“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.” ~Lao Tzu
I recently took seven weeks off of work and rented a place in Laguna Beach.
The trip was meant to be a relaxing vacation and possibly a change of residence; it turned out to be a wakeup call.
I started the trip out by going on my first date since 2010. The pollen count was high, and my sinuses were none too happy. I’m still not sure if it was being on a date or the medication that triggered so much anxiety; maybe it was a combination of both.
Later that evening, as I replayed the day in my mind, old insecurities came to the surface. That feeling of not being good enough engulfed my being.
I just smiled, shook my head, and thought to myself, “Really? Does this still ring true for you?”
The answer was no. But it still came up, so I had to explore it further. So I spent the next two and a half weeks in a battle with the Southern California Pollen Count and my inner self-worth issues.
Most of my life had been controlled by an underlying sense of anxiety.
In my teen years and throughout most of my twenties, I numbed it with drugs and alcohol. In 2005, after I celebrated my first year of sobriety, I started to really explore this feeling. I signed up for hundreds of newsletters, spent many hours in the Dana Point Library, and purchased over 100 books that year alone.
I read, listened, and put into practice anything that came across my path.
The movie “The Secret” spoke to part of me, and books from Deepak Chopra, Ester and Jerry Hicks, and countless others made me temporarily feel as if it were going to be okay.
I wanted so badly to just be happy, to be able to really look into the mirror and like what I saw.
By April 2009, I thought I had it all figured out. My goal-setting exercises were bringing my desires to fruition, my body was as healthy as it has ever been, and my love life was what I had always dreamed it would be.
A few months later it all fell apart. I found myself again back to square one. It didn’t make sense and all I wanted was to know was: What part of this equation was missing?
My mission to figure it out was renewed, and the way my life has unfolded since has been a long, strange trip indeed.
Looking back at my self-education is partially humorous and equally frustrating.
I now find it humorous that I worked so hard to “fix” something that wasn’t actually broken.
I find it a bit frustrating to have consumed so much information that perpetuated this seemingly endless cycle of self-help stupidity.
Two very popular self-help ideals come to my mind.
1. “You just have to be positive.”
This may be worst thing you can say to someone who is depressed and sees no way out of it.
You read books on “how to attract everything you ever want in life.” You understand that positive thinking leads to positive results. Just when you start making progress, something happens and you feel frustrated or angry.
You find yourself upset at yourself for being upset. You think, “Why can’t I just be happy? What’s wrong with me?” The depression deepens.
Listen, you don’t have to be positive all the time.
It’s okay if you get upset or don’t feel happy every waking moment.
Before you can cultivate a positive mindset, you must first honor where you are and the journey that brought you here. Our general outlook on life is a mixture of genetics and experience. Some reactions are very deeply engrained and will take a concentrated effort over time to change.
You’re not broken if you can’t see the silver lining, which is why this next bit of wisdom needs another look.
2. “Just fake it until you make it.”
It’s a catchy saying, but horrible advice.
The feelings you have present in your life are valid. The act of faking it is an act of denial, which can have some really negative effects on your psyche.
You can’t fake your way out of sadness and depression.
You can put on a happy face, and to some degree it will change your mood. But, during those times when you take away distractions and you have to sit alone with yourself, the act of faking it will make you feel like you’re crawling out of your own skin.
I didn’t realize that faking it perpetuated anxiety.
Being really comfortable with myself didn’t actually happen until I began to just sit still on a regular basis.
At first it was overwhelming; anxiety turned to frustration, to anger and rage, and finally to shame. I felt cracked wide open, exposed and raw.
The feeling really sucked and it lasted for almost six months.
But I sat with it. I owned it, and in that space of raw vulnerability I stopped faking it. For the first time in my life it felt okay to be me.
There is a real power in authenticity.
It is an act of love to honor where you are right now.
From my experience with sitting in my own stuff came my life as a writer. My first book followed and my newsletter audience grew.
Yet, with all that I’ve studied and think I know I still found myself experiencing that old worn out feeling of “you’re just not ever going to be enough.”
So, how did I find myself in Laguna Beach overwhelmed and feeling less than worthy of love and affection?
Well, that was actually pretty easy for me to discover. You see, I’m an avid note taker and list maker. It only took a few hours to sort through my 2012 notes to see that I had only half been walking my talk.
My practice of meditation had taken a backseat to my “trying to achieve things.”
My practice of mindfulness had eroded; evening meals were consumed along with DVDs and Facebook noise-feeds.
Three months of sunsets went unseen.
My reverence for the present moment had once again been lost while my mind searched for fulfillment in the future; the result of which was the rise of my existential anxiety.
A Simple Plan to Reconnect with Your Authentic Self
- Still your body and mind. Commit to just five minutes of meditation and build your practice from there.
- Maintain focused attention on your breathing and honor the task at hand.
- Witness your reactions to get to the core reasons behind your emotional response.
- Take time each evening to write down little moments of gratitude, love, and awe that happened throughout your day.
- Remind yourself that you have nowhere else to be other than where you are right now.
From my experience thus far the first part of the plan is the most powerful; science backs up that claim. That’s why I am building my daily sitting meditation.
My dream is to see more authenticity in this world.
My belief is that this will lead to more compassion, which in turn will lead to more change.
How about you? Want to change the world too?
Then please join me by spending just a little bit of time doing absolutely nothing, every day for the rest of your life.
Who’s in!? Tell me you’re with me!
Photo by sierragoddess