Life is merely a collection of moments, strung together in chronological order. Imagine if you could find a tool that allowed you to get just a little more out of each moment…how much more that could mean for your life?
Recently, I was on a retreat. One morning we had the opportunity to attend a guided meditation in a beautiful Sanctuary. After the session, I strolled down to an area called “Serenity”, where a bench overlooks a beautiful little pond filled with lotus blossoms preparing to bloom for the day. As I sat quietly, an older woman came by and asked if I minded if she shared the space with me. I happily moved over and we both sat, in silence, staring out over the pond.
Suddenly she exclaimed, “I just don’t really get meditation”. I asked if she had just been in the sanctuary to which she replied, “yes, I keep hearing all about meditation and I’m trying really hard…but I don’t think I really get what it’s supposed to do for me or my life”. I smiled and said that it was probably one of those things that she would realize as soon as she stopped “trying”. The two of us remained sitting in silence, looking over the pond and enjoying the warm morning sun on our faces.
After several minutes, a turtle came right to the edge of the pond and peeked his head out, as if to ask what we were doing at his pond. The woman laughed and said, “I didn’t know there was anything in this pond but the lotus”. As we sat quietly a large catfish began to swim out from under the floating flowers, followed by several large coy fish in varying colors. Before we could finish admiring them a school of smaller fish hurried by, as if to see what was going on. It wasn’t long before a large frog began to sing his song from the far bank as three stunning little hummingbirds seemed to float right in front of us. It was absolutely beautiful, almost like being in a fairy tale. The butterflies flew from one blooming Lotus to another and the dragonflies seemed to be playing tag along the top of the water. A brightly colored mallard duck came waddling down from behind the yellow blooming cactus plants and casually plopped himself into the water as his mate remained behind in the shade. The lone turtle was soon joined by two friends and they began to sun themselves on the rocks protruding out of the water. None of the wildlife seemed to either notice or have any concern for our presence.
As we sat there admiring each new arrival, the woman looked out over the pond, let out a big exhale and exclaimed, “It’s really amazing…the longer you just sit here quietly, the more you become aware of.” I took in her words and smiled. As I turned to her, I put my hand on her knee and said, “What a beautiful metaphor for how meditation enables you to live a more fulfilling life”. She sat silent for a bit, turned toward the pond, admired all of our friends, and suddenly began to laugh. “I get it” she said, “I have sat at this pond so many times this week but each time I have either been chatting with my husband, looking at my emails or figuring out which class to go to next. I have never actually taken the time to just be here.” She said she was “grateful to the universe” for putting me at the bench to help her stop, be there, and notice all that she had been missing. With that, I thanked her for her beautiful metaphor and for helping reinforce my feeling of connection, the thing we all strive for most.
As I stood up to leave, she explained that she was going to stay at the bench a while and enjoy all that she had been missing. She marveled as to how all of the wildlife seemed to be appearing out of nowhere yet it had been there, right in front of her, the whole time. She realized that it was the first time all week that she had sat on that bench for the purpose of being on that bench. Before now, it was just a place to sit while she did something else. Being there this time, with no other focus, she was able to make space in her mind to allow for new awareness’s to be received. Instead of cluttering her mind with thoughts about the past or the future (what she just did or needed to do), she allowed herself to truly experience the moment, the “now”. She was emotionally present and we both felt a greater sense of fulfillment as we parted.
“Meditation is the process whereby we gain control over the mind and guide it in a more virtuous direction. Meditation may be thought of as a technique by which we diminish the force of old thought habits and develop new ones”. –Dalai Lama
Meditation is the tool that empowers you to stay emotionally present in the moment. Doing so helps you get off auto-pilot and become an active participant in your life. Ultimately, this is the easiest and most assured way to live your Best Life.
There are as many different ways to meditate as there are people, there is no “right way”, just a way that is right for you. If you are brand new to the concept, guided meditations are available all over the internet, start with one, see what you like, what you don’t, and keep trying until you find what works for you. There is sitting meditation, standing, walking, laying down, etc.…, this is your one life and once you discover the benefits of taking 5 minutes a day, you’ll wish you hadn’t waited another second. Start where you are, start now, and don’t stop until you find what works for you. Enjoy your search, it is the journey that provides us with what we need to succeed when we reach our destination. –Namaste
That’s true. Life isn’t fair, it just is… that’s why when a tiny fawn finally makes it to a drinking hole, after no water for days, only to meet up with a starving lion…it’s not a matter of fair, it’s just life.
Fair is something we make up depending on our perspective, the particular situation, and our history. For example, if you are the tiny fawn, this scenario seems extremely unfair and maybe even wrong. However, if you are the lion, this same scenario is an incredible stroke of luck, maybe even a blessing.
So…the good news is…if fair is just an illusion we make up in our minds, by decorating a set of circumstances with a collection of colorful thoughts, then if what we are imagining doesn’t make us happy… if it makes us upset, angry, resentful, etc.…then we have the power to change it!
Sounds simple right? It actually is. We only make it difficult because it’s unusual or new. It requires leaving what we know, doing something very different, breaking a habit…
This very act physiologically activates the reptile portion of our brain (“flight, fight, and freeze”). It’s not your fault that leaving the comfort zone doesn’t come naturally, it actually doesn’t. Staying with what has kept us alive to this point, good/bad or otherwise, is what our survival instinct will automatically strive to maintain.
But are we really talking about “survival” most of the time? No…WE know that, but the physiological parts of our incredible brain do not. It’s our own built in computer, but we have to program it, or at least update the existing program. Our brain can only do or know what is input into it, through awareness, experience, intentional education, etc.… If we don’t consciously enter new information and/or challenge and change what is there, our brains are wired to simply run on the old programming, automatically. To change how you feel about “things”, you have to change your “programming”, and it has to be intentional.
Your attitude about your life really IS your choice. You don’t have to be pissed off every time things don’t go as you had hoped, upset when you’re expectations aren’t met, hold grudges, etc.… You can choose to accept what is, without judgment; deal with it, maybe even look for the lesson and learn from it. Either way, it’s always your choice, no matter how many excuses you give yourself.
No- it’s not easy, no -it’s not quick, and no -it’s not all sunshine and rainbows all the time, but it IS your one life and WHATS THE ALTERNATIVE? Why wouldn’t you continue to try? THERE IS NO FINISH LINE…it’s NEVER too late…Life is a process. And every second of every minute of every day…you have a choice: You can live on auto-pilot or take back control of your own mind.
“You can control your thoughts or your thoughts will control you” -unknown
Life really is what you make it: if you find yourself in a situation that makes you…not happy, try taking all of the emotions, thoughts and/or judgement away for a moment before you react or decide how you feel. Look at the facts, just what IS, not what you or others thought it should have been, what you expected or wanted it to be etc… and then, see if you can figure out how to take the next small step to move forward instead of getting sidetracked by discouraging thoughts…
At the end of the day, we all just want to be happy. Everything “thing” we desire to have or do is really just a means to the same end; we think it will make us happy. Fortunately, Life is more about your attitude than anything else and you are in charge of that. Blaming others only gives your power away. Take responsibility and take back control.
Change your attitude and watch your whole life change too. There is no such thing as FAIR or UNFAIR, it just IS, and it IS your LIFE!
As I drove home, through a quaint older neighborhood with fully mature trees hovering their branches overhead, the fallen leaves all seemed to scurry across the road in front of me. They were jumping, skipping, and a few even doing a little flip of excitement now and then. Some left, some right, some straight ahead, but mostly in a big group all appearing to be heading the same general direction. It looked like the front of an elementary school at the end of a long day when all the children come running out of the building, yelling with enthusiasm just because they can. It made me smile, and it made me think…
Just days earlier I had expressed my sadness about seeing all the beautiful leaves beginning to fall from the same trees. But what if those leaves have been waiting for this moment since spring? Maybe they’ve been blowing in the wind restricted by the trees hold on them. Are they now free? Free to run on the ground, to play with the leaves from the trees across the street, to explore the neighborhood they have been staring at from above all summer? I don’t know, but how fun to watch them play and imagine their joy, as if they knew something I didn’t.
All these years I’ve assumed that it was sad when it was their time to fall and “die”. I’d never even entertained this other perspective. I wonder why? Was it just what I had been told? I grew up somehow just ‘knowing’ that it was sad when things died; but these leaves didn’t look the least bit sad. They looked as if they were just beginning a new chapter of their lives; it was just going to take on a different form. This wasn’t an “ending” as I had perceived it, this was a new beginning. It wasn’t death after all, it was just change.
I will never look at leaves in a tree or on the ground the same way again. Whether they are just budding, bright green, turning colors, about to be set free or nourishing the earth, I’ll be reminded, this is the cycle of life and each moment is meant to be enjoyed for what it is, not what we think it should be, or what someone told us it was.
Maybe all of life is merely what we perceive it to be at any given moment along the journey… which would imply that, if we are not happy about a situation, we can at least try to look at it from a different perspective. Isn’t it at least worth a try? What if it’s just your beliefs or thoughts about the situation vs. the situation itself?
“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change” –unknown
Enjoy the beautiful leaves!
What is Hero Support?
Hero Support is a term I use to describe a certain personality or role that some people have/assume in life, or some period of time. Some people are Heroes, some are Hero Support. I think it’s OK, even great, to be “Hero Support”. They are the “wind beneath my wings” that Bette Midler sings about in her song of the same title; a different type of Hero. It’s an important position and one that is an intricate and necessary part of life.
Not everyone wants the spotlight, hero support provides an opportunity for introverts to contribute, feel important/necessary, make a significant impact etc… without taking center stage, or even any of the stage. When I think of “Hero Support” I think of; the 1st lady, vice president, right hand man, the “woman behind the man”, wife, mother, nurse, administrative assistant, etc.… the people who make it possible for someone else to be the more stereotypical “hero”. They provide the essential foundation upon which others can build a beautiful home.
Everyone is different, and that’s how it’s supposed to be; it’s what makes us all necessary. Its proof that we were meant to work together, it’s why we crave/need connection. My mom used to say, “If we were all the same there wouldn’t be horse races”, and she loved the races.
Recently, I began thinking about why sometimes being Hero Support can be so fulfilling and yet, other times, so draining. Sometimes it brings joy and yet, other times, there is resentment. It occurred to me that the difference is the motivation driving the support at the particular moment. When you are motivated by your heart, supporting others makes you feel energized and alive, it adds richness to your life. It is a way of honoring an inner need to help others, to contribute. When support is motivated by a sense of obligation, or putting others needs before your own, it often makes you feel lacking, depleted, even insignificant. I believe many Hero Support are motivated by both of these things at different times of their lives, maybe even different times in the same day.
What Motivates You?
Supporting others can be a strength or a comfort, depending on its motivation. By strength I mean, it’s what feeds your sense of purpose. By comfort I’m referring to a habit created by a desire to remain either invisible/out of the spotlight, or sometimes loved and accepted; this habit can ultimately deprive the world of You, while depriving You of Your Best Life.
I also believe that when the strength is not accompanied by solid/clear boundaries, the lines become blurred and Hero Support can begin to become an “Identity”, ie. an obligation as opposed to simply ‘actions that fulfill a greater purpose’. Over the years, I have noticed a pattern…
Hero Support, when motivated from the place of comfort/habit, or strength without boundaries, begin to define themselves, or become defined by others, as the ones who have it all together, they’ve got it “under control”. From the outside, Hero Support seem to have the perfect life and things come easy. You appear to have been “blessed” with many gifts that many struggle for. After a while, you tend to pride yourself on these attributes and strive to make sure that the image is true, or at least perceived to be true. Sometimes, if you fake something long enough, you forget what’s real and what isn’t. This role provides a sense of purpose, pride, and even value/worthiness. Its makes you feel needed or important, it’s where you “fit” and/or why you matter. It somehow satisfies the innate need for connection.
I’ve also noticed that Hero Support’s “problems” are often perceived (by themselves and others) as not as big, real, important, etc.…as someone else’s. Hero Support tend to go out of your way to not “burden” others, you tend to downplay problems because “you got this”. As a result, your “problems” are less obvious or more hidden/controlled. This can give the impression that you don’t still hurt the way others do. As if you can handle anything and don’t need or maybe even want support. Perhaps it’s because others need Hero Support to be “strong”, and Hero Support wants to comply.
We All Need Support:
Regardless, we all need to be allowed to need support, we need to allow ourselves to be supported. A small cut on your own finger will always hurt you more than a leg being amputated from someone else; that’s just reality and it’s OK to feel your own pain. You really don’t have control over that, it’s simply how you are physiologically wired.
I believe hero support people go through life learning all sorts of protection from vulnerability, so you “don’t get hurt”. You understand that others don’t plan to hurt you, your pain is only collateral damage and shouldn’t be taken personally…most of the time you are hurt by inconsiderate acts, not malicious intent. No one intentionally hurt you, they just didn’t even take your feelings into consideration. It doesn’t make it hurt less…
So you learn to build protective armor, you use: busyness, independence, productivity, perfectionism, being incredibly organized, clean, helpful, accommodating, or using drugs, alcohol, sex…the list goes on. But every once in a while there’s a crack in your armor and when the light gets in, it stings. At that point, you either reinforce your armor, while yelling at yourself for being pathetic, weak, needy, etc.…, or you realize that, it’s not the stinging that hurts anymore, it’s the fact that you don’t have the time or space to allow for it. In a strange way, you don’t mind the sting because you welcome the fact that you “feel” it.
Suddenly, you’re no longer afraid of “being hurt” by others; you’ve helped enough others through difficult times to truly understand that it’s simply part of life, for everyone. You’ve had enough life experience to cushion the often careless blows and put them into perspective. You understand that there is a flip side to all emotions. But now you’re faced with the fact that when Hero Support shows up sad, hurt or weak, it causes a problem; Hero Support can’t do their job if they are not “emotionally stable”.
Hero Support’s entire identity and/or purpose is put into jeopardy if they lose their cool or ability to handle their own mess. After all, from all appearances, you really have nothing to complain about. You are “the rock” and rocks that are used to hold things up are not very useful if they become soft. Hero Support doesn’t like to make others feel uncomfortable or waste their time, that’s not what support looks like. If you’re not “on” it makes those you support uncomfortable and wastes their time; or so it seems. Hero Support has become “The Pleaser“, your job is to make sure everyone is happy. Hero support is not comfortable in the “needing support” role, but who is comfortable in a role they don’t practice?
Who Supports You?
Does anyone support you the way you support others? Who empathizes and makes you feel emotionally secure and/or significant?
Sometimes it’s not until you are ready to accept help that you suddenly realize that you’ve spent so much time, and taken so much pride in, being there for others that you never let anyone be there for you. So now, instead of being scared of being hurt, now you just don’t want to face the hurt of having no one to support you. How can you have spent your whole life caring so much for so many and yet feel so alone? How does that happen? What does that mean? How did you get into this situation and, more importantly, how can you get out?
How comfortable are you with giving support? And receiving it? Can you take a compliment? Do you share your stories?
How do you feel about those you support? Wouldn’t it be OK to let others feel that way about supporting you? What if you were to think of allowing others to support you as a gift to them? Do you know that you ARE worthy of it? Do you know that you need it? We all do.
What would you do for a friend like you? When will you start? Sometimes it helps to think of it this way…if you don’t take care of you, who’s going to take care of your heroes? Remember…you can’t pour lemonade from an empty pitcher. Your feelings matter .
Hero Support people need support too. It’s OK to be strong for others and also, periodically, need/accept others being strong for you. Nothing in nature thrives alone, nothing. The only time you ever see a tree in a field by itself is when some other/external force has taken the others away. In time, if that space is left untouched, either that single tree will die or others will grow around it. The strongest, healthiest forests are the fullest because of symbiotic relationships.
The healthiest bodies of water run two ways, spring/streams/rivers fill them and they in turn feed other springs/streams/rivers; the unhealthiest only run one (i.e. the Dead Sea in Israel). I believe that relationships are the same, everyone needs a place to give and a place to receive, either one without the other isn’t healthy long term and, ultimately, can’t thrive. Connection is a two-way street.
Are You Hero Support?
How many people know your favorite color, place to visit or even your dreams? Do you know theirs? Are you perceived as pretty much having it all together…not really “needing” anything?
Is it natural to want to do whatever you can for others; do they seem to come to you, open up and “know” that you will be there for them? Do you genuinely love to listen to and help others? Does it give you a sense of purpose?
How many “heroes” do you support? When did you take on this role? Is it still serving you? As a strength or a comfort? If it’s a strength, how are your boundaries? Do you know about personal boundaries?
What do you do to replenish yourself so that you can continue to be Hero Support from a place of strength?
When is the last time you let anyone see you cry? Do you still cry? How about the last time you allowed someone to comfort you, to let you know they were there or just listen to what was going on in your head? How would it feel to be the Hero in your own life and ask for support?
I think Hero Support is an amazing and commendable character trait that is fundamental to any thriving community. However, that doesn’t mean you don’t occasionally need support too, you’re still human. One important key for Hero Support is having someone to share with, something I’ll be writing about next…
If any of this sounds familiar, or a topic you’d be interested in delving into deeper, contact me and let’s keep the conversation going.
Mindfulness seems to be somewhat of a Buzz Word lately, even in circles it’s rarely been mentioned in before. Why is this? Is it because of “the grass is always greener…” phenomena? Have we, as a society, gotten so far away from being mindful that it has become the coveted “thing we don’t have”? I don’t know, but I think there’s a connection. I think “things” have gotten so fast, even somewhat automatic, that taking a moment to be mindful of our life feels like coming up for a breath of air after swimming across the entire length of the pool under water. No one will deny that huge sense of accomplishment when you finally make it across the whole pool without surfacing; but how good does that breathe of air feel the moment you finish? That’s what mindfulness feels like to me, filling your life with more of those quality “moments”.
Mindfulness is practiced by many different people in many different ways and for just as many reasons, very much like meditation. Some people confuse mindfulness with meditation, and although they are often combined in mindfulness meditation (ex. being mindful of your breath while meditating), mindfulness is merely one of many types of meditation. Generally speaking, the goal of meditation is to reach a heightened level of overall consciousness as a human being, whereas mindfulness is about living in the now; being aware of what is happening as it is happening without judgment, without even necessarily thinking about it, just experiencing it as it actually is. In short, the goal of mindfulness is to focus on being in the present, one moment at a time. Both are great practices alone and/or together. Knowing what you want to achieve and finding the method that works for you is what’s important. Personally, I have a daily practice of mindfulness, and I try to incorporate mediation into my life as often as I can. So, even though I don’t always make time for meditation, I’m always working on mindfulness.
Lately, I’ve been asked “Why do people practice mindfulness” and “What’s so great about it”? I imagine answers vary greatly depending on who you ask. For me, having a mindfulness practice helps me stay grounded in my most authentic self, thereby helping me to get the most out of my life (becoming my Best Self to live my Best Life). By regularly touching base with what is real and how I feel about it, as opposed to what I think about it (or even what others think about it), I become more consciously aware of what is truly important to me, what matters to me; as opposed to allowing myself to get too caught up in or carried away with the everyday fast paced auto pilot of social comparisons and competitions; all of the external “shoulds”, which is so easy to do. This may sound strange but, by purposefully staying in touch my core values, I end up taking a more active role in living my life intentionally (instead of waking up and realizing that years have passed and wondering where the time has gone).
Some still wonder why that’s important to me. After having a mindfulness practice for a while, I have definitely noticed that I am far more grounded, stable and comfortable in my beliefs surrounding who I really am (my most authentic/best self), who I want to be (the role I want to have in my life story), and how I want to live and/or show up so that I feel good when I go to bed each night. I believe this is because now, as a result of this practice, when I am faced with certain situations, I am better able to instinctively stop for a second…and consciously choose how to respond; versus before I would have merely reacted and, much of the time, fought with myself later about that reaction; How could I have said or done such a stupid thing, what was I thinking, etc.… thereby continuing to waste more of my life feeling badly about myself and, thus, creating a negative chain reaction; setting a mood/tone for whatever came next based on something that was already done. Now, because I work on making a habit out of stopping (if only for a split second) and getting in touch with what actually is, as opposed to my thoughts around it (i.e. how it should/shouldn’t be or even how others might perceive it), I am more aware of the difference between consciously choosing a response that is true to me versus reacting from a place of fear, anger, excitement, etc.… a place triggered by my thoughts and/or emotions about the situation instead of the actual situation. The more subtle, yet constantly increasing, benefit I feel is an overall sense of more depth in more moments of my life; I actually notice more incredible things than I use to on an ordinary day. I have become increasingly aware of how amazing our universe is and it helps fill me with a sense of gratitude even when I may be having a bad day. In the long run, the ability to appreciate the richness of these moments more fully, adds up to more days, weeks, months, etc. and eventually more of my life.
Ultimately, by making a practice of mindfulness I am basically just training my brain to periodically stop and be more aware of things that are happening, as they are happening, and process them without judgement or even too much thought. Very much the same way I have trained my brain to drive a large suburban down crowded streets and end up at Target without much recollection of how I got there; it’s all about creating a habit through repetition, and it’s amazing how quickly your brain can adapt. Your brain is an incredible piece of a physiological miracle. When I’m driving to Target, for example, I am generally not triggered by emotions or thoughts about the trip, so my mind is free to wander. It wanders over to thoughts about the past, the future, songs on the radio…and before I know it, I’m parking the car. Now, because of my practice, when I, and/or my body, am triggered by emotions or thoughts, I am better able to notice the sensation of my mind running away (or sometimes just spinning) and stop it. Sort of like training a loyal pet who, because of past experiences, trusts you unconditionally so that when you ask it not to run off, it instinctively listens. Eventually, some pets will actually wait and look to you for a command before even considering running off; you have earned that trust. In much the same way, mindfulness has allowed me to become better at controlling my thoughts as opposed to allowing my thoughts to be in control of me.
As far as what my mindfulness practice is, I try to be mindful most of the time; whether I’m doing menial tasks around the house or having serious conversations with loved ones. I make an effort to stay mindful when I’m with my kids and even when I’m at the gym. However, almost every day I make a point to consciously dedicate some time to my practice, much the same way I dedicate time to the other muscles in my body that I want to maintain or strengthen. To do this, I generally walk outside, in nature, with my dog. I watch the trees, sometimes a butterfly or a bird, or just my dog as he appreciates everything around him, with no obvious thoughts or judgments about anything beyond the moment. I do, and have done, many other types of mindfulness meditations and practices, but as for a consistent practice, which I feel is the most important ingredient for success at anything, for me, it’s always involved walking, nature, and the conscious decision to release all thoughts and judgments about whatever is happening from my mind and just be aware of WHAT IS. I notice thoughts and judgments when they occur (because they definitely still occur) I just don’t give them any time or attention. I notice it’s happening and I practice moving on, letting them go by like a cloud in the sky and I refocus on what is happening around me.
Do you have a mindfulness practice? What is it? Don’t have one yet? What will it be? You can google “mindfulness” and get more ideas and/or possibilities than you have time to try; check it out and see if any of them speak to you. What have you got to lose?
The way I look at it is this: The human body is between 50 and 75% water, with the average human body consisting of around 55%. That is at least half of our body weight! Knowing that, try to imagine yourself as a large container of water. When that container is calm, the surface area of the water is like a mirror, accurately reflecting all of its surroundings. However, if you rattle that container, throw a pebble into it, etc.… the water begins to ripple and the reflection of its surroundings becomes distorted. I think of having a mindfulness practice as a tool to help “keep my waters calm” so that when “life happens”, I can process a clear reflection of what is actually happening and choose how to respond. As opposed to reacting to a distorted perception of that reality.
Have fun finding a practice that works best for you, no matter what it ends up being. Maybe you’ll come up with something brand new and unique to you. Maybe you’ll have a few different practices for various times/situations and/or circumstances in your life. There are no rules, the important thing is that it works for you and that you do it, that’s really all that matters!
Be an active participant in your life, one moment at a time. You won’t be sorry!
I read a post on Facebook that said:
“When you have a good heart: You help too much. You trust too much. You give too much. You love too much. And it always seems you hurt the most”.
My first reaction was, Ouch! But for some reason I couldn’t stop looking at it. What was it about those words that was causing me such a strange reaction and why? Finally it hit me, the post made me sad. I wasn’t sad because I agreed with it, I was sad to think that it could encourage people to try not to feel “too much”; that’s how I would have read it some years ago. I used to believe that the more I helped, trusted, gave and/or loved, the more I was setting myself up to be hurt later on. As a result, I started to restrict the amount that I allowed myself to do those things and I began living a very safe, content, protected and inauthentic life. I’m not saying I didn’t have any highs or lows, but neither were very extreme. I became pretty good at “not getting hurt”. I stopped trusting/listening to my heart and I relied on my “logical brain”. Unfortunately, all of the tools/armor etc.… I used to keep the pain out was keeping all of the wonderfulness of life out as well. I began to stop feeling much at all, and what’s the point of that? As I began to delve into “self-awareness”, my whole world began to change, or at least the way I felt about it.
None of this happened over night but, the biggest “life changer” began when I started thinking about my motivation behind my helping, trusting, giving, loving…etc… Why was I doing those things? Was I doing it for me, because I truly wanted to? Because of how it made me feel? For my own personal fulfillment? Or was I hoping for something in return? Was the “hurt “really about the giving? Or was it more about my perception/thoughts about what was/wasn’t being returned and how? Was the hurt because of a “good heart” or a wounded ego?
If I was truly doing these things for my own intrinsic pleasure…for example, if I wanted to love, merely for the pleasure of feeling intense love, would it make sense for me to deny myself that happiness purely out of fear that the recipient may not be able to feel the way I do? Don’t get me wrong, if it isn’t returned, it will probably effect my feelings into the future, I will LEARN from it, but it won’t take away from the pleasure of having been able to feel the most love I could at that moment. Attempting to not love “too much” doesn’t make it hurt less later, it just takes some of the joy away from the process, and the pain of the loss is the same in the end. In either case, you mourn the loss of love, love you didn’t give or receive. But…if you allow yourself to GIVE love, to feel it internally, you get that experience AND you can move forward without any “what if’s”.
The quote made me sad because I recognized it as the very belief that robbed me of so much potential richness in my younger life. Believing it stopped me from feeling all that I could feel; from helping more, trusting more, giving more and loving more. It was this myth that prevented me from letting go of my thoughts about how things “should” be and just experiencing life on a deeper, truer and more meaningful level; living in the moment and dealing with whatever came of it. It lead me to believe that not feeling pain was better than feeling anything at all. It gave me a false sense of “control”. We can never control how others will react to anything we do/say or feel.
I think there is a reason that people have been quoting these lines from Tennyson’s poem since 1850;
“Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.”
The pain of the regrets, “what if’s”, and “if onlys”, hurts much more than any pain caused by having too good of a heart, and the wounds take much longer to heal. If I only knew how much more I would learn from the “hurt” than the regrets... On the positive side, I now take every opportunity to help, trust, give and love as much as I can. I do it for me, I do it selfishly so that I get the most out of my life. I do it because I can, because of how it makes ME feel about being ME. I do it so that, when my time comes, I don’t wonder what would have happened if I had. I’m not saying I let myself be used as a doormat, that I have become incredibly naïve or allow myself be a fool, I’m just saying I no longer let the fear of being “hurt” stop me from getting the most out of my life. I now interpret FEAR as “proceed with caution”, not STOP. I don’t let my fear of others reactions dictate who I am or how I feel. Of course I hope my acts are appreciated, but that’s not in my control.
The Facebook quote reminded me of a story, about a young girl on a beach, being shot at by little arrows. After being hit by a few she knew she didn’t like how it felt. Hastily she began building a stone silo around her for protection. As time passed and she got taller, she continued to build the walls higher. One day, as she noticed a beautiful bird flying overhead, she realized that she had forgotten why she started building…it had become a habit. Eventually, she created a small hole in the silo wall. Outside she saw incredible beauty but had no way of getting to it. The arrow slingers had long gone but she had gotten so used to building those walls, she forgot to stop. Suddenly she became aware that those walls that she had built out of fear, to protect herself from the pain of the arrows getting to her, were now keeping her from the beauty of the life that had continued to go on around her. Unfortunately, she had done such a good job of building, the silo was not easy to tear down. It was a long, laborious, process. Sometimes the sun shining in would sting her eyes and she would need to stop, look away, and take time to let them adjust before continuing. She knew there was no point in stopping, she had nothing left to lose. Eventually, when enough of the walls were down, she was able to step outside the rubble, stretch her body, take a deep breath, and walk on the sand she had only allowed herself to stand or sit on all this time. She never imagined how soft it would feel under her feet, how refreshing the water she had only been able to hear, felt in her hair, and the ocean breeze actually blowing on her face… All this time, in attempt to keep a few arrows from getting to her, she had sheltered herself from the joys and beauty of the world. As she walked away from the silo she cut her foot on a shell. She stopped, instinctively looked back at the stone remains of her “safe-place”, and then watched as her foot bled slightly. Suddenly a wave of emotion washed over her and, in some strange way, she enjoyed the pain, she felt alive. It was the first time she could remember feeling anything in a long time. Within a few moments she had forgotten about the pain and was running along the sea shore, excited about all that she would experience and feel from that day forward. (She also learned to avoid stepping on sharp shells). Never again would she sacrifice feeling something wonderful out of fear of a little pain. From that moment on she vowed to listen to her heart, to trust, and risk “being hurt”. She learned that, without that risk, nothing matters, and feeling empty and alone is painful anyway. She now knew that she would rather feel the pain that may come from feeling “too much”, than the pain that comes from losing the chance to feel anything at all.
She vowed do her best to live a true, authentic, full life, led by dreams and purpose, not limited by fear. She would never again “protect” herself from living her BEST LIFE.
Don’t change who you are, or stop becoming all that you can be, out of fear that others won’t be able to receive it properly. Many of them wont’, but some of them will and, at the end of the day, it’s not your problem unless you let it be. Unfortunately not everyone is going to appreciate you the way you want or even deserve to be, but, I believe, that has very little to do with you and everything to do with them. Imagine if everyone with a “good heart” decided to help less, trust less, give less and love less in an effort to prevent themselves from hurting more? What sort of world would be left? We learn from our “hurt”, it’s just another feeling, fearing it doesn’t have to get the leading role in the stories of our lives.
Ultimately, withholding all of that goodness, tapering what your heart is allowed to feel, is so much more painful than any external person/force could cause. How can we “train” our hearts to feel less pain without merely asking it to FEEL LESS? You’re human, you have a big heart and a big brain, use them both, TOGETHER. Help others because it’s the right thing to do, not because of how much they’ll appreciate it. Trust your instincts, they know you better than your ego thinks it does. Give when you can because we all need each other. Love until your heart feels as though it will burst, do it for YOU, for the pleasure of feeling, because you CAN. Make mistakes, learn, live, feel. It’s your life, it’s happening now, and there are no redoes. Don’t let the fear of possible future pain rob you of THIS MOMENT. It’s your time! 🙂