Some argue it is a basic human liberty to have faith in whatever knowledge we want, even if it has been proven to be false or heresy. Others argue that we live in society, therefore, every human action or liberty ought to be considered not only from the perspective of the individual but from the perspective of the collective as well. I cannot say which side I lean towards. I know that there are very valid arguments for both. There are beliefs that have very real consequences to the collective and so should not be considered lightly, for example, if a person believes there is nothing wrong with having sex with a minor, this belief doesn’t only affect the individual who believes this but is one that has real costs and consequences to the collective. So it is important to ask ourselves: When is the diversity of truth beneficial and when can it be harmful? Like everything, I suppose it is a matter of balance. We need there to be some people always who believe or who claim to know for certain something contrary to the rest of us; it allows us to know the boundaries of our own beliefs, of what we deem to be true, of where the borders of our morality lie.
For any society to be healthy and for the people and other living beings in it to coexist safely together, there must be a balance between freedom and truth because even the best of virtues in excess can be poisonous. Too much unchallenged truth turns into doctrine, and too much unchallenged freedom turns into chaos. We need the forces outside of us to constantly be in perfect tension with each other, just like a guitar string needs to be to produce the perfect melody. It is that constant tension between things that keeps everything in the universe working perfectly. It is that constant ebb and flow of forces that allows for balance to occur. Here tension acts as a peace keeper. And this is true even with the forces shaping our own internal experiences. If there is no back and forth between the voices within us, we would be too certain of ourselves, of our decisions, of who we are, of where we are. It is that little bit of doubt that creates the tiniest wiggle room necessary for transformation. We wouldn’t change or evolve if everything was so fixed in its way. It is the other that challenges, it is the other that helps us realise ourselves. It is the other too that invites us closer to balance. So why are we always trying so hard to eradicate the other?
Difference is beautiful and should be celebrated. And when it scares us, we should approach it with caution instead of immediately trying to extinguish it.
“The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it is conformity.”
I will leave you here on this note to contemplate your own personal Others, maybe even say thank you to them for challenging you.
It blows my mind how those very things we do everyday hold within them all the power we need to transform our lives. And it is not just about what we do, but how we do it that creates the lifestyle we end up living. And so with one of the most everyday things of all —talking — we hold within us, within our very own voices an immense amount of power. And that power in itself is neither good or bad, talking in itself is neither good or bad. It is the intention behind our speech that makes that power serve a beneficial function or a destructive one. Each and every one of us has their own unique voice, and voice isn’t just the actual sound we make when we speak, but it is how we speak, how we put our words together, the intonations we make, how we pause, how we laugh or giggle at the end. And so it becomes that our voice is an expression of us, of our soul. And that expression is sacred. It is holy. And the reason it is holy isn’t just because of its beauty, although I do believe the most sacred and divine sounds of all are in themselves an expression of beauty, like all the sounds nature makes, the trees rustling, the birds chirping, the humans laughing. These are all sacred. But they are sacred not only because they are beautiful, they are sacred because they remind us that we are connected. That we are never alone. That we are accompanied by other beings, by nature herself in this experience of life. For the primary function of making a sound is for it to be received by another. We make sounds to communicate. To send messages. What kind of messages we send, that is up to us. Many messages we send are indeed unconscious. We send cries of help through our voices. We send pleas for love. And sometimes, we send signals of fear too. Just like birds warning their own of danger, we too send warnings to other people when we perceive danger. That doesn’t necessarily always mean what is a threat to someone is a threat to everyone. And that is where our listening can really help us filter out and know what rings true for us and what doesn’t. And so you see, talking is a responsibility. It has the power to influence those around us because we are literally sending whatever is within us out into the world using our voices.
And because we can hear our voices as we speak, we are also reinforcing whatever is within us using our speech. Unless we consciously choose to do otherwise. So when we decide, for example, we want to practise being less judgmental, we need to practise that using our voices, using the very thing we use every single day to make those judgements heard. If we decide we want to take on the habit of recognising the silver linings when things don’t go our way, then we must refrain from complaining when things don’t work out. If we want to be less hard on ourselves, we must refrain from expressing to our friends what we think we should’ve or could’ve done. If we want to be more forgiving of our impressions of men, we must refrain from making generalisations about them. So you see the point. Whatever it is in our life that we are intending to address, one of the best ways to address it is through our speech. Talking is one of the most powerful enforcers of our thoughts. We literally give a voice to certain thoughts over others through speaking. So speak wisely. Speak with awareness. Be conscious of how what you’re saying might impact another.
This magnificent healing power of talking is not just bound to the everyday, for one of the most healing tools available to us today is talk therapy. Going to a professional of some sort to talk, in order to express and give voice to all that you were unable to give a voice to. This is one of the reasons talk therapy can be very powerful. But again, it is a very fine line between complaining and giving a voice to our grief and that is where our own awareness plus that of the therapist is key, because if all we do is go to therapists because we want to complain about our life, then here we are just using speech to reinforce what is already inside of us, rather than using speech to empty what is inside of us. And often when we find ourselves unable to stop complaining, it is usually because we feel we have no control so we try to voice our feeling of powerlessness. Complaining happens when we feel we can’t do anything except complain. It is when we feel all we can do is use our voice to say “Help me, please. I feel it is out of my hands.” Complaining stops when we realise it is in our hands again. Our instinct to complain is actually spot on in some ways, because when we feel we have lost all power in a situation, we remember we have our voices, so we use them to speak, but the part that needs a little tweaking is how we choose to use our voices in those situations where we feel powerless. And often in those moments we perceive ourselves powerless, it is better to stay silent. It is better to quiet our outside voices so we can hear our inside voices. And even though our instinct might be to scream instead of to stay silent, it is ironically this act of silence that reminds us again of the power we hold within our very own vocal cords. And then, we know how best to use our voices. Silence nurtures the talking part of us. Just like a muscle would need to rest after a workout, we need to give our voices some time to rest as well so that they can best serve us and not break in the process.
Though allowing oneself to fall silent can often prove to be a very difficult task. Our voice after all is a very powerful representation of our power, so how can we surrender our power without feeling powerless? I suppose that is the lesson we learn from mastering our silence. And somehow when we make peace with our powerlessness, we regain our power once more. For a very long time I thought that surrendering in any way, shape or form made me weak. Now, many years later, an older and wiser quarter lifer, I can confidently say that I was very very wrong. If anything, to surrender is an act of great great courage. But of course there is always the danger of mistaking one’s own passivity for surrender. The wisdom of course, as the infamous serenity prayer declares, is in knowing the difference. The serenity prayer, as originally written by American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, goes something like this:
‘Father, give us courage to change what must be altered, serenity to accept what cannot be helped, and the insight to know the one from the other.’
And that very insight is expressed in how we choose to use our voices in those moments we are confronted with change, whether it is the daunting task of changing a situation ourselves or that of accepting a situation that changes us. I, myself, know that much of my healing has been done using my voice. It has also been done for the sake of my voice. As a young child, I wasn’t talkative at all. I was told I was shy and that fixation on my shyness and quietness made me very conscious of using my voice. I became afraid to speak because when I did speak, all I heard were the flaws. All I noticed was that it wasn’t perfect and so I was terrified of other people noticing those imperfections too. I felt that there was something wrong with my voice. I felt let down by my own voice and grew extremely frustrated by my inability to speak well. My sentences often, and sometimes until this very day, will abruptly stop mid sentence, be discarded and replaced by a new one. But I realise now as I write this, that this is MY voice, my own particular way of speaking, and even if it is not perfect, it has nonetheless, helped me heal, it has carried my story up through me and out into the world. And for that, I am eternally grateful to my voice. I am thankful for my ability (and sometimes lack of ability) to express myself. Because I realise I do love to talk, but only when I’ve fed my voice the silence it so craves. You see, sometimes, we need to rest from speaking, not only to nurture our voices, but to be able to listen to what it is our inside would like to communicate to the world. So be generous with the rest you give your voices, and it will be sure to repay you back in spades.
Before we start talking about self-denial, let us first define what we mean by it. Self-denial is the act of foregoing oneself for the sake of another. It is the act of sacrificing one’s interests, one’s desires, and one’s pleasures to satisfy another. Self-denial isn’t always out of love. Sometimes self-denial arises out of a need to feel safe, to feel like we belong. Some people cannot bear to disappoint others. For some people, they cannot bear the guilt or shame of that disappointment. For some people, it is more bearable (at least in the short run) to deny themselves completely than to be rejected by society (people they don’t necessarily know but people they live amongst).
Self-denial is perhaps one of the worst actions we can take against ourselves, because we are suppressing our very essence. It might not seem like a huge thing if every time you go out with your family or friends, someone else gets to pick where to eat. And you just go along with it. Trying to avoid conflict. Telling yourself, it’s perfectly okay because you don’t really have a particular preference, but the truth is that if you just take a moment to check in with yourself, you will immediately see that you always have a preference. But you decided a long time ago that your preferences were not that important. That was part of your easy going vibe, always just going with the flow, pleasing everyone around you, being approved by everyone around you. But what about your approval of yourself? Is that not as important?
Perhaps when you were a child, your voice was lower than those around you. Perhaps you didn’t try to scream to be heard. Perhaps you just learned that those people around you louder than you were more fussy and demanding, so they had to get their way. You learnt that it was safer to just let others dominate sometimes. Perhaps perhaps perhaps. Let us not dwell too much on why we’ve denied ourselves, let us instead just acknowledge the fact, not that others have denied us, but that we have denied ourselves. WE must take responsibility for this action against ourselves, despite what motivated this habit, it is after all of our own doing. And this admission of responsibility need not be accompanied by guilt or regret. On the contrary, it is in fact crucial for us to have the deepest compassion for ourselves. For most acts of self-denial stem out as a survival strategy. And so the only way for us to be able to be is to feel it is safe for us to be. And the first person our self confronts when it is being, is ourselves. We must open the door to ourselves, we must welcome them in, we must see them for who they are and not what we had expected or hoped them to be. We must see all of us. All the goodness in the badness and all the badness in the goodness. All the annoyances and all the favourite things. We must allow ourselves to be. We must speak up. We need not laugh at jokes we find offensive. We need not meet up with someone if we would like to do something else with our time. We need not put our faith in things simply because everyone else does. We must allow our own values to come to the light. But be very careful, because it is all a matter of balance. Beware not to make someone else feel unsafe because you feel the need to constantly take a stand. A person who feels truly safe in themselves does not need to continuously justify themselves to another. Be kind to unfamiliar versions of familiar people. Make space for others to show their true selves to you. Make space for the truth in your life. And when you do, you will realise that all the hiding was far more exhausting. That freedom, relief, and peace with one’s self are absolutely worth the risk of some people not approving of you. That in fact when you’ve tasted your own liking of yourself, nothing else matters.
May these moments of loving ourselves stretch out to a whole lifetime or two.
I think most of us really hate making mistakes, but I must admit, there is definitely something to them.
You see, mistakes come in two levels depending on one’s level of self-awareness. The first level is when you make the mistake and don’t realise making it and can go on living like nothing happened, unless someone else brings it to your attention. The second level is when you make a mistake and know it in your bones. I don’t know about you but I find it so hard to sit with myself after realising I made a mistake, mainly because I find myself overwhelmed with regret and guilt that I can’t escape because I know that I know that whatever I did was wrong, and then I get stuck in a backward loop in time trying to reconctrust endless scenarios of all the other actions I could’ve taken instead of the one I actually took. It is only when I’ve exhausted myself of scenarios and find myself on mental repeat, that I finally decide to accept that I did in fact make a mistake and take responsibility for my mistake. It is only when I reach this state of full acceptance of my mistake and in turn myself that all the discomfort settles and I can finally see why I needed to make the mistake.
Any child can tell you that the reason we make mistakes is so we can learn from them. But what no child can tell you is what it is exactly we’re supposed to be learning from making mistakes. The child might offer an answer like “so I don’t do this again” or “so that I know how to do this the correct way next time”. But these aren’t really why we make mistakes, they’re just context. The real reason we get things wrong is so that we can learn how to love ourselves as the imperfect and flawed human beings we truly are. Mistakes are an opportunity for us to grow our muscle of love. It’s not only ourselves we learn to have compassion for by making mistakes, but others too. It’s what brings us closer to each other in our times of despair. It’s the fact that you’ve made a similar mistake that allows you to say to another “I feel you.” , when they’re confiding in you. You see we need to make mistakes to grow more in love with ourselves and others. We need to make mistakes to see where we still need to learn to love and give kindness. Mistakes show us where our judgements are still hard and resisting the softening power of love.
Mistakes help reveal us to ourselves, and in that process of revelation, we meet our boundaries — the things that feel wrong to us but perhaps not to another, so we learn to communicate those things that don’t sit right with us and in turn we learn to speak up for ourselves. And there is no greater act of self-love than speaking up for yourself! We need to make mistakes to realise what feels good to us and what feels bad. It is not about abiding by an overarching social or religious morality but rather about learning to respect our own values and sometimes we need to make mistakes to know exactly how we feel about certain things. Mistakes are like our little life exams that continue to hand us over from one level of love to the next.
For the longest time, I used to think that I needed to punish myself so that I don’t repeat any mistake twice. I thought punishment was the tool to use to exercise self-discipline. I didn’t know that punishment is a tool for self-hate. When we make mistakes, all we really need is a time-out to reflect. We just need time to sit in silence with ourselves, first to forgive ourselves for not being perfect, then to forgive ourselves for expecting ourselves to be perfect and finally to love that part of ourselves we realised we’ve been hating by making the mistake. And in that way, we learn to carry ourselves over from the darkness of shame into the light of learning and love.
We are all human. We make mistakes. We love. We get angry. We get scared. We act out of fear. We forget we are worthy. We fall down. We stand up again. We remember we are loved. We love again.
Embrace all of you! It is the imperfect parts of us that teach us most about our humanity. It is those parts that make our hearts grow and have the capacity to love all the parts of another.
So make mistakes. The important thing is not to deny them because when we deny our mistakes we can never claim responsibility for them. And if we can’t claim responsibility for them, we won’t be able to learn from them. We won’t grow. We will remain stuck in a loop of self-denial and self-hate.
Mistakes are a pathway for us to free ourselves from the shame of error. It is time we normalised error and celebrated its capacity to teach us. There is beauty in error. You just need to open your heart to embrace what error has to tell you.
Have you ever observed your relationship to pleasure? Are you one of those people who believes in your right to enjoy life and all it has to offer or are you one of those that views pleasure as temptation, something that seduces us into “sin”? Do you enjoy your food or are you afraid that it will make you fat if you let yourself enjoy it? Do you enjoy your body, do you touch it, do you let others touch it; or do you feel guilty and refrain from engaging with your body? Do you go out and see the people you love as much as you want or do you refrain from the pleasures of connection afraid it might distract you from your life/career goals?
I think for most of us, we allow ourselves to seek pleasure in some areas and then in other areas we feel the need to exercise control because we feel desire might overtake us. This has been a topic that’s occupied my mind for quite some time now. In part because I wanted to understand my own relationship to pleasure. I found that my relationship to pleasure was not only defined by me, but by the society I lived in and the current culture surrounding pleasure. It was a little crazy for me to realise that societies all around the globe at different points in time (some even until now) felt that they had a right to govern individual pleasures, be it alcohol intake or the kind of sexual activities people wanted to engage in. It’s a strange feeling to feel in your body- that it’s not only yours, that other people have a right to it and can legally prosecute you if you break those rules that said society has decided for you. How can a society exercise such a right on an individual body? How can someone have rights over my body that I don’t even have? In what world does that make any sense? In what world is it okay that I oppress a body like that? For me, such intrusions on an individual body cross a boundary that shouldn’t be crossed by anyone. It feels like a form of psychosocial rape – a trespassing on the collective individual body that’s just not okay.
The next step after realising society’s role in your relationship to pleasure is to take responsibility for your own blocks to pleasure. These will largely have been formed in childhood, by observing your parents relationship to pleasure. Healing our relationship to pleasure isn’t easy but it is absolutely necessary if we are to have a relationship with our bodies that’s not abusive. It certainly takes a lot of time and patience, but the most important thing always is your willingness to heal. We all have our different paces that we embrace change with, for some change can happen over a few months and for others it might take years. The length of time here doesn’t matter at all, we all have different belief patterns to work with, different childhood experiences and different sensitivities. Change can be more overwhelming for some than others so always remember to be kind to yourself during the process. Don’t force yourself to enjoy something because you’re working on pleasure. No. Not at all. It’s all about slowly working up to a point where things feel good without you trying. The thing with pleasure is that for many of us it’s tied in to our self-worth. Do we think we deserve pleasure, in the same way, that many of us self-sabotage when things are going too well in our lives because we doubt for a second that we deserve them.
We deserve pleasure. We deserve to enjoy how the air feels against our bodies and wear shorts if we feel like it without having to cater for someone else’s mind. We deserve to decide for ourselves how we’d like to enjoy our bodies. We deserve to feel good!
I believe any real long lasting cultural change starts with the individual. Exercise your right to pleasure. Yes you do it for you first, but it is for the generations after us that we need to leave the world a better place than we found it. Revolutions of the social kind always begin at home. So make your own changes and don’t worry about how many other people need to change their minds for change to happen. It’s all about the bottom-up change. Be responsible for your own change. Change for you first, and let the universe take care of the rest.
As it happens to be, I identify as female, as a woman. Yet within my womanhood, within my whole “woman” self, I know that I am made of both feminine and masculine energies. And in trying to come into balance within myself, I noticed that a big part of my imbalance is caused by the fact that my feminine and masculine parts are in conflict. Some of that is my own personal stuff, and some of that is definitely inherited from my ancestors, and some from the culture I live in. This split within me is not just my story. I believe it is the story of all of us, regardless of whether we identify as male, female, or non-binary. I believe we are all made of both masculine and feminine energies and I believe many of us have tended to favour one side over the other, and in turn we ended up nurturing one side more than the other, essentially neglecting half of ourselves. So the result of that is that we all walk in the world feeling unseen and unheard by someone or some group of people. But what those feelings are are our own projection of our innermost feelings towards ourselves. We feel unseen and unheard on the inside. And it is no surprise that the Collective Feminine and Masculine are currently in conflict, with each side pointing fingers towards the other. I believe that every external conflict is a reflection of our inner conflicts, and the most powerful and most effective thing we can do to bring peace to the collective again is to bring peace to ourselves. This poem below came from my feelings of inner torn-ness. I am literally sick because of this conflict. And I am done being sick. The time for resolution is now. And the first step towards resolution is listening. We need to make space and be open for all the voices within us that feel unheard, unacknowledged, and ignored. Conflict arises often because a voice was set aside and ignored. That’s why self-expression is a big part of healing. And self-expression doesn’t always have to be an expression of ourselves outwards towards the world. It can also be an expression of ourselves inwards towards our own hearts. The act of listening is self-expression. That’s why making space in our day to listen to ourselves is so important. That’s why meditation is so powerful. Do not underestimate the power of sitting with yourself. It is not always easy to listen to ourselves. Believe me, I know. It takes courage. And courage, too, like love is always flowing in abundance within us, we just need to make a conscious choice to tap into it. May we all bring union to ourselves.
And now, my poem Union of a Womb-Man.
I know there lives inside me a Woman.
I can feel Her.
She’s saying something.
I can’t hear what.
She’s too far.
She calls for me again.
I come closer.
I can see her now.
I can see him too.
There is a split.
They are torn apart.
Womb separated from Man.
Feminine from Masculine.
I ask what happened.
They say they’ve been trying to figure that out too.
They say for some reason they won’t come together.
They say One day, it will all be okay. But you see, one day never arrives, because one day is in the future. So the only way to experience one day is to bring it here into the present and change it from one day into today, and from One day, it will all be okay to Today is okay.
To.day. This.day. is okay.
It might not be the best, but it is okay. And for me, when I say, today is okay. I feel like I am not projecting any optimism or pessimism onto the day, but just a rather neutral okay, as if to say, I accept today. I am willing to take it in as it is. It doesn’t mean I’m running towards this day or away from it. It simply means I am meeting this day, I am seeing this day, the one right here in front of me. It means I am giving this day my attention. It doesn’t mean I need to give my day a positive spin. It just means I need to see my day, as it is, as it comes towards me.
I understand though the pressure one feels, not just externally, but internally as well, to have a “good” day. To have “good” moments. I am guilty myself of trying to deny my own irritation or anger when it arises because I don’t want to ruin my day, and then I get angry at my anger for ruining my day, and then I realise that the anger came from me, so I get angry at myself for getting angry and ruining my day. And all of this blaming of self, why? Is it all just to have a good day? Why is having a good day so important? What does it say about us when we are able to have a good day?
I suppose a good day is a microcosm of a good life. And so to be good at having good days must mean we are good at living. At being here, on this planet, in this body, as this soul. But what makes a day good? Who decides that today is good? We do! We decide. We decide not by the kind of day we have, but the kind of mindset we have. We decide what the criteria for good is. We decide if there is even a criteria. We decide to follow it or abandon it. We decide to condemn ourselves and our days. We too decide to free ourselves and our days from this judgment. We decide if today is okay or if tomorrow will be okay. We decide where we want to live — here or later. We decide. But of course and unfortunately, these decisions are not always conscious. In fact, most of the time they are unconscious. They are a force of habit. And habits come from many places, often childhood, but some habits come from the people we surround ourselves with, our environment, our culture, current trends & fads. And like any other habit, the way we meet our day is a habit that can be changed and worked on, but only if we really want to change it and feel like we need to work on it. All change requires our own will first. And again it is important to stress here, that it is not about changing our perception of our day so that every day is good. It is about discarding all perception, and letting each day tell you what it is.
Let Today be Today without needing it to be good or bad.
Let Today be This day and not any other day.
Let Today be free of Tomorrow and Yesterday.
Let Today be okay.
When we relieve today of our expectations, we relieve our lives from those expectations too. And when our lives are free to be, they become free to surprise us, they become magical again. Let the unknown surprise you and take you on the ride of a lifetime. All you need to do is say hello to today.
It seems that much of our twenties is shaped by this need to find our place in the world. To find where we belong. Where we are meant to root and grow and flourish. Many will travel far in pursuit of their dreams of belonging. Many will return to where they once left, only to realise that perhaps here is where it all is after all. Home is where we are. Home can be made anywhere as long as we are willing to make one. The thing is most of us expect to find it, to find this feeling of belonging, like we do with happiness. We pursue it, we chase it, even though we know deep down that belonging isn’t to be found, it is to be nurtured and created by us for us.
And when we finally decide to make a home for ourselves, first we will feel the need to choose a physical space and when we are in the process of choosing this space, we will find that we need to at least be able to picture ourselves living in that space, laughing in it, crying in it, belonging through it. It is important to note here that this space we are projecting our feelings of belonging onto does not in fact belong to us, it is merely a vessel through which we can channel our belonging-ness. Whether the space is shared with a partner or whether you are inhabiting it all on your own, you will notice that the space will soon resemble you and you it. Just like partners begin to look like one another, their features merge, the edges of their faces soften to meet the other’s, we too begin to soften as we grow closer to meet the world. We soften as we begin to realise we belong to the world. That here, everywhere, is our home. And that we, are the world’s home, too.
One piece of advice I have for all those in the earlier half of their twenties, don’t look so hard. Everything you actually want is closer than you think. But perhaps it is easy for me to stop seeking now because I’ve tried it. I’ve exhausted myself looking for where I belong, not realising how futile of an endeavor that was, since it is obvious that I belong everywhere. It can be overwhelming at first to realise that there isn’t perhaps a “meant-to-be place” for anyone, that we can all make the best of where we are, that the secret to a happy life is right in front of us and not as magical as we’d like it to be — and that all it really takes to live a good life is to first decide you actually want to live a good life and then to do the work it takes to see goodness again.
To all those struggling to root, it is okay to feel out of place. It is a natural part of growing up. Many of us leave our primary homes when we go to university and spend another whole decade searching for a new one. We search and search, trying to find the ideal place to root. But really everywhere is ideal to root. The thing is it is not a country or specific apartment we are rooting ourselves permanently in, it is this earth we are rooting permanently to. We are saying to her I accept you, I accept that I belong to you, I accept that you are my home. A lot of the innerwork I have done in my late twenties was in regards to rooting. I spent months meditating twice a day with the intention of grounding myself. And it is this grounding that has made me feel at home in my body and at home on this earth. It is this grounding that makes me feel safe enough to surf the darker turfs of my mind, because I know I am anchored well and can afford to imagine deeply if I wanted to. It is so so important for our minds to feel at home because if they don’t, they will constantly be overthinking, overworking and ultimately overheating trying to protect you from danger, because you see your mind needs confirmation from you that this is home and that it is safe to let your guard down. Your mind is waiting for you to realise that the earth has got you, that your angels got you, that god has you. So I cannot stress this enough: it is absolutely vital for the health of our minds that we root! Much of the intensity of whatever your mind presents will fade when you root. Downs won’t feel like you’re endlessly falling but rather perhaps a more controlled shallow dive where you are certain there is ground beneath you and air above you if you should need either. Feeling at home in yourself will not only change your experience of your mind but your whole world. And the first place where you will feel at home is in your heart, and when you’ve gotten used to your heart, travel to the rest of your body until finally you reach your mind, and you will find that all has calmed and settled. You have done it. You have found home.
Many are familiar with the Winter blues, we hear about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and often associate it automatically with the winter but it also affects some people in the summer. But other than SAD, the Summer, as beautiful and fun as it can be for many, it can also be quite intimidating to keep up with if you’re not feeling your best. Before the arrival of Summer, we see people begin to pay more attention to the shape of their bodies and what bathing suits and summer outfits they’ll be wearing to flaunt those bodies. And for many who don’t feel like their bodies are in shape, summer can be stressful. Equally too, for those who don’t feel their minds are in good shape, summer can be very overwhelming. Summer tends to be a season full of people, parties, travel, all in celebration of the “good summer vibe”. But if we’re not in good vibes ourselves, it can be quite intimidating to just be. Everyone is always expected to be smiling, to be happy and to be enjoying themselves. And that can put a lot of pressure on people’s minds if they are not there. It can also make someone feel very isolated in their minds, if they feel out of sync with the prevailing summer vibe. And there is nothing worse for a stressed out mind than isolation. Summer can make many people more depressed and more anxious precisely because they feel left out and excluded from this summer joy it seems the rest of the world is experiencing. This can make it very difficult for someone to reach out for help. Friends can seem further in the summer, not because they are physically far, but because the distance between their states of mind is far. One is way up and another way down, one ready to party and another just wants to have a one-on-one intimate dinner. So as summer has the potential to bring people who live far away closer, it can also push close people further apart. This is a reminder to be mindful of your friends, family, siblings and to be kind to those who find it more difficult to match the energy of the season. Remember we are all different, we all feel things in different intensities, we all have different abilities to adapt, but we are all human beings at the end of the day who sometimes need reassurance that we are cared for, that we are remembered, that we are good company and that there is nothing wrong with us.
Summer is a transitional season for many. Some people are in between school/university years. Others in between jobs. Others in between homes/countries. Some in between relationships and friendships. So as fun as summer can be, there can be a lot of anxiety around how things will go post summer. And as much as summer always comes with a sense of renewal, it is also a time for us to release and unwind before shifting again back into “real life” gear. And sometimes as much as there seems to be time for us to rest and rejuvenate, summer can offer a jam packed schedule of events, parties, spending time with family and friends, all at the same time. So it can be very confusing for our bodies and our minds both who are torn between wanting to rest and wanting to make the most out of the summer and connect with people. There is often this conflicting desire to disconnect and connect simultaneously which can often leave people just feeling very overwhelmed.
And as many travel and vacation during the summer, there are many others who cannot afford to do so, whether for financial reasons, health reasons, work reasons, or due to all the Covid travel restrictions worldwide. And with everyone posting their best summer moments on social media, this can leave many feeling a little blue. This is not to say feel guilty for having fun or for expressing it or sharing but it is just a reminder that we don’t all have the same summers. We can’t all summer. So be kind when sharing stories of your summer to someone who hasn’t gotten the chance to.
And because we are different, summer for many can be when they feel most alive but for others it can feel as lonely and as harsh as a cold dark winter, so be kind with your thoughts, invite someone out who you wouldn’t normally and always always ask how are you feeling.
May your summer be exactly what you need it to be. May you wild if you need to. May you dance, laugh and make out if you need to. May you sleep, meditate and rest if that’s what you need.
Perhaps one of the most important experiences of living is falling in love. How we embrace love can tell us a lot about how we embrace so many other blessings coming our way. How much we trust ourselves to open up to love can tell us a lot about how much trust we have in other people and how safe we feel in the world. For those of us who went through a difficult early life, allowing ourselves to fall in love can be a serious challenge. We feel our hearts are already too fragile, too broken to handle any more breaking so we avoid love because we believe it is inevitable that pain should accompany love, that eventually we would lose those we love, whether to another person, to another lifestyle, or to death. And perhaps that is true to a certain extent, but it is also true that this love that we’ve been avoiding might be exactly what we need to mend and strengthen our hearts.
The pain we felt has unfortunately blurred all our memories of what love can do, but thankfully for us, our body always remembers. Our body still remembers the power of love to heal and that’s why it craves what it craves. Somehow along the way we have forgotten that as much as love has the power to cause pain, it too has the same power to heal. Love does indeed heal all wounds. And I am not just talking about falling in love with someone else here. I am talking first about allowing ourselves to fall in love with ourselves, to truly feel cherished by ourselves, to feel so lucky that we are who we are, that we are in the body we are in. And falling in love with ourselves might not be as easy as it can seem like it is with another. There perhaps isn’t a love at first sight thing that happens. Falling in love with ourselves requires a lot of hardwork, a lot of self-awareness, and most of all a lot of faith so that even when we struggle to feel loved, we let our faith in life carry us through and it is ultimately this belief that we are loved by life that supports our living. That faith is what carries me everyday through my self-doubt. It is what I choose to believe even when it makes no rational sense to put my faith there. Because the way I used to see the world and the proof that came so easy to me was not life affirming at all. I used to believe that the world is a scary and dangerous place and that belief made me constantly feel like I didn’t want to be alive, so I began this beautiful thing of choosing to believe differently and choosing to believe in life without demanding proof of its beauty or safety beforehand. I just made a choice to lend my faith to life. And I love that everyday I choose to love life. And I know if I want to I can choose to hate it. But I don’t because I want to love it. They don’t tell us this when we are younger, but love IS a choice. We choose to love our friends. We choose to love our work. We choose to love our bodies. It doesn’t just happen.
Love, at the end of the day, is energy and attention, so be mindful of where you put your love. Be conscious of who you give your love to, and be conscious what kind of love you are giving and attracting into your life. Love like our bodies comes in all shapes, colours, and sizes so find what vibes with you. Find your love language, your love tune and dance to it.
Love is always scarier to our minds that it is to our hearts. Our minds rely on a certain kind of rationality and when love breaks all those rules, our mind freaks out because it is no longer in control. And in that process of freaking out, be kind to your mind, treat it like a child looking up at a rollercoaster for the first time, not all children get excited by the prospect of danger equally not all minds get excited by the prospect of losing control, so always reassure your mind that it will survive the experience, it will even want to go again.
In the grand scheme of things, much that happens in our lives is insignificant. Yet sometimes it feels very significant to us. We tell ourselves we shouldn’t sweat the small stuff yet we find ourselves soaking in them. Sometimes, I find myself carried away by waves of anger and resentment over what seems to other people like the tiniest things, but to me they are not tiny, they mean something and that is important. I didn’t used to think so, precisely because of sayings like don’t sweat the small stuff which I get helps put things in a larger perspective but that’s fine when an emotion has been processed or an agitation has been expressed. But if for instance, someone was a little rude to you and you felt upset at a remark they said but you told yourself well I’m going to let it go because I’m trying this new thing where I don’t sweat the small stuff, the reality is that you did sweat it but you internalised it. I am just coming to understand that our anger is very useful and very important in helping us establish our boundaries with others and the reason anger gets such a bad rep is because of how people express it so the problem isn’t expressing you are upset but it is how you express you are upset. And the thing is it is extremely important to express when we are upset, it is important because in doing so we are expressing our boundaries to another so that in the future they do not cross them. Our boundaries help keep us safe. And if we don’t express to others when they have crossed these boundaries then we are deliberately putting ourselves in danger. It is up to us to speak up for ourselves and defend our borders. And having boundaries is the key to any healthy relationship, including our relationship with ourselves. If we disregard when our boundaries have been crossed because we don’t want to upset another or because we don’t want this person to think we don’t love them, then we are jeopardising our own relationship with ourselves, we are threatening the level of trust we have with ourselves.
For the longest time, I would blame myself when I got upset with someone, telling myself I was too soft, too sensitive, that I needed to grow tougher skin. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that all my health issues are skin related. I’ve rejected my own boundaries because they were not in par with what other people expected. I realise now how important it is to respect my own boundaries, and despite how uncomfortable I find confrontation, I must always vocalise when my boundaries have been crossed. And I notice that when I do, the anger fades and there is no residue of emotion lingering still in my body. All the anger we hold is anger that was unexpressed. And usually this anger will also direct inwards because self is angry at itself for not standing up for itself and vocalising to the other person they have crossed their boundary. When anger lingers, sometimes it is because there is a part of the situation that we need to take responsibility for. And that may include how we react to a situation. When someone has wronged us perhaps we might know where to put our anger but what happens when it doesn’t come from someone, like a health condition or a loved one dying. Even then, anger lingers because we have yet to feel safe again within our boundaries. And in such situations, we must make peace with whatever has happened. To accept it. To release blaming it for the outcome of our lives. Because one will never be free if one cannot take ownership over one’s decisions and actions regardless of what could have happened that have steered events in a particular direction. Life might strike us but it is always in our power to strike back as an equal actor in this relationship, or accept defeat and give our power away as we play our role as victim. It is not easy to realise one has been playing victim, it is not easy too to realise one has been an active participant in starving oneself of power, but the first step towards regaining that power is to realise oh shit I did make those choices.
To be an adult is to be responsible, and to be response-able, is to recognise one’s ability to respond.
When we are in a place where we are unable to take responsibility, we are literally saying I don’t think I have the ability to respond, this is all happening to me.
So dear quarter lives, learn to recognise your own ability to respond. Learn to use that ability wisely, for it is YOUR POWER. It is what you have to live well and to live free.
May we all have the courage to reclaim our responsibility and take back our power.