Why Pain Matters

Most people run away from pain.

It’s uncomfortable and disturbing.

We think it takes us away 

from being able to enjoy life.

And yet, on the flip side of pain,

there is always pleasure.

They are two opposing sides of the same coin 

that we haven’t learned how to flip to our advantage.

Most people just choose to stuff the coin deep within their pockets,

rejecting both pain and pleasure,

in favor of a routine life,

where both these experiences are tempered,

and life seems manageable.

Except that life isn’t meant to be managed.

It’s meant to be fully lived.

Despite our best efforts, life doesn’t bend to our will.

Instead, we’re the ones getting puppeteered through life,

thrown from one tumult to another,

taking solace in the breaks between each crisis.

What if there is a way for us to align ourselves with the Universe?

To reduce our depression and anxiety,

our chronic loneliness,

always feeling on the fringes,

disconnected?

What if there is a way to be happy,

but it involves taking out that dreaded coin,

and dealing with the pain in our life head on,

learning how to sit with it,

process it,

and ultimately, 

release it?

What if the force of releasing that pain 

had the power to elevate us,

causing the coin to flip on its own? 

Then we might feel the greatest pleasure of all –

connection.

To ourselves.

To each other.

To that spiritual being lying deep within us.

The thing is,

there is no such thing as pleasure

without pain.

If we didn’t have either of these experiences, 

we’d be living a life of ennui.

Without the pain of our aching muscles,

getting a massage wouldn’t feel like such ecstasy.

Without the pain of going to school every day,

we wouldn’t have the pleasure of seeing our friends,

or in the long term,

the satisfaction that comes from achievement,

the joy that comes from using our education to better the world.

Without the travesty of war,

we would not truly cherish peace.

Many of us live with deep wounds,

from childhood,

from broken relationships,

from illness,

or the loss of loved ones.

We endure tremendous pain,

absorbing it into our psyche,

allowing it to diminish our spirit,

trying, unsuccessfully, to ignore it 

until it goes away for good. 

But pain is like a leech.

It won’t leave

unless we learn 

how to heal.

The path to healing is personal.

It’s not a one-size-fits-all set of guidelines

for finding your bliss.

Yes, talking to a therapist might help,

or joining a support group.

Yes, medication might be hugely beneficial,

or reading about personal development, 

opening up 

to new ways of thinking.

Or maybe, for you,

none of this will work.

Perhaps you just need patience

and perseverance,

the sincere desire to evolve,

to transcend this human pain that is constantly weighing you down,

so you might find some semblance of peace –

and dare I say –

happiness. 

The path to healing is personal.

You must figure it out on your own

but not necessarily alone.

In fact, 

you’re never actually alone.

If you step out of your own way,

start ignoring your inner critic –

that pesky roommate who’s taken up residence in your mind –

let go of all your preconceived notions,

your antagonizing ideas about life,

your impressions of success and failure,

if you let go

and trust

your intuition,

that constant connection you have with the universe,

I promise you,

your heart will open up

to the truth.

Your path will be revealed.

Something beautiful will take shape

from the core of your being.

And if you can learn to trust it,

it will never steer you wrong. 

If you are ready to face your trauma,

the challenge will be immense

but the reward exponential.

Because with healing, 

comes the ability to help others.

And in the quest to help others,

you may just find your life’s purpose.

In helping others,

you’re creating a ripple effect

that will change the world.

And in helping others,

the person you’re actually helping the most,

is yourself.

Life Sentence

I’m a prisoner in my own mind

sentenced to a life of despair,

and the only one able to save me

is behind bars, too.

For years, I longed for a savior –

an attentive parent,

an inspiring mentor,

a romantic partner.

For years, I waited.

People came and people went,

but not one of them could save me.

Because the only one able to save me

is behind bars, too.

She has the keys to our freedom,

but not quite the strength.

She knows that I love her,

but my love is weak.

We’ve spent so many years apart,

walled off from each other

because I abandoned her,

but only to protect her.

What good was our bond if it had only caused pain?

So she turned her back on me,

and I on her.

Doesn’t matter that we were stuck in the same cell,

the walls between us of our own making.

All these years later,

I turn to face her.

She’s the only one who can save us,

if only she could muster the will.

I’m begging her to unlock the prison door,

and set us free.

Let us live as one,

in this perfect human body,

with this identity that, together, we can sculpt to our liking. 

Let’s forget the past

and not dwell on the future,

but just experience each moment as it comes,

with nothing but love for each other,

with nothing but gratitude for our oneness,

with nothing but grace and contentment in our heart.

She reluctantly turns towards me

and points to something in my hand.

Turns out, 

I had the key to our freedom all along.

When I look to the prison bars,

all I see is a curtain of wild flowers intertwined with leafy vines,

sunlight peaking in through the gaps.

We hold hands,

lift up the curtain together,

and walk into the beautiful landscape 

of the unknown.

We saved ourselves.

And who knows?

Maybe we are the savior in someone else’s story, too.

My First Prose Poem Performance

About nine months ago, I shared a prose poem with all of you entitled, “Bare Naked”. If you didn’t get a chance to read it, you can find it here. Today, I’m sharing a video of myself for the first time, in which I’m “performing” it. This is new to me, so thank you, in advance, for your views and comments!

How to Get Rid of Those Sunday Blues

How can your mood go from upbeat to somewhat disinterested to super depressed, all in the span of one morning? And why does that morning always tend to be on a Sunday?

The Sunday Blues is a universal phenomenon. Nobody wants to go back to school or work on Monday, and do the homework or chores that ensure the rest of the week will go smoothly. Most people spend their Sundays procrastinating as much as possible, then scrambling to get their work done before bedtime.

There’s also another, less talked about, element to the Sunday Blues. When Friday becomes Saturday, you’re moving from a structured day to an unstructured one. Unstructured can be fun, at first. The chance to sleep in and have breakfast at 11am, to lounge in your pajamas for half the day, or spend time outdoors in the fresh air. But with unstructured time, there can be trouble, too.

If there’s more than one person living in your house, you’ve likely already experienced the Battle of Expectations. One person may want to stay home, while the other wants to go out. One person wants to socialize, while the other wants to read. If you’re part of a couple or a family that wants to spend time together but can’t agree on what to do, it’s tremendously challenging to meet everyone’s expectations. And if you’re a parent – well – it comes naturally to place your needs behind everybody else’s. By the time Sunday rears its ugly head, you feel a creeping sense of dissatisfaction and realize that your valuable free time is running out.

Often, the negative thoughts and unpleasant feelings you’ve been avoiding all week attack you when you’re at your lowest, like on a Sunday. That’s when you really start to feel miserable. It’s inevitable, though. If you’ve spent a lifetime feeling unworthy of having your needs met, then even as you try to rebuild yourself and your sense of worth, the road to recovery will still be full of stumbling blocks. And when you stumble, you’ll feel like all the progress you thought you were making was just a hoax. It’s the “one step forward, two steps back” conundrum.

At this point, you have two options: wallow in self-pity all day, or allow yourself to feel your feelings and then re-double your determination to keep moving forward. What does it mean to “feel your feelings”? If you feel despondent, don’t hide it. Tell people and give them a chance to help you. If you feel like being alone, say so. Perhaps this miserable feeling is your body’s way of saying you need more time to yourself. You can nap or shower or read or write. You can call a friend or listen to music. What you shouldn’t do is feel guilty about taking time for yourself, as if you’re failing everyone’s expectations. Because what you are actually doing is failing your own needs. And that’s not okay.

In time, you’ll learn to express your needs more frequently. You might adopt healthy strategies like planning out weekend activities and setting clear boundaries ahead of time; letting everyone know that, on Sunday, during the morning or afternoon or whatever day and time suits you, you just want to do your own thing. Or maybe you want to do something that does involve others, like going for a group hike, or to see a play. It’s about doing something you enjoy, something that nourishes your soul.

Feeling the Sunday Blues (or in fact, feeling blue on any day of the week) doesn’t have to be a constant. It can serve as a kick in the ass, and a message from your soul that it needs some love and attention. If you heed that message for long enough, then feeling bad will lead to feeling better. And suddenly, you’ve turned a difficult experience into a more enlightened and uplifting one.

How to Find Peace

Harmony. Connection. Oneness. These words are often used to refer to humanity; how, if only all people could put away their differences and act as one, the world would be such a better place. Indeed, the world would have a greater chance for survival. So, working on the assumption that what’s good for the world must also be good for each human being, on an individual level, then how can we apply harmony, connection, and oneness to ourselves?

We’re each made up of many “selves”. There are the various masks we wear for different people. There are the multiple voices in our head, often in conflict with each other, telling us how to live our lives. There’s our light selves and our shadow selves; our mind, body, and soul; our need to be and our need to please. Whichever way you look at it, we are fragmented people, and often each fragment is working against the other, which leads to stress, anxiety, depression, and countless illnesses.

How can we get all the parts of our Being to exist in harmony and work as one? First of all, we must acknowledge the presence of each part, no matter how shameful or embarrassing. We must acknowledge and accept it, because as of this present moment, this is all we have to work with. So, one person may be kind and caring, but also self-indulgent and quick-tempered. She could try to hide her negative qualities from the world, or she could be open about them, acknowledge them, and learn how to wield her cravings and passion in a more controlled way. Every individual part of our Being has a purpose; we just need to work on figuring out what that is.

Throughout our lives, we play at being different people, taking qualities we have or ones we pick up along the way, and experimenting with them in various combinations, like a person trying to solve a Rubik’s cube. When we’re young, we try to be more like our peers in order to fit in. As we get older, we try to differentiate ourselves in order to stand out. Eventually, we reach a stage where, after much effort, we begin to understand who we really are and stop trying to be someone we’re not.

I strongly believe all the puzzle pieces are there, within each and every one of us. But perhaps they’re not fitting together as they should be. The order is all wrong. Understanding ourselves is only half the battle; figuring out how best to be ourselves, how best to connect all the puzzle pieces together in a way that allows us to be at one with ourselves – that is the real work. Learning how to accept our anger but still control our temper and let go of our grudges, how to use all our pent-up energy to our advantage, or how to go easy on ourselves if we don’t have some of the qualities people around us expect us to have. We are fine just the way we are – works-in-progress, trying to solve our own Rubik’s cubes.

Harmony. Connection. Oneness. We must strive for these things within us, and simultaneously, around us. This is the struggle at the core of life. This IS life. We are meant to struggle, yearn, and persist, but we are also meant to be at peace. How we put our puzzle pieces together will have an impact on how well we can keep this balance.

Fragmented

Do you know what it’s like to feel fragmented?

Like your brain has been chopped up into several chunky pieces and simmered into stew.

I can almost see the steam rising out of my ears,

as the wheels in my head churn endlessly,

processing all the data being thrown at it,

from a child’s tantrum to a boss’s email

to the 100+ Whatsapp messages waiting for me each night.

When did I start using my head more than my heart?

My poor, simple heart,

that yearns only for one thing:

connection.

The same connection we’re promised when tricked into buying fancy phones and faster Internet,

shiny cars and sappy Mother’s Day cards.

It seems like everything advertised these days promises a feeling of connection,

which never really comes,

does it?

So instead, the head tells the heart to be quiet and stop whining;

it’s distracting the head from calculating, assessing, judging, and overthinking everything.

The heart learns to be quiet and wait patiently,

but wait, it still does.

For magic?

For a miracle, maybe.

For a feeling of oneness that will render the mind speechless.

Then we’ll see whose turn it is to be quiet.

Plugging Off

We’ve all heard the phrase “plugging off”, and we know what it means – taking time off from our gadgets and electronics; turning off our televisions, iPads, laptops, and smartphones; being more aware of our surroundings and feeling present in the moment. But there’s one other thing that needs to be switched off before we can truly feel a sense of connection with the world, and that is our mind. Our minds are always on and running at hyper speed, tackling a myriad of issues, all at the same time, imagining future scenarios, both frightening and fanciful, and reliving past moments with all their associated pain. Our minds are incredible. They set us apart from being just another species of animal on this earth. But just like too much of anything can be bad for you, overthinking can turn our minds from marvels into monsters. We get stressed out, on edge, anxious and depressed. We’re unable to sleep or eat or function. Every so often, the mind needs to be turned off, so that we can connect with another part of our beings – our souls.

The soul is probably the most neglected part of us, perhaps because it’s invisible, unlike the mind and body, and so, easy to forget about. But when depression strikes or we feel a general sense of despair, it’s not the mind or body that comes to the rescue (at least, not on their own). Often times, the mind IS at the root of our problems, and needs to be turned off. So where, then, is the off switch?

Everyone has a different off switch or way of zoning out. Some like to meditate or pray, others exercise or simply daydream. You must find the method that works for you. The point is to stop thinking and start feeling. For a lot of people, the easiest way to do this is to focus on your breath. When you focus on your breath, all your other thoughts disappear and you become more aware of your actual Being. If you do it often enough, it will turn into a habit, one you can do for five minutes or fifty. When you “plug off” like this, it feels kind of like waking up from a dream to a beautiful reality. The more you connect with your Being, the more your world, as you know it, starts to feel less important, less stressful. Because at the end of the day, your long-term happiness doesn’t come from completing all the tasks on your To Do list. It comes from feeling fully connected to yourself and the world around you. It comes from the realization that you are a small part of a greater whole, and being 20 minutes late to work, or winning the temporary adoration of your fans, will not change that.

I’m not saying you should quit your day job or stop caring about your responsibilities. I’m saying, take some of the pressure off yourself. You’re not meant to be the perfect man or woman. You’re meant to be flawed and incomplete. You’re a work-in-progress, but each brushstroke you make adds beauty to the bigger picture every time you make the effort to “connect”.

What do I mean when I say “connect”? I mean getting back in touch with your true self, your soul, your intuition. Call it what you want. It’s the inner voice that guides you every time you make a decision. Not all the other voices that you hear on a daily basis telling you that you’re falling behind or you’re not good enough. Those are the very voices that are drowning out your true self. By shutting off our mind, we are telling those negative voices to take a hike, so we can do our best to hear what our inner self is saying. You might not hear it at first, but if you keep trying to make that connection, you will hear it. Your inner self will only ever tell you the truth. The truth about who you are, why you exist, and what you should be doing during your time on Earth. I believe the more we keep striving to listen to our inner voice, the more we will learn about ourselves, and the more at peace we will feel.

Focus on your breath right now. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and focus. Do it for three minutes, or five, or ten. See what happens. Switch your mind off and let yourself go. Then tell me what you felt. I’d love to know. If your experience is anything like mine, you may feel a tingling sensation in your body, or the sense that you’re being lifted into the air. It’s hard to shut the mind off, I know, but please try. You might be pleasantly surprised.