I think it is only fair to be honest and clear. . .
I was never much for daily affirmations. I never liked much of the wellness routines that I saw. As for mindfulness, the only thing that I was mindful of is that my life was not working out. I was unhappy and easily triggered. My thoughts were pre-wired to anxious or depressive thinking. I was quick to fight and quick to give up. Meanwhile, I was following a blueprint for a life that I had outgrown. Or, maybe the life I had was never the right plan.
Of course, this is where I struggled the most. I was always trying to adapt. I always looked to adjust myself so that I could fit. At the same time, I never knew why. I only knew that I needed this to change.
I was never one to settle down enough to connect with meditation. I had trouble calming down or sitting quietly. I found my thoughts were always intruding; furthermore, I did not have the ability to understand that this is something that improves with practice.
I heard people tell me to “Breathe.”
And I’d think to myself, “Really? Is that your helpful hint, Einstein?”
“Breathe? I’ll give you something to breathe about!”
Meanwhile, I knew that I needed something to help me change. I knew that I needed to find something that would help me stop the inner voice. I wanted to be happy, but how?
I kept hearing that the idea of mindfulness was the ability to be present and in the moment.
But how do you do this?
How could I do this when my thoughts were in a thousand directions. I had life to deal with. I had financial concerns. I had family problems and work problems. I was living a life that I never asked for. Plus, I had the basic “Dead-End” feeling as if to say this was it. This was the best that I could do.
This was the best I would ever be and above all, this was as good as life could be.
My interaction with the thought machine was damn near crippling. I questioned everything. I doubted people when they gave me compliments. I assumed they were all lies.
I never saw myself as successful. At best, I always saw myself as someone who’d get by. I’d never own a mansion or a yacht. I’d never have the trophy life but hey, this was me. To the best of my understanding, this would always be me, so long as I believed this was true.
I suppose this was true, especially then. I suppose that this was true because I believed this wholeheartedly and fully. As a result, I would always want.
I was always comparing. I always looked around at others, wishing that I had their talent or their life. But what about mine?
What about my life?
How is it possible to improve if all we do is look around at others and think about them or their advantages?
Fast forward to my life as it is now. I was on a line at a corporate event. I was speaking with a few people who worked at a large corporation. One of which was a young man who was somewhat charismatic. He had all the tools he needed to become great on his own. However, it didn’t seem as if he knew.
The conversation turned interesting when the young associate began to discuss the upper, executive levels. He talked about them as if there was an “Us” and a “Them.”
Although our surroundings are different, I could relate to his thinking. It wasn’t too long ago that I thought the same way. I could relate to the blame and the accusations. I could relate to the failure to look within. I failed to realize that whether I make it, succeed or stay as a mid-level employee, all of this is absolutely up to me.
I walked around for much of my life, pointing fingers, comparing and rationalizing the reasons why I never had my dreams. I looked everywhere but within. To me, this is exactly what mindfulness is. This is to understand self; this is to allow me to be me and think what I think without allowing this to change, alter or disregard truth. This is my way of stopping the internal persecutions so that I can reach my best potential.
I didn’t like the exercises that I’d seen at some of the different self-improvement groups. Even at my 12-step groups, which I had been familiar with for several years; still, there was something missing. There was something that failed to connect.
I couldn’t seem to solve the riddles in my head, nor could I believe that there was a practice out there that could help me improve. But worse, I thought this was my fault.
I bought into the system of thinking that I am as I am. I believed that who I am is because of a list of life-long diagnoses that either labeled me or limited me. Therefore, I never thought that I could be anything better than this: ME.
My life has changed since then. . .
I do not believe that I am limited. I have challenges. I have problems that I turned into possibilities and obstacles that I’ve turned into opportunities. But not without struggles.
This was not without pain or a learning curve. This was certainly not without disappointments and of course, this was not without critics or their criticisms that appeared to be hurtful.
I struggled with my challenges for acceptance and to be clear, I was uncomfortable being myself. I was someone else for so long that the idea of me being me was foreign. Placing me as a priority was strange. There was always something or someone else who went before me.
I forgot how to relax and just be myself. I didn’t have to be “On” anymore. I didn’t have to sell myself or promote myself in fear that I would not be included. Or worse; what if I was seen as less than or ill equipped to be included?
I spent too much time on my emotions that I forgot about the basic things like plans, goals and the strategy to achieve them.
This is why I come here to journal with you. I come here early in the morning, before I start my day. I do this because I have to alleviate my thinking.
My purpose is to create an outlet so that my thoughts would lose momentum. Or better yet, once I saw my thoughts on paper, it was clear to me that thoughts are just thoughts.
Thoughts are energy in need of either direction or discharge. I learned that the energy behind my thinking can either build or destroy me. So, I choose to come here – to this imaginary sanctuary. This is my chapel. This is my moment of meditation. I am at my best, here, with you.
There is no one around. No one to judge or hurt or impose. I have created this place in my mind, which is here and now.
This is where I come to fire off the thoughts that would otherwise hold me back.
I have found that this is what works for me.
Then again, I can think about my good friend Benny C. He plays the saxophone out in California. He tells me that life doesn’t always make sense. He says that he’s not always happy. But when it comes to music, he can blow his horn and make sense with music. He can close his eyes and just play. That’s when he’s happiest.
This is what works for Benny C.
I have friends who hike or walk. I have friends who train in different forms of martial arts. I have colleagues who go to the gym. Some do yoga. Either way, whether the outlet is physical or otherwise, the best way to clear our thinking is to find an outlet that works for us.
It has taken me decades to get here and hopefully my journey is only beginning. I understand that time is finite, which means that life is limited.
At the same time, I understand that I can do one of two things with my life. I can either give in to the patterns of my old thoughts or I can improve them and build the life that I’ve always wanted. As I see it, from now until the hour of my sunset, this will be me.
I have used my own brand of mindfulness to help free myself from my old thinking. I no longer struggle with depression. I live with it. I am no longer a victim of my anxiety but instead, I have grown to be a person who works through the challenge.
I use this time between us to help me understand the difference between the emotional brain and the strategic mind.
More importantly, I have used this method to replace thoughts with action. I have learned to disprove the doubts about myself. Furthermore, I have learned that in most cases, the only person who truly limited me was me.
But I don’t do that anymore.