True colors

24 01 2011

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Resistance is born when we don’t allow ourselves to be our best selves. We all have an image in our hearts of what our best self is like, how he/she looks, feels, acts, what he/she does and has. This image feels natural and most of all very good. We feel good when we allow ourselves to be like that picture. However, while growing up, most of us were led to believe that this image was not complete or even true. We allowed our parents, teachers and peers to paint over this image what they thought to be true. And although they mostly meant well, they were not qualified. There is only one person in the whole world who knows who and what you are, and that’s you. You may not remember what your image looked like before everyone else started messing with it, but it’s still there, and intact. And better, you can restore it to its original glory.

You probably have heard stories of 17th century paintings that were being restored and re-emerged as new. These paintings were undone of the wear-and-tear of time, and sometimes of over-painting. Nowadays, with x-ray technology, we can even see entire paintings or parts of paintings that were concealed by over-painting, by either the painter himself, an apprentice of his, or an over-eager restorer. Our real job in this life is to be the restorer of our own self-image, to clarify who we really are. We have to find the parts of our image that are denser, where our light doesn’t pas through as easily, like an x-ray. The denser parts are those painted-over parts. We can feel them when we scan our inner-landscape. We sense resistance when we go over them. It’s the parts of our lives that feel off, where we don’t feel good about ourselves, where we feel we can’t meet expectations, where we feel like failures. It’s the things we really don’t want to do, but do anyway, because we think we should. Or the things we really want to do, but don’t, because we think we shouldn’t.The resistance we encounter is our wise self reminding us, this is not who you really are. Every time, we make a choice that is not consistent with our original self-image, our wise self will let us know. It will tell us there is a choice that better reflects our true selves.

 

Resistance only is a pointer, an indicator that this part of the image does not represent the real you. Interestingly enough, when we give ourselves permission to feel the resistance, we automatically see what is behind the over-painted parts. It may very well be that we have gotten so used to the way the image is now, that we feel resistance to our newly gained insight on what the original actually looks like. And that’s okay. Just knowing what is behind the unrightfully added paint, will take away some of that paint and will make our whole image clearer and brighter. With some of the resistance gone, we’ll feel better about ourselves, not just about the part we just discovered, but about the whole image we have of ourselves. And with time, we’ll get so used again to who we really are that we dare to remove those painted over parts and show our own bright colors, for all the world to see.





The path of least resistance

17 01 2011

Growing up, life was centered around imperative principles. There were the ten commandments, and many other rules from the bible one should follow. Not living up to them meant commiting a sin. Nowadays, I choose to live without principles. That doesn’t mean I dismiss moral imperatives as useless, I actually think most long surviving instructions are valuable pointers to living a great life, but to me, they have lost their black-and-whiteness. Following them doesn’t make me a saint, and not following them doesn’t make me a sinner, either. Come to think of it, my life is not completely ruleless. I actually have one principle I live by: nothing in the world is more important than that I feel good. This may seem like an extremely selfish way to live, but hear me out and see if this approach is as selfish as you think it is or if it just may work for you too.

Have you ever noticed how water flows? It flows to lower places, never goes upstream. It goes around obstacles, never over them, unless of course going over actually is the easiest way. It takes the most natural course over a terrain, which almost never is a straight line. Water takes the path of least resistance. This characteristic doesn’t apply to water alone, all of nature behaves in that way, with the exception of humans, who try to go upstream most of the time, and who prefer going in a straight line, even if that means colliding with whatever is in their way. What I have learned this last year is to be more and more like water and I want to share with you how it that is making a difference in my life. 

 

You can do things because you feel you need to do them, because you feel you have to do them or because you feel you want to do them. Can you feel the difference? In the first two situations, you feel resistance and in the last you don’t. At school we have learned that resistance is the amount of opposition electricity, or energy, encounters in a conductor, in this case your body. Energy flows easily through materials with low resistance. But energy flows slower through materials with higher resistance and more power is needed to get the same result. Everything in nature contains some resistance, that’s part of being physical. The question is are you working with it or against it?

Our bodies respond differently to resistance and non-resistance. From that perspective, you can see our bodies like guidance systems. When our choices do not reflect our best selves, our bodies contract. And I mean that in a literal sense, our muscles and even our DNA tighten when we experience stress. Most of us have become so accustomed to this tense state that, to a certain degree, it feels normal, and we don’t notice how much energy we’re wasting. Resistance or stress, however, is an indication that we’re going upstream. When our choices are in our best interest, on an unconscious level we know, and we experience the sensation of relief. There is no contradiction, no pain, no difficulty, no stress. Our bodies soften, our faces relax and we can’t help but smile, even if it’s only slightly. Our breath is easy and deep. Feeling relaxed is the most clear indication that we’re going downstream.

By learning to feel the difference in your body, you can actually use it to solve dillemmas and help you make the right choices for you. I don’t only mean the big choices, like ‘Should I leave my current partner? or ‘Should I quit my job?’, I rather mean the small day to day choices we make. Let me give you an example.This morning, after a rather restless night, I woke up at 5:16am, 14 minutes before the alarm would go. I really wanted to get some more sleep, yet on some level, I also wanted to go running. Feeling grouchy about a perceived lack of sleep, I decided I would sleep some more and run after I had brought my daughter to school. So I crawled back under the cover, ready to go to sleep, when I felt a light, but unusual tension in my neck and shoulders and noticed that my heart was beating somewhat faster than normal. I tried to ignore this for a while, but it actually kept me awake. At that point, I didn’t directly decide to get out of bed anyway. I was resisting the idea of getting up, or better said, I was resisting the resistance I was feeling in my body that was telling me to get up and run. It is true that while laying with my head on my pillow, with my duvet at exactly the right temperature, I didn’t feel like running, but that was only part of me. My egoic self prefers self-indulgence anytime. My wise self, on the other hand, doesn’t care about likes and dislikes, its only interest is what is best for me. At 5:41, I finally gave into my body’s wisdom, got out of bed and ran. Strangely enough, it felt wonderful. I had a great start of the day and my day is unfolding perfectly. I know from experience, that if I had not gotten up, but stayed in bed for another one and a half hour, the resistance most likely would have persisted. Getting up, I most likely would have felt stressed, because of a perceived lack of time. I would feel like I had to choose between two things that feel equally important to me. Going for a run, would mean having less time to write, and not going for a run would result in feeling less energetic and less good about my myself and probably having a lot less inspiration. It’s a sure thing that I would have needed a lot more energy to create the same results. 

My wise self is now telling me that doing some cleaning would be a good idea, but my egoic would rather sit on the couch and read a book. How to soften your resistance will be a topic I’ll discuss shortly. Wishing you an easy flowing day.





See the best, dismiss the rest.

13 01 2011

 

My 4-year-old daughter has a boy in her class, she doesn’t like. According to her, he just isn’t very nice. When she talks about him, you would think she’s an angel and he’s a demon in the flesh. The other day, I said to her that he must have positive aspects too; I had noticed he had beautiful eyes, she disagreed. It is then, that I introduced the dark glasses and the pink glasses.

No matter how right we think we are, we are all biased. And although, we do have some bias toward the positive, our main bias is toward the negative. Most of the time, we’re wearing our dark glasses. Our brains are actually wired to see anything that is off, the negative aspects of people, things and circumstances. It’s an evolutionary trait. Our ancestors were the ones that reacted to every potential threat. The ones who did not, didn’t survive long enough to pass on their genes. Nowadays, in our relative safe lives, our brains are still focused on finding anything negative and our overreactive amygdalas still signal fight or flight at the slightest sign of danger, imaginary or real, releasing adrenaline too easily and too often. But where we used to use up that adrenaline in real fight or flight situations, now this stress hormone runs through our bodies for a prolonged period of time, widening our negative neural pathways, making it easier for us to think negative thoughts, repeat negative events in our mind and worry about all the things that may go wrong.

Wearing pink glasses, however, is much more conducive to leading a healthy and happy life. People with a bias toward the positive seem to meet chance more often and are considered lucky by others. Lucky? I don’t think so! People who wear pink glasses have a tendency to see the best in people and situations, they focus on solutions, see opportunities and seize them, because they believe things will work out fine. And they mysteriously almost always do. 

The good news is that we can train our brain to look for positive aspects. Even better news is that as we find more and more of them, our positive neural pathways widen and our negative neural pathways shrink, making it continuously easier to see good things happening to us and trusting they will.  

Some useful tips to switch glasses. Acknowledge that you don’t know the whole story. Be willing to give others the benefit of the doubt when they behave in ways that are different than you believe you would, if you were in their shoes. Look for things to appreciate about the person that is bugging you and the situation you don’t like, and express them. Don’t take yourself too seriously, smile! Or better, laugh, especially when you find yourself looking through dark glasses. And most of all, be gentle to yourself. Don’t hit yourself over the head when you don’t meet your own expectations. Appreciate yourself for who you are. Notice the best and dismiss the rest.

As for my daughter, she’s unwilling to put on her pink glasses when it comes to that boy. But I’m proud that she gets the concept and trust that, in time, she will prefer her pink glasses over her dark ones.





Are you game?

2 01 2011

It’s been over a month since the play began and what I’ve learned in these last weeks is that although play comes in different forms, the energy of play is always the same.  When there is play, there is no resistance. Playing means letting go of preconceived notions, of musts and shoulds. It means being open to what is, right here and now, and finding beauty in whatever we’re presented with. Play is synonymous to love. Its energy is pure and clear. When we play, we love. It’s not the things we do that determine how we feel, it’s the energy we give to the things we do and to the things we need to do, but aren’t doing. Playing means doing what you love and loving what you do. Playing is doing what feels right to you, right now. It is doing what you need to do now, and love it. Whether it is engaging with a four-year-old, watching a movie, cleaning the bathroom or paying the bills.

 

Playing is balancing the act. Play is essential to our well-being. It is the natural energy booster that allows us to get things done while following our flow and nourishing our inner-child. The best thing about play is that it’s easy, fun, and did I mention cheap? Too easy for some, maybe. No need to install a new app, download a new tool or spend a lot of money on some kind of gadget or hyped course. All you have to do is let go of your internal rules, turn on your imagination and trust that all will be well. How about it, are you game?