Brain fog and the perfectionist

Brain fog. Dammit.

I’ve been feeling foggy for the last few weeks. I don’t exactly know what’s happening, but I feel like it may be a combination of a few different things.

I started my summer job in beautiful Ásbyrgi in north-east Iceland about a week ago.

As a park ranger, my work is pretty physically intense, with a lot of hiking, maintenance of the park and all kinds of physical labor.

I love being outside so much and working with my hands, but going from doing basic bodyweight exercises every day to the kind of intensive work I’m doing here has left me pretty physically depleted.

My first day of work was about a week ago, then the next day I flew south to Reykjavík to attend my grandmother’s funeral and then flew back north in the evening.

On top of that, I had been asked to play and sing The Beatles’ Let it be, as per my grandmother’s request.

Everything went well in the end, but it really managed to stress me out. Then straight back to work. Now I have a few days off, and I’m absolutely exhausted. Mentally and physically.

I have a pretty strong inclination to perfectionism, which causes me no end of consternation. That means that when I’m feeling off or out of energy, I usually beat myself up for being “lazy” or “unproductive”.

This is really something that I’ve been conscious of for a long time, and I do my best to be aware of it as it happens, but it still manages to catch me by surprise.

Make no mistake, perfectionism is not a virtue.

I would go so far as to call it poisonous. To someone who doesn’t feel the need to achieve perfection, it may seem like a good trait to have. After all, more energy is certainly spent on “perfecting” projects or whatever you may be doing.

However, what’s not obvious is the inner lambasting and criticism associated with perfectionism.

In fact, I believe perfectionism can’t exist without a strong inner critic. A voice inside, however subtle it may be, that just doesn’t leave you alone, that doesn’t allow you to actually finish anything. That doesn’t allow you to take a break because then you would be “wasting time”.

So that brings me to my predicament today. I’m fogged up in the brain. Misty-minded. Temporarily cognitive disability. All right, maybe not that bad, but still pretty unpleasant.

Unpleasant isn’t even the right word. Confusing is more apt.

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A visual representation of brain fog.

I think everyone knows brain fog to some extent. We feel it when we don’t get enough sleep, when we experience a crash after too much caffeine or sugar, or after watching too much mindless TV. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s no fun either.

Brain fog is certainly not compatible with perfectionism.

I’ve written about the inner critic, or inner judge, on a few occasions before, and I’ve made it no secret that I see nothing positive about it. Inner criticism is never constructive. It may seem like it is, but the negatives outweigh the positives.

Whatever you may accomplish thanks to incessant inner judging is shadowed by the stress and anxiety it produces.

What really helped me turn the tables on the inner judge is twofold. The simple awareness of the fact that judgment is occurring is the first step. Nothing can be done without awareness.

The second step is to remove permission for judgment. The way I do this is by finding the indignant, angry, even offended feeling within me and directing it to the judgment. I literally tell it (mentally) to get the hell out of my mind, you have no right to judge me, or even to just fuck off.

Do not try to argue with the judgment. That only confirms the judge’s permission to, well, judge you. And besides, you can’t win. After all, the inner judge is really another aspect of yourself.

Where attention goes, energy flows.

Much love.

 

 

The peak

Have you ever heard of peak experiences?

I just climbed the mountain Tungufjall in Öxarfjörður, Iceland. It’s not very high, at roughly 500 meters, but the view from the top is amazing.

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Anybody who’s climbed a mountain knows that hiking is always an adventure. There are highs and lows, successes and defeats.

Reaching the top of a mountain is a literal peak experience. After hiking for hours, reaching the chilly winds and spectacular views are an incredible reward.

After a few minutes of gazing over the magnificent landscape, I started to feel cold. I started to feel hungry. I felt like heading back down into the warmth of home.

It’s funny that it took all that work to spend a few minutes on a cold, rocky precipice, only to head straight back down.

I think that’s what happens in the metaphorical sense of peak experiences as well. It’s all a matter of perspective.

We reach great heights after tons of work, whether it be playing a concert after months of practice, or publishing a book after writing every day for a year. Or maybe finishing a marathon after training in rain, wind and snow.

And it makes us feel amazing, but that feeling is usually very fleeting.

The thing is, we can only appreciate the peak experience if we spend time in the valley first. If we were constantly in a flux of good emotions, that would become baseline for us, and we would probably start grasping for something more.

In this world, everything waves. Like waves in the ocean, they build up and crash down, only to repeat endlessly. What goes up must come down, and then it goes up again.

So then what’s the point of seeking these experiences, only to come (sometimes crashing!) back down?

I would say the point is the expanded awareness of the way of the world. A new perspective. Just as seeing the earth from 500 meters above puts our lives into perspective, showing us how small we really are, seeing our lives from the lens of a peak experience also shows us something.

It may be difficult to figure out what that something is, and therein lies the real work.

Much love.

Into the dark

My grandmother died last night.

Her death had been looming for months, to be honest. Even years. We weren’t very close, and I can’t say I have very fond memories of her, but it’s still very strange to me.

My father called me around eight last night to break the news. I could hear he was devastated. After all, the distant grandmother I hardly knew was, of course, his mother.

Whatever her faults, that’s who she was to him, and that’s who she always will be.

She had been very sick for a long time.

In fact, even in my earliest memories of her she was an incredibly feeble, sickly woman.

I remember thinking that she couldn’t have much time left on this earth, even when I was very young. Still, she remained in that state for a solid twenty years.

Death is a strange thing. We all know about it, but we feign ignorance.

Every day, we act as if we’re immortal. Then when death comes a knockin’, we become indignant, flustered and confused. In no way are we prepared for the fact that someone very dear to us may pass away in every passing instant.

We have a silent cultural agreement. We believe that if everybody looks the other way, ignores it, maybe it won’t happen to us. It’s something we see in movies and tv shows, read in books and magazines, hear from friends, but still we see it as something that happens to “other people”.

The fact is this: You will die. You will die. I will die. It’s only a matter of time. Do you think you would live life differently if you truly understood this fact?

Would we worry about mundane things like bills, arguments or the news if we were fully aware of the fact that, in a matter of years, it all goes back in the box?

We’re playing a game.

When we play board games like Risk or Monopoly, not to mention some of the more immersive video games, we tend to forget that we actually exist outside of the game-world. In fact, that’s a big part of the appeal of a good game. We get to forget who we are, and experience a different paradigm.

So it is with life.

We forget who we truly are. Am I this body? Am I the name I was given at birth? Am I my possesions? Am I the persona that other people see me as?

A major hurdle in my quest for increased awareness in all aspects of life was my brush with mortality.

As I wrote about in previous posts, I’ve recently overcome a devastating illness. It dragged me down into the pits of despair. I contemplated death, my own. I contemplated suicide. My entire concept of myself was broken down and rebuilt repeatedly.

Psychedelic mushrooms were a great help in these difficult times, as was meditation and my beloved journal.

I’m convinced of the polarity of human existence. If life is hard, there is always a silver lining of equal goodness.

My battle with illness was a slap in the face, a wake up call. A chance for me to sort out the important bits from the chaff that was my life before my difficulties. What seemed important a year before I got sick became absolutely meaningless to me in that dark place.

I think becoming seriously ill is like dropping a cup of coffee on the monopoly board. It snaps you out of the game mentality and reminds you that you do, in fact, exist separately from your in-game persona.

There are many different types of wake-up call, just as there are an infinite variety of beverages that can be dropped on the board. A serious accident, death of a loved one, even an especially difficult break-up.

We need to receive these difficulties as gifts. Pain is a letter from god, to paraphrase Duncan Trussell, and whenever we ignore or try to remove it, we’re throwing that letter into the fire.

Imagine what you can learn from death if only you meet its gaze.

Much love.

Awakening to the dream of life

I had a lucid dream last night.

As always, the experience itself was incredible. I mean, what’s not to be amazed at when you find yourself in an alternate dimension, somehow warped from basic reality?
I am starting to become a bit frustrated though, because I semi-regularly become lucid within the dream only to have the dreamscape fall apart or my awareness dissipate.
For example, last night I became aware of the dream-state, tried to center myself by rubbing my hands together and feeling my body, shouted out “clarity” at the top of my (dream) voice.

All of this helped somewhat and I became more stable, more aware.

But still I couldn’t seem to realize that all of this was, in fact, a dream.

It’s all in my control, if I only reach out, believe I have the power to change and understand the nature of this world.
This has been happening again and again.

I know, however, that every second of lucidity within the dream-state is a step toward further lucidity and development of awareness. Frustration can’t be helped. All I can do is keep walking the path of ever-expanding consciousness.
I can no longer look past the incredible similarities between dream and “real” life. In fact, I’ve started to view waking life as a form of dream. Sleep-dream and life-dream.

What you believe you can do in the dream sets the limits for what you actually can do.
In a less obvious but more profound way than in dreams, belief also shapes the life-dream. What do I mean by this?
In sleep-dream, becoming lucid to the fact of the dream isn’t enough to facilitate change.

Only when you truly believe, truly know, that you are the dream can you achieve the impossible. This is well known in lucid dreaming circles.
When a novice lucid dreamer attempts to walk through a wall in a dream, most likely he’ll bump into it and fall over. It might even hurt.
An experienced lucid dreamer, however, will most likely have plenty of direct experience with the malleability of dreams.

She will be absolutely certain of the fact that the wall is, in essence, an illusion, and will proceed to walk straight through it.
In waking life, there are rules. Rules that are difficult to bypass.

Gravity, for example, is particularly unforgiving. If a coconut falls on your head, it will certainly knock you cold.

There are certain needs of the physical body, like food, shelter and companionship, that must be regularly met.
If you truly, truly believed with full certainty that you could stop eating and still thrive, maybe you could. I would say that I doubt it, but I don’t even know anymore.
There are very salient examples in mainstream consciousness of the power of belief, not least of which is the notorious placebo effect.
In simple terms, the placebo effect refers to this:

Three people, A, B and C, have a life-threatening disease, which is certain to lead to death if left untreated.
A recieves standard medical treatment, and with a 99% recovery rate, he recovers in a matter of weeks.
B goes to the doctor to recieve treatment, but the doctor gives her anti-fungal pills by accident. B goes on to take the pills as prescribed, and she has a full recovery as well.
C goes to the doctor to recieve treatment, but the doctor tells him that unfortunately the standard medicine for this particular illness is finished.

He recieves anti-fungal medicine instead, the doctor insisting that it must be better than nothing. C takes the pills as prescribed, but dies within days.
So what’s the difference between B and C?
Well, B believed that she was recieving standard medicine that should have been effective for her illness, and that alone allows her to recover. The anti-fungal medication has no effect.
C, however, knew that the pills he was taking would have little or no effect. With this belief firmly etched in his mind, he was certain he was going to die.

And so he did.
The placebo effect is well established in medical science, though it may sound pretty out there.
The power of belief manifests in all aspects of life, not always in such a life-or-death fashion.
The athlete who is certain that he can compete with the best is way more likely to do so than the athlete who doesn’t.
A person who is sure that she can write a novel is one step closer to actually doing it than the person who believes they don’t have the talent, time or energy.
It may not always become reality, but belief is certainly the first step to accomplishment.
I can’t help but wonder how deep this rabbit-hole goes.

If I were absolutely certain that walking through walls were possible, would I be able to do it?

The only way to know would be to try it, but changing our beliefs is easier said than done.
I think the easiest trap to fall into is listening to other people. All to often we take the opinions of others as holy gospel, especially if they’re “experts”.

F**k that.

Direct experience is the only way to go, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Ha ha, got you there. You shouldn’t listen to me either. If this sounds like bullshit to you, stop reading. I don’t mind.

We need to get out of the habit of giving other people permission to tell us what to think.
I’m going to keep expanding my limits, increasing potential in my life.

Meditation is one way of doing that. Journaling is another.
I’ll conclude with this: You already know, deep down, what you need to work on to overcome limiting beliefs. Do that.
Much love.

Overcoming resistance

Inner resistance is a weird thing. You feel as though you know what it is you want to do or where you want to go, but somehow some other part of you seems to disagree.

Since I came home from Santiago de Compostela, I’ve been experiencing inner resistance to all kinds of things, but especially with regards to restarting my routine of meditation and journaling.

It hasn’t managed to stop me completely, but I’ve definitely been half-assing it.

So I’ve been pondering the challenge of working through this resistance, how to actually do what you know you want to do.

I’ve found the biggest challenge for me personally has been getting started. Like actually sitting down for a formal meditation session.

As soon as I manage to sit my ass down on the cushion, mental muscle memory kicks in and the meditation goes smoothly.

It’s as if I overestimate the willpower required to sit for an hour. It takes willpower to actually sit down, but staying put does not.

I believe that a change of perspective is required. Instead of, in my case, trying to get myself to do a 60 minute meditation session, I should try to get myself to sit down on my cushion and get comfortable. Break the resistance down into smaller parts.

Then as soon as I’m sitting comfortably, the next 55 minutes become a whole lot easier.

What is inner resistance, though? It’s as if there’s a part of you that actively tries to sabotage you, tries to convince you that you can’t or shouldn’t do something. Sound familiar? It should.

I believe that inner resistance is actually a subtle form of self-judgment.

I wrote about ways to deal with the inner judge in another post, but resistance is a bit more tricky.

It’s definitely a form of sabotage. We all know the feeling when we manage to break through this resistance, like when we exercise when we don’t feel like it, go to a party or make dinner.

The judge tries to convince us that it’s a waste of time, it’s easier to just watch tv, play a video game or order fast food, but in these instances we often see through it.

However, the more aware of this process we become, the more we see that the resistance goes way beyond these more obvious manifestations.

We feel resistance to all kinds of things. Any activity that the inner judge deems to be unstimulating (even though they may actually be very stimulating, like reading or journaling), pointless (even though they may be very useful, like exercise or cooking) or out of our league (even though they may be intensely satisfying, like playing music or making art), this is where we meet resistance.

This is a manifestation broken self-esteem, which is itself a consequence of constant inner judgment and criticism. We feel like we’re not adequate, not good enough to do these things, that we don’t deserve the benefits these activities may bring.

The first and most important step to overcoming resistance is to become aware of it. As soon as you become conscious of the resistance, and of the subtle judgments that are at the essence of resistance, removing it becomes possible.

This takes practice and patience. We need to give ourselves time, plenty of time. And we also need to be aware of self-criticism that may arise when we recognize resistance after the fact.

We have to understand that every single time we recognize the judge for what it is, is a step in the right direction. Even if we realize it a week later, or a year later.

When you become aware of your own resistance to something that you know you want to do, break the challenge down.

Instead of going out for a run and then doing an hour of exercise and stretching, the challenge becomes to put on your running clothes and shoes and stepping outside. A five year old could do that.

Instead of writing 10 pages in your journal, just go get your journal, your pen, and set it up on the table in front of you.

Instead of doing an hour of concentration meditation, just sit the fuck down.

The rest will sort itself out.

Much love.

Walk into bliss – Walking meditation

I’m writing this post from a summer cabin my grandparents own next to the glacial river Jökulsá í Lóni.

The weather is beautiful and birds are chirping all around. What a privilege.

I started my day by drinking a litre of ice cold spring water and then I headed off to the mountains, hiking to a high point above the cabin where I met a few little lambs and a ptarmigan still in winter clothes even though it’s already June. The scenery was and is breathtaking.
I want to write about walking meditation. Its a concept that I had difficulty grasping for a long time, but I feel like I’ve got a better understanding of what it means.
Especially after my 800 km hike across northern Spain on the Camino de Santiago, where I decided I would train myself to be mindful even while on the move.
Sitting meditation is a wonderful thing, but unless you live in a monastery or a cabin in the wilderness like the one I’m in now, you will hit snags in the practice. It may be travel, work, illness or lethargy, but we all hit a point where we can’t seem to find the time or energy to sit for an hour or two every day.
I think this is a fact of life. Nobody’s perfect, nor should we expect ourselves to be. After I consciously accepted my imperfection, I feel a lot better about not being able to stand up to my highest ideals every now and then.
That doesn’t mean that I allow myself to get lazy, far from it.
It means that I free myself from feeling bad when something that I can’t control breaks up my routine. And that freedom from constricting emotions actually helps me to get back on track faster than if I allow myself to wallow in self-pity and despair.
However, there is always a way to practice, wherever you are and whatever’s going on around you. If for whatever reason we feel like we just can’t sit still, or we can’t manage to concentrate, we can go for a walk.
Taking a walk, especially in nature, clears the mind and calms the nerves. This is, I believe, common knowledge, and we’ve all experienced this at one time or another.
This makes walking all the more ideal for meditation, although for the longest time I couldn’t figure out just how to do it.
First off, remove external distractions. Don’t listen to music or podcasts. Unless that’s the reason you wanted to take a walk, in which case listening to something is perfectly fine.

But if you want to meditate, just do that.
Then, do your best to remove internal distractions. Become aware of your thought-stream. Are you agitated? Serene? Neutral? Excited? Become conscious of your emotions.

If you’re out in a natural environment, find a place to sit down before walking further, just to center yourself.

Tune into your senses, hear the birds, feel the wind. Feel the sun on your face. Or the rain. Feel the rock under your butt. Feel what’s going on around you. If it’s not freezing outside, taking off shoes and socks and feeling the earth under bare feet is wonderful.
Tuning into sensations in the body is the easiest way I know for calming mind chatter and expanding consciousness.

Give yourself a few minutes for this grounding process.
Then when you feel ready, start your walk. Try to retain the tranquility of mind you discovered while sitting. Feel the pressure and support of the earth in every step, feel the air entering your nostrils and mouth, filling your lungs with oxygen.
I like to practice concentrating awareness into specific sensations, such as the breath and footsteps, and then expanding it into the entire body, allowing myself to simply experience myself and the world around me. No thinking, no judging. Just being.
The natural world is full of distractions. Birds flitting around, wind in the leaves, insects buzzing. Observe these with an easy mind. Don’t judge anything. Nature is our greatest teacher. If something seems fascinating, allow yourself to be fascinated. Take a look, touch and listen.
Then when you’ve sated your curiosity, go back to awareness of your breath and footfalls.
To be sure, walking meditation is a bit more challenging than sitting in silence, but with a little time and effort it becomes a wonderful way to continue spiritual practice, even when we think we don’t have the time or energy.

It’s also a bridge between general mindfulness and formal sitting meditation, a way of infusing the mundane with awareness.
Much love.

Building a habit is like building a fire

I’m not really the world champion in self-discipline. In fact, I’m a pretty lazy dude. Actually, I think we’re all mostly lazy. It may be human nature.

I’ve found in my own life that while self-discipline is certainly important, it gets way too much attention in self-development circles, more than it deserves.

Self-discipline is like the scraps of newspaper we use as kindling to make a bonfire. So what’s the actual bonfire in this analogy? Easy, habit. However, the logs that make up the bonfire proper are perseverance.

Kindling is incredibly important to get the fire going, but if you build a bonfire using only scraps it’ll burn out in no time at all. And if you only have big logs without kindling, you’ll never get the fire started.

In the same way, we need the right balance between discipline and perseverance to build habit.

Most of us know the feeling of burning out on something. Playing an instrument, drawing, meditating. We decide that from now on, we’re going to do an hour of running or three pages in the journal every day.

We may even manage a few days before our discipline simply runs out and we give up with our tail between our legs.

It’s true that self-discipline is like a muscle, in that it gets stronger the more you use it, but it has definite limits. It always runs out in the end.

That’s a mistake I’ve made way too often, but I’ve made a lot of progress in habit building since the early years.

The trick is to start small. So small that it’s easy to keep it up. There’s a point in time (21 days has been thrown around a lot, although in my experience it depends as much upon the person as upon the habit itself), where discipline is hardly necessary any more to keep up the habit.

When my meditation habit of two hours daily was still in its infancy, I had a hard time of it. I was too ambitious, really. I decided I wanted to do 30 minutes of medition every morning before work. A worthy goal, to be sure.

But at this point, I found it hard enough as it was to wake up for work at all, let alone make space for another 30 minutes in the morning to sit and do nothing.

Apart from that, I was having difficulties sitting still for 5 minutes, so 30 minutes were quite a stretch.

I would manage to keep it up for a day or two at most, and then I would give up. But I kept beating the dead horse so to speak, and tried again and again. Not only did I not manage to build the habit, I was steadily corroding my self confidence by failing again and again with nothing to show for it.

Not until I decided to change the rules of the game did things start to get better. I decided that to start with, ten minutes before work would suffice. It still felt like a bit of a hassle, but convincing yourself of sitting for ten minutes when you’re groggy in the morning is exponentially easier than convincing yourself of 30 minutes.

I had been trying to light the logs of the bonfire directly, and nothing had happened. As soon as I started to use smaller goals as kindling, the fire started to mature slowly.

After a few weeks I was so accustomed to sitting for ten minutes that adding another ten minutes was easy enough. And then another ten minutes in the evening before bed. And so on until I reached an hour for each session.

It took a long time, don’t get me wrong. It took a year of steady increments and not missing a day to build the two-hour-daily habit.

I didn’t say perseverance was easy, but it is effective. Slow and steady wins the race, as the tortoise said.

To conclude the bonfire analogy, as soon as you have a fire, no matter how small, making it bigger is no big deal. Steadily add bigger and bigger pieces of wood until you have a raging inferno.

And so it is with habits. They seem impossible at the beginning, until we create managable goals. The rest is just sticking with it, adding onto the baseline.

I wish you all the luck in the world with building your habits, but as we both know luck on its own gets us nowhere. It’s what we do with the luck we have that makes the difference.

Much love.

Six months of mindfulness

A while back I became very interested in the concept of mindfulness.

The idea that my habit of trying to cram as much experience as possible into each moment was actually making me anxious and unhappy was pretty foreign to me.

After all, I was just trying to make the best possible use of my time, right?

Well, it’s been about six months since I started practicing mindfulness earnestly in my life, and I want to share the changes I’ve experienced so far.

First off, I feel generally more connected to my surroundings. I don’t know exactly how to put the feeling into words, in fact I think it’s more of a removal of a feeling of separateness. The way I feel now (much of the time, not always) is, I believe, the natural way to feel generally as a human being incarnate.

Then there’s the sense of inner peace and tranquility that seems to be developing within me, getting more profound the more I manage to be mindful in my life. It’s the same feeling you get after a good meditation session. Nothing to change, just be. It’s as if my mode of operating is shifting from a doing mindset to a being mindset.

There are pockets of time, sometimes many days in a row, where I feel no anxiety, no feeling of inadequacy, nothing that needs changing. Challenges arise, same as always, but I am able to take them in my stride, instead of obsessing over them and wishing things were different.

I believe this is related to the fact that being mindful of body sensations, for example, tends to sort of block out or quiet down our thought patterns. If I’m fully invested in washing the dishes, feeling the hot water on my fingers, the texture of soap on porcelain, hearing the running water hitting the sink, I have no awareness to spare for thoughts of boredom or frustration. Even if I grow tired or my hands get sore from the hot water, I can still choose how I want to react to it.

I feel like mindfulness is the concept I was missing for a long time in my spiritual development. I’ve been meditating for a few years now, and I’ve discovered loads of benefits from doing so, but I was still largely unconscious, unaware, in between meditation sessions.

I find the concept of mindfulness meditation to be a bit redundant. To me, mindfulness is a form of meditation, and vice versa. Mindfulness is meditating off the cushion.

On a related note, mindfulness and meditation complement each other perfectly. My concentration during meditation has improved by leaps and bounds since I started sincerely living a mindful life. The calmness of mind and focused intent cultivated throughout the day bridges straight into the meditation session.

Lastly, I noticed that my dreams have become way more colorful and detailed. I’m not sure if I used to dream in black-and-white, or whether I just never noticed the color before, and there’s no real distinction anyway.

I started to be more aware in waking life of color and textures, body sensations like the feel of wind on my face or grass beneath my bare feet, sounds and smells, and so I also started to experience this in the dream world.

I become more aware every day of the potential of a mindful life to expand awareness and devolop consciousness, and I’m excited every day when I wake up to see what I get to experience this time.

Much love.

Unraveling the dream, unraveling reality

Sometimes I feel like I must be going crazy. The thoughts going through my mind today are the same thoughts I attributed to craziness a few years back.

I’m often astounded by how much I’ve changed in the last years.

Physically, mentally and spiritually. I feel like the world has changed with me, and in some ways the world has changed, but of course my perception of the world has changed even more.

I’m convinced that waking life is as much of a dream as sleeping life is. Different in texture, different in scope, with different accents, certainly, but a dream all the same.

And questioning the primacy of waking reality is a definite faux pas in our society. It can get you locked up in institutions or burned at the stake, so we better be careful.

Madness is dependent on perceptions as much as sanity is. The crazier I become, the more it becomes clear to me that the world is crazy.

Anyway.

A dream is hard to define, but easy to recognize.

When we become aware of being within a dream, we’re often amazed that we didn’t figure it out sooner. You know, what with the flying tigers and melting clocks and all that stuff. But I submit to you that the same feeling of “how could I have missed that!?” can arise in us when we start to question not only dream, but “reality” as well.

Its what they call enlightenment, no less.

As I progress on my own path of increased awareness in daily life, I constantly become more perplexed by the incredible weirdness of it all. I mean, what is all this? We live in sacks of bone, meat and blood, going from triviality to triviality with glimpses of meaningful experience in between, and apparently everybody dies at the end, although we’re loath to admit it.

So what does it all mean?

The question to answer all questions is the same question we instinctively brush off and ignore.

What we call a “dream” in common parlance is in fact a dream within another dream. And who’s to say waking life isn’t a dream within another dream within yet another dream.

It’s turtles all the way down, as a wise woman said.

So what’s the purpose of contemplating this universal madness, this absolute paradox? I often ask myself this question, but the answer I’ve found is that the contemplation of the ultimate question leads to ultimate satisfaction. Is the answer that there is no answer? A definite possibility. But the journey is the destination, just as the answer is the question.

Perspective is everything. The sooner we see the dream for what it is, the sooner we can let loose and have a bit of fun. Take off the mask and see our own true nature. Spaciousness of awareness arises with a relaxed and quiet mind, and your mind will never be quieter than when you recognize that you’re dreaming. You’re always dreaming.

And what a dream it is!

 

The tricky part is to somehow hold on to this awareness without getting clingy. It’s one thing to understand the dream, and another thing to apply that understanding.

That’s the road I’m on now, and I hope to see you where it ends.

Much love.

Overcoming FOMO and regaining inner space

FOMO(Fear of Missing Out) is poisonous. It corrodes self-esteem, torments the mind and distorts reality.

When I quit social media years ago, I remember going through something of a withdrawal. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but looking back it’s obvious.

I used to be a major lurker on facebook, meaning I almost never posted anything but I was constantly skimming the news feed, looking for tidbits of stimulation.

Quitting was the best thing I ever did for myself.

FOMO is such an apt term for the emotions that social media like facebook stir up. It sums up the whole experience, from our deep fears of not being beautiful enough, tall enough, cool enough, photogenic enough, witty enough, all the way to the fear of missing out on actual experiences, like travel, sports, sex…

This is a vicious cycle that everyone on social media experiences whether they’re conscious of it or not. We feed each others insecurities, in a fruitless effort to cover up our own.

It’s self-judgment at it’s worst, or at least at it’s most glaringly obvious.

I don’t normally experience FOMO, but today it hit me full on.

I have an Instagram account where I post my artwork, but I never really use it except when I actually post something. Today I got a notification that Instagram was updating their terms of use and after I accepted I started to check out the feed. Coincidentally, all my colleagues from school, from the illustration course I had to quit due to illness, had graduated a few days ago.

Naturally, my head started to fill up with negative thoughts and unfair comparisons. “I should be graduating with them!” was the first thought, then came good old “What a failure I am”, and so on. I’m sure many of you can relate.

It wasn’t until ten minutes into this process that I managed to put things in perspective. Yes, it’s absolutely true that I quit the course, but I had good reason: I had become too ill to continue. And apart from that, I’m now almost fully healthy, I just finished walking the Camino de Santiago, I’m now in Sicily soaking up the sun, and life is better for me in every way.

But fighting the inner judge isn’t the answer. Where attention goes, energy flows. We need to dis-identify with these judgements. And that’s very tricky.

What I mean is, in order to be judged, permission is needed. We need to take back that permission. Nobody has a right to judge you, or me. Even our own minds have no right to judge us. As soon as we realize this and accept it, we can start to create real change for ourselves.

Of course, this wouldn’t be the Joy of Awareness if I didn’t say “mindfulness is the answer”. So, mindfulness is the answer, as with so much else.

Without becoming mindful of these thought processes, we have no hope in changing them. Increased awareness is always a good thing. So the first step is becoming mindful of FOMO, which is really just a part of the grander web of self-judgment, and the second step is dis-identification, or taking back the permission to be judged. But how do we do that?

Becoming aware is one thing, but how do we stop identifying with what our mind says about us? Well, I would split it into two facets. The first facet is pretty brusque, but bear with me: tell the inner judge to shut the FUCK up. Easy enough, right? Try to feel the anger, the feeling of offence. Your mind has no right, so tell it so.

You may thing this is stupid, and I agree, it does sound stupid. But I’m all about direct experience. I’m not here to give you results, I’m here to give you ideas. Ideas that have helped me work on the problems we share. So try it. That’s all I ask. You may find that the voice dies down, and what’s left is a feeling of spaciousness.

The second facet of dis-identifying is body-awareness. Becoming aware of body sensations is the easiest and most efficient way I’ve found for expansion of awareness and calming down mind-chatter. The sensations of our bodies are an anchor to the present moment.

Both facets are important. The inner space we gain from asserting our inherent value to the judge makes the shift of awareness from mind to body all the easier.

We may all be different, but in many ways we are the same. We can all work on overcoming self-judgment, and we can all benefit from it.

I pray for our success in expanding our capacity for self love. We’re in this together.

Much love.