Posted by: Edward | July 13, 2014

Faith in Imperfection

The only faith you need is faith in yourself. I know that this is a hard thing to ask as there are entire industries devoted to convincing us that we are not good enough. But they are trying to trick us by pretending we have to be perfect when we only have to be ourselves.

You can’t be perfect, and wouldn’t want to be anyways. Perfect things can’t grow, they can’t change. Perfection is a kind of death, while imperfection is life. Without error we could not learn. Perfect DNA would not evolve. Cherish your ability to err, to fail, for from it comes everything you’ve ever learned and everything you’ve achieved.

Cherish your stumbles and you are free to act. You can meet whatever comes and have faith that you will do the best you can. Act and whatever comes enriches you. It is information you can learn from. It is an opportunity to grow and a challenge that you can use to strengthen yourself.

We are the fool stepping off the cliff into the unknown. Fear, our loyal companion, tries to pull us back from the edge. We will face that unknown no matter what we choose, it comes even if we cower and hesitate. How much better then, to listen to the tune that calls us, and simply leap?

Posted by: Edward | July 9, 2014

The Soul of Compassion

The key ability needed in order to help someone is the ability to accept pain. You build this up by facing your own pain. Engage in a mindfulness practice where you can learn to accept and be with whatever is present for you and have a willingness to delve into your own feelings and experiences and accept and breathe with whatever comes up.

When you have some comfort with this process you can extend it to others. Listen to their story, be open to the feelings and pain revealed by it, and accept whatever they share with you as a gift. You don’t need to fix it for them. You don’t need to advise them about it. Those are just ways of running away from your own discomfort. Accept your own uncomfortable feelings and share their pain with them. This will help them, even if nothing gets fixed.

A wound needs to be aired out if it ever going to heal. When you listen to their pain without judging or running away, you teach them an important lesson. You teach them that, while their pain remains painful, they don’t need to heap shame on top of it. Shame, the fear that their weakness or pain makes them bad or unlovable, is like infection that gets into a wound. Often the infection is more dangerous than the wound itself.

So this is the gift you give them, when they gift you with their story and their pain, you accept it and so show them that despite their pain they are acceptable, even lovable. This is the soul of compassion.

Posted by: Edward | June 23, 2014

Celebrate the Small Wins

This morning I remembered to take out the recycling, which I’d neglected for the last week. I celebrated this achievement with a nice cup of yorkshire tea. Giggle if you want, but I recommend you do something very similar. Celebrate your small wins. Every time you complete a task you’ve been putting off or take a small step toward your goals, take a moment to congratulate yourself. Take a moment to feel good about yourself for doing it. This may feel silly but that’s ok, you are an adult, you can be silly if you want to.

When you congratulate yourself for those small steps you build up the association in your brain between doing what needs to be done and feeling good. Over time that will make it easier for you choose to do the next task and take the step. It will increase your intrinsic motivation. If you only celebrate the big wins, you won’t build up the positive motivation driving you to do the work. And make no mistake, it’s doing the work that matters. Success is only a side effect of doing the necessary work.

Another side effect of what I’m proposing is you’ll be happier. If you only reward the big successes, you will give yourself that emotional boost too rarely. When you celebrate the small wins you give yourself that boost much more frequently. The good feelings will spread into the next task and much more of your days will be spent feeling good about yourself and what you do.

Now, some of you may be asking yourselves if you really deserve to celebrate those small wins. I get that, I think like that sometimes too, but you do, you really do. Those small things, whatever they are for you, are exactly what you deserve to congratulate yourselves for. You are doing them even though no one else is going to reward you for them. Maybe no one is even going to notice, but you do it anyways. And you didn’t have to do it. I could have let the recycling sit there another day… but I didn’t, and that’s why it deserves celebrating.

Your celebration doesn’t have to be big. You don’t have to throw a party every time you take out the garbage. Just stop for a moment, smile, and tell yourself, “good job, I’m glad you did that.” It doesn’t have to be big but try to do it every time. And every once in a while, do something nice for yourself, like my cup of tea.

So, when you’ve done some little task that moves you towards your goals, take a moment to celebrate it, feel good about doing it, and then move on to the next step. After I enjoyed my cup of tea, I sat down and meditated, which is something else I’d been neglecting this week. And you know what? I feel pretty good about that too.

Posted by: Edward | June 18, 2014

Be the Decider

Power is a very simple thing to have: be the one who makes the decisions. Every day I hear people giving away what power they have. “I can’t,” they say. “I have to,” they claim. I understand that these lies are socially useful, they are often ways to avoid upsetting people by obscuring our responsibility for our choices. I’m not going to tell you to never tell these lies, just stop telling them to yourself.

When you hear yourself say, “I have to go to work,” remind yourself that you are choosing to go to work and why you are choosing that. Practice taking responsibility for your choices and examining your motivations. Over time this will increase your sense of your own power and clarify why you do what you do. When you consistently frame the choices you make as choices you will realize how much of your life is up to you and you may even decide to change some of those choices.

Some of the choices that seem like have to’s were made a long time ago and the values and goals they serve are no longer ones that matter to you. When you find one of these, ask yourself what values and goals would you rather work towards now? Take time to really explore and reflect about what it is you really want and who you want to be.

When you are clear about what you want, ask yourself what are all of the ways you could work towards these goals or express these values? Ideally at this stage you should throw out as many ideas as possible, no matter how crazy. In fact, try to get some wild and crazy ideas out there to make sure you aren’t looking in too small of a box.

Now that you have a list of things you could do to work towards your goals, try to imagine a person successful at what you want to achieve. What from your list would that person choose to do? If you have trouble with this step, go read about people who achieved the sorts of things you want to. Star all of the activities that successful person would choose. Put two stars beside the one most vitally connected with succeeding at your goals.

Ask yourself, has ending the old choice freed up enough time and energy to choose this new activity? If so, start immediately. If not, you have a choice to make. You can choose one of the other starred activities that take less time and energy or you can look for another old choice to stop wasting time and energy on. It’s up to you.

Posted by: Edward | June 1, 2014

We All Have Issues

I’ve noticed that when I talk about smaller scale things as mental health issues, I get push back. A lot of people have a very black and white view of mental health, someone is either mentally ill or they are not. I don’t see the world that way. I see those people that everyone agrees are mentally ill as the extreme end of a scale that all of us are on.

Some habits of thought and action are more mentally ill than others. Some, over time, will make you more mentally ill. Just like bad habits such as overeating or smoking can make you physically ill and other like eating vegetables and exercising regularly can help keep you physically healthy.

Part of the process of destigmatizing mental health issues is to realize that they aren’t black and white, all or nothing, and that we all have them. We all have mental health issues exactly like we all have physical health issues, because we are all human.

Posted by: Edward | December 19, 2013

Tell the Rest of the Story

Many people, like me, have difficulty with a voice, a voice that tells a very unflattering story about ourselves. It tells us a story of all our failures, all the ways that we don’t measure up, all the ways we are not good enough. A common name for this is the inner critic. In many ways this voice isn’t fair. It has appointed itself prosecutor and judge. It lays out the evidence against you and condemns you for it. But it only tells half of the story, it only selects experiences that supports its conclusion and it interprets all that in the most negative light.

So, what you need to do is tell the other side of the story. Collect all of your victories, all of your successes, your good experiences, and the times you made good choices. This may be difficult for you, at least at first. This is because, if you are like me, your inner critic has been telling you the bad story over and over again for a very long time. So, it’s going to take you some time to find and collect your victories. And you are going to have to tell yourself that story regularly in order to build up it’s value in comparison to the inner critic’s story.

The next thing you want to do is start making the other case. Like a good defense attorney, you need to yell “Objection!” when your prosecutor is making unfair generalizations or interpretations. If your critic says that you always do something but your victory story includes a counterexample? Then present the evidence and adjust the general statement, the judgment, to be an honest and fair representation. If your critic is making an unfair or overly cruel interpretation or prediction? Challenge it, give an alternative version and support it with evidence, experiences in line with a more positive view of yourself and your possibilities. This too will take time. Be gentle with yourself, if you forget, and look for ways to remind yourself to keep doing it.

This may also feel uncomfortable, unfamiliar, or even fake. That’s understandable, natural even. Learning a new skill often feels uncomfortable and unfamiliar. And as for the feeling of being fake or phoney, you are challenging your established sense of your self. Your sense of who you are is largely based on the story you’ve been telling yourself about who you are. So when you begin telling a new story, it’s going to feel like it isn’t you. But remember this new story is based on things you have done and experienced, things you’ve been forgetting or ignoring. So be fair to yourself… tell the rest of the story.

Posted by: Edward | December 15, 2013

We are all Kintsukuroi

Kintsukuroi is the japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold, and the understanding that the vessel becomes more beautiful for having been broken.

Image

Everyone you meet is kintsukuroi. We all get broken in the jostle of life. Sometimes it can be hard to see past the jumble and sharp edges of a person’s flaws but the way to see the gold is the same thing that puts it in there, compassion.

With compassion, you help a person put themselves back together. With compassion, you help people see the value in themselves. You help a person see that their beauty is in their flaws, their value in their wounds… even when that person is you.

Posted by: Edward | March 19, 2013

The Fleeting and the Lasting

In our culture we have a bias for things that last over things that end. We will even say of a relationship that ends that we wasted our time or that it wasn’t real. But if that’s the case then nothing is real, and life is a waste of time. This bias causes us to hold onto things we are better off letting go of, we stay in relationships that harm us, we stay in jobs that no longer suit us, we engage in activities that we stopped enjoying long ago.

This bias also means we fail to appreciate connections and experiences that are fleeting. We trample the joy of a brief love because we were looking for a spouse. We miss the glorious moment of the sun breaking through the clouds because we focused instead on the rain that covered the rest of the day.

This focus on the lasting keeps our attention on our memories of the past and our fantasies of the future, because it is in those times of the mind that lasting things exist. Present time is fleeting and you only find the fleeting beauties and joys if you are present now. Only if you are attending the present moment will you notice that something you have been holding onto is no longer right for you. Only in the present can you realize that who you pretend to be, is not who you are now.

Posted by: Edward | November 10, 2012

Living in our own stories

The truth is that the “true” truth doesn’t matter to people. We care about the story truth. If there is a true truth, we don’t know it. Instead of knowledge we have interpretations. We interpret the evidence of our senses and we solidify those decisions as beliefs. Then we use those beliefs to make new interpretations as we have new experiences. These beliefs influence how we act and they begin to filter what evidence our senses show us.

Over time these past interpretations have far more influence over us than the evidence of our senses. Over time these interpretations on top of interpretation come to be increasingly abstract. We go from the evidence that Billy got more ice cream than us to talking about concepts like fairness and favoritism. These are the story truths. And most of our lives are lived for these.

The truly interesting thing is that because we believe in these abstract fictions, we act as if they are real and we create things to concretize them. We build law courts and print money. We build the world in the image of our beliefs. Our interpretations end up changing the world underlying the evidence and interpretation games we play.

The problem is, when our whole world is interpretation built on interpretation upon interpretation… what if our initial and fundamental interpretations just weren’t very good?

One option is to practice a kind of radical uncertainty. The fact is, that whatever it is you think you know you could be mistaken. One way I do this is to attach arbitrary probability values to my assertions. This is to acknowledge that anything i think I know is the result of my interpreting ambiguous and incomplete evidence in terms of my assumptions and believes about reality. The idea is to accept that you are acting on your best guess about what is going on and to be willing to reinterpret the situation as new data comes in.

The second option is to remind yourself that most of what you are striving for or contending with are social fictions. To paraphrase Robert Anton Wilson, guns are real, blue uniforms are real; police are a social fiction. The authority that we grant authorities over us is an implicit agreement we’ve made with each other to act as if it exists. How much else in your life is the same thing? Only by making these agreements explicit can we challenge the ones we that don’t work for us.

The third and perhaps most powerful option is to look for disconfirming evidence. This is very difficult as you’ve spent your entire life looking for evidence that confirms your interpretations without ever realizing that you were doing it.

There are two avenues to go about looking for disconfirming evidence. One is when you find yourself thinking, “that’s just the way it is,” or that some idea is “just common sense” then look for experiences that contradict the underlying belief. The second is when you have an experience that surprises you, that defies your expectations, try to figure out what you are assuming about the world that the experience contradicted. It’s time to revise that particular interpretation. At it’s best this is what science is all about.

Train yourself in the idea that what you know is a provisional interpretation and you will be much more adaptable to the strange new world all around you.

Posted by: Edward | June 16, 2011

The Metaprogramming Game: Habit Change

This is a self change program that I’ve created for myself. I’ll explain what I’m doing and give you some tips for adapting it for yourself.

The first thing you need to do is create the spacetime for programming. You need twenty or more minutes set aside on a regular basis where you can allow yourself to enter a light trance state, alpha brainwaves or deeper.

I’ve set aside an hour ever weekday morning. I listen to the first levels of holosync which purport to guide you through several deep brainwaves and sound like rainfall, very relaxing at the very least. When I’m done I listen to Happy Up Here by Royksopp. I listen to these while doing some simple repetitive tasks. I spent close to a month doing this before moving on to the programming just to set this up as a habit.

Now what you need to do is create the programs. These are a combination of affirmation and imagined practice, like professional athletes use. These need to be positively stated, verb or process focused, and small chunks. An action you take.

For example, the first one I used was, “I hold eye contact with ease and comfort.” Now for the hour I say this affirmation and then imagine myself doing it. You want the imagined practice to be full sensory: see, feel and hear. You just say and imagine and repeat until the time is up.

It is a good idea to vary the imagined practice. Vary how you do it, where you imagine doing it, and who you do it with. I imagine myself doing the behaviour I’m programming in situations where it would have been useful in my past and in future scenarios that I dream up.

The next part of this game is to review your progress briefly at the end of your day. Ask yourself, “how has this behaviour improved?” And then think of a few successes from your day. Even if there have been no successes yet, this question sets up the expectation of success. Next ask, “Where else could I have used this?” And then briefly imagine doing the programmed behaviour in any situations that come to mind. If the separate review phase doesn’t work for you, you could always do it at the beginning of each metaprogramming session.

It is a good idea to stick with a given program longer than you might first think to. At some point you will realize that you have begun behaving how you are training yourself to. Stick with it further and it will feel like second nature to you. I suggest you keep doing it a little longer than that so it really sets as a habit.

Once a month or so you could run through a review of the behaviours you’ve used this method for to see how they are sustaining. Simply run through the review questions for each. If any have faded, simply do another round of programming with it. You may also benefit from fine tuning the wording of the affirmation.

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