for that matter. My brain was busy screaming ‘did they all hear him call me fat? Do they think it too? Has everyone been secretly thinking this about me for ages?’ etc etc.


I exited and immediately rang my sister, needing female empathy and understanding. She (bless her) was as puzzled and weirded-out as I was. She reassured me that there was no way that I did look preggers, and we chatted and commiserated and I felt slightly better, but still felt the need to call other people to get further reassurance.


My Mum was equally puzzled and reassuring and even slightly angry. I think she remembered the days in the not-too-distant past when my eating was, shall we say, less than ordered. And knowing how such comments can have horrible effects on girls/women/anyone really, she was angry for my sake.


These firm refutations of what had happened were somewhat soothing, but there was still a nagging doubt, so I rang my boyfriend. After takin the logical path and questioning whether it was just a matter of massage-protocol (uh uh, boyfriend! I’ve never had that asked before and I’ve been there a bucket-load of times), he then reassured me and told me I was gorgeous and that he loved me and that it was obviously completely uncalled for etc etc.


Again, I got off the phone feeling a little more mollified, but still not feeling properly better. I started mentally trawling through the list of people that I could call/text next. When I finally – finally- realised how dumb I was being.


Here I was, a supposedly self-possessed, aware, young woman, letting other people tell me how to feel. First the man in the massage shop, who I allowed to make me feel awful even though I really knew that his comment was baseless. Then my sister, mum and boy. Sure, the latter three were all being supportive and loving, but in that moment I realised that needing them to tell me that the situation was ridiculous and untrue was just the flip-side of the original situation. All of it was vesting my power in other people. All of it was about letting someone else dictate my feelings.


Which is not to say that sharing problems and commiserating with others is a bad thing. It’s not. It’s healthy and helpful and strengthens our bonds. And it did make em feel better. But there comes a moment in all such commiserations that one has to take responsibility for one’s self.


And so in a moment of surprising (and kind of delightful) self awareness, I decided to just let the whole thing go. In the past, such a statement would have rocketed me to tears and then to either a shameful binge or starving myself for a week. But the thought of all that made me feel tired and it just… didn’t ring true. So instead: I’d felt really good that morning – fit and strong and healthy, and I had so many plans for that afternoon. I did not want to let some random dude’s question (that was unlikely asked out of a desire to hurt me and destroy my self esteem, and more likely out of professional concern) change how I felt for the rest of the day. And upon getting upset, I did not want to have to rely on external reassurances to pander me through it - I want to be less like a sapling that bends whatever which way the wind is blowing, ever reliant on a favourable gust. I want to be firm and stable and… rooted. A big, robust tree. Sure the breezes can tickle the tree’s outer countenance to a degree, but ultimately, it is grounded and centred and unflinching to the everyday eddies that swirl around it.


That is what I want. To be that tree.


So… I went on with my day. I went to the gym, which was awesome in getting me out of my head and into my body. I had an awesome work-out and was reminded of how strong and powerful my body can be. Then I went for a walk outside, and was reminded of how incredible nature is and how insignificant my problems are. Then I cooked myself a deliciously healthy dinner, and was reminded that taking care of one’s self through the normal mundane routines of daily life is such a strong statement of self-love and self-care.


And I went to bed feeling… fine. Happy. Like I had achieved a lot that day. Like I had chosen to look after myself and control my thoughts in a really empowered way. Like I had stretched myself beyond my usual patterns and constraints and had actually grown a bit.


And it felt good.


So thank you, Mr Massage Man, for your enquiry. No, I am not pregnant. There is no bun in my oven. My belly is not filled with new life. But it is, you see, filled with something: strength and awareness and self-determination. And just a little bit of tree. And it feels good.






Images from Inez + Van

What we can learn about life from horses…


A couple of weeks ago, I went to a hens party. The beautiful bride-to-be is very passionate about horses, so for our morning activity, we all drove up to the Sunshine Coast and rode horses along the Noosa North Shore (which was then followed by a more traditional hens party afternoon/evening at a cocktail bar!)

 

I have ridden horses a handful of times in my life. Maybe eight? Ten? Which isn’t enough to be an expert, by any means, but I feel pretty comfortable in the saddle and am able to canter without falling off. This amount of experience seemed to place me squarely in the middle of our group – a couple of people were Equestrian doyennes, a couple had never ridden at all, and then a bunch of us – myself included - were somewhere in between. Our horses were allocated to us accordingly – the fast, muscly, powerful creatures were given to the experienced; the slower, gentler, less-scary ones were given to the inexperienced.

 

And somehow, I ended up with Banjo.

 

Banjo, it became apparent, was the dud horse.


I say this with love, not with equine animosity, and it was a fact backed up by those who worked there. All the chaperones kept telling me to go to the end of the line because Banjo was the slowest and would hold the other horses up; that he didn’t get on with anyone and that he liked to do his own thing and just shuffle along (one of them even sang the “every day I’m shuffling” song to me, which in the moment, I did not appreciate!). All the other riders that we passed on the trail, after riding past the line of shiny, sparkly beasts in front of me, would say something like “He’s a plodder, isn’t he?” or “Slow and steady, hey?” or “They’re not too far up ahead!!”

 

I was consistently 30-50 metres behind the other riders, and for the life of me, couldn’t get Banjo to hurry up. When we finally made it off the trail and on to the beach, this was where Banjo decided to really hang back from the others. At one point, I was about 100 metres away from all the people in my group – the experienced were off cantering in one direction, the inexperienced were off walking in another direction, and Banjo and I were stationary in the middle. I was clicking with my tongue and verbally imploring my (t)rusty steed to start moving. The instructors had told me that I ‘couldn’t kick hard enough to hurt him, so get into him’, so I was trying with all my might to spur him into action with my  boots.

 

But Banjo would not move.

 

At this point I started getting reeeeeaaally frustrated. “But I’m doing everything that I’m supposed to be doing,” my head was saying in frustration. “I need to catch up with the others, Hurry Up,” my brain was screaming. “Go faster, go faster, go go goooo,” I was saying aloud (and not very nicely) to Banjo. And the constant chatter of my mind: why is he going so slow? What is wrong with the stupid horse? Why is everyone else going faster than me?  I was hating it!
 
I realised after about half an hour of this struggling, that I was absolutely not enjoying the experience at all – I was so worried about keeping up with everyone else, that the spirit of the ride was completely lost on me. There we were, on an amazing, pristine beach on an eery, overcast day – the ocean glassy and grey and endless before us, the beach stretching out as far as the eye could see in both directions – and all I could think to myself was HURRY THE HELL UP YOU STUPID HORSE, EVERYONE ELSE IS BEATING ME!



 

Upon realising that I was being an absolute idiot, I tried to get over it and surrender to the moment – of course no one would leave me behind, just relax into the ride, and you’ll get there when you get there etc. Of course, it’s never quite that easy in practice to immediately leave the ego behind, so as I dealt with my residual anger/frustration, we slowly started moving towards our destination. It was really only about five minutes from the stables that I was finally able to relax into the ride, enjoy the movement of the horse underneath me (slow as it was!) and make peace with the fact that this horse was going to get me back to the stables eventually, in his own time, there was nothing I could do to change the situation, and I should just stop struggling with it.
 

When we all dismounted and headed to the nearby pub (how convenient!) all the other girls were abuzz with how fun it was and how great their horses were. All were unaware of the struggles I had been having (me vs Banjo; and me vs my mind) and that I had spectacularly lost both battles. We indulged in a delicious pub lunch, and with the aid of a small glass of vino and the company of some truly great girls, the residual ickyness that I was feeling eventually subsided and I lost myself in the moment with my friends.
 

On the long drive home, I was able to reflect on the situation and digest what had happened and my overly strong reaction to it. And I came to the conclusion that we can perhaps learn a lot about life from riding horses… Trying to force the speed will not get you anywhere… Struggling against forces which are much stronger than you are will leave you exhausted, frustrated and still in the same damn spot… By relinquishing and surrendering, you can enjoy the journey, even in less-than-ideal situations… It doesn’t matter how fast everyone else is going. In fact, it is completely irrelevant… And never wear ‘wedgie undies’ if you want to relax and enjoy the ride…


So that was my horse-riding adventure. Just Banjo and me and a battle of the ego. And hopefully, a lesson learned.


It’s a nice day for a white wedding

I went to a wedding a few weeks ago. It was one of those truly wonderful, magical evenings – so relaxed, so genuinely fun – that it made all the girls want to get married, and all the boys a wee bit worried (!!).

In fact, it made me want a wedding. Super independent, don’t-want-to-buy-a-concert-ticket-for-my-favourite-band-because-I-don’t-know-where-I’ll-be-in-six-months me suddenly wanted a wedding. To be clear, it didn’t make me want to be *married*, it made me want a wedding. I suppose one could call this the Kim Kardashian effect – the seemingly urgent and fervent desire to be the centre of attention for a day, to wear a beautiful white dress and have everyone tell you how STUNNING and GLOWING and RADIANT you look, and to make a big, massive deal about your awesome partner and your awesome relationship and how generally awesome you both are in front of all your loved ones. Consequences be damned!

I also found myself feeling so *behind* my friends. My boyfriend and I don’t even live together yet, and here I have friends getting engaged and married and germinating their own spawn. My boy and I have only been together for a little over 18 months, so to desire a wedding is a leeetle bit premature (wonderful as he is). Yet that is what I wanted, despite the fact that I had thought I was smart enough to know that I should be living my life by my own speed signs, and not feeling like I need to race to keep up with those around me.

What is it about a wedding that can bring out that insane banshee creature inside our heads, who insists on screeching loudly about ‘milestones’ and ‘keeping up’ and ‘missing out’? Is it the ‘Disney princess’ thing – does it stem back to our childhoods growing up being told that our lives aren’t truly complete until a handsome horse-riding prince sweeps us off our tootsies? Is it as simple (and misguided) as keeping up with the Joneses? Is it a pre-cursor to the ticking of the proverbial biological clock?

When I truly think about it and examine the situation, I don’t want a wedding or marriage or anything like that just yet. It is not what I truly want for me, right now, in my life. The screeching banshee voice of my ego is mistaken, or misguided, or misappropriating her energies into the wrong pursuit. Yet there she is.

But how to fix it? Simply, it turns out. Eckhart Tolle writes of the ego, and says that merely being aware of it is the first step. In fact, merely being aware of it is enough. Simple acknowledgment of this strange-and-sudden-and-oddly-fervent desire, simple acceptance of what you are feeling, and simply allowing it to be what it is. That’s enough. For ego cannot exist when we are truthful with ourselves, and ego cannot exist when we recognise it for what it truly is.

The first step – the only step – is to recognise that it is your ego talking to you. It is your (my) ego insisting on a princess-cut diamond, a Monique Lhullier gown and an army of attendants to fulfill you (me). Awareness of that fact will lead you through it and back to your truth. So for me, after joking with my very-understanding boyfriend and then spending my first day back at work internet-perving on flowy white dresses, I recognised that my *wanting* was based on ‘something other than truth’ (for want of a better phrase). And I can leave the white-wedding-envy behind, because it is not really me, it is just my ego. As Gabrielle Bernstein says, just laugh at the tiny, mad ideas of your ego and you will take away their power.

Post script: I have told my boyfriend that if he can organise once every year or so for me to be at a party, wearing a beautiful dress, and everyone (totally spontaneously!) telling me how gorgeous/glowing/radiant/luminous I look, then my inner wedding diva will be satisfied!!! … Jokes!

Images: Casa da praia + Centurion Signs + Style me pretty

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