About Doubt

One of my greatest issues that I faced for many years was dealing with doubt. I wouldn’t want to narrow down my inability for decision-making to my zodiac sign, but it seemed to me that I was forever weighing at least two options on my slightly dysfunctional inner scale without being able to make a quick decision about which was the right choice.

Ironically, I’m still dealing with this nowadays, not when it comes to big issues, but when I have to make the fastest and most unimportant choices.

In the past though, doubt seemed to haunt me whenever an important decision was about to be made. So many options made sense, or none did, or two were equally better than a third, or all choices seemed to be too bleak to even be considered. These doubts crept in when it came to everyday situations where I felt that I was always less equipped than others to see the right choices for myself.

Then, there were the BIG DOUBTS. Big doubts are about life-changing decisions. About paths to take and paths to leave behind. Big doubts make us face major questions and dealing with them wisely can set us at a turning point in our awareness.

I’ve learnt that the moment a doubt emerges, a part of us submerges. In the key moment when we start doubting which way to go, two perceptions are formed, with their own distinct energies: the hopeful space and the feared space.

The hopeful space is the more appealing one as it presents choices that are within reach and that don’t require too many changes.

The feared space is shrouded in the unknown. It requires taking a major step that will bring about changes which seem to be entirely out of our control.

The fear of the unknown, of losing control over our life and of being out of our comfort zone will often make us disregard the feared space almost instantaneously. This uncertain space awakens so much anxiety within us that we stop considering it as a viable option and start reflecting on other choices framed within the hopeful space.

The moment we start to be in doubt and look for a positive change is a sign we are ready to step into a new level of growth in our lives. Something was good enough, but for obvious reasons, it started working against us and deep down we know it’s time for a change. Maybe we’ve known it for a long time, but it is now that it has become outrageously obvious and impossible to ignore.

But when a crossroad is presented on our path, we often choose the road well-travelled. We know what we want, but it’s just too frightening to go down the less trodden path, so we start making up easier options. These new options we create are almost always non-beneficial and impede us on our journey to growth.

Standing in front of the mysterious trail, our intuition slowly submerges under the weight of doubt. Deep down, we know which way we are to go and what it is that we need at this point in our life. We can hear the soft voice that speaks our truth, yet this faint whisper is very often drowned by fear. It can take years until we allow this voice to emerge from the depths of our heart and invite it to guide us on our true path.

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I am faced with making decisions every day, but when in doubt, I now try to take any of the following steps:

1. Listen to my intuitive thoughts without rationalising too much.

2. Go with the choice that seems less comfortable.

3. Write a simple prayer where I ask Life to guide me to the best choice.

4. Give myself time to make the choice when I am ready.

5. Go with either choice to test and see what happens, and then I take it from there.

I would like to end with sharing that one of the lessons I have to learn every day, again and again, is that fear is not real in itself. And that when we choose to walk along our most feared path, no matter how uncertain things seem, that is the moment we receive all the strength and support we need from Life itself. Then, and only then, everything works out as we’ve always hoped it would.

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About Wanting

For the longest time, I’ve lived  my life wanting something. I never knew exactly what it was, but I knew for sure I didn’t have it.

I had probably made all my life choice following that impalpable crave. As I grew up, started working and dating, my wanting grew even deeper. But I was hopeful for a while. I was trying every minute of my day. I wanted to make it happen. I wanted to fill that void with something. But the more I tried, the wider the gap became.

Not having enough time-filling hobbies, I was expecting  my relationship and friendships to completely bridge the gap between me and whatever it was that I was lacking.

Most of the times, I would resort to conversations. I would talk to my close friends and complain, explain, rejoice, become hopeful, become disillusioned and so on. I stayed open, yet half-focused as if when talking to someone while looking for that tiny gemstone that dropped from my ring. Sometimes, I would expect my partner at the time to entertain my need to talk about things, but that deepened my dissatisfaction even more. He felt that shapeless desire and it was something he could not satisfy. That brought about a lot of frustration on both sides and it was definitely not fair to the one bearing the pressure of closing an unseen gap.

All the while, I was reading, being overly social, absorbing whatever knowledge I could in the hope that the “something” that was missing will pop up and quench the thirst that seemed to haunt me from immemorial times. You can imagine I wasn’t the most ideal candidate to date at the time. Probably exuding a vibe of  potential and vitality infused with immaturity and neediness, I was quite a handful at times. On my side, I was always trying to put up a cool front which was extremely draining. I remember having a random conversation with a friend who casually told me to “chill” and that made me so mad. I specifically recall thinking, “I AM chill, damn it!”

This went on for a period close to about five or six years. I was relying entirely on those around me to achieve happiness while feeling like everything’s not quite good enough. There was one big chunky missing puzzle piece and I felt I was seeking something new that seemed to be waiting for me just a step away from where I was. All the while, I maintained a plastic smile while feeling that I wasn’t able to synchronise with my real self which was constantly shifting and eluding me.

The “breakthrough” moment happened kind of seamlessly, though in retrospect, it was quite an abrupt shift. As it happens to many, it came with a book. A friend had mentioned the book once, but I hadn’t acquired it. A few months later, another friend gifted me the same book for my birthday. Many have similar experiences and you will hear the story of the life-changing book, friend, stranger, journey, event, day and so on and so forth. I believe it’s not important what prompts us to shift our awareness, but what matters most is the moment when we open our doors of perception and receive life’s gift of happiness. That is why I won’t name the book just yet, but I will come back to it and tell you more in a future post.

By the time I had read the book, I had been searching and exploring consistently, but it was that one moment that brought everything together and allowed me to see the patterns of my life. It was as if I was working on a jigsaw puzzle without having a clue of what the image represented. I was adding pieces every day without really seeing the picture that was always there. The book did just that. It helped me to take a step back and get a full perspective of what was going on in my life.

In my spiritual “Aha!” moment, I became aware that nothing was wrong, everyone was right, there’s no such thing as bad decisions and it’s not a matter of “why” things happen a certain way. My awareness shifted naturally, but in a very concrete way that didn’t allow for doubts or second guessing.

I was suddenly able to see that my partner at the time had never done anything wrong and that he was on his own amazing journey being the hero of his personal story. More so, I saw how hard he had been trying and got a feel of the heavy loads he had been carrying for me on our bumpy road. I also saw how all the guilt I had built up was not meant to burden me, but to show me that I wasn’t on the right path.

All my friends and people I randomly met started fitting into the puzzle magically and nothing seemed to be a coincidence anymore. I felt an intense love for all those around me because I could get glimpses of what their paths were like and I understood there’s nothing to question people for. They all have an original story to tell and all stories are equally precious.

In a nutshell, I learnt that It’s Not About Me and I realised that this knowledge applied to my partner’s story too. He had never done anything to me or against me, he was merely walking on his path while living his own dream. This awareness allowed me to dive into my greatest fear – moving away from his path and starting my own private journey.

From that point on, my life changed in unexpected ways. I stopped seeing things is terms of “WHY is this happening?” and started becoming aware that whatever is, I myself have created it for a reason. That reason may not be clear when I demand for it, but there is a reason for that too. I’ve learnt about the importance of the Waiting Space and that life is meant to be lived in gratitude in every moment. Every breath we take is a step forward on our path, all we need to do is acknowledge and accept it. Every breath is a moment and it comes with unimaginable depth if we receive it as a precious gift.

If you’re feeling the heavy loads of your questions and doubts on your journey now, I hope that you can have a moment’s rest knowing that it’s all coming together even if it doesn’t seem so.  You are on the right track and all the answers to your deepest questions are already there, along the path, waiting patiently for you to be ready to hear them.

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About Ifs

Thinking of the topics I’ve approached so far on the blog, I remembered that, a few good years back, I had come across a couple of inspirational talks and even a book by a specific author whose name I couldn’t recall. I tried a few google searches but I abandoned my attempts soon enough as they didn’t seem to lead anywhere.

A day later, I remembered that I had emailed a friend about this author. Digging through emails from maybe four years back, I had found who I was looking for. After I listened to one of his talks again, I gratefully realised that his words and wisdom have been a major stepping stone on my path to opening up to a happier life.

In his TED Talk, Plug Into Your Hard-Wired Happiness, Rao Shrikumar points out how we build certain mental models and base our whole existence on them without realising that these models can be altered to our benefit. He then presents a way of breaking away from the vicious cycle of harmful beliefs.

Below is an extract from the talk and the complete video can be found here.

You have spent your entire life learning to be unhappy. […] And the way we learn to be unhappy is by buying into a particular mental model. A mental model is a notion that we have that this is the way the world works. […] And the mental model that we have that we buy into so strongly is that we have to get something so we can do something so we can be something. […] All this is a variation of the If … then model. And the If … then model is IF this happens, THEN we will be happy.

I hope this talk inspires you to stay aware that no matter how incomplete or complicated things in your life seem right now, there is always a way to find balance and it’s usually simpler that it appears.

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It’s Not About You

We are still on the topic of looking at ways of staying happy and drama-free every day. One of the ideas that has “revolutionised” my perception of life in what concerns how I am or am not affected by exterior events is encompassed in either of these two phrases:

It’s not about you and don’t take anything personally.

There’s a larger picture than that which concerns us and people have intricate motivations that go way deeper than we can perceive.This helps us let go of needs and expectations to control events in order to stay happy and balanced. I came across a very visual metaphor that offers a perspective on how our perception works and why we cannot make everything about us. Below is an excerpt from the book The Fith Agreement by Don Miguel Ruiz and Jose Ruiz.

Imagine that you are in a gigantic mall where there are hundreds of movie theatres. You look around to see what’s playing and you notice a movie that has your name. Amazing! You go inside the theater and it’s empty except for one person. Very quietly, trying not to interrupt, you sit behind that person, who doesn’t even notice you; all that person’s attention is on the movie.

You look at the screen and what a big surprise! You recognise every character in the movie – your mother, your father, your brothers and sisters, your beloved, your children, your friends. Then you see the main character in the movie and it’s you! You are the star of the movie and it’s the story of you. And that person in front of you, well, it’s also you, watching yourself act in the movie. Of course, the main character is just the way you believe you are and so are all the secondary characters because you know the story of you. After a while, you feel a little overwhelmed by everything you just witnessed and you decide to go to another theatre.

In this theatre there is also just one person watching a movie and she doesn’t even notice when you sit beside her. You start watching the movie and you recognise all the characters but now you’re just a secondary character. This is the story of your mother’s life and she is the one who is watching the movie with all her attention. Then you realise that your mother is not the same person who was in your movie. The way she projects herself is completely different in her movie. It’s the way your mother wants everyone to perceive her. You know that it’s not authentic. She’s just acting. But then you begin to realise that it’s the way she perceives herself and it’s kind of a shock.

Then you notice that the character who has your face is not the same person who was in your movie. You say to yourself, “Ah, this isn’t me,” but now you can see how your mother perceives you, what she believes of you and it’s far from what you believe of yourself. Then you see the character of your father, the way your mother perceives him and it’s not at all the way you perceive him. It’s completely distorted and so is her perception of all the other characters. You see the way your mother perceives your beloved and you even get a bit upset with your mum. “How dare she!” You stand up and get out of there.

You go to the next theatre and it’s the story of your beloved. Now you can see the way your beloved perceives you and the character is completely different from the one who was in your movie and the one who was in your mother’s movie. […]

After seeing all these movies, you decide to return to the first theatre to see your own movie once again. You look at yourself acting in your movie but you no longer believe anything you’re watching; you no longer believe your own story because you can see it’s just a story. Now you know that all the acting you did your whole life was really for nothing because nobody perceives you the way you want to be perceived. You can see that all the drama that happens in your movie isn’t really noticed by anybody around you. It’s obvious that everyone’s attention is focused on their own movie. They don’t even notice when you’re sitting right beside them in their theatre! The actors have all their attention on their story and that is the only reality they live in. Their attention is so hooked on their own creation that they don’t even notice their own presence – the one who is observing the movie.

[…]

People live in their own world, in their own movie, in their own story. They invest all their faith in that story and that story is truth for them but it’s a relative truth because it’s not truth for you. Now you can see that all their opinions about you really concern the character who lives in their movie, not in yours. The one who they are judging in your name is a character they create. Whatever people think of you is really about the image they have of you and that image isn’t you.

[…]

Now it’s easy to understand why there is us so much conflict between humans. The world is populated by billions of dreamers who aren’t aware that people are living in their own world, dreaming their own dream. From the point of view of the main character, which is their only point of view, everything is all about them. When the secondary characters say something that doesn’t agree with their point of view, they get angry, and try to defend their position. They want the secondary characters to be  the way they want them to be, and if they are not, they feel very hurt. They take everything personally. With this awareness, you can also understand the solution, and it’s something so simple and logical: Don’t take anything personally.

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This metaphor has helped me put things in perspective when I was caught up in my own and other people’s personal drama. It has been a stepping stone on the path to maintaining a balanced mindset on a daily basis. As you would expect, I do forget and have slips regularly, but I try not to forget to come back, again and again … and again.

About Coming Back

As I was sharing some techniques to stay away from the drama bubble on a daily basis, I was dragged into some sorts of familial drama and I was suddenly entrapped by a nauseating desire to get angry, retaliate and spend time talking about the issue.

In the process, I observed myself and I noticed two factors that made me absorb other people’s drama and involuntarily contribute to it by engaging in lengthy conversations about it.

One was a background of accumulated tiredness and the other, a sharp feeling of injustice that overtook me. It’s perfectly understandable to crack under the pressure of physical exhaustion, yet I shouldn’t let it slide if I find myself passing judgments hastily. From this point on, I would like to take you through the steps I apply to come back.

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Whenever we are unhappy with ourselves as a consequence of our own actions, we subconsciously dwell unnecessarily in the moment of self-guilt, anger or sadness. This prolonged stagnation may arise from a need to redeem ourselves through mental or emotional self-punishment. What we often fail to realise is that this process does more harm than good and it’s not required by anyone. I believe that God does not require us to sulk and be grumpy, but It may rejoice if we become aware and balanced.

By coming back I mean observing your actions in awareness and deciding to learn from this lesson without labeling your actions as good or bad.

Come back or begin again whenever you have not been able to reach your own expectations of yourself. Being understanding and forgiving towards your own actions does not mean you slack off and do nothing to better yourself. It means you become aware in the knowledge that you will do better next time. Holding on to grief enhances a moment that doesn’t exist anymore and that is why coming back in awareness is a powerful tool on the path to a happier life.

About Drama

On my journey, I sometimes felt like I’m heading in the right direction but more often than not, I was desperately lost. While lurking in dark alleys that seemed to lead to nowhere, I happened to chance upon the right books and conversations that have helped me to re-route my guiding system. I learnt about ways of staying afloat and on track even in apparently dramatic circumstances.

One of these important tools is the ability to control the need to add drama to life situations.

Before I came across a few sources that shed a new light on how people create drama in their lives, I hadn’t thought that it is possible to become unhappy by choice. I had assumed it’s the “problems” in my life that make me unhappy and if I couldn’t change my circumstances, I would just have to deal with my frustrations in the best way I can.

I later on learnt that we easily exaggerate some perceived negative situations we are in and we create a huge bubble of unhappiness where we float adrift disregarding anything that could bring us down to earth. Somehow, this bubble becomes a familiar place and we can’t seem to want to come out of it after a while. I call this place a “drama bubble” and nowadays I see people being happily unhappy in their bubbles all the time.

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Curious to know how it works, I began to observe myself and see the patterns I apply to make a situation worse than it really is.

Here are a few:

  1. I misinterpret people’s actions, words or intentions by passing hasty judgements.
  2. I assume other people’s actions, words or intentions are entirely about me and therefore I fret, get angry or retaliate hastily.
  3. I talk about what bothers me to anyone willing to listen and sometimes, no matter how much I discuss the matter, there’s no feeling of relief which makes me even angrier.
  4. I think about the issue all the time asking myself why this had to happen to me.
  5. I look forward to explaining myself to those who have misjudged me and if they don’t understand or accept my view, I become frustrated beyond belief.

These are just a few of the ways I used to sabotage myself into creating a perception of life that worked against me and which was not real.

My mind is still into creating drama all day long, but I apply a few simple techniques to control it. Below are some of them:

  1. When my mind gets affected and goes into drama mode, I switch from whatever I am doing to something else. I stand up, I talk to someone, I look at the scenery, I go to the fridge and so on. After only a few minutes, the intensity of my feelings and my brain chatter lessens allowing me to think more objectively.
  2. I focus on my breath in the abdominal region and give myself the time to just relax for a few minutes.
  3. I observe my thoughts and emotions as if I’m looking at someone else.
  4. Lastly, when drama mode kicks in, I become aware that “it’s not real”. (I’ll expand more on this one in a future post.)

My life is so much more meaningful without too much drama and I hope I will be able to share glimpses of how it feels like now. My hope is also to inspire you to allow yourself a slight shift in perception if there are things that hang heavy in your life right now.

About Waiting

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I remember this specific point in my life when I felt an intense sense of desperation and frustration. I was having constant quarrels with my partner at the time and it seemed that whatever I said was not understood. I felt suffocated and angry. There was something I wanted from my partner and he wouldn’t give it to me. He needed more freedom while I demanded more closeness and stability. Each of us was trying to make a point and we both knew what the other is saying but neither of us was able to truly let go of our need. It was a dead end. This is not what I wanted, I told myself. I had waited for happiness and ended up in a relationship where I couldn’t manage myself, couldn’t express myself, a space where I couldn’t be seen. Adding to my frustration was the knowledge that my partner at the time was not wrong. He just couldn’t give me what I needed. All this in mind, I couldn’t leave him. When I tried, he wouldn’t let me go. When he tried, I would cling to him.

I directed my rage at the Unseen . Tell me why, I demanded. Why can’t I just be happy? Tell me what to do. I specifically remember the deafening silence. The hope of a glimpse of meaning was drowned by the lack of response.

Years later, my answer came. I had to wait. In the waiting space, we traveled to a new country together. We faced new challenges and we both grew in different directions. We parted ways but we found ourselves.

I now see him as one of the important people in my life that has helped me walk towards my path and eventually set myself on it. The people we not so randomly meet on the road have meaningful roles in our aligning with our path.

The waiting space that often seemed devoid of meaning was so very precious as it allowed for the exact time I needed to know myself and open up to all the beauty of life.

If you find yourself in a tough spot in your life, you might want to reflect whether you are in the waiting space that allows you to see where to head forward. In the waiting space, we are sometimes confronted with an uncomfortable choice that we avoid making or with seeing an untruth that we refuse to accept. The waiting space allows us to deal with our fears inviting us to take the next step on our path to a more fulfilling and purposeful experience of life.

To end with, here’s a short piece of writing by my dear friend Sara Winick (find Sara @ sarawinickdotcom on Instagram):

Patience is a virtue, I believe it to be true, there’s really nothing to rush for, you’ll get it when it’s brewed. So carry on and go about the things you like to do, don’t worry ’bout the timing, God knows when you are due.