You Are Better Than You Think

1366 Relax and Succeed - You are not as bad as you think

Due to my sensitivity to patterns I’ve been noting one over the last year that I have been researching in various ways. It can involve physical, emotional or intellectual issues, but in many fields there is an increasing ratio of people who will plan to go through forms of training or treatment, but then quit before even starting.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to the people that have always needed to cancel with a doctor or personal trainer or counselor. Very reasonable reasons include; them having resolved their issue before sessions began, their job or financial situation changed, their schedule changed, or some unfortunate cases they take seriously ill. But this new rise in cases does not appear to be coming from those sources.

This has impacted everyone from personal trainers in physical health to psychologists to people like me. Despite care or fitness being more socially acceptable than ever, I have learned that people are often now prevented from attending not because of stigma –but rather due to a fear that the process might confirm their darkest fears.

This is unfortunate, because in almost every case, the result would be the exact opposite of that –the process of getting healthy shines a positive light on what we perceive are our ‘darkest corners.’

My concern surrounds the fact that many appear to back out out of a fear of facing the reality of their situations. This appears most prominent for those who dealing with the stresses relating to their transition from life as a student to the workforce, or from shifting from an early job, to a full career and more full-on ‘adulting,’ with all of its attendant complications. At that stage some people feel that looking closely at themselves will only make a bad story worse.

That is a tragedy of the spirit.

Too often, people start care for themselves or their relationships with the idea that they arrive ‘wrong’ or ‘broken.’ They weigh too much, exercise too little, have bad diets, or they self-hate their personalities every time they can’t offer just the right combination of human skills required for every single situation. But none of that is really failing, that is merely life itself.

1366 Relax and Succeed - I think the reward for conformity

We gain wisdom by facing hardship, yes. But we also gain it by insight. At the gym there is no getting around lifting the weights. Yes, they are obviously heavy. But as we grow stronger and feel better about ourselves, it shifts from feeling less like us lifting weight and more like an affirmation of our self-respect. What hurt can then feel good. The same should apply for psychological care or training.

Learning to be happier is rarely the sad and depressing experience that many people recall from old-fashioned psychological care. That was entirely focused on people’s problems as though they were real and needed to be overcome, rather than on discussing that they were impressions that could be reshaped with greater understanding. Even today a lot of psychology talks the wisdom talk without really walking the wisdom walk.

No matter what sort of care or training you require, be it medical, physical, mental or spiritual, these are not signs of failing any more than going to university to be a nurse means we need to learn how to care.

No training ever adds anything to anyone, it merely exposes, nurtures and strengthens our sense of our actual Selves in the world, whether that self is young and pondering a marriage proposal or older and facing cancer. There are healthy ways for every person to approach every thing. An approach obviously can’t guarantee external success, but a healthy one can ensure that even in failure, we leave the test with a sense of self-respect.

If you’re looking at doing any form of physical or psychological work with me or anyone else who would earnestly care about your outcome, that should not be seen a visit to some corrective force in your life. You are not broken or failed, you are just temporarily lost or confused. There is a massive difference.

Caring for ourselves through seeking care or guidance should feel like an embrace. We should feel safe and confident that no matter which versions of our Selves we are manifesting at any given moment, we will still always seen as being the strong and capable people we all truly are when we are not debilitated by weak and unconstructive thinking.

Wherever you are and however you get it, do not deny yourself the value and meaning of being around those who nurture your soul, be they friends or professionals. For there is no better sign of our overall health than when we can care about ourselves. And when we can’t, reaching out and asking for help isn’t weakness, it’s wisdom.

peace. s

Films About Reality

 

1361 Relax and Succeed - Before enlightenment I chopped wood

This post includes a video analysis of The Truman Show that is used for teaching film themes. There’s also a clip from The Matrix and I reference Arrival too. Fortunately, they are not only good films, but collectively they are also very useful for a discussion about the nature of reality as well.

(Beware, there are some spoilers relating to each of the three films discussed, so if you haven’t seen them, you might want to do so before reading this.)

Movies that question reality are not new. And films that deal with the value of real life are also common. But they aren’t often recognized as a group of films that all make essentially the same statement despite having wildly different mechanisms for telling their stories.

The film The Matrix sees the protagonist offered a choice between two pills. One is easy and smooth and it represents a largely pleasant illusion tailored to our tastes. It’s thin and fleeting, it’s pleasures can always be easily taken away, and it always depends on others. That pill represents our ego.

Meanwhile, the other choice involves pain and suffering and battles and bad odds. But it also hints at some undefinable reward that will come to the protagonist once he surrenders his previous beliefs completely –once he becomes a more unlimited self.

By letting his limiting beliefs go, the character of Neo becomes in some way, superhuman. He is like an advanced being, yet still himself. His shift is like a visible form of enlightenment, where he handles bullets the way enlightened people handle limited thinking.

And when we see him in action, we note that he does not escape his previous reality. He faces it on a new level –one where others can’t reach him with their attacks and one where he can respond with peaceful effectiveness. But he spends most of the film just realizing how to be that way. It’s the final act and climax that proves that he has mastered his new awareness.

In that film, Morpheus presents the simple act of living in reality as having preeminent value because in that reality we are all presented as all-powerful. This is the headspace in which we gain control over our lives. This is the positive spin on the enlightenment idea. It’s how it feels on the inside a lot of the time.

But of course, if there is an inside then there must be an outside. How enlightenment feels on the inside is one thing, but the reason people have trouble finding it in their lives is that the other two films present the enlightenment story much more ‘realistically’ from the outside. (Which is saying something because they too have very fantastic storylines.)

In some ways The Matrix could be seen to be glorifying this state of being. In our reality most of us wouldn’t be fighting Samurai style with some universe-controlling villain. Our lives are more like the Zen saying about chopping wood and carrying water, or Shunryu Suzuki’s note about, “Zen is not some kind of excitement, but concentration on your usual everyday routine.”

By contrast, Truman represents how we often stumble less consciously towards enlightenment. While most people are earnest and want answers, they don’t really see themselves as being on an advancing path that may one day lead them to a form of freedom. They don’t perceive their progress.

Nevertheless, if they continue to ask questions of themselves and their world, they can eventually punch their way through the illusions that confine their spirit. In The Truman Show the film ends with the beginning of Truman’s future, free of his ego. It is shrouded in mystery, but he enters this new world boldly, for on the inside he now maintains a greater, brighter vision for his life.

By contrast, Arrival demonstrates the value of suffering within reality by having a character reach a climax wherein aliens offer her the chance at a strange form of reincarnation where she can re-live her existing life.

Like Neo in The Matrix and Truman in The Truman Show, the entire point of the film is that the scientist chooses the harder path through life, with the implication being that reality with pain is better than non-reality without it.

This matches Buddhist beliefs nicely. In Arrival the simple fact that she happily chooses to relive a life filled with the painful loss of loved ones hints at the value that those loved ones bring to life with even their temporary presence. This is quite profound.

The film states a common truth –on their deathbeds, many people would choose to relive even an unhappy life all over again. We would be good to wonder why while we’re alive.

When I first speak with many students I can sense that their concerns revolve around a calculation they do. Considering the idea that they are already suffering from low levels of spiritual energy, the idea of them taking on more responsibility can seem understandably daunting.

Fortunately, what I’m describing might initially seem like another form of onerous responsibility, but in reality it is a form of responsibility to ourselves. This is a healthy kind of selfishness that means we care for ourselves first. This form of responsibility gives us a large degree of control over our minds.

Each film tries to realize the value of living in that responsible reality in different ways, but each one underlines that there is a very profound reason for choosing what appears to be a harder path.

In the film’s The Matrix, Arrival, or The Truman Show, reality is not given value by its shiny surfaces, its ease of passage, or its slick results. In each of those what the character’s seeks isn’t comfort, it is the authenticity of being alive –even if that also means accepting great suffering. The gains of an enlightened life explain why.

In the training I do I can teach people to ‘see the matrix.’ I can help them see the value in their existing life. And I can help them build and launch their spiritual boat. But if people want to punch through and break out of the limitations of their ego, before they even contact me to begin, they’ll will have been the ones who started the process internally, by setting their own horizons as their destination.

peace, s

Reducing Anxiety

1347 Relax and Succeed - Anxiety can feel like drowning in thought

A growing number of otherwise successful people are being slowly crippled by anxiety.  Even many sleep issues end up being tracked back to nighttime anxiety. It can affect our love lives, our careers and our personal health and I’m having more and more people come to me for it.

Everyone feels like there is too much to know and do, and far too much to understand. And that’s just to exist, let alone to have a healthy relationship. In fact, modern life and quality relationships of all kinds are often at odds, so people very rightfully feel overwhelmed.

And yet not everyone does.

Too often we see the calm, graceful or productive people as being a part of a different breed. We forget that those people also have moments of doubt; they also experience shortages of confidence and frozen reactions. Like looking at a bucket of water and suggesting it is representative of an entire river, we cannot judge people by where they are at various moments in time. Not others or ourselves.

None of us are permanently successful or permanently failing, we are simply either being clear-minded or we are lost in ego. But we all do both things. It’s only a matter of how much.

The lessons I teach people do not make the problems of the world go away, obviously. But problems exist for confident capable people too, so the difference between a good life and a bad one isn’t whether or not it has challenges –it’s about which mindset we choose to approach those challenges from.

The feeling of anxiety is generated by us worriedly flitting between many of life’s variables without ever slowing down enough to actually consider them. It’s not that we’re lying about the challenges –they are often entirely real. Yet there are ways to either gracefully accept, or gracefully approach the resolution of a challenge. But to do so we need to know how to cultivate a calm mind.

None of us are permanently successful or permanently failing, we are simply either being clear-minded or we are lost in ego.

Someone experiencing grief or betrayal or guilt is looking to avoid a certain type of intense thought. But people working on anxiety are more focused on developing a greater sense of focus, which steals their ability to flit between thoughts. Otherwise they are like bees who never spend enough time on any flower to either eat or spread the flower’s pollen. In that way their flitting undermines both themselves and their environment.

Calm thoughts and a deeper and slower sense of being does not belong to some special class of people. Those who achieve those productive states of mind do so intentionally, even if they also sometimes to it unconsciously. Mental health is achieved when we gain greater and greater conscious control over that intention.

We must become more aware of how we use our minds to create our current and undesirable reality. Once we can see our innocent participation in our suffering we naturally stop. And stopping our anxiety is much like finding ourselves, because lurking behind all of our thinking is the greater being doing that thinking. And that self is bigger than our thoughts can define.

peace. s