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.

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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.


The ‘Secret’ to Happiness

Have you ever found yourself saying “I just want to be happy” as if it were some elusive objective you were always in search of? Happiness is the pinnacle of the good life; the ultimate destination in the minds of those who feel that ultimate satisfaction and bliss are just out of reach. Books have been written about it and seminars have been given all in the name of happiness. And there are lots of people willing to shell out hard earned money and time to find it. 

Most never do and those who think they are probably just fooling themselves. 

Woah! Before you accuse me of being a Debbie Downer, hear me out. (or read me out, since this is a blog post).


Real happiness, and the feeling we associate with happiness, comes and goes. It would be insane to desire a life of constant elation. After all, if everything went great and you experienced total joy every single minute, what would you have to contrast that joy with enabling you to really be grateful for it? Your joy would be meaningless.

No one is immune to sadness, anxiety, worry and suffering. At some point, we all encounter these crushing emotions. What’s most important is maintaining the knowledge that these, like their polar opposite feelings of joy, will come and go.

The sailor knows that still waters and fair breezes can become raging seas. We weather these changing conditions by becoming buoyant; by floating on life’s current and not becoming victims of our own desire to resist. If we survive the storm – which we will – we can expect the calm respite to follow. 

Ironically, chasing happiness may be the one thing keeping you from it. Instead of pursuing it, let it be. Keep your calm, your focus and your center. Inhabit the moment and allow the tide to roll in….and out.

The secret to happiness is that there is no secret.

It’s not WHO you are…

The ego requires that we conceptualize the person we are; the totality of what constitutes ourselves. We embark on these strenuous adventures of self-discovery in some attempt to awaken to our selves. And often these journeys are fruitless, reveal something we don’t like or only last a short time. Soon, we become disillusioned and either give up the search or begin again.


I often tell people that I am not the person I was when I was 20. This is true. Truer still, I’m not the person I was last week. We are dynamic beings, constantly changing. We respond to external stimulus and internal reality. Our ideas and concepts shift. Our tastes and interests may vary broadly, as they should. We are not static but in motion. When we stop moving and evolving, this existence loses all meaning. We experience a kind of subconscious death.

As I have pondered this, it has occurred to me that, instead of who we are, what really matters is that we are; that we exist in the first place.

Nothing would exist without our innate ability to conceive of reality and existence. There would be no need to self-conceptualize if we were not materialized. So, imagine if we stopped concerning ourselves so much with whether or not we have purpose to realize and instead acknowledge that simply being is the only real purpose we can think of. Consider: without being, no purpose would matter. Gone would be the need to measure up to others or ourselves. We would only be concerned with existing and the kind of comfort or purpose we derived from our lives would be as a direct result of what we need to secure that purpose.

Could it be that self actualization is the real delusion?
 

The Power of Doing Nothing

We’ve all heard the phrase from Star Trek: resistance is futile. Little may we know that this quote could be the key to our ultimate happiness. Resistance against something that can be moved by your resistant force is one thing. You resist a closed door by applying force to open it. But it’s completely different when we begin to resist things that can’t be changed. Then we discover the problem.

If you push against a brick wall with your bare hands, the wall probably won’t fall or even budge a tiny bit. What’s most likely to happen is that you’ll end up with sore hands, aching back and exhausted. What had been accomplished? Nothing.


When we resist things we cannot change, the only thing that happens is that we hurt ourselves more. Because aspects of existence cannot be altered; it is what it is. I realize this sounds like giving up, but it’s far, far from it. The ability to accept and surrender to what is requires of us a supreme amount of strength. The difference between acceptance and ambivalence is that coming to terms with that which we cannot change means coming to terms with ourselves and the limits to the amount of struggle and suffering we will allow ourselves to experience.

And acceptance also involves removing ourselves from potentially harmful or actually harmful situations or from toxic people and relationships. The opposite would be to resist them by remaining subject to their toxicity by thinking we can affect change in them when we can’t.

The misconception of strength is that strength is often associated with doing something. Imagine if we truly embraced the power of doing nothing. It is a different kind of strength; the kind that keeps us upright and stable as the storms rage around us. It is the strength of remaining silent when our ego is threatened and we desire to express the thoughts that will only create more pain within us – the words that accomplish nothing.