Escaping vs Embracing

life lessons, mental health, spirituality

 

Most of us are familiar with that feeling of living for the weekend in order to turn our back on the demanding days that have passed or craving an impending festival in order to truly let loose and shake off the stress of modern living. This idea has lead me to question the relationship that we have with escaping our daily routine. Could it be that we are damaging our attempts at conscious living, in order to simply blow off steam? Is there such thing as conscious escapism?

It can be argued that escapism is to seek relief from unpleasant realities, often through entertainment or fantasy. According to Longeway, escapism becomes damaging once the individual avoids awareness of the ‘issues’ or beliefs at hand. Escapism through entertainment has an intention to draw us away from our everyday predicaments. There is a danger that we can get caught up in the fantasy of our life being better than it really is (which could be a paradox considering it is a concept based on our own interpretation and understanding). As human beings, we often escape in different ways dependent on our personal interests. For example: reading, listening to music, completing a crossword or puzzle, going on vacation, doing daily yoga, all the way to becoming comatose in front of the television, playing computer games and taking drugs. Who is to say, that one is more damaging than the other if the same purpose is being fulfilled?

Escapism is not inherently negative. The perception however, is negative. This is ironic considering most of us indulge in escapist behavior on a regular basis. Longeway argues that if we are of course to deny that something is true (health issues for example), escapism can be damaging and deceiving. Thus, a little scale becomes visible. If we don’t fool ourselves into avoiding confronting issues and we do not deny something is there, then we can move towards acknowledgement of what lies within us – becoming more conscious. There are logical reasons why one may want to escape, but it is important to remind oneself not to use escape as a coping mechanism. Here an unhealthy habit can develop. But, it does seem logical and healthy to drop out every now and then – like a system re-boot.

Let’s place yoga into the spotlight – my favourite hobby when I need to float to a happy cloud, soaring above my anxious thoughts. The sensation that I experience after yoga is very tranquil and calm, to the point where most things don’t really matter in the moments that follow. Each time I plan a class, I feel a little tingle in my belly and this continues on until I step on the mat – I am immediately transported into another zone. I crave this feeling and I follow it around. For me, yoga and meditation is certainly a form of escape. However, when practicing, we are continuously encouraged to be as present and conscious as possible. Furthermore, if we have pain, issues or problems, rather than labeling them, we are encouraged to acknowledge them and continue on – calming confronting what is occurring. When practicing, we are taught not to deny emotions but to embrace them whatever they may be and however they may arise. Thus, the whole time that we are escaping during yoga, we are holding the hand of our demons and essentially confronting them.

If we then analyse escapism through taking drugs, the process can alternate and present varying benefits compared to taking a yoga class, but the underlying importance is still on balance. Perhaps escapism through taking drugs could lead you further away from confronting what it is that you are indeed temporality running from – but who is to say that this is detrimental or wrong?

 Whilst too much of this fleeing behavior can lead you away from significant personal goals or even hinder your productivity, not enough can result in excessive levels of stress and even burn out. Ultimately, escapism provides your brain with the coping skills for understanding heavy emotions and pressured situations – without it, we would likely crumble. Thus, it is crucial to think of escapism as an activity that is neither positive or negative but as an activity that requires monitoring and careful practice. Perhaps the use of the word is also outdated and if we simply re-label it to ‘re-fueling’, ‘re-charging’ or ‘de-compressing’, our whole outlook could be transported to an alternative space.

 

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Meditation: A very continuous journey on the road to somewhere

life lessons, mental health, spirituality

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It’s been around 5/6 weeks since I set myself the task of meditating every single day. My key goal was to commit myself to actively participating in something that was only beneficial for me, for at least 5 minutes a day. This seems painfully straight forward, but you’ll be surprised at how difficult it is to withdraw from your surroundings for 5 simple minutes. In these moments when I momentarily stepped away from my daily doings, I temporarily experienced an increase in my anxiety – I had to step back from ‘keeping life in check’ for those moments when I was meditating. I was convinced that I would lose control of my reality if I wasn’t constantly monitoring what was occurring around me. Eventually, I made it a forceful priority to take that step back, to see what happened if I did indeed lose control. After returning to my life following the short 5 minute break, I was of course pleasantly surprised to see everything still in its place around me.

Prior to mediation, my mind was awash with too many stimuli, to the point where I felt very disconnected with myself and my soul purpose on this planet. My anxiety was at an all time high and to say that I felt like a stranger to myself would be considerably apt. The thing that concerned me now that I reflect on it, was how well I managed to hide my true self from those with whom I interacted with on a daily basis – I had become a pro at having two personas. To me, it even felt like a strength if I was able to hide how chaotic my thoughts really were.

Once I started becoming familiar with the habit of meditating, I scouted the help of an app – Insight Timer. At first, I was resilient in allowing technology to help with something that I considered to be so delicate and pure. I felt I would be insulting the practice if I couldn’t do it from the authenticity of my heart alone. However, I shortly realised that there is no point in pretending to be a master of a trade when you have just started gathering the tools. Especially with meditation, there is no one to fool but yourself, you may as well start getting brutally honest – otherwise you will never grow.  Not surprisingly, the app enabled me to stay on track, as well as pinpoint the topic of stress for that day – which is very helpful when you are already feeling so ungrounded. Plus, a guiding voice can feel ever so supporting and slightly more elevating than when you are doing it alone.

So, what have I gained?

The beautiful thing about about mediation is that it can provide you with a realistic feeling of optimism, one you can trust. The feeling of peace that we often experience after meditating, comes from our inner selves – from us and nothing else – that is especially powerful.  It is up to us and only us, to maintain that snippet of an uplifting sensation and we must do this by continuing to practice. For sufferers of mental illness, the feeling of powerlessness is an all too familiar one. Thus, meditation is unique because it provides you with the instruments to create your own strength and contribute to the start of your own healing.

Meditation has not healed me and I believe that due to the mechanics of my brain, I never shall be completely ‘healed’ – but it is certainly playing an increasingly important role in my life – releasing internal pressure when I am unable to recognise how to do so myself.

If I was to summarise one thing that mediation has provided me with, it would be an outlet. An outlet for a very continuous journey, on the road to somewhere.  The effects are subtle and gentle, but they are noticeable. That is enough for me to keep going, to keep taking those moments, to ground myself and come home to myself – even if only for a split second.

 

Meditation: From Deflation to Elation

life lessons, mental health, Uncategorized

Thankfully, nowadays my generation seem to have an increasing amount of confidence and curiosity when it comes to openly discussing the importance of a sane & satisfied mind. This ease in discussing mental health, has been hugely helped along by a magnificent platform  – the World Wide Web. I am not ignorant to its harmful potential, but at the same time, the internet has allowed for the opening of a new dimension, providing a platform where young people feel more inclined to discuss their mental health with individuals who are simply, more able to empathise with them. I think that’s bloody brilliant. Gradually, this discussion has allowed for the stigma of mental health to be softened and weakened.

I would label myself as a bit of a holistic individual who enjoys dabbling in the natural, more gentle medical wonders. After doping up on prescription medication and spending a 12 month period wondering why I hadn’t cried once, I soon discovered that the authentic emotions were more valuable to my personal growth and overall enjoyment of life – even if they seem to be more confronting and cutting. If we don’t learn to deal with these emotions, then how are we dealing? We are not. Sometimes, it’s simply more beneficial, if we remove the guys wearing white coats, momentarily replacing them for a better, more relatable support network – online and offline.

I recently read an article written by a young woman who wanted to test the power of meditation on her skin (she often broke out in stress induced moments). After a month, her skin had slightly increased in colouring and its clearness, but her remarks on her mental behaviours, where what intrigued me. I am someone who is constantly plagued by worry – professionals label it as generalised anxiety disorder (but I am challenging this uninventive stamp), so I thought this mediation ‘challenge’ would be perfect for me and my ever wandering, self sabotaging mind.

I’ll begin by meditating once a day for 5 minutes, increasing the duration, weekly. Meditation in the morning is my preferred choice due to the fact that you are naturally in a more calm headspace at this point of the day, plus it is easier to find 5 minutes at the beginning of your day without distraction and it starts your day off on a great foot! I’ve read and heard so much about this wonder method, that I am curious to explore the benefits – if any.

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Photo credit: Pintrest

 

Who is leading, you or I?

life lessons, relationships

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Do you and your partner have a joint bank account, or are your finances separate?‘, my father asked me recently. ‘No, we have separate accounts and share what is necessary for the house’ I replied. It would not be dramatic to say my father pretty much recoiled in shock at my response. Although I am 24 and happily living with my partner, I do not feel it is necessary or appropriate to (financially) share our entire lives, just yet. However this discussion across two different generations lead me to question whether our ‘modern set up’ was helping to maintain a potential wall of separation.

Throughout adolescence and young adulthood, the discovery of self-indentity is so heavily stressed, that if you are lucky enough not to ‘discover yourself’ straight away, you may initially feel that something is wrong. I say lucky as I truly believe that this is a fortunate occurrence. Your mind’s refusal to open up to who you are prematurely, can prove to be quite a blessing as your lengthy journey to self discovery becomes testing yet strangely fulfilling. You may experiment with different music genres, struggling to find your style. Or perhaps you may spend your teen years nervously attending parties and convincing yourself that you enjoyed every one. Maybe you’ve found yourself accompanied by a group of good friends and suddenly felt that the conversation was no longer stimulating in any shape or form. For me, it was the revelation that I was my happiest when alone – it was then that I understood the definition of ‘introvert’ and how to look after my sense of self. The reward of beginning to appreciate who you ‘are’, is such a huge compensation for the trying journey that you’ve embarked on from a young age. After all, when something comes easily to us, it doesn’t feel as satisfying once we have it in our possession.

When it comes to maintaining personal identity in romantic relationships, I am a huge advocate. Maintaining your independence and self reliance whilst in a relationship, is crucial so one doesn’t lose sight of themselves. Thanks to a development in modern thinking, it is now perfectly acceptable to live with a partner, yet still keep your lives financially separate. After all, nothing is forever, and I think it is safe and sensible to live with this in mind. However, lately I start to question whether this lack of ability to ‘give yourself up’ to someone else can consequently shut people out.

Can sacrificing some elements of your independence mean throwing out pieces of yourself? Furthermore, Can one’s tenacious independence give off a sense of ‘I don’t need anyone else’? Sure, it is all about balance, but where do we draw the line between self-protection and self-harm? I seem to be playing Devil’s Advocate with myself here. For now, my conclusion is that you should simply go with the happiness of your gut. If it feels good, then perhaps it’s just…good.

 

 

 

I am, we are.

life lessons, spirituality, writing

I am standing here In the dark. It is raining and the ground feebly trembles beneath me as a gentle storm appears to brew. The rain catches the edges of my hair, dampening it and darkening the tips in colour. My toes are slowly numbing and I wiggle them in anticipation of  being amongst the warmth of the tram that was due to arrive. The roads are wet and deserted and civilisation represents a scene from a 4am winters morning. I watch nervously as the time ticks past 8:45pm and my intention to reach home in good time gradually becomes threatened. There is no sign of the tram and I gaze towards the lady stood next to me, for reassurance. Knowing that there is a human body of warmth, one that carries emotions and sensations just like my own, provides me with an immediate sensation of connection and familiarity – the wonderfully strange reassurance of the company from a stranger.
It was at this moment that something became evident to me – if I was alone, my thoughts would be pacing, restless. Yet the obvious fact of having another human next to me was proudly comforting. We are social begins who were made to love and explore, thus when we come into contact with others, albeit briefly, their energy force field can penetrate our own, leaving a mark. Every day that we travel from one place to another, we are encapsulated by an energy force field, projecting our subconscious emotions onto those who we pass.
Keeping your soul open, allows you to pick up the sensations of another, even when they are painstakingly attempting to create a particular projection to display to the world. Occasionally the raw, uncut, uncensored, often dark emotions can prevail, painfully communicating this to the person who is staring deeply into your eyes. Most of the time, these darkened, more brutal, perhaps even less attractive emotions, are ignored and layered under a phoney facade.

Every so often you may encounter another soul that touches yours, softly yet intensely connecting with yourself- like two interlaced hands. Suddenly you don’t feel so deserted, you don’t feel betrayed by your mind and any old, reoccurring hurt may gently soften. Your souls reverberate off of one another and in that moment, the notion of time is obsolete and you are reminded, we are one.

10 mantras to help you on your journey

life lessons, spirituality

I’ve made it my life long quest to understand what it is to be happy and content. This may sound incredibly simplistic to some, but to other individuals who have experienced suffering, pain, tortuous thoughts or behaviours and a general disequilibrium of self, happiness being their only goal, is a tough one. I also understand that happiness is not a permanent emotional state that we can camp out in, feeling no more or less than eternal bliss. It is a wonderful emotion that reminds us that the dark, sometimes suffocating days will subside for the warmth eventually – we just have to be open enough to allow it. 

I came across these beautiful mantras through The Mind Unleashed Org and wanted to share. 

1) Even when I am alone I will remember that I am connected to all

2) I will find my path by helping others with theirs

3) I will not compound negative thoughts with shame

4) I will accept everybody wherever they are

5) I will look for and see beauty around me

6) I will allow abundance and good to happen to me

7) I will treat my mind and body as they deserve to be treated

8) I will dwell only on thoughts and emotions that help me grow

9) I will seek truth and knowledge

10) I will laugh and contribute positive energy to the universe

The disease of settlement

life lessons, spirituality

It is incredibly powerful. It carefully infiltrates every cell in your body and your mind. When you finally realise and acknowledge its presence, it spreads even quicker. Now you search those dense forests far and wide for the antidote – anything to cure this demobilising disease. This demobilising disease of settlement. The same disease that cripples your mind from curiosity and wanderlust, from encouraging you to pull back the curtains on life, allowing you to expose what is really out there, because in the world of settlement, the curtains are constantly drawn. 

Those dense forests that you struggled through, tried to rob your desire for more, whilst presenting you with a barrier to your own true self that you believe you in fact created. 

This desire is not a cheap dream sold to us as a scam, it’s a true state of being that only we ourselves hold the key to. But this version of ourselves is rarely accessed without a disruption to our equilibrium. We must suffer occasionally in order to allow ourselves to understand our true selves. Polarity. 

It must be a challenge to avoid the disease of settlement of course, otherwise, without it, it would be completely contradictory, it would simply involve settling. 

The only thing that you can be sure of is your past

life lessons, spirituality, writing

The great thing about life is its ability to be fluid, constantly running like the flow of a river. Each day, something will be different, a new thing will be remembered and another forgotten, yet we still mentally beat ourselves up over the smallest detail which most people have probably forgotten. Why does the human brain act so unforgiving when life gives us so many chances?

This got me to thinking that perhaps this ability to forgive ourselves comes purely from within. It’s not our brain attempting to punish us, it’s ourselves who are doing the wrong doing. However, it’s so much easier said than done to ‘be nice to yourself’ or ‘avoid negative thoughts’, especially when your thought process has a natural likening to a darker side of thinking.

In recent times, I’ve really tried to engage my brain into other waves of thinking, bothering my thoughts with things that are much more meaningful and worthwhile. For instance, I’ve started reading about the moon’s pattern and its power on our minds and bodies. According to a book called ‘Moon Time’, by learning how the moon can inhibit or increase our moods, we can learn to live in a way that makes a lot of sense. I’m trying to give this a go but it does take time to seriously alter your path of thought. It’s intriguing to learn about the different zodiac phases and how these can effect different areas of your body.

I don’t know about you, but I am trying to make a conscious effort to not necessarily be a positive person (this can be exhausting all the time) but perhaps to learn to let the little things go. At the end of the day, with me it’s the little things that start off minuscule in size and snowball into something that appears catastrophic in my head.

So I guess it’s about letting go and moving forward because at the end of the day, the only thing we can be sure of is our past, the current and future holds infinite, uncertain amounts for us. I guess, this uncertainty is what we call life.