Choice. It sounds like so much freedom – the ability to decide what we do. Sounds like, we analyze things and come up with a decision. But do we really do that? Do we really behave as if, at every moment, we have a choice? Do we exercise our choice when something happens, or, do our habits, customs, upbringing, circumstances, feelings and thoughts choose our response? Choice sounds great, but in my personal life, choices have been hard to make. Too many times, I allow my circumstance to make the decision for me.
Before I can make any choice, I have to be able to see that choice. For example, before I was able to lose my belly fat (some of it), I had to think that I could. Thinking my stomach could never be flat again, because I had a baby, was the thought I lived by for 18 years!!! Finally, after believing I could lose belly fat, thinking it was possible, broke down the barrier my thought had created. I had to reject a previous thought to be able to choose. That is just one example of a time when I didn’t even see a choice.
There are also other times, when I don’t see a choice. When I am angry or in pain from being hurt, I can get so overwhelmed. Then, like an automatic response – pain, anger, hurt – lash out. I do not recognize the choice I have to respond differently. And I am happy to justify my response based on my circumstances. Other times, I am too busy putting one foot in front of the other, going through the motions, coping, responding like I usually do because the idea of doing things differently doesn’t even cross my mind. Patterns are so engrained in me that the fact that I can live differently escapes me. I don’t recognize/realize the choices I can make. The idea of choice is lost in the sea of my circumstances, my habits, my thoughts, my anger, my pain, my hurt etc., etc., etc.
And habits don’t only blind me from my choices, they go even further, they hijack choices I know I have. Habits can be a choice annihilator. Here is a scenario: I will take the same route driving even though I know there are better ways to go. There is no pain blocking me from seeing my choice, no anger, no hurt, no debilitating thoughts. I may even want to choose a different response. Yet, even when I know I can make a different choice, I slip right back into the old choice because I am accustomed to doing “it” a certain way. I know I have a choice yet I do the same old thing. I fail to exercise the choice I know I have.
Then there are other times when I fail to exercise a choice I know I have, not from habit but from thoughts. I know I have a choice but I rule it out, like it never existed. Like when my desire to keep a secret or pride leads me to behave as if I have no choice. Or, because of a perceived outcome, I rule out a certain choice because I don’t consider it a “real” choice. Whatever I am afraid of, or unsure of, limits my choice. When in reality, a choice is still a choice, even if I don’t acknowledge it. Sometimes I confuse whatever holds me back from making a choice, with having no choice. In other words, I confuse not exercising a choice with having no choice. Also, I talk myself out of things, I make them “non choices” when they are choices I chose not to make, for whatever reason.
And then there are those novel moments when I make a choice I know is not right but I make it any way- because I want to – is usually the reason. And finally there is the choice I choose not to make because I don’t know what to choose. That is in itself a choice, but I don’t usually see it that way. But choosing not to choose is the choice right?
The choices we make are ours. No one has control over our behavior but us. There are no circumstances that take away our choice. Our choice, despite our circumstances, is always our choice to make. Years ago, before I was ready to hear that, I rode high on the wave of “my circumstances made me do it” or I had no choice. Years ago, I hardly saw choice in my responses. Some responses seemed automatic, others justified, even when I made choices I knew I shouldn’t. And now, even though “I have a choice” feels more real, often times I still get too much comfort in blaming my behavior on what happens around me. It is hard to stay grounded in myself sometimes, hard to make wise choices, especially when all hell is breaking lose. But that is the journey: to stay grounded in the way I need to be despite anything else- to make conscious choices.
This year my New Year’s resolution was to remember, I always have a different choice. When I confine myself into the box of no choice, I am busting, not bursting, busting open that lid to see. What choices do I really have; what am I missing? This year, I am going to see what else is possible.
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Money & Life: Demystifying Financial Statements for Small Business Owners
YOU CAN HEAL YOUR LIFE
An interesting fact: Did you know that we can change our biochemistry by changing out state of being? Literally, we can equally make ourselves ill or heal ourselves depending on our mood, disposition, outlook, and frame of mind.
This might sound “New Agey”, but take a moment to think and you will find it is nothing of the sort. Notice that when you are happy and excited about life in general, your aches and pains seem distant and less bothersome. When you are engaged in a meaningful task, like happily looking after a baby, your aches seem to recede to the background. Your headache, which sometimes transforms into a debilitating migraine will be bearable. That is, if it does not fade away all together.
If you feel put out, stressed and bothered when someone comes to your door, the simple act of being grumpy and agitated, gives your migraine a place to manifest and fester. Your aches and pains will show themselves with a vengeance. If you believe that being angry all the time does not affect your health you are deluding yourself.
We are in, actual fact, more in control of what we allow to take root in our bodies than we, or the medical establishment gives us credit for. I am not saying that there are external and mitigating factors such as trauma, environmental toxins, or actual microbes which can gravely affect the body. I am saying that the extent to which these things can disrupt our natural homeostasis is in direct correlation to our ability to stay in a state of calm, and allow our body to do what it does best: heal.
Part of accepting the fact that you can heal yourself, is accepting the fact that, you are the direct cause of much of your suffering. Of course there is natural law that states that we only have a certain number of years on the planet, and people do fall ill. However, let us think about who is actually suffering when a child, or sickly person of advanced age, succumbs to illness. Or, who is it that that signs paperwork that allows a dying child or elderly person to be resuscitated over and over. We batter failing bodies, destining them to a lifetime of suffering or months more on a machine in pain. It is us who cannot let go, we are trying to avoid our own pain not prevent suffering in those who have already let go.
We are so scared of death and pain in any form, that the fear of these things permeates our daily life. We see what we fear around every corner. What we don’t realize is that avoidance or total focus on our fears, call those exact situations into being. This is so that we can face the fear and overcome or give in to it. Most drug and alcohol addicts are so scared of the pain and discomfort of sobering up that they run around in more suffering from anxiety of getting the next fix than they actually go through in the process of getting clean.
The truth is we are so scared of the truth of who we are as human beings that we will do almost anything to shine a light elsewhere. Whether it is sickness, addiction, blame, pain, our children, lack of time, we will go to almost any length to hide the truth from ourselves and others. By doing this we remain in a place where all we can cultivate for ourselves is suffering. In this state we create chaos, which breeds illness in body and mind.
I used to live in constant pain because of actual physical injuries. I was sure that the only ‘Band-Aid’ was medication for my injuries, mental and physical. I was also convinced that there was no way, absolutely no way, that my broken leg, wrist, pelvis, and ribs would improve at my age. I was 34 at the time and I thought that the road was only downhill. Three years after I leapt out of a third story window, having had a devastating experience with post-partum depression, I knew that life was not going to get better. Of course every year I got worse and required increasing levels of medication. It was only when I came to peace with the fact that I was going to have some pain for the rest of my life, did things turn around.
My pain today, is less than it usually was before I injured myself 6 years ago. I am taking less medication than I have in the past 20 years. All of this came about because of a shift in my attitude about pain and suffering, mental and physical. It surely is not easy to come to this place. I had to accept and take responsibility for the fact that I was, in fact creating my reality, and only I had the power to change it. Whether the pain is actually less or I just don’t notice it as much because I am not focused on it, there is no definitive way to tell. I simply know that my life does not revolve around pain. My life is fabulous and it is my responsibility to keep it that way. I know that I do not wake up fearing the day and what it is to bring. I no longer lie awake at night in a state of perpetual anxiety. Whatever there is in store for me it can hardly be worse than what I have already been through in my life. If it is, then there is some lesson urgent enough to really take a major upheaval I still have to learn therefore I welcome the opportunity to grow.
This change in my outlook, and view of self, has improved my physical and mental health to a place I thought was outside of my reach. Being able to recognize what comes my way as a gift and not punishment, has reduced my suffering to a point where what I do is, notice any pain. I am able to observe it, and try to work out what that pain is telling me. I look at it from the position of the observer rather from the position of someone suffering because of or due to something. I do not indulge the pain. Then I take action or not depending on the situation. Illness and pain are simply signals to shed light on an issue. The more one realizes this fact, the less any pain or illness can take a hold of your consciousness and take permanent root in your body. “Amor Fati” “love your fate”.
Artwork titled “Tentacles of our Mind” painted by blog author Nonaine Levy
For the Families, Loved Ones and Caregivers
How exciting! You see a profound change in the behaviour, outlook, and energy of your ‘crazy friend’. With every fibre of your being you wish, hope, and pray that this time, the change is for good. However, there is more than a sliver of doubt and worry in your heart.
If you act based on fear, you will definitely make your life and the awakening of your friend much more difficult indeed. Nobody is saying you must blindly trust every action and intention of someone new in recovery. Nevertheless, allow their baby steps or leaps towards improvement as firm, credible steps.
The old adage you reap what you sow is very true. If you approach this situation with fear and treat this person with kid gloves and like a child, you are not leaving them room to grow. Accountability and uncomfortability are in fact platforms for growth. If your actions are fear based, you are laying the groundwork for your fears, and worse, to allow them to come to fruition.
An example of this is being too scared to tell your loved one that they are not doing well at a given moment. You might think it is better to spare their feelings and tell them that they are doing great, when in fact they are struggling. This is a fear-based action.
How can this possibly have a positive outcome? By lying to them you are denying them a chance to calibrate their internal compass. By not speaking your truth, you are strengthening their ego, making fooling themselves much easier.
Of course, you only have the power to change your own actions, not another persons. Yet you can lay down hostile or fertile ground for the person in recovery. It is also akin to putting down soil just for roses, then planting corn and expecting a bountiful rose harvest.
We as human beings are so accustomed to resistance and anguish, to change the status quo requires serious levels of awareness. You might have to step outside of yourself and look at situations as an observer, to even notice the negativity. What you don’t realize is you might actually be addicted to the role this person plays in your life. The group dynamic must shift in order to create space for the unit to settle into a new normal.
Identifying the fact we all have a part in creating madness is the only way to break the bonds of suffering.
For all parties involved; don’t be scared of falling into the cesspool of pain. Remember you have had swimming lessons, you are not going to drown. Also, there is a turbojet, hot springs water, massaging, adjustable shower waiting for you, the minute you decide you want to hop out!
Artwork titled “Heart Burst” painted by blog author Nonaine Levy
Ego: the part of us that blinds us to our truth, and keeps us addicted to negativity.
Now you have made the decision to leave suffering behind, life should be easier, right. The answer is yes and no.
When you master the tools to remove yourself from blame, self-pity, self-flagellation and being a victim of circumstance, your ego is also learning. It also becomes a master of finding your hidden triggers.
Your ego is the single enemy within that will drag you back into the underworld of negative emotions before you even notice. You know that you are feeling and doing better.
Meanwhile, your ego recognizes that it is being edged out. It tells you that you are great, no perfect! Now you want to show the world how amazing you are and that you have all the answers. That is simply your ego using arrogance to make you believe that you are superior. Steps forward are now much tougher but vastly more rewarding, as we eradicate the last vestiges of our ego.
When you are standing in your glory, as a whole person you have no need to be right. In fact you know rightness and righteousness are merely a perspective of your very limited view of the world. When you are secure and your ego is not engaged, you have no need to prove anything to anyone, everything just is. That knowledge in and of itself will sustain a person standing firmly in their truth.
When we can re-frame any personal interaction, experience or situation; when we can remain calm in the face of any situation, we have left ego behind and are now in truth and power. This process does not have to be instantaneous, you need to have compassion for yourself before you can truly extend that courtesy to others.
If you are walking this path of enlightenment, there will come a point where you feel truly at peace almost all of the time. Not everyone around you will be ready to board your ‘happy train’. Some of the people in your inner circle will probably be suspect of your serenity. This can be a very difficult point when you are finding yourself and trying to remain in your power.
Remember, those around you have probably heard this story before. You say “I am okay this time, I am great!” Wives, husbands, family, friends, and caregivers have been fighting to get their loved ones back for years if not decades. Some have abandoned us for fear of being dragged up and down a mountain of feelings again.
This can be utterly exasperating for you. It is hard to stay the course at this point. Bear in mind that those people have been picking up the pieces of your life for a long time. It is your turn to be patient and understanding. Your internal compass north, is more important than ever. Having compassion and empathy for the people who doubt the integrity of your awakening is a quintessential, undisputable sign of your growth.
There is nothing to prove. Your calm, when facing skepticism and others fear, will show the staunchest disbelievers you have arrived. Your reward for your hard work is your inner peace. Nobody has the power to take that from you unless you allow them to!
Artwork titled “Balancing Act” painted by blog author Nonaine Levy.
ELIZABETH LESSER IN CONVERSATION
Madness is the inability to remove yourself from constant suffering.
To come from insanity to a semblance of normalcy is a difficult path to walk. The steps are rather simple, but to follow them fearlessly is to take a journey wrought with awakening, upset, feeling “off kilter”, tears and acceptance.
The moment you decide that you do not want to suffer anymore is the day you must become brutally honest.
It is really that simple. Realize, that we as human beings love to suffer and all suffering stems from fear. Fear of not being enough, fear of not having enough, fear that when we have enough we will lose it all, fear we are going to be hurt, fear that someone or something is going to control us. If you bring all negative emotions back to its core, all fear stems from those two worries. Fear of being hurt or controlled.
The way out of this hell is to be honest with oneself. If I am fearful in this moment, I must accept it. With this acceptance, interestingly, the fear fades away into a distant glimmer of emotion. If you are judgmental accept that, in that moment then try to look at the world from the position you were judging, you might then find understanding.
With brutal honesty of where and what you are, and fearlessly accepting who you are, hell becomes more heavenly. Mad becomes more normal, with this understanding, you breathe easier.
As it is so easy to lie to oneself, emerging from madness is much easier done if you have a person in your sphere who is immune to your whining. Somebody or people that will let you know if you are being dishonest with yourself or otherwise.
Having a person with whom you can calibrate North on your internal compass is very helpful indeed. Especially when you are early in the journey of recovering your mind. The further along you are on the road the more you can trust yourself to find North.
Talk therapy can help you identify sources of trauma that you must work on to become whole. However, solutions in conventional therapy are few and far between.
Once you step outside of being a victim in, of, or because of a given situation; you can understand that anything you perceive as trauma, or being hurtful to you, is simply an opportunity for personal growth.
If you are standing in your truth and power you realize that wallowing in anger or hurt is giving up your chance at happiness. In being and remaining angry you have given up your power to anything and everything but yourself.
It is a wonderful thing to realize that you are hurt or upset, if you use your negative emotions as the impetus to move from anger, and grow. You can re-frame any situation so that you are at least calm. This a powerful method you can use to remove suffering from your life.
When in an honest and accepting relationship with oneself, seeing the other side of the situation and moving from upset to acceptance, is the key step to emerging from madness.
Artwork titled “Cups of Chaos” painted by blog author Nonaine Levy
John O’Donohue, poet, philosopher, and scholar, guides you through the spiritual landscape of the Irish imagination. In Anam Cara, Gaelic for “soul friend,” the ancient teachings, stories, and blessings of Celtic wisdom provide such profound insights on the universal themes of friendship, solitude, love, and death. Nowhere do the beauty, mystery, and soul-sustenance of friendship come more vibrantly alive than in this masterpiece.