Complainers Needn’t Apply

This is one of the things I’ve wrestled with so much: on one hand, I was to withhold judgement from people and be accepting, but on the other hand, I really can’t deal with toxic people. What makes it even more of a conundrum is that toxic people, by and large, are the way they are because of things that have happened to them. 

But life is finite and we only have so much time left on this planet. Should we allow toxic people into our lives? As far as we can send them love and kindness, yes. Keeping them close at hand just because we feel bad for building distance: no


Complaining is the toxic person’s primary medium. Like an artist who uses clay or stone to sculpt or oil or watercolor to paint, the toxic person specializes in moaning laments. It is how they visualize the world around them and convey it to others. They have a deep and profound belief that the world is unfair and that they are at the short end of the proverbial stick in perpetuity. Complaining has an allure, though. Because when we are perpetually finding fault with things around us, we’re putting off addressing our own shortcomings and the other things we. We’d to work on within ourselves.

If you’ve spent much time around complainers, you’ll know how efficiently they can ruin everything. Just one complainer at a dinner or party can sour the entire occasion. The toxicity is infectious and viral. This is why you need to  be extraordinarily cautious. 

Don’t feel bad about keeping complainers at arms length…or further. Being a compassionate and accepting person doesn’t mean you have to subject yourself to personalities that rob you of your joy. Even the most caring doctor takes precautions around patients who are highly infectious. How’s this any different?

Doing Nothing while Doing Everything

Do you ever look at the clock at night and wonder where the day went? It seems like it all went by in a flash and now you’re left with this empty feeling of having lost a day, it seems. All those hours, disintegrated and lost within the ether. The busier we are, the hectic our lives become, the more it seems that we lose out on savoring what we have in real-time. The commonly cited reason for this is: “I’ve just been so busy.”

Indeed, we’re working hard, longer and for less. We throw ourselves into what we do not because we necessarily enjoy it but because we fear that by not showing 120 percent commitment to everything, we’ll be judged as lazy and careless. But what’s the net result? People who allow themselves to become swamped by endless responsibilities don’t actually work any more efficiently than anyone else. And the saddest part to all of this is that the only person who realizes how much work you’ve been doing is you.

Soon, you’re left sitting on your couch exhausted at 10 pm thinking “it seems like it should be noon.” You’re living twice the life you should be, but not in a good way. The reason time seems to accelerate exponentially is because you’re doing too much. You’re packing the responsibilities of two or three people in the time frame allotted for one. Either you give those other two people names or you part ways with them.

Fact: you deserve to enjoy your life.

IMG_0167

Life ends. It is finite. We will all die. And every day is a day closer to that inevitability. You can’t live your days over, but you can begin to live your days more mindfully. By taking the time you need to enjoy what’s around you and what you encounter; by seeing the beauty and value in the seemingly insignificant things. If I were to ask you what flowers grow outside your office building, you probably couldn’t answer. Not many people could, so don’t feel bad. Why? We don’t associate work with flowers or birds or nature. We are one-track minded. And that’s okay. But we have to accept that being like that means that we miss out on what’s really important: the world and all of existence beckoning us to enjoy and savor it.

You don’t have to wait for New Years or next month or even the beginning of the week to start. You can do it right now.

Slow Down. Look Around. Breathe.

That’s all you need to do. It’s really that simple. The beauty of life is unfolding for you every second of every day of every month of every year. It’s your choice to see it or not. And, should you decide to see it, you’ll begin to realize that you’ve been spending a lot of time doing nothing; that what’s really meaningful, what will truly fill your days with purpose and joy, are all around you.

This Moment is Everything

How much time in your life have you spent worrying and ruminating about the future or the past? Not only is it hard not to do this but many of us think it’s actually responsible to. If there was a net benefit to worry, then it might not be such a bad thing. But worry produces nothing besides anxiety and more worry. It doesn’t help up prepare for anything because worry, in and of itself, is irrational. 


If we think we are going to do something tomorrow or know we have an appointment or anything else we have to attend to, we can plan for it while still knowing that the future doesn’t exist. It leaves open the likelihood that what tomorrow may bring cannot be what we conceive in our worried minds because if the future doesn’t exist, there’s nothing there.

Thousands of years ago, our primitive ancestors were always on the lookout for danger. Because danger would have been everywhere. Every rustle of a bush or sound breaking the silence of night was potentially a deadly animal waiting to kill them. Fast forward to today and here are, anxious about what may be; the many dangers lurking in that mysterious place called tomorrow. And perhaps being prepared, we think, mitigates the pain and misery resulting from that fear coming to fruition. 

Likewise, the past is immaterial as well. It isn’t what we think it is….or was. Because the further we move from the past, the less objective we can think about it. What’s left sometimes are just those raw emotions associated with experiences we endured. But the past is really over. We’ve moved on, except for when we haven’t allowed aspects of ourselves to.

The present moment, the here and now, is all there is. And it’s all there ever was. The sensory experience of being alive in this moment and existing in real time with what is creates a sense of peace and place. This is related to the concept of consciousness; the property of being that imbues the present. We cannot ruminate or worry about what we are experiencing because we are in the middle of it. We are unfolding as it is unfolding; evolving with everything around us. Meditation is of extraordinary help in keep ourselves grounded and in place.

Just a few minutes of sitting in silence, listening and feeling our bodies in real time, can begin to break down the need to worry and ruminate. It makes being conscious of this moment second nature. Worry will always happen to some extent because humans have been worrying for thousands of years. But we do have the power to step out of this toxic behavior by devoting our attention to NOW. 

The toxicity of ‘staying informed’

So much is happening in the news these days. Whether it’s one of Trump’s idiotic tweets, emerging news on healthcare, terrorism or social issues, we can easily become swept up in all of it. If we take a step back and look at the news, something becomes apparent: it’s not as confusing as it seems. What makes it so complicated is when people, usually those in the media, hash these issues over and over to a point where, instead of clarifying what’s happening, it becomes more convoluted. 

A week or so ago, I began feeling this crippling sense of despair and hopelessness. I began feeling cynical and distrustful of everything. My outlook on the future and my overall sense of optimism were under attack. When these symptoms were setting in, I decided to stop watching the 24 hour news cycle and checking in on all of the goings on through social media. While I didn’t know if being so “informed” was causing me that distress, something made me feel as though cutting the line to the maddening news cycle would settle me down a bit.


And…it did! As though I took a miracle pill, I began feeling so much better. My happiness came back, my optimism was manifest again and I found that I had more energy to devote to other things that brought me pleasure.

Now, before you criticize what I’ve said, let me be clear: it is good to be informed. It is responsible to know what’s happening and to be engaged. That said, it comes with a limit. The more you lose yourself in the toxic news cycle, the less time you spend within yourself, cultivating your own happiness and worth. News requires us to go out there into the cacophony but also provides us with little resource to ameliorate it and create clarity from it. So, it leaves us in an unsettled, frenzied state.

Years ago, people would read the morning paper and watch a half-hour news program at night. And even then, some thought that was information overload! 

So, let’s stay informed. Let’s address the things that are happening and be proactive about what we can do. But at the same time, let’s remember that we have lives to live and a world of abundant beauty around us to explore. We have love to ale and create. And each of us possesses nuance and value far beyond our political ideology. Let’s connect with one another. Let’s reduce the toxicity and start healing.

Letting your passion burn.

We often associate passion with fire, which is a convenient metaphor because fire needs oxygen to burn. When we throw a blanket over a fire or cap a candle, the flame goes out. It needs air. It needs to breathe.

Passion is something that dwells within all of us. When you say “I just don’t have any passions,” what you’re really saying is “I don’t know how to let my passions free.” I am certainly no expert in living a passionate life. I have, for too long, kept my passions bottled up, afraid to express them, convincing myself that I wasn’t feeling anything special or unique. But this blockage comes from a place of acceptance and, lack of acceptance. Socially, we are calculated in our actions; we want to do the things that will make people like us because we are terrified of being unaccepted and judged.

The artist has the muse and this has been so throughout history. That someone or something beyond themselves that inspires them to pursue what speaks to their creative nature. Are you waiting for your muse to arrive? Maybe it’s already here.

LakanalHouseFire

Your muse could be something as profoundly simple as the wind in the trees, a flock of birds perched outside your house, the drops of rain and the sublime backdrop of thunder in the twilight. Or anything or anyone. Remember: the muse is not what gives us the inspiration. It’s what gives us the permission to be inspired.

In my experience, as it continues to unfold before me, passion also requires deliberately breaking through that blockage. Can you feel it? For me, it was a smooth gray stone about the size of my chest. While not physically materialized, I felt it and through meditation I called it by name for what it was. Don’t get me wrong, there are fragments still left and sometimes it feels as though it’s growing again. But knowing what’s stopping you, labeling it and allowing yourself to feel the blockage is the first step in hopefully ridding yourself of it.

 

The one person we’re afraid to love.

What’s the point of love if we can’t love ourselves? What’s the use of even saying the word if we persist in sending love to others and withholding from ourselves? You’ll never truly experience love unless you can find it in yourself to admit that you deserve love.

Light-in-Heart

We chase love from others; acknowledgement and compassion. But when that doesn’t arrive or materialize, we sink into despair, professing that no one will love us or can. And the longer this goes, the more likely it is that we’re truly fall for the delusion that we are unlovable. What happens is we either become sullen and miserable or we spend all of our energy constantly trying to find love from others, even when doing so compromises any opportunity to be happy or fulfilled.

The fact is: we will never love anyone or show genuine compassion if we do not first love ourselves. And loving ourselves doesn’t mean that we should believe we’re superior or somehow perfect or pristine. We can love things that are fraught with imperfection. We can love a mess; the chaotic embodiment of that soul we inhabit and that inhabits us.

We can fall deeply and madly in love with our own humanity. But only if we allow ourselves to. If we give ourselves permission to be loved by that spirit closest to the spirit within us: our own.

You Are Stronger Than You Think

We’ve all heard stories of people who have conquered the odds; people who have survived unimaginable hardships and difficulty. Our first instinct is to put ourselves in their position and wonder whether we could survive as they have. Often, we believe we’re not up to the task, convincing ourselves that we’d ultimately fail.


Struggle and hardship are relative to the indvidual. There isn’t one set metric for measuring hardship. We all face struggles in our lives at some point. On the surface, some difficulties maybe seem more monumental than others, but the takeaway is not how bad the struggle was or is, but how we persevered.

People have a lot more power than they realize. Perhaps it’d be strange if we went around cognizant of that powerful all of the time, huh? Maybe it’s best that we keep it reserved for when we really need it. But the power to survive is within us. If you look back in generations, our stories are the things of survival. Surviving the odds, natural and man-made. Famine and disease, pestilence and conflict. Our ancestors didn’t just survive these things; they thrived. Why? Because they got their hands on the latest self help book or discovered the new breaking strategy for cognitively functioning through stress?

No. They survived because they had to.

The power that dwelt in them dwells in us. It’s not a matter or having that ability though, but of knowing it’s there. Of knowing that the story of our lives is, in many ways, a story of beating our circumstances. Of choosing survivorship over victimship. 

Every life will confront some form of difficulty at some point. It is inevitable. What’s not inevitable is the choices we ultimately make in how to handle it when it comes.