Well here I am. I should be working on my blog post about fat loss but instead I’m listening to a Tim Ferriss podcast (the episode about lessons learned from travelling, it’s really really good) and I am feeling RUN DOWN.
This is a tough place to be. Whenever I'm feeling tired or lethargic there’s a constant questioning of ‘am I actually this tired or am I just being lazy?’ which can quickly turn into ‘man I suck at this life stuff’ and ‘what is my problem? Why can’t I pull it together and have a happy life like I’m supposed to have - you know the one everyone talks about’. Let's be clear, my up days are way, way more frequent then my down days - those are the times where I’m so insanely grateful to be alive and have this insatiable zest for life. In those times everything feels so insanely right - it’s all happening for a reason and you’re in the right place at the right time and it’s all unfolding beautifully.
And then there’s those days when you crash into a limitation & it’s all a little jarring. Maybe you’re insanely tired or you're short on money or your relationship goes haywire. Everything feels unsure - what should I be focusing on right now? Am I living up to my potential? Should I go on that date tonight? Am I just being lazy? Do I need to give myself a break or push myself harder? Should I take a nap or go do cryotherapy and wake up my system? The list of uncertainties goes on and on and on and can quickly turn into the negative feedback loop from hell (if you haven’t read The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck by Mark Manson go read it).
I don’t know about you, but I’m someone who meditates regularly. It’s something I’ve found that gives me focus & helps me deal with overwhelm, anxiety and managing my energy.
I’ve been ready Jack Kornfield’s book called Bringing Home The Dharma and he brought up something really interesting in a chapter I ready this morning;
“As we mature in our spiritual practice, we have to bring consciousness to the ways in which we have tried to escape or hide - if we wish to come to a fuller sense of freedom. Those who do not look into this after some period of practice can become stuck. There are committed meditators who are chronically slightly depressed because their real growth process has stopped, yet on the outside they follow the forms & ideals of practice and pretend to be fulfilled in it. These issues need investigation and heartfelt integrity to ring us again to the growth of real spiritual opening.”
Umm can ANYONE ELSE RELATE?!
This hit me like a ton of bricks. As someone who practices meditation regularly & is interested in almost all aspects of spiritual & personal development while struggling with these up and down days I realized what was happening.
I don’t know about you, but often in my meditations, or if I’m on a run or just allowing my mind to wander, I’ll start to think about past hurts. Things I’ve done that I regret, the time someone wasn’t there for me and I felt they should have been, the things that make me question my intentions & the intentions of others.
Normally, I just push those back down. “Why would you think about that?” I ask myself “it’s not like you can change it. Let it go.”
What I wasn’t taking into account is these very thoughts and feelings I’m trying to suppress could be the body attempting to release past hurts. We often hold tension in different areas of our body and when we get into a spiritual practice (by spiritual practice, I define that as something that lifts our spirit. It doesn’t need to be meditating on the top of a mountain - it could be sports, spending time with animals, whatever resonates for you) our bodies will begin to release that tension which is where these memories often come up.
When they come up, it’s really, really uncomfortable. Only by surrendering to that feeling of shame, guilt, helplessness or fear and honouring that part of ourselves can we let it go. Trying to tough through it or shaming ourselves for even thinking of it (as I was doing) is just pushing the tension back into the body, delaying our development & not solving any problems.
The point is not to get rid of the past memory (that’s impossible, especially at first) but to see it clearly. It is a pitfall to simply judge the fears and neurotic tendencies of our personality.
“We should also understand that every unconscious personality style can be transformed into useful positive qualities though the development of our awareness. Greed can become appreciation, hatred can become clarity, doubt and confusion can become open mindedness. As our own journey progresses, we learn to employ & honour the personality without being lost in it.”
These excerpts from Jack’s book speak to my soul. It’s made me very conscious that although it’s amazing to show up and go through the motions of what looks like a really healthy lifestyle or spiritual practice, you need to be showing up for yourself and actively engaging in what comes up.
Looking at your patterns with loving kindness, the way you would a small child who didn’t know the effect of what they’re doing when causing a ruckus.
There are many things that can trigger that feeling of 'not good enough' or 'I just can’t cope today'. The key is loving and accepting that sad part of yourself the same way you can love and accept the uplifting parts. When you’re training a puppy, you don’t completely shut down or discipline the dog severely every time she has an accident or doesn’t listen, you regroup and approach it a different way so the puppy can learn correct and incorrect forms of behaviour. The same can be applied to you & your mental state. Avoiding or numbing the uncomfortable feelings that arise can lead to an array of coping mechanisms as well as an overall unsettled feeling within yourself. Nobody knows it’s there but you, and it’s the most uncomfortable thing in the world. You’re never really sure how you’re going to feel and any triggers that come up have a pretty strong grip on how the day is going to go.
By learning to soften to this part of ourselves, accept this part of ourselves that we often judge or condemn, thank it for being there and letting you know there’s something to release, we allow it to flow through naturally.
One of the most common misconceptions is that we can stop or avoid negative momentum. “I’m just going to forget I ever loved that person who hurt me” which just isn’t possible. Instead, if we focus on harnessing that energy. Allowing it. Honouring it. Releasing it. And channeling it into something that serves us. Something that makes us proud of ourselves. Something that allows us to show up as the loving and uplifting spirits we all have inside of us.
It’s kind of like when we are in the middle of something difficult. Maybe it’s an exercise class, or a challenging conversation or an issue with the law. Avoiding it or running away only makes the issue bigger and more prevalent in our minds. “I’ll never be in great shape because I can’t make it through spin class” or “if that issue comes up and he starts to talk about it I’m going to plan my escape” and the patterns repeat. However if we stay the course and honour the struggle - we can resolve it once and for all. It will never be as if it never happened, in contrast we will be better because of it.
We have to look at our feelings & our past hurts the same way. We can keep running from them over and over, or we can honour the struggle. Allow the energy to come up. Trust that we can navigate through it. Allow the lessons from it to present themselves. Address it with loving kindness. And let that energy be moved to a different point of focus.
Here’s some tried and true tips that have helped me become more self aware and guide me though difficult times:
1 - Be Aware of when Something Feels Like It's Taking up a TON of Your Energy
Ok - this is a bit of tricky one but I’m going to navigate it as best I can. When it comes to things that are difficult to do, weather it’s a hard workout, having a cold shower, writing a blog post or I just don’t want to get out of bed that day, I ask myself this question:
“What would make me proud of myself right now?”
This question allows a couple things to come forward; first and foremost it takes my mind out of dread. BE CAREFUL when your mind starts to dread something. It’s the ultimate form of mental laziness. Interrupt that and say to yourself ‘hold on, what would I be proud of myself for doing right now?’ and see what the answer is. Sometimes it will be to sleep an extra hour instead of doing your workout so you can show up as your best for the day you have ahead of you. Sometimes it’ll be cooking dinner instead of ordering in to save money & consume a healthier meal. No matter what, if you start asking yourself this question and following through on even half of it, you’ll go to bed saying ‘damn I’m proud of myself today, I did amazing’ and that feels so fucking good.
2 - Take Time Every Day To Quiet Your Mind
Listen, weather you like to sit cross legged on a cushion with incense burning and meditate for an hour or you find that when you’re in nature your mind really settles down, take time every day to put yourself in that place. When you take time (15 minutes is enough for me) every day to tune into your breath and simply observe the thoughts that come up, allowing them to be there with loving kindness and then coming back to your breath, it does wonders for your energy, clarity and productivity. I used to be a regular afternoon meditator, but since switching to doing my meditations in the morning I notice a pretty big difference. This is the one thing I don’t have time NOT to do. The days I don’t meditate are very obvious, they just don’t flow as well as the days I do meditate.
If you’re new to the meditation space, I highly recommend checking out apps like Headspace or go on You Tube and search ‘meditation for beginners’. There’s so many easy ways to get started & it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
3 - Talk It Out
Weather this is with yourself or a friend, if you’re struggling with something challenge yourself to get off the island within your own head & seek support. Again, this could be you simply talking out loud or journaling about what’s going on with you, it could be calling someone you really trust and telling them where you’re struggling or talking to a professional and allowing yourself to be real with it. Once we give a voice to something it loses A LOT of it’s power over us. It morphs from the scary monster in the closet into a small obstacle that we can overcome just like we’ve overcome other stuff. The more we tune into that part of ourselves that is okay with us not having it all together all the time, the more we can navigate through the stuff (aka: life) that will come up and will throw us off. We have to give ourselves permission to be human. Another way to think about this is to think of the last time a friend of yours was going through a hard time and came to you to talk through it. Weren’t you so happy you had the chance to be there for them? Maybe you even thanked them for being so honest…maybe it ended up helping you in a way you didn’t expect. Well, when you’re in that place where you’re struggling and you hold it inside, you rob someone of the opportunity to be there for you. Let people in. It’s okay that you don’t have it together all the time, none of us do.
See something I missed? Have an opinion? Comment below :)