One winter, I went camping with my friend Bob in the backcountry near Sequoia National Park. After spending the day slogging uphill through deep snow, we were exhausted but needed to make camp.
As the temperature rapidly dropped, Bob began shivering uncontrollably. He had poured out so much energy without refueling himself that he was sliding into hypothermia, the first stage of freezing to death. We hurried to set up the tent, get into our sleeping bags, light the stove, drink hot water, and eat hot food—and soon Bob’s teeth stopped chattering.
Luckily, we had just enough resilience to turn this misadventure around. Mental resources like calm, grit, and courage kept us going when we were hit with freezing temperatures. And these are the same types of resources we all can use to help us cope with and push through obstacles in our own lives.
But how do we cultivate them? The key is knowing how to turn passing experiences into lasting inner resources built into our brains. I teach this skill—called positive neuroplasticity—in my new book, Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness (written with Forrest Hanson).
Though it’s not a quick fix, you can change your brain for the better by working it the same way you would work a muscle. As you become more resilient in the face of life’s challenges, you move toward greater well-being and away from stress, worry, frustration, and hurt.
12 resources for resilience
Every human being has three basic needs—safety, satisfaction, and connection—that are grounded in our ancient evolutionary history. While our circumstances have changed enormously over the last 200,000 years, our brains have remained largely the same. The neural machinery that enabled our ancestors to satisfy their need for safety by finding shelter, for satisfaction by getting food, and for connection by bonding with others is alive in our brains today.
A particular need is best met by inner strengths that are matched to it—and these mental resources are what make us resilient.
To meet our need for safety, we can draw on:
- Compassion: Being sensitive to the burdens and suffering of others and ourselves, along with the desire to help with these if we can.
- Grit: Being doggedly tough and resourceful.
- Calm: Emotional balance and a sense of capability in the face of threats.
- Courage: Protecting and standing up for ourselves, including with others.
To meet our need for satisfaction, we can draw on:
- Mindfulness: Staying present in the moment as it is, rather than daydreaming, ruminating, or being distracted.
- Gratitude: Appreciating and feeling good about what already exists.
- Motivation: Pursuing opportunities in the face of challenges.
- Aspiration: Reaching for and achieving results that are important to us.
To meet our need for connection, we can draw on:
- Learning: Growing and developing, a process that allows us to cultivate all the other strengths.
- Confidence: Feeling a sense of being cared about, worthy, and self-assured.
- Intimacy: Being open to knowing and being known by others.
- Generosity: Giving to others through altruism, compassion, and forgiveness.
To start cultivating more resilience, pick a challenge in your life, and then consider the needs at stake in it, in terms of safety, satisfaction, and connection. You may be dealing with an external challenge, such as a relationship conflict, a stressful job, or a health problem. Or you could be facing an internal challenge, such as harsh self-criticism or feeling unwanted. Sometimes there’s a one-two punch. For example, tension with someone might be stirring up self-criticism inside you.
As you consider a major challenge and the need(s) at the heart of it, see if any of the twelve resources stand out. Ask yourself:
- What, if it were more present in my mind these days, would really help?
- What inner strengths could help me stay peaceful, content, and loving when I’m dealing with this challenge?
- If this challenge began in the past, what would have been really helpful to have experienced back then?
- Deep down, what experience do I still very much long for?
The answers to these questions point to which resources you might need to get through your challenge. Next, follow my HEAL framework (Have a beneficial experience, Enrich it, Absorb it, Link it) to cultivate this resource as a durable strength hardwired into your own brain.
1. Have a beneficial experience
Nearly everyone has many enjoyable or useful experiences each day, most of them mild and brief. For example, it feels good to put on a sweater if you’re chilled or feel friendly toward someone who is kind to you. But do you take notice of these experiences and highlight them in your awareness, or just pass by them and move on to the next thing?
The brain is continually remodeling itself as you learn from your experiences. When you repeatedly stimulate a “circuit” in the brain, you strengthen it. The brain operates so rapidly—with neurons routinely firing 5-50 times a second—that you can grow resilience and well-being many times a day, taking a minute or less each time.
To have beneficial experiences in the first place, it helps to be alert to the good facts around you—for example, fortunate circumstances, the beauty of nature, tasks you are completing, people who care about you, or your own talents and skills. You can even find the good in hard times, such as seeing the kindness of others as you go through a loss.
Besides simply noticing useful or pleasurable thoughts, feelings, or sensations that are already present in your awareness, you could create beneficial experiences, such as by getting some exercise (to help build the resource of grit) or deliberately recognizing your own good heart (for confidence). Or you could make something good happen in a relationship, such as by listening carefully to someone (for intimacy).
Over time, you can learn to directly evoke a positive experience, such as relaxing at will, calling up a sense of determination, or letting go of resentment. Because of experience-dependent neuroplasticity, repeatedly having and internalizing a particular experience in the past makes it easier and easier to evoke it in the present. It’s like being able to push a button on your inner jukebox and quickly get the song of a useful experience playing in your mind, since you’ve recorded it again and again.
To grow the inner resources that produce resilient well-being, we must turn experiences of these resources into physical changes in the nervous system. Otherwise, by definition there is no healing, no growth, no development. Having an experience is only the first stage in the process of learning (including the emotional, social, and somatic learning I’m focused on here). The necessary second stage is to install that experience as a lasting change of neural structure or function. This is the stage that is routinely overlooked in psychotherapy, coaching, human resources trainings, and informal personal efforts at healing and growth. Therefore, this stage is where we have the greatest opportunity for steepening the learning curves of ourselves and others.
We can increase the installation of our beneficial experiences in two kinds of ways. First, we can enrich them, making them prominent and sustained in awareness. Second, we can absorb them by heightening the sensitivity of the nervous system. Here’s how.
2. Enrich it
There are five ways to enrich an experience:
- Lengthen it. Stay with it for five, ten, or more seconds. The longer that neurons fire together, the more they tend to wire together. Protect the experience from distractions, focus on it, and come back to it if your mind wanders.
- Intensify it. Open to it and let it be big in your mind. Turn up the volume by breathing more fully or getting a little excited.
- Expand it. Notice other elements of the experience. For example, if you’re having a useful thought, look for related sensations or emotions.
- Freshen it. The brain is a novelty detector, designed to learn from what’s new or unexpected. Look for what’s interesting or surprising about an experience. Imagine that you are having it for the very first time.
- Value it. We learn from what is personally relevant. Be aware of why the experience is important to you, why it matters, and how it could help you.
Any one of these methods will increase the impact of an experience, and the more, the better. But you don’t have to use all of them every time. Often, you’ll simply stay with something for a breath or two while feeling it in your body, and then move on to the next experience.
3. Absorb it
You can increase the absorption of an experience in three ways:
- Intend to receive it. Consciously choose to take in the experience.
- Sense it sinking into you. You could imagine that the experience is like a warm, soothing balm or a jewel being placed in the treasure chest of your heart. Give over to it, allowing it to become a part of you.
- Reward yourself. Tune into whatever is pleasurable, reassuring, helpful, or hopeful about the experience. Doing this will tend to increase the activity of two neurotransmitter systems—dopamine and norepinephrine—that will flag the experience as a “keeper” for long-term storage.
This is not about holding on to experiences. The stream of consciousness is constantly changing, so trying to cling to anything in it is both doomed and painful. But you can gently encourage whatever is beneficial to arise and stick around and sink in—even as you are letting go of it. Happiness is like a beautiful wild animal watching from the edge of a forest. If you try to grab it, it will run away. But if you sit by your campfire and add some sticks to it, happiness will come to you, and stay.
4. Link it
In Linking, you are simply conscious of both “negative” and “positive” material at the same time. For example, off to the side of awareness could be old feelings of being left out and unwanted (perhaps from a rocky childhood) while in the foreground of awareness are feelings of being liked and included by people at work. The brain naturally associates things together, so if you keep the positive material more prominent and intense in awareness, it will tend to soothe, ease, and even gradually replace the negative material.
It helps to use positive material that is matched in some way to the negative material. To identify the specific psychological resources that will be especially effective with particular issues, I use the framework of the three basic human needs.
For example, challenges to safety are often indicated by a sense of anxiety, anger, powerlessness, or trauma—and a sense of calm or grit can really help with these. Challenges to our need for satisfaction are frequently experienced as frustration, disappointment, drivenness, addiction, blahness, or boredom. Feeling thankful, awestruck, or already contented are well-matched to these issues. Challenges to connection can be experienced as loneliness, resentment, or inadequacy—and feeling either caring or cared about is a wonderful relief, since love is love whether it is flowing in or out.
To link, you can start with something positive, such as the sense of a key resource. While having that experience, you can bring to mind some negative material for which it would be good medicine. Or, you can start with something that is uncomfortable, stressful, or harmful, such as a lot of anxiety before giving a presentation. After letting your feelings be as long as you like and then letting go of them, you find positive material to replace what you released, such as a sense of calm from knowing that people are actually interested in hearing what you have to say.
If you get pulled into the negative, drop it and focus only on the positive. And remember that this step is optional: If the challenge you’re facing is too powerful, you can grow mental resources for addressing it through the first three HEAL steps alone.
A core of happiness
Going on a dangerous hike, we know that we need to bring food and other supplies. The same is true when traveling the road of life. We need psychological supplies, such as courage and generosity, in our neural “backpack.”
To fill up your backpack, be mindful of which particular need—safety, satisfaction, or connection—is at stake in the challenges of your life. Deliberately call upon your inner strengths related to meeting that need. Then, as you experience mental resources, you can reinforce them in your nervous system.
As you grow these strengths and become more resilient, you will feel less anxiety and irritation, less disappointment and frustration, and less loneliness, hurt, and resentment. And when the waves of life come at you, you’ll meet them with more peace, contentment, and love in the core of your being.
The Dumpster: by Meredith Sabini
by Meredith Sabini, Dec 5, 2007
“Out of a dumpster. The tablecloth and those candleholders were in there, too.”
“You can’t be serious! Why would they be in a dumpster?” The shock in her voice carried across the room, and others looked up.
It’s common that women ask where something came from, especially if it’s an attractive article of clothing or new addition to the house. But to name a dumpster as the source of anything, especially an object of beauty, is completely unexpected.
My explanation created an atmosphere of mystery. The tale was so unlikely that later my friends joked that perhaps I’d dreamed it.
The red napkin, tablecloth, and candlesticks all belonged to Mrs. Cybulski (not her real name), a widow who had lived down the street as long as I’d been in the neighborhood, about twenty years.
Except to water her yard, she didn’t go out much. And when she did, she stayed near the house, as if the tether fastening her to life had retracted, pulling her toward an eternal home.
One day, I noticed a full-size dumpster in front of her bungalow. I assumed it was for yard debris or trash from some renovation project. But soon strangers appeared. On my daily walk, I could see them scurrying around the property. A boy about twelve sat on the porch, looking morose. His expression evoked a twinge of anxiety in me that perhaps Mrs. Cy had died.
I called over haltingly, “Is she gone?”
“Yeah, she passed.” It was hard to tell whether he was upset at losing kin or just sulky at having to help with an unpleasant task.
Through the large plate glass window I could see a woman balancing stemware between her fingers. A man about forty emerged from the back door, his arms piled high with what appeared to be bedding. I waited nearby to see if he was really going to deposit it in the dumpster.
Reluctant to intrude yet curious, I introduced myself. “Hi, I’m Meredith, a neighbor down the street. Sorry to hear about Mrs. Cybulski. Was she your grandmother?”
“Great aunt. Ninety-one. Had a good life,” he said, and proceeded towards the dumpster, our conversation apparently over. He placed the neatly folded sheets and blankets down carefully, as if this were now the room in which they would be kept. I’d seen dumpsters full of discards of all kinds, but never one like this, packed like a trunk for an ocean voyage.
I stood fixed to the spot, bewildered by the odd juxtaposition of sudden death and business-like calm. The nephew soon appeared with the next batch, which he stacked on top of the previous one in the same perfunctory manner. Considering his lack of feeling, I figured I could peer into the dumpster without offending anyone. A wooden daybed, surrounded by perfectly decent household items, was pushed up against one side as if, at any moment, someone was going to recline there with a book for an afternoon read.
I dislike seeing things go to waste and the daybed was just the ticket for my guestroom; the old upholstery could easily be replaced. But asking to save something from the newly departed seemed crude. Was this merely social propriety, or a primordial instinct out of which taboos arise? If the nephew wasn’t especially grieved by his aunt’s death, perhaps he wouldn’t be upset by my request to salvage a motley piece of furniture. Hesitantly, I ventured, “I wonder if I could offer to purchase that daybed from you, if you’re planning to get rid of it?”
“No, but take it. You can have it.” He marched past me without looking, without missing a beat. And I walked inside my first dumpster.
I’ve been to archaeological sites, know the sun-bleached whiteness of bone, the tea-colored stains left by earth. Here, no layers of soil obscured the find. To get to the daybed, I had only to move the piles of bedding. Her hall closet must now be empty, for here were ironed sheets, blankets, table linen, and the kind of embroidered and crocheted cloths that are found in old women’s attics. When I saw these, my own mourning resumed.
Evenings at my grandmother’s had been spent with the two of us huddled together on the divan, working needles of colored thread through squares of muslin, as she taught me how to give shape to the birds and flowers we ironed onto future kitchen towels. The few I have left are like gold to me. My grandmother and Mrs. Cy were of the same generation.
When our grandparents died, my brother and I had to deal with their belongings. It was the late ’70s, a time when the perennial battle between spirit and matter was once again inflamed. Caving in to the pressure not to be attached to things or hold onto the past, we gave away too much and sold the rest for a song. Objects imbued with our ancestors’ mana slipped through our fingers, going to strangers who cared not for their spirit but only their matter.
Into the dumpster were going similar artifacts of a lifetime. I didn’t know Mrs. Cy well but this desecration had to stop. I had recently taken a religious vow of voluntary simplicity and was deeply committed to reducing my over-consumption by keeping existing goods in circulation and tending them with care. I could not stand by and watch while usable things went to molder in landfill. The nephew was headed in my direction with another load and I decided to press my luck.
“Are these linens and bedding going too? I would be glad to give you something for them as well.” I pointed to a stack at the foot of the daybed.
“Oh, I guess you can have them. But I would make sure they get laundered.”
Was it her death that contaminated them, or her life? Trying not to sound snide, I assured him I would wash everything, and began stacking the linens atop the daybed. Among them were an old-fashioned lace coverlet, a fine damask tablecloth with a dozen matching napkins in their original box, and pure cotton sheets with laundry tags at the corners. Laundering did not seem to be the issue.
After setting aside these things, I walked home to get my truck. When I came back, neither the man nor his son looked up, much less offered to help. I dragged out the daybed. Metal springs and horsehair filling made it heavy, but, with leverage, I managed to hoist it onto the flatbed. I decided that I would return for the rest after the relatives had left.
By five o’clock their car was gone. I pulled open the huge doors of the dumpster. I was stunned. It looked as if Mrs. Cy’s entire household had been packed inside. Perched at the top was a faded green Chesterfield. I would not have been surprised to see Mrs. Cy’s angry ghost hovering just above it.
Dressed for this venture in jeans and work boots, I approached with an apprehension that went beyond social propriety or legal concerns. What had happened to Carter when he first opened King Tut’s tomb? Didn’t he die soon thereafter?
The dumpster was full. Between strata of useless items, treasures emerged: several tiny Indian baskets, a lovely handmade cotton quilt in yellows and greens, a pair of tin folk-art wall sconces, an antique brass lamp with a fluted glass shade, circa 1930, a huge red tablecloth emblazoned with white stitching. Dainty tea towels appliquéd with delicate purple flowers. And kitchenware of every type, as if all the drawers had been simply turned upside down. Lawn clippings. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich in a ziplock bag, white bread still springy.
I lost track of time in this coffin-world. From the position of the sun, it looked to be early evening. I was tired. My hunting and gathering had been bountiful. My truck clanked with its cargo of fireplace tools, a chaise lounge, a Jade plant in a glazed Chinese pot.
The next morning I went back. As I climbed atop the pile, a planter box tipped over, spilling fine dark soil on Mrs. Cy’s navy wool coat. Nature’s pull to compost was strong; I paddled against its tide. A jar of strawberry jam fell out of a damp cardboard box and broke open, adding stickiness to the task. A peculiar magic associated with life’s passing demonstrated itself, as contents that had been securely bound and held as long as their owner drew breath began to give way.
More treasures emerged from the massa confusa: red napkins to match the tablecloth unearthed yesterday—the napkin Gina held up; a small cut-glass bowl on a sterling silver base; a garment bag containing fancy cotton dresses and petticoats dating to 1910 or 1915; a small box carved out of a walnut burl. Then, from a nondescript shopping bag, the most astonishing find: a satin cloche hat beaded with pearls and two antique silk shawls, one champagne-colored with long fringe, the other deep rose.
As I handled these, tears welled up at their beauty, and their abandonment. Were these items part of her wedding trousseau from the old country? By shoving them into the bag, had the nephew or his wife turned their backs on the family heritage, the way my mother and father also turned away from their old world backgrounds?
Mrs. Cy’s shawls, pearl hat, and antique dresses would go into my grandmother’s cedar chest alongside her dishtowels and my other grandma’s black lace mantilla. The heritage of womanhood resides in heirlooms like these, saved for special occasions and stored where the bright light of day can’t dull their radiance. The threads of these garments touch the flesh of one generation, then another, and the next, weaving life’s warp and weft.
Mrs. Cybulski’s things took up residence in my house. The tin sconces were hung above the fireplace, the quilt went on a wall to brighten a room. The brass lamp shed its years of oxidation, the burled walnut box drank up lemon oil. I did wash all the linens and blankets, not to rid them of any lingering odor of death, but to honor them with freshening. When this rite of renewal was completed, I lit the candles in the sconces and said a prayer for Mrs. Cy. I wished her well on her journey and thanked her for this unexpected beneficence. I apologized for disturbing her relatives and hoped she’d understand.
Certain events do resemble dreams. They are like a pebble that falls into a lake, the ripples slowly spreading until the entire body of water registers its impact. Or a bracken fern, tight and compact when it first pokes up above the ground, later uncurling to great width. And so it has been with my encounter with the dumpster parked down the block many years ago. It still ripples throughout my life like a dream unfolding in all directions around a central stalk.
My ancestors also were first-generation immigrants, who arrived in this country with only what they could carry. The little they came to own was theirs for a lifetime. Anything that broke was repaired; chairs and sofas re-covered, tables refinished. Objects did not come and go but remained stable, adding to the stability of the world. What I have of theirs contributes to the weight of my being.
It is common these days to lament how materialistic we have become, but I do not believe this is accurate. It seems to me that we have not yet begun to value matter. Much that is made today is not intended to last and cannot be repaired. Mana is unable to fill our possessions. Lacking substance, they cannot become proper vessels for spirit. We may ask where objects come from, but they no longer have stories to tell. They too have lost their roots. How, then, are we to leave tangible mementoes of ourselves when we go? What will be left to caress?
Just dropping in for a few moments from my writing hiatus while I’m writing “Please Don’t Die” , my suicide prevention book.
The nice thing about writing, once you get past some of the difficult parts, is the research that you do. Because I’m busy writing the intervention and prevention section of the book, the most important part, I am coming up with new concepts and understandings and I wanted to share some with you. Sometimes the ideas are similar to ones you’ve heard before, but when you’re able to conceptualize new thoughts in new ways, you can get that aha moment. I’ve certainly learned a few new things I want to share with you.
I’m currently reading the Resilience Factor by Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatte. This is very well written and recommended. I know you will like the self testing part about how resilient you are and learning about how to grow this personal characteristic to help you cope with all of life’s stressors. But for now, here’s a little bit I have found very useful because it’s alot of information in a very few words. So take your time, and go back and think about how important all of these things actually are, and how they impact your functioning every day, and your view about how good or bad your life is.
First, it’s the notion of our internal narrative. When you listen to your narrative, is the basis of your happiness internal or external? Yes, we all get upset when we get a flat tire, I’m not referring to that. I’m referring to how you see yourself in the world. Do you see yourself as in control of your happiness? Or do you see the world as in control? If you don’t get that you’re the one that has to control your happiness, and make your own happiness, then you will never be happy. That’s essential step one.
A step two, is to examine three important things in your life: your behavior, your emotions, and your attention. Only when you have control of these three things can you find happiness. These are the three things you have to pay attention to day to day. If you’re in a mental place where your brain is all over, you have to do something to improve your attention control. If you have ADD, get it treated. If you have anxiety, find out how to self calm. If you practice Mindfulness, you will make amazing strides to accomplish all three. Yoga is a way to practice Mindfulness. YouTube has tons of free videos. Insight Timer is a phone Ap and using this choose the headphone pic at the bottom of the screen to access thousands of free audios that will talk you through Mindfulness applications. It takes 5 minutes a day. You can do it at bedtime and it will help you sleep, will grow your brain grey matter, and will form new brain connections that will help you self calm when you feel out of control.
You know those people who describe themselves as a “hot mess”? Those people have none of these things, they’re reacting to external situations like a ping pong ball. It’s extremely painful. You have to calm down first before you can figure out how to tackle all the stuff. Everyone has 5 minutes. You have the power.
“Tonight, I went to see a play by, and full with, women I consider fierce.
En route, a car seemed to purposely cut me off, almost causing me to hit it. I was a bit in shock and angry both.”I turned my bright lights on him and I drove right behind him. At the next stop light, I pulled up beside him. He was angry, and seemed to shout profanities at me.
I rolled down my window and said, “Really? You’re mad at me when YOU cut me off?!”
He retorted, “YES!” And then threw what I think was his coffee grande (with cream) in my face!
It covered my face, my car and my steering wheel. Thankfully, it was cold.
I didn’t know what to do but I was angry and tired and not feeling 100%, so I followed behind him with my bright lights on.
I called 911 to report an assault by a taxi driver. A very nice and calm operator answered. She told me not to follow him since I could get hurt. I asked her what the procedure was, what would happen. She told me to give her the license plate number and type of car, and they would follow up.
Something in me re-thought the whole thing. I told the 911 operator that I changed my mind. I did not want the police involved after all. “I am fine,” I told her before hanging up.
The car turned down an alley quickly, trying to lose me, but I followed persistently.
I had no plan.
The car pulled over to the right, a youngish man got out of his car. He didn’t look so mean or scary actually — more sad, really. I sensed I didn’t have to worry and I wasn’t afraid.
I pulled over to the left side ahead of him and got out of my car. I shouted at him, “Really?! You are going to throw your coffee on me?” He tried to reason with me as he was approaching.
“Stay back,” I yelled out. “I won’t hurt you,” he replied. I could tell that he meant it. I started to sob. He was walking toward me, kindly.
“Please don’t cry,” he said. “I should not have thrown my ice coffee on you. You flipped me off and that made me angry. This is my second job today, I am just delivering pizzas — that’s what I do. I am in a rush, like everyone else.”
“This is not who I am. I am not this guy,” he added.
“I believe you,” I said.
“And, I am not someone who flips people off usually. I am sorry,” I say through my tears.
“It has been a hard day. I am not a bad guy,” he says. “I am not a bad woman. I am sorry, too. This is not my way,” I say. “It is not my way either,” he says.
“Please wait here,” he says as he goes back to his car to get a towel. He also brought a bottle of water. “Please drink,” he says, “It will make you feel better.” Then, he proceeded to clean my jacket and my car.
“This is not who I am,” he repeats. “I have a son, I am working two jobs, I am just trying to do my best. I am not this person you think I am.”
“I am not this person either,” I say.
As if to start over, I ask, “My name is Mia. What is your name?” “Mohammed.” “I am sorry this happened, Mohammed.” “Me too,” he says.
We both hugged, apologizing to each other. These are turbulent times for our world. “I don’t want to add to the darkness,” I tell him. “Me too,” he says.
We hugged again. Both crying. “Keep your son safe,” I say. “Thank you. You stay safe too.”
One last time, we both apologized, hugged, shook hands and parted ways.
Mia Tagano is a vocal coach, actor and ServiceSpace volunteer based in the Bay Area. She’s toured with the Royal Shakespeare Company and performed in scores of stage productions in the United States. Her dedication towards her 96-year-old grandmother has touched many across the world. Read more about her inspiring journey here.
Happy Day! Another Hallmark holiday. Are you your favorite valentine?
No? You hate yourself? You’re ashamed of things you have or haven’t done, or you’re ashamed or embarrassed by something. You think everyone else but you is enjoying today?
Children small enough to enjoy the pleasure of sugar with none of the guilt are enjoying today. But maybe not you. What can you do?
Could you visualize planting a seed today? A seed of hope? A seed of change?
Can you visualize a willow tree that no matter where planted almost always grows like a giant weed and flourishes?
Or the lotus flower, that grow through muck and mud and emerges pristine? Could you try to imagine that today this seed you will plant could emerge as you, gorgeous and glorious? Give your seed some attention, some light, some nourishment and some time. Give yourself what you need today to bloom. Be kind to you. I love you. The world is just waiting for you to grow and bloom.
Judging needs to be left to the courts. Even they bicker and get it wrong sometimes too, but if you’ve ever been involved in court stuff of any kind, you know how it feels: Overwhelming, confusing, uncomfortable, out of control.
Did you ever stop and think about how harmful this judgement thing we do is and how much better you would feel if you stopped it?
When you judge you’re unhappy. If you judge yourself, as we all seem to do, what’s the result? Pain. It never helps to compare yourself to someone else. It’s also incorrect. You’ll always be wrong. We’re each so unique. It’s foolish and inaccurate to think you can compare yourself to someone else. And you’re sure to make yourself unhappy. Is that what you want? Or would you choose instead to be happy.
So here’s the thing. We don’t even realize we’re doing it. But it would be a great idea to start listening to your inner voice and directing it a whole lot more. We feel happy and good when we feel good about ourselves and connected to others. We fall apart when we disconnect, or lose someone close. We feel like shit when we compare ourselves to others, always.
I know someone very lovely. Tall and thin and blonde, I recently got to spend more time with her. Looking at her, of course I admire her. She’s beautiful, regal. Wherever she goes, people stop and stare. She’s also a lovely person, very kind and very compassionate. I certainly didn’t know her in any deep way. But we happened to be in a situation recently where she had a bathing suit on. She looked stunning as usual. It wasn’t until I saw her back that I noted how misshapen her back was, and all the scars. I had no idea this graceful kind lady was also suffering in silence every day. But she’s also the kind of person I now admire, understanding that she’s living gracefully, not focused on her pain because that’s just a part of her life. We never really know what scars a person has, so judging and comparing ourselves to them is always a mistake.
How about how you judge yourself? Could you just try to be a little kinder to yourself, please? When you’re judging negatively you feel bad, when you negatively judge others you also feel bad. When I look and meet very lonely people- this is a common trait they have. No one wants to be around that. Joy is the magnet.
Could you then consciously choose to tell yourself something about yourself you like? Could you direct your thoughts to think about the last time you felt good about yourself? That you felt happy? Being around small children will do this. Go somewhere and just watch children play. Before they’ve learned from life to compare themselves and criticize themselves, watch how much happiness they naturally have. We all owe it to ourselves to cultivate and nuture this spontaneity and joy. Be satisfied with the effort. Find pleasure in the process. It’s all ok. We get better with practice.