Do You Ever Slow Down?

Eric Tonningsen's Awakening to Awareness

“There is more to life than increasing its speed.” ~ Mohandas Gandhi

I was once a Type-A, uber-competitive, hyper-driven professional. It brought me power, money, success, titles, global travel, and vast corporate responsibilities. It also almost claimed my life, physically, spiritually and emotionally. To this day, I am grateful that I finally took action on my misalignment.

Tell me otherwise: Our lives have become increasingly fast-paced, and the effort to keep up often occupies all of our time and attention. We are so busy rushing from point A to point B that we forget to enjoy the proverbial ride. We race to the store without noticing the leaves on the trees or clouds in the skies (and the clouds in New Mexico are unrivaled). At the end of a day filled with this kind of frantic pace, we may begin to wonder what it is we do all these things…

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No Pain…No Gain

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Over the past few months, I’ve run into the terms “toxic relationships” and “healthy relationships”.  They became prominent to me because I’ve been struggling with the question of what a healthy relationship is due to my life being turned upside-down recently.

Over the years, I’ve cultivated what I thought were healthy relationships and unfortunately, I am slowly discovering that many of the relationships I have with people are indeed toxic.  I couldn’t help but think, “I’m intelligent enough to spot whatever is not good for me.”  I felt foolish and dumb for a while.  After some time passed and allowing myself to step back and observe interactions among people, I came to see that no one can see past their own nose until some event reaches up and slaps them in the face.  I had such an event and it shook me out of my own wallowing self-commiseration.  Once I saw the big picture, it was like a ton of bricks hitting me from all sides and naturally, I went down…

On the flip side…I came back up and with a new perspective on myself and my own interactions with others.  I realized that by being toxic to myself, I attracted toxic relationships with others.  So, I set out to learn as much as possible about how to change that pattern.  I read through gazillions of self-help books, went to see a therapist, and worked with a life coach.  Naturally, overloading myself with new information only resulted in my mind fizzling out and experiencing huge regressions over minor events.  After countless days and nights of beating the **** out of myself, I realized that I was progressing and really absorbing all that life has to offer, including all those hurts and pain.  How did I come to this conclusion?

Well, I heard someone say the other day that the only way to experience true growth was to get out of my comfort zone.  At that moment, I took full satisfaction in knowing that I was progressing along because I was experiencing all that life had to offer.  I knowingly put myself through the grind because I needed to feel alive again.  It was through this that I came to see the types of relationships I had cultivated because of my fear to climb out of that warm and secure box I called my life.  This was made possible because I willingly put myself out there and opened up which was in contrast to my old shut-in life filled with safe, secure, and boring ways of staying
comfortable.  I put myself out there by slowly removing myself from old, stale toxic friendships and forging new friendships with confident and stimulating people who are able to reciprocate.  Even as I was racked with withdrawal symptoms from old relationships, I still found myself very enriched by the new relations and being open without a worry.  By discovering more healthy friendships and loving myself more, I found that I had the capability to forgive those who are toxic because I realize that they suffer too.

That brings me to the quote, “No pain, no gain.”  It is a tired old cliche yet rings true! With that in mind, I shall endeavor to continue my journey to discover the treasures that comes forth out of healthy interactions with people and staying true to myself.

Reflections of Responsibility…

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Over the last few days, I’ve reflected about responsibility and what it is.  All my life, I always felt compelled to be “responsible”.  At parties and social events, I would feel “responsible” to be politically correct.  I would feel “responsible” to be the peacemaker.  I would feel “responsible” to do and say the right things.  I would act according to what I think others would approve of or to some unspoken moral and societal code.

Interestingly enough, the more I feel compelled to do so, the more I feel guilty whenever I behave in a way that I feel is not “responsible”.  This has served as a life-long conflict for me.  Why?  I have natural urges and the need to do what satisfies me.  Unfortunately, I’ve put others’ satisfaction before my own, thus creating the illusion of being “responsible”.  That in itself is the total antithesis of the true definition of “responsibility”.  Once I realized that, I took a step back and decided to look at the definition of “responsibility”.

According to the www.thefreedictionary.com, the definition of responsibility is:

1. the state, fact, or quality of being responsible.

2. an instance of being responsible: The responsibility for this mess is yours!

3. a particular burden of obligation upon one who is responsible: the responsibilities of authority.

4. a person or thing for which one is responsible.

At quick glance, the definitions are correct.  However, upon closer scrutiny, I noticed that it is actually quite vague and leaves interpretation wide open to the whims of my own mind.   Remember, the mind has the ability to construct meaning from circumstances and events.  Therefore, if I was taught a certain way to behave and my mind was trained to think a certain way that is tied to my circumstances as opposed to one who was trained to think a different way, the result would be two different interpretations of responsibility.

It is notable that in definition #3, it states “a particular burden of obligation upon one who is responsible”.  This is the very definition that has led me astray on many occasions.  In situations where I felt circumstances were beyond my control, the only way I could regain control was by being proper and responsible to a degree that I would forget how to have fun, to let loose, or to just be.  I would feel compelled to take on the burdens of others in order to quell my fear of losing control.  In essence, my ego would take over out of fear.

With that in mind, I now see that being “responsible” is a matter of perception.  It is just simply a concept of finishing tasks that you need to do, and to take care of yourself at all times.  It does not warrant for us to take on the burdens of others when they are not willing to own up to their actions especially in situations when our egos takes over out of fear.  This is illustrated in two examples below:

First example:  I am at a meeting and involved in an intense discussion about a sensitive topic.  Most of us are able to discuss the matter at hand without getting emotionally involved.  However, there are a couple of participants who constantly go on the defensive and would become snappish. This would result in my becoming nervous (out of fear of confrontations) and I would feel compelled to focus on those two and try to keep the situation from becoming volatile and feel the need to take responsibility for their behavior by attempting to correct them or placate them.  This is an example of my taking on an unnecessary burden and “owning” the behavior of the two people.  Skewed, isn’t it?

Second example:  I am involved with a team planning a long-term project and one member is constantly resistant and angry.  The member would constantly shoot down everyone else’s ideas and claim that there was no support at all and so on.  The result was the atmosphere would become instantly toxic the minute that member walked in.  The team recognized this behavior and knew the member was acting in “survival mode” and chose not to engage the negative team member and as a result, the member started to realize she was alone in her objections and slowly changed over to the team’s positive perspective.  In this example, no one would “own” that team member’s behavior and stayed on point with the tasks, resulting in reduced attention to the negativity.  Now, that is being responsible because the team members chose to take on the burden of finishing tasks related with the project instead of taking on the burden of the toxic member’s feelings and resistance and allowing an “ego war” to happen.

Go out there and be…

Respectful

Energetic

Self-Reliant

Productive

Open-minded

Neutral

Strong

Introspective

Back-boned

Loving

Effective

Free Will – Do We Truly Have This?

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I have pondered the question of true free will for so long…It all started when I dabbled briefly in fundamental Christianity.  I was shown that God allows us to have free will as so clearly portrayed in the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  Naturally, it came as a paradox to me because I am being told that God created us in His image implying that we all should behave as He should.  Yet, we are also being told that we have free will and choice.  After years of self-debating that question and constant questioning and seeking from many sources, I came up with this:

We do indeed have free will in our choices and how we live our lives.  Unfortunately, many of us function under the idea that we do not have choices. Why is that?  This little story shall exemplify this concept:  One morning, I get up late because my alarm did not go off (argh).  I tell myself…I have no choice but to skip breakfast and I go straight to shower.  I run about breathlessly, getting ready for work, and hop in my car.  I then tell myself I have no choice but to take the shortest route and speed to work in order to make it on time to a so-called important meeting.  I do so and then I get pulled over by a cop for speeding.   Slowly, I get agitated and stressed and tell myself, Why me?  I arrive at work out of breath and fly into the meeting saying “Sorry…alarm did not go off and had no choice but to hurry and ended up getting a ticket for speeding…blah blah.”  Then the rest of the day is crammed with back to back meetings and constant movement with no break.  5:30pm comes around and it is normally my dinner break…I tell myself, “I have no choice but to skip dinner because I am so behind on my workload”.  I plow on through my piles of to-do lists, emails, brief meetings with staff.  I finally leave at 9pm after a 12 hour work day and tell myself, “This day was out of control and I had no choices but to do what I had to do.”  I plop down in my armchair and instantly fall asleep, dead tired, and dream about lists of tasks to complete flying at me, broken alarm clocks mocking me, and so on….

I’m sure each one of us have had those types of days.  One day, I learned that I indeed do have choices every minute of each day.  I chose to let circumstances bind me and based my actions on my choices.  Once I recognized that, I was able to change my perception and ended up making better choices.  In essence, the most important choice we face everyday is whether we allow circumstances to dictate how we behave or react.

Free will…yes, we truly do have this if we simply allow ourselves to step out of the mentality that we are controlled by our circumstances.  Free will…yes, we truly do have this if we stop and listen to ourselves.

How can we exercise our free will? Look at how we react and see how our minds react to circumstances.  Our emotions are a wonderful tool, indeed.  They give us direct feedback of what we need or are missing.  If we are feeling angry, then it is telling us that our psyche is struggling to connect to our circumstances and are limited by our current beliefs or our boundaries have been violated.  If we are sad, then it is telling us we are grasping too hard on something and it’s time to let go.  If we are obsessive, then it is telling us we are not willing to let go and our beliefs may need re-assessing.

In order to free ourselves from our circumstances and make choices that allow us to enjoy life to the fullest, we need to explore within ourselves and discover what holds us back.  In this, I discovered that each and every one of us has a unique way of perceiving the world through our experiences.  Once I recognized what my perceptions were, I truly realized that we are NOT bound to our circumstances and we have a whole plethora of choices and possibilities at our disposal!

To learn more about freeing yourself from circumstances and reclaiming your free will, I  recommend the excellent “Beyond Circumstances” workshop provided by Belanie Dishong of Live At Choice, LLC.  For further information, go to:  www.liveatchoice.com.  I have worked closely with her over the last few months and indeed found my life transformed on a deep level and gained a deeper understanding of my life purpose.  I no longer feel a prisoner to my circumstances and find myself enjoying life and finding the good things regardless of what happens!

Life: A Matter of Personal Choices

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Choices.  We face so many daily.  Big and small choices.  Even those seemingly inconsequential matters that require decisions.

I’ve meditated a lot about the word choice.  It rolls off our tongues easily and we throw it about but do we really understand the implications behind the word itself in its noun form?  According to the Oxford dictionary online, the definition goes like this:

noun

  • an act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities:the choice between good and evil
  •  the right or ability to make, or possibility of making, such a selection:I had to do it, I had no choice
  •  a range of possibilities from which one or more may be selected:you can have a sofa made to order in a choice of over forty fabrics
  •  a course of action, thing, or person that is selected or decided upon:this CD drive is the perfect choice for your computer

Phrases:  By choice:  of one’s own volition.

Based on the above, it becomes clear that we all do have choices and we have the free will to do so.  As we can see, living “by choice” means we make decisions or take actions on our own volition.  So, no one twists our arms to make choices…Interestingly enough, we do often feel under pressure to make the right choices.  Where does the pressure originate from?  Other people?  Circumstances? Societal codes?  Belief systems?  I’ve had quite some time to ponder that question and the answer is simple…the pressure comes from within ourselves.  How does that happen?   As we all know, humans yearn for connections with each other.  Out of that yearning comes the need to construct specific rules of behavior and expectations for ourselves that we impose on others.  The result is a complex web that we navigate through.  Unfortunately, the web is sticky and the sticky part represents the judgmental nature in us that comes from our expectations, thus trapping us in our own rut of self-serving consciousness.
By having choices, we have the freedom to do what serves us best.  Unfortunately, there is a flip side to this:  we also have the freedom to be trapped in that web.  It may seem Herculean to break away from the web and be free of the expectations and judgments.  I can say this with certainty because I have struggled with this for most of my adult life and am only just now coming to understand that I am the only one responsible for the choices I make in my life despite the circumstances.  The most difficult obstacle that many of us are afraid to overcome is how we perceive what others think of our choices.  I shall use a short story below to illustrate this point.
Mike is married to Joan, a wonderful woman.  To the world, they represent the idyllic couple and behave appropriately and observe all the “rules” of conduct expected of a married couple.  Upon closer scrutiny, friends discover that Mike and Joan have a poly-amorous relationship and both are consenting to it along with their poly-amorous partners.  Naturally, as expected, their friends are in shock and whispers ripple among them…”Why would they do that kind of thing?….They seem so perfect for each other…If it were me, that would be so WRONG!…Something must be wrong with Mike for Joan to consent to this….Joan must be going through something that causes Mike to want to be with other women…God intended for one man and woman to be together…”  And so it goes….
This is just an example out of many….only goes to represent how people react to situations that are different from the ones they are in.  The question is, why do we spend so much energy and time worrying about the choices other people make when we could be using that for ourselves and focusing on improving the quality of our lives? Why is it so difficult for us to accept that each and every one of us has choices and personal tastes that are unique to ourselves?   Is it out of fear of rejection?  Fear of judgment?
As I said earlier, humans yearn for acceptance and this becomes a basis from which we develop our thought processes and make our choices from there.  We spend most of our lives making choices based on what we assume others think is right for us.  That is like living by remote control with our minds.  Scary, isn’t it?
Now, imagine a world in which we could be free to make choices for ourselves that suits our lifestyles, dreams, and desires without a thought to what others think of it?  Awesome, isn’t it?  Imagine living just for YOURSELF!   It is true that once we start to do that, we will attract others who are like ourselves and experience greater rewards…
As I have challenged myself every day, I challenge you to do something for yourself each day no matter how big or small.  Start living for yourself and enjoy the wonderful benefits that come!

Forgetfulness: Mental Mirror of Emotional State

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Forgetfulness. Everyone has it. Older people call it “senior moments”. Rest of us brush it away as one of those occurrences we’d rather forget about. Or some of us would create scenes in our heads of being in a doctor’s office receiving news that there was something wrong with our brains.  And so on…

I occasionally experience moments where I would walk towards an area and then suddenly stop and gasp with realization I could not remember what I needed to do…frozen in step, I rack my tired little brain trying to find that little byte of memory that would remind me of my purpose in walking to that area.  Often that little exercise would be futile…

Or what about those times where I misplace those car keys?  Why did I have to break from my routine of putting my keys on the bureau and decide to put them in an odd place?  (One time I put my keys in the bathroom after a rush to the toilet due to a long drive home – you guessed it, I turned the house upside down for 30 minutes before remembering I left them in the bathroom).

Even better, I am in the middle of a wonderful story and I keep going off on tangents just to give a “side story” to my main story and eventually lose my place in the main story only to have the story trail off without an ending?

Does that mean I have a brain tumor?  Does that mean I may possibly have early onset dementia even though I’m at a ripe young age of 40?  Could it be that I just lost the ability to remember all those wonderful little tasks without having to rely on a task list? Naw…there is a perfectly legible explanation for those episodes.

We all experience those episodes and I view this as an opportunity to take a time-out from the daily routine and enjoy those little things in life that brings you joy.  In my opinion, becoming forgetfulness is a sign of an overloaded brain and an overloaded life.  Stop overdoing. Start simplifying.

“Give me the opportunity in life to
never be forgetful any more, where
all that I need to remember is
brought forth into my mind – just
when I need it the most.” –
 Eleesha

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Welcome!

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I established this site with the sole purpose of bringing different perspectives into play and to create an environment in which the very idea of becoming enlightened is fostered.   I have lived through life constantly wondering what the true meaning of life is.  That is something everyone ponders from time to time.  Sure, I could go into the age-old cliches such as how our tiny human lives compare to grains of sand in time.   That is not the point of this post.  I have been exposed to oh so many different ways of thinking that at times, my head would be spinning from the extreme diversity of thought such as that of Buddhism on one end of spectrum as compared to fundamentalism on the other end.  The question many of us tend to hold when learning of such perspectives is, “Is this the right or true path for me?”.  In trying to fit myself into the perfect mold, I would discover to my dismay that I wasn’t perfect or that the new thought path didn’t quite suit me.  After hundreds of tries, I threw up my arms in futility and asked, “Is there such a thing as THE TRUE PATH?” Because I so desired to be the picture of success,  I embarked on a journey and discovered this:

There is NO such TRUE PATH as advertised anywhere!  We buy into those silly commercials that tell you your life will be wonderful if you bought this or that only to discover that the mere act of trying to get the object you purchased to work just “As Seen On Television” doesn’t work!  That’s pretty much similar to trying out beliefs or trying to live one’s life according to those convincing commercials or salesmen who say that you shall be transformed after 6 hours of audiotapes or after 2 days of workshop.  Imagine trying to get yourself to fit into a size 6 dress from a size 12 dress after two days of dieting! Can you imagine yourself wearing the shoes of another that doesn’t fit you and walking long distances in those?  Well, that comes to my point:  The only true path comes from within yourself.  No one can tell you what is best for you.  No one can tell you what to buy into.  However,  there are methods of living/thinking that are very useful and enlightening as long as time is granted to allow these to permeate your consciousness and be processed.  It is perfectly fine to question everything that you find to be different from your own thoughts. More importantly, DO question your own thoughts and beliefs!  Do not buy blindly into a new things or concept just because there are glitzy advertisements or clever salesmen hawking their products!  Follow your heart and intuition.  There is no ONE right path for everyone.  It’s all dependent on YOU and what YOU desire out of life.   As Jack Canfield in “The Success Principles” says: “Everyone has intuition – it’s just a matter of developing it…We’ve all experienced…intuition.  The trick is to learn how to tap into it at will to achieve greater levels of success.”

It is natural that we want to have significant lives that are meaningful and mean something to ourselves.  That comes from within ourselves, not from without.  I leave you with this question:  Have we been stripped of our ability to trust in ourselves and our own intuition that we are willing to sell ourselves so that we can live our lives out according to what we think others want of us?  Are we Americans so enamored with the “American Dream” that we lost our true purpose to live as we will, according to OUR own purposes?

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