Do you want to have fulfilling relationships with friends?
Do you want to get along more easily with work colleagues?
Do you want to connect with more people?
You care. And yet sometimes it doesn't seem like people know that. You don't want to feel alone and isolated but that's how you end up feeling a little too often. You don't understand how it seems to easy for some to make friends and have great relationships and so hard for you. Do they know something you don't or are they simply born that way?
It may be easier for some to forge new relationships than for others. Perhaps they are less shy and more extroverted. However this does not predict whether those relationships will last long term or whether they would be truly satisfying to those involved. The quality of your relationships in the long run is more important than their quantity. And the quality of a relationship is measured by the quality of the connection you have together.
A true connection with someone is a vital experience that you feel in your whole being. Cultivating connection takes skill, and skills take time effort and commitment to develop. Let's have a look at what gets in the way of true connection and what enhances it.
Do you feel like there is more to life but struggle to find out what that is?
Do you feel like you are underachieving and you are not living up to your potential?
Do you feel confused, unclear, almost as if life is a puzzle and you just can't seem to find the missing piece?
Perhaps you have a habit of going in one direction only to give up halfway and try something else or maybe you stay put and don't venture into the new because you're not sure if it'd be the right thing for you. You wish you were like those people that knew what they wanted to do in life since childhood. You wonder if perhaps you are just different from everyone else and there is no point in even trying but you don't want to give up just yet.
You are aware that it's important to set goals but the idea of doing that makes you feel anxious or perhaps even angry. How do you set a goal if you haven't got a clue what you want? Goals may seem arbitrary or superficial or you worry you would get it wrong and then find yourself hating the direction you've chosen. Maybe you want to have no doubts before you start so you risk failure less. If only there was something you could do to clear the brain fog and actually be sure of yourself...
You may think you are alone in this but the truth is a lot of people go through this before finding clarity. So how did they find the answer that allowed them to move on? They stopped trying to find their direction in a rational way and instead connected to their heart's desire. Here's how.
Do you set goals but give up as soon as the going gets tough? Do you find it difficult to stay motivated and give up on yourself as soon as you hit an obstacle?
Perhaps you have decided to learn a language or maybe you want to lose weight or you want to save money for a trip. Maybe you want to write a book or kick a bad habit or have a better social life. No matter what your goal is though, as soon as you encounter a difficulty you feel deflated and find it hard to stay the course.
Maybe you are excited about finally writing that book but when you look at the blank page nothing seems to come out and you feel deflated. Or maybe you want to get fit but you haven't been to the gym for so long that the exercises seem way too hard so you never go back. Or maybe you decide to learn to play guitar but after the first few lessons you realise there is so much more to learn than you expected and it feels just too overwhelming to continue.
It doesn't matter what the goal is. Sometimes you take a few steps forward but end up stalling. Other times you don't start at all. You say to yourself: "maybe I just don't have what it takes... I am too lazy, old, unfit, stupid etc. Other people seem to have it so much easier than you and you don't know why. You wish there was an easy way to just skip ahead and get it done but you don't know how.
After a few times of going through this pattern you start to feel nervous about trying something new, worrying that you might fail again. If you soon don't stick to your goals you will never achieve anything of value - you say to yourself. You will never be able to learn French, run that marathon, start your own business, ask a woman out. You are afraid you might never make that dream come true and that just feels depressing.
You know what? You aren't alone. Believe me, I have been there, plenty of times. The good news is there is a way to get past your struggle. Your goal may at times feel like an unattainable dream but they may be closer than you think. Let me show you how to stick to your decisions and overcome challenges even when it feels like an impossible feat.
Have you ever thought: "if I stop comparing myself to others then I'll never improve?" Me too. It makes sense right? The problem with this line of reasoning is that when you try to better yourself by comparing yourself to others, you will always end up finding an area in which you fall short. We tend to see what we are looking for and even if you didn't fall in the trap of assuming others are better than you without checking there's bound to be something another is better than you at.
As a result, you can feel deflated, demotivated and even give up before trying. Even in the best case scenario, youwill spend the energy you could have put to good use by improving your skills feeling sorry for yourself instead. It sounds like a losing game doesn't it?
So do yourself a favor: only compare yourself to yourself yesterday, a week ago, last year. And here's the trick: focus on where you have improved, not where you fall short.
Whether you are an actor, a musician, a comedian or simply need to give a talk or a presentation at work, sometimes you may feel so nervous about performing or speaking in front of an audience that even the thought produces fear in you and you'd do anything to avoid it. Even the most seasoned performers can experience this, and it is due to the emergency part of our brains (the "amygdala") interpreting your circumstance as a threat and switching on the fight or flight response.
This article is part three of a series of three. Here are PART 1 and PART 2 (please read/watch these first)
In order to create lasting change in your relationship patterns so you can find the love you crave and create the relationship you deserve, you must TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for the way you act and feel. What does that mean?
It is easy to blame others, society or even yourself for the way things are but what good does that do? Does that attitude help get you where you want to be? Chances are it doesn’t.
You are fully responsible for the way you respond to situations. Responsibility means to have the ability to choose your response to what happens rather than behaving automatically without thinking things through based on the conditioning you have received throughout your life. When you focus on yourself and your behaviors with gentle compassion you give yourself a chance to choose your reaction to challenging feelings or situations. In this way, you can work on things you can control without beating yourself up for what you previously did with less awareness. This is how you can get back in the driving seat.
QUESTION: In what ways are you not taking responsibility for your love life?
Even in the most difficult situation, you are half of the picture. What are you doing to allow things to go the way they have always gone ? What part are you playing in the game? If you want to change a situation you need to know what you can do differently rather than hoping others will magically change and make everything better without you doing anything at all.
Are you trying to change your partner?
EXERCISE: Make a mental picture of the person you’re dating exactly as they function today — warts and all — If they never changed, would you still want to be with them in five years?
Answer honestly. You need to stare reality in the face as uncomfortable as it may be.
If you have answered NO you need to ask yourself another question: is what you want to change in your partner a personality trait or is it a behavior?
Character traits (such as shyness for example) are almost impossible to change. If you cannot accept a particular trait in your partner you need to either leave them or accept that you are condemning yourself to a life of misery with them.
If on the other hand, it is a behavior that you want changing, there might be a chance your partner may change but that depends entirely on how much they want to change and how committed they are to making an effort in the right direction.
Basically, people cannot change their traits and can only change their behaviors if they really want to. And if you are spending your time trying to change someone who doesn’t want to because YOU cannot live with it, you are either falling into the category of “fixer” or you are ignoring the fact that you need to leave the relationship because it has become toxic.
How to break negative relationship habits
Now, I normally don’t like maths but when it comes down to change here’s my winning formula :
(Insight + Behavior Change ) x Repetition = Identity Change = Different Outcome
Also: Intention (to change) + Attention (to old patterns of behavior) = a capacity to catch yourself when you are about to repeat old behaviors which leads to – Choice to do something different.
Here’s a breakdown:
First you invest your time and energy in answering questions that increase your awareness around your patterns so you uncover your automatic ways of responding in relationships and become aware of the motivations behind them.
Following that, you catch yourselfwhen you’re triggered to fall back into old behaviors and you consciously decide to do something different instead.
You shift your view of yourself as someone capable of a good, healthy, mutually beneficial relationship and decide you will not accept anything less than that.
You keep building new positive patterns paying attention to strengthening your new identity so you can prevent and manage trigger situations that would have you go back to old ways.
Start the process of change now
To start this process I would ask you to get a pen and paper and write or respond to these questions speaking out loud. It’s not enough to just think about them. Thoughts have a way to get lost and keep meandering in our minds unless we pin them down either in writing or through spoken word.
First of all, you need to target the behaviors that hold you back and learn to replace them with new ones:
What attempts have you already made to change your repeating behaviors?
Think about your last relationship and ask yourself, what were the earliest warning signs you saw that could have tipped you off to potential problems?
How did you respond to those warning signs? How would you have wanted to respond? How will you respond in future?
In order to change you need to be willing to get out of your comfort zone. You need to be willing to be uncomfortable for a while and ’embrace the suck’. Can you bring an attitude of curiosity to the investigation of what you are finding so challenging? You need to make a commitment to stop avoiding difficult stuff and just face it.
Are you really willing to change?
Which of the ‘types’ do you relate the most to?
What behaviors would be hardest for you to change when it comes to responding to the old type of man/woman you are attracted to?
What feelings will be the most difficult for you to sit with as you start to change your own behaviors?
Finally, you need to have a good idea of where you are going and why. If you just keep on thinking about what you don’t want that’s what you’ll keep on getting.
How would you describe the reward you’re going to get as a result of engaging in this process of change? In other words: why change ? what are you going to get out of it?
What’s standing in the way? What are you afraid of?
What new behavior do you need to implement to reap the reward of a great relationship?
What do you attitude/ belief/behavior do you need to leave behind?
From where you are right now what do you think your identity tells you to expect from your romantic relationships? What are your expectations now and how are they keeping you where you are?
Once you do the work you are on your way to better relationships. Remember that this is a process that requires constant practice and commitment. Like getting physically fit requires you to exercise every day at the gym you need to keep going to achieve and maintain your goals. There are no quick fixes in life but the reward is worth it! Focus on that and you will reap the fruits of your hard labor so you can find the love you deserve.
Reasons people end up in dysfunctional relationships
In the last article we looked at the main dysfunctional relationship patterns people get into:
Idealizing the external
Chasing the emotionally unavailable
Rescuing and fixing
Now let’s have a look at why do we repeat these patterns
REASON #1 FEAR
You are afraid of Having a Good Relationship
You may think why would I be afraid of having a good relationship? It makes sense that I would be avoiding a bad one but a good one? The answer is that openness and joy, actually make us feel more vulnerable than we may feel it is safe to be. Positive emotions potentially expose you to rejection and pain which can be a terrifying prospect especially if you’ve experienced heartbreak before. So in a good relationship, you may feel terrified and anxious and therefore avoid it at all costs.
You are scared of Intimacy
Intimacy can be defined as a desire to know and care for the another in a way that is mutual as well as the ability to be vulnerable and trust one another. If you are stuck in the same relationship patterns you may have learned to be pretty independent and self-sufficient as a result of the fact that you feel nobody else will care for you or meet your needs. Perhaps somebody badly betrayed you or something hurtful struck you down and now you cannot trust, as you are scared you may not survive another blow.
Denial is a defense mechanism that your mind has produced to defend you from the possible threat of facing something that could destroy you. If something is so upsetting that it threatens to overwhelm or destroy you then your mind will push it away and repress it. When you are in denial you are not in touch with your need for intimacy (to be close and to trust others). You may hardly ever have had your needs met so you don’t even remember you have them. If somebody asked you what you were looking for in a partner you may answer simplistically. You may be stuck in a fantasy. Or you may be focussed on a checklist of items that have nothing to do with your emotional needs. You cannot even imagine what it would be like to be treated well or to be happy in a relationship.
You are in denial of anger
When you are in denial of old feelings you may not be aware that you are in fact angry and your anger may have turned in on yourself.
You are in denial of sadness
You could be unaware of a deep old sadness. It could be that the original experience that caused you to be wounded has happened so long ago that you can’t even remember it. Or it could be that the experience is too painful to be recalled. The sadness you feel now is the old sadness revisited.
You are in denial of your own responsibility
This is when you don’t want to look at yourself and you avoid taking any responsibility for what went wrong in your past relationship/s and instead blame your partner or others. By refusing to ask what you could have done differently and not learning the lesson you are bound to repeat similar mistakes in the future.
REASON #3 IMPULSIVE COPING STYLE
You have a low tolerance for discomfort
If you are impulsive you will just jump into a relationship without thinking much of the consequences in advance. You may feel uncomfortable with feeling bored or lonely, sad or angry and you just want to jump into action. Alternatively, you may be afraid of thinking too much of the situation if you find something wrong and then you have to deal with the inevitable disappointment. This way you may end up with similar kind of partners because you have not taken the time to go slow and properly vet your potential partner.
You are drawn to drama
You tend to get into relationships marked by emotional highs and lows. You may come from a home where there was a high of emotion or conflict. You may be afraid that a good relationship equals too much stability and that means boredom and therefore emotional death. You may feel addictively drawn to relationships that you know are not good for you and that you know will not work. If you already use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate or you use other addictive behaviors to cope with life in general your dependency in relationships may be just another way that your impulsive coping style gets manifested.
Reason #4:DISTORTED BELIEFS
Sometimes it is our deeply held beliefs – which are the foundation for all behavior – that are holding you back.
You have unrealistic expectations
Do you believe that a relationship will permanently change the way you feel, so you’ll finally be happy? Do you believe that if only you had a relationship you would automatically :
have someone who will be there no matter what
you’ll finally have a gratifying sex life
you’ll be swept away from the mundane realities of everyday life
If so, you are in for a fall! Inevitably you will realize this relationship, like the one before, cannot meet these expectations. You are attempting to use the other rather than relating to them and you are trying to get something so unrealistic from a relationship that you end up disappointed .
You have Negative Core Beliefs
If you have deeply negative core beliefs about yourself you may be interfering with your ability to find and maintain a long-term, positive relationship.
Do you believe you are unlovable?
Do you believe you are helpless?
Do you believe a combination of the two?
You are rigid
You restrict yourself to a narrow selection of partners and fail to see the big picture. You may get caught up in non-important details, and not see how a partner may be good for you just because they don’t fit it with your rigid idea of the requirements they should meet.
You are trying to get over a previous trauma by putting yourself through a new one.
If you have previously experienced a trauma you may try to gain some mastery over the original traumatic event by putting yourself in similar traumatic situations now and hoping to react differently.
Trauma can be anything you perceive as traumatic, regardless of whether others would find it traumatic.
So, what do you think are your triggers for repeating the same old patterns in your relationships ?
Which ones of these reasons struck a chord ? If you think none do, have another look at the denial section !
What in your past could have set the stage for this ?
And finally : Do you believe you can truly change the underlying causes of your behaviour? This is essential if you want to change . In the next article we will deal with how to practically change these patterns.
This article was inspired by the book : Dr Seth Love Prescription. Overcome Repeated Relationship Patterns by Seth Meyers.
Do you keep going out with the same kind of man / woman ? Do you feel stuck in a rut where you keep on repeating the same mistakes over and over again and end up broken-hearted ? Find out what type of “relationship repeater” you are.
You are drawn to partners with a particular physical type, appearance, professional status (whether it’s a great job or no job at all), level of ambition, or age.
You prioritize external characteristics above all else.
You place more importance on sexual attractiveness than emotional attractiveness.
You see your partner as a reflection of yourself.
You harbour the fantasy that someone with the appearance or professional status you are drawn to will be enough to make you happy.
You eventually end up feeling like you have little in common with your partner by the end of the relationship.
Your relationship consistently end because you don’t place a sufficient priority on the internal, emotional characteristics of your partners.
How would someone describe your professional and physical type? Write down these external characteristics.
Has anyone ever idealised any of your external characteristics? Did you feel truly appreciated when they did that?
Why do you think it’s tempting to idealise external characteristics?
Can you think of people you know who repeat this pattern?
What are some emotional attributes that are worthy of more attention in the beginning of a relationship?
Write them down and keep this list for later.
THE EMOTIONAL CHASER:
You tend to have partners who ultimately won’t commit and settle down, who cheat on you, or whom you put on a pedestal.
You are usually more emotionally committed to your relationship than your partner is.
You feel like your partner has all the control and power in the relationship.
You often feel less worthy than your partner, as if your partner were more interesting or desirable than you
You believe you have to work hard to keep them interested because you feel that they could very easily slide through your fingers and slip away.
You try to shape yourself into being what you think your partner wants.
You notice that your partners always seem to have excuses for why they can’t make more time for you or why they don’t want to take the relationship to the next level.
You feels like you’re waiting and hoping for your partner to realise that you are the one they really want.
You have a hard time imagining yourself settling for a love that is anything less than romantic and intense.
You see your partners as too good for you, better than you, or unattainable.
What motivates you is the prospect that if you can attain the love and affection of your lover you can finally experience the bliss of feeling good enough.
You are trying to prove to unavailable partners that you are good enough, that you are worth settling down for, you are on a mission to win the love of unavailable partners.
Whose affection and love you have worked hard to get but have never fully received?
How did the chase end? Did you get what you wanted?
What was the most difficult part of the situation to accept?
Looking back, was the chasing done in pursuit of a specific person, or did it become about something bigger?
You regularly attach yourself to partners who are emotionally unstable in some way.
You focus on and worry about your partner more than they do about themselves.
You repeatedly finds yourself with partners who at first seem to be sweet and have great potential (while also being slightly helpless or misguided), but before long reveal themselves to be emotionally volatile or unstable, aggressive and controlling, unhappy, or unable to cope with some aspect of their lives.
You often believe that love trumps everything and that ending a relationship would mean giving up on or abandoning the person you love.
You desperately try to help your partner but, at root, you are trying to change them
You tend to have partners with histories of anxiety, depression, or substance abuse.
You come from a family in which you felt the need to take care of a parent or sibling, or in which there was a high level of turmoil and drama.
You have invested all of your energy in the fantasy of who your boyfriend / girlfriend could become in the future as opposed to banking on who they are in the here-and-now. You have a fantasy that your love could transform them.
You don’t realise you’re supposed to be a partner — not a therapist or a life coaches.
You eventually start to feel crazy or to doubt yourself thinking the problem might lie in you.
You tend to be very strong, resilient, highly intuitive, sensitive, and giving .
You seek partners that are emotionally broken and dysfunctional, helpless, who can never ultimately rise to the occasion, wounded souls that can also be controlling, erratic, and emotionally volatile.
Have you ever tried to rescue a wounded soul? If so, which type? If not, why do you believe this is one pattern you wouldn’t fall into?
Can you recall a time when you got to know someone and could see that he or she was emotionally broken? How did that affect your developing friendship or relationship? How should it affect your developing relationship?
What might the appeal be of forging a relationship with a wounded soul? Why would a person fall for someone who is broken?
What are the essential differences between a wounded soul and the average man with typical imperfections?
Do You Have a Fix-It Mindset?
You repeatedly have partners who verbally, emotionally, sexually, or physically abuse you.
You have noticed that your partner’s moods tend to leap, without warning, from one end of the spectrum to the other.
You often fear that one wrong move could trigger your partner to get angry and begin an abusive cycle.
You see yourself as trapped and betrayed in your relationships; you feel too guilty to leave and too afraid of what your partner might do if you tried to do so.
You try to excuse your partner’s abusive behaviour by saying things like, “It only happened once,” or “He/ she only does it when he gets mad.”
You eventually begin to wonder if you’re going insane, because your partner does such an able job of putting the blame on you
You lose your grasp on what normal behaviour in a relationship looks like and fear that the abuse has damaged you to the point that future healthy lovers wouldn’t want to be with you.
You believe your partner is treating you the way you deserve to be treated..
The constant abuse convinces you there is nothing you can do to avoid it.
Has anyone ever mistreated you verbally / physically / sexually ? If not, how have you avoided relationships with such partners?
What would you do if someone new were to abuse you in some way ?
What do you think is the hardest type of abuse to spot in other people’s relationships ?
What would be the hardest type of abuse to spot in your own relationship ?
In the next article I shall look at what causes these relationship patterns to come about and what to do to move away from them and discover the love you deserve.
This article was inspired by the book : Dr Seth Love Prescription. Overcome Repeated Relationship Patterns by Seth Meyers.
Imagine you are sitting in the middle of a dark theatre. Then suddenly a spot light appears. The only thing you can see is whatever the spotlight shines its light upon. That is your reality. You may think that is all reality but the truth is it is only a fraction of it. You decide where to point the light and wherever you do that’s what you get ! The universe is a mirror of us. Our external reality is a reflection of our internal reality. The world reflects back to you whatever you believe about it and your place in it.
Are you getting the opposite of what you want ?
Imagine you are the captain of a ship sailing on the wide open ocean. The crew follows your orders to the letter. You just need to tell it where to go. But instead of telling it where you want to go you keep on telling it where you don’t. “I don’t want to go to Hell Island! it’s full of horrible people there and there is nothing to eat and the weather is terrible all year round! No, I don’t want to go to Hell Island! Please don’t take me there!”
Guess where you end up going ? The crew doesn’t know where else to take you, all they hear is “Hell Island! Hell Island”!
So stop asking for what you don’t want and focus on its opposite: What you do want.
Asking for what you want…
Some people use this simple principle to try to attract to themselves what their ego wants in their life. More money, a better job, a mate, you name it. And although there is nothing wrong with wanting these things, if the request comes from your ego you may end up in trouble when you do get what you asked for. This is because the ego tries to get you ‘stuff’ based on a dream, a fantasy of what getting that stuff will be like. Often we have no idea what that really would entail and it might just be the opposite of what would make us happy !
What if I don’t know what I want ?
The other problem is that we often have no idea what we really want, and that’s because the ego has no idea what would satisfy our deeper needs. It hears ideas about money or fame or having children or achievement as the ultimate goals that will bring it happiness and believes the story. The problem is that’s just a story and what makes somebody else happy might not make you happy. The ego doesn’t know what would make you happy. Only your deeper self does. (More on this later, read on)
I don’t have enough money…
Many people think that if only they had more money then everything would be ok. There are many problems with this:
money is a means to an end and not an end in itself so you’d be better off asking for the end object or service than money itself. ie. “I want to go on holiday to the Bahamas”, not “I want money to buy a ticket to go to the Bahamas”.
asking for money reflects the idea that we don’t have enough. If you believe that you don’t have enough then the universe will register that and will keep on giving you more of the same. Instead try to focus on being grateful for what the many blessings you already have and you’ll get more of those.
too often underneath the idea that you don’t have enough lies the basic insecurity that you aren’t enough. And if you aren’t enough, anything you get is not going to be enough. So you are just stuck in a scarcity mentality.
Fear vs Freedom
What to do instead ? The solution to this conundrum is to surrender to the higher self, the inner teacher, the part of us that is much bigger and wiser than our ego. This inner voice, the inner counsel always knows what is best for us in a way that might even frighten the ego. This is because the ego wants safety at all costs, while our higher self wants our ultimate growth, happiness and freedom to expand out of our comfort zone. You will be most aware of the difference between the ego and the higher self when you have a decision to make.
Your ‘head’ will always counsel you towards safety. Your ‘heart’ will always counsel you towards expansion. Your head tries to keep you small. Your heart wants you to grow. But growing can be scary, because you are entering unknown territory, so if you feel a little scared of what one of the inner voices is telling you to do you might just have tapped into the wisdom your heart.
How to be happy
So listening to your ‘heart’ (or your inner teacher, wise counsel, higher self, sometimes also experienced as God) is the way forward.
But what if you cannot hear the voice of the inner self ? It is hard to listen to the inner voice if you are surrounded by constant distraction and never spend a moment looking inside. Facebook, mobile phones, TVs are pulling our attention away from the inner voice on a regular basis.
A simple practice to connect to your Inner Guidance
Switch everything off, sit down (or lie down) and be still
Take a few deep breaths and relax for a few minutes.
Go to a place of peace or stillness in your mind and allow yourself to feel your feelings. Do not try to feel differently from what you are feeling, just accept whatever it is you are feeling.
If you notice the feeling is negative , while accepting what you are feeling, imagine what you’d like to feel instead, as if your life were already perfect. Connect to this reality and let yourself experience it as if it were already real.
Ask for your Inner Teacher to appear. Maybe it is just a presence, a feeling, or a knowing or maybe you can even see it. When you are connected to the inner wiser self ask: What feels like the right thing to do for me to bring about this change ? What is going to get me closer to what I want ? What feels right ?
Now listen and make space to receive. Open your heart to its wisdom.
If your analytical mind is interfering with the process by distracting you with judgements you need to relax more and pay no heed to its criticisms. It’s just the ego getting scared and trying to protect you from the unknown. You can reassure yourself you’ll listen to it later. But for now pay attention only to the exercise. Drop your judgements and connect to the deeper truth of the present moment.
Follow these steps and you’ll access the most valuable teacher and therapist you’ll ever have. The coach that knows you the best. Remember this is a PRACTICE. You don’t run a marathon by going to the gym once. You need to keep at it and commit until you get the results you want.
Remember, it is never the experiences we have that keep us stuck but the judgements about them. It is the resistance to feeling our feelings. Move into the feeling and trust it has something invaluable to teach you.
You don’t have to be a Buddhist to benefit from mindfulness. One of my passions is to de-mistify and secularize concepts that would otherwise be out of reach for anyone who may not belong to or be interested in understanding a specific religious affiliation.
It is now well known that certain Buddhist concepts can be very helpful in aiding us to be more happy, balanced, and in control of our emotional responses. One of these concepts is that of ‘equanimity’.
Equanimity is the capacity to see our own suffering and that of others with compassion without becoming either overwhelmed by it or indifferent to it. It is the capacity to look at all that surrounds us with the eye of a curious and compassionate observer. It is watching what goes on within us and outside of us with an open heart and without judgement, remembering that all that exists rises and passes away, all is impermanent, including joy, sorrow, pleasant and painful events, people, buildings, animals and nations; It is being able to let yourself rest amid everything that is impermanent while remaining balanced and peaceful; It is the capacity to extend loving kindness to all living beings without becoming enmeshed in their own drama, accepting the things that cannot be changed, having the courage to change those we can and cultivating the wisdom to know the difference.
Imagine being a judge at a court case: you are not indifferent to what you witness but you are not personally invested in it either. You are even and balanced. You are not disturbed by either chasing after pleasure or avoiding pain. You are simply present to what is without having to change it adjust it or control it in any way. Another word for this is ‘detachment’.
When we practice this capacity to lift up and “abstract’ ourselves from ourselves, it is as if we could look in on ourselves from the outside; in this way we stop identifying with our own emotions thoughts and feelings and we can choose how to respond consciously, rather than ‘react’ automatically to what we experience. This is the basis of emotional intelligence.
Create the life you want
If we want to create change in our lives we must first accept where we are right now and take responsibility: we need to realize that we are creators. We can either be created by our unconscious thoughts words and behaviors or we can consciously choose to create what we want to experience more of. We are the inheritors of all the causes and conditions that have brought us here now. The thoughts and actions we have engaged in your life have created the outcomes we are now experiencing in our lives.
So what if we stopped wasting our energy blaming others or alternatively giving ourselves a hard time and putting yourself down ? What if instead we chose to be compassionate with ourselves , forgave ourselves and learned whatever we can from our experiences ?
Perhaps this way we could put our energy and focus to better use. We could be helping ourselves to become more aware of our automatic reactions, thoughts and emotions; we could then be practicing to focus our intention and attention towards conscious choice so we create the life we want.
Find inner balance
As creators of our own ‘karma’, we need to learn how to care for others without becoming overwhelmed and developing empathy fatigue (and subsequently indifference). If we clearly look at the world, the struggles and suffering we see will make us sad. If instead of trying to avoid this we stay with the discomfort we will experience the wish to be of help to others.
If the need to be of benefit to others is rooted in love, we can learn to relax with the discomfort we experience and as a result we will be able to use the sadness to motivate us to help others whether through art, prayer, activism, charity or simply by being kind to those around us.
It is important to remember that no matter how much we may care we cannot live other people’s lives for them. So while taking the “three thousand year” view of things we must practice remaining with an open heart, practice loving kindness towards all living beings and remember that our responsibility in making the world a better place ends there.
We can wish fellow humans to learn to see the arising and passing of all things with equanimity and balance, while being as much as possible an example to them of such an attitude and perspective.
One of the practical ways to cultivate this quality of being ‘a witness’ to life is to practice being internally flexible, curious and learn how to focus and concentrate.
Four exercises that foster concentration and presence
“Mindfulness of breath, body, sounds thoughts and feelings meditation” to develop self awareness
“Sitting of strong determination meditation” to develop concentration and focus
“Being a mountain visualization” to develop absorption , riveting attention and to establish a sense of presence
“Investigating our experience reflection” to gain insight into what’s pulling us off balance, by examining our beliefs.
“Calming the emotions self suggestions” to find a balanced mind and a peaceful heart to ourselves and others around us.
You can find some examples of these in the video on equanimity or you can get in touch to experience them first hand with me.