February 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

The following is taken from a blog I literally “stumbled upon” and can be found here:
This is written by David Cain.
I don’t necessarily subscribe to all of it, but I find that a lot of the concepts are ones that I’ve had to remind myself over and over (you are not your emotions!) in order to avoid the stress and anxiety I’ve been trying to deal with the past few years. So read and enjoy, and take from it what you will.

1. You are not your mind.

The first time I heard somebody say that,  I didn’t like the sound of it one bit. What else could I be? I had taken for granted that the mental chatter in my head was the central “me” that all the experiences in my life were happening to.

I see quite clearly now that life is nothing but passing experiences, and my thoughts are just one more category of things I experience. Thoughts are no more fundamental than smells, sights and sounds. Like any experience, they arise in my awareness, they have a certain texture, and then they give way to something else.

If you can observe your thoughts just like you can observe other objects, who’s doing the observing? Don’t answer too quickly. This question, and its unspeakable answer, are at the center of all the great religions and spiritual traditions.

2. Life unfolds only in moments.

Of course! I once called this the most important thing I ever learned. Nobody has ever experienced anything that wasn’t part of a single moment unfolding. That means life’s only challenge is dealing with the single moment you are having right now. Before I recognized this, I was constantly trying to solve my entire life — battling problems that weren’t actually happening. Anyone can summon the resolve to deal with a single, present moment, as long as they are truly aware that it’s their only point of contact with life, and therefore there is nothing else one can do that can possibly be useful. Nobody can deal with the past or future, because, both only exist as thoughts, in the present. But we can kill ourselves trying.

3. Quality of life is determined by how you deal with your moments, not which moments happen and which don’t.

I now consider this truth to be Happiness 101, but it’s amazing how tempting it still is to grasp at control of every circumstance to try to make sure I get exactly what I want. To encounter an undesirable situation and work with it willingly is the mark of a wise and happy person. Imagine getting a flat tire, falling ill at a bad time, or knocking something over and breaking it — and suffering nothing from it. There is nothing to fear if you agree with yourself to deal willingly with adversity whenever it does show up. That is how to make life better. The typical, low-leverage method is to hope that you eventually accumulate power over your circumstances so that you can get what you want more often. There’s an excellent line in a Modest Mouse song, celebrating this side-effect of wisdom: As life gets longer, awful feels softer.

4. Most of life is imaginary.

Human beings have a habit of compulsive thinking that is so pervasive that we lose sight of the fact that we are nearly always thinking. Most of what we interact with is not the world itself, but our beliefs about it, our expectations of it, and our personal interests in it. We have a very difficult time observing something without confusing it with the thoughts we have about it, and so the bulk of what we experience in life isimaginary things. As Mark Twain said: “I’ve been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” The best treatment I’ve found? Cultivatingmindfulness.

5. Human beings have evolved to suffer, and we are better at suffering than anything else.

Yikes. It doesn’t sound like a very liberating discovery. I used to believe that if I was suffering it meant that there was something wrong with me — that I was doing life “wrong.” Suffering is completely human and completely normal, and there is a very good reason for its existence. Life’s persistent background hum of “this isn’t quite okay, I need to improve this,” coupled with occasional intense flashes of horror and adrenaline are what kept human beings alive for millions of years. This urge to change or escape the present moment drives nearly all of our behavior. It’s a simple and ruthless survival mechanism which works exceedingly well for keeping us alive, but it has a horrific side effect: human beings suffer greatly by their very nature. This, for me, redefined every one of life’s problems as some tendril of the human condition. As grim as it sounds, this insight is liberating because it means: 1) that suffering does not necessarily mean my life is going wrong, 2) that the ball is always in my court, so the degree to which I suffer is ultimately up to me, and 3) that all problems have the same cause and the same solution.

6. Emotions exist to make us biased.

This discovery was a complete 180 from my old understanding of emotions. I used to think my emotions were reliable indicators of the state of my life — of whether I’m on the right track or not. Your passing emotional states can’t be trusted for measuring your self-worth or your position in life, but they are great at teaching you what it is you can’t let go of. The trouble is that emotions make us both more biased and more forceful at the same time. Another survival mechanism with nasty side-effects.

7. All people operate from the same two motivations: to fulfill their desires and to escape their suffering.

Learning this allowed me to finally make sense of how people can hurt each other so badly. The best explanation I had before this was that some people are just bad. What a cop-out. No matter what kind of behavior other people exhibit, they are acting in the most effective way they are capable of (at that moment) to fulfill a desire or to relieve their suffering. These are motives we can all understand; we only vary in method, and the methods each of us has at our disposal depend on our upbringing and our experiences in life, as well as our state of consciousness. Some methods are skillful and helpful to others, others are unskillful and destructive, and almost all destructive behavior is unconscious. So there is no good and evil, only smart and dumb (or wise and foolish.) Understanding this completely shook my long-held notions of morality and justice.

8. Beliefs are nothing to be proud of.

Believing something is not an accomplishment. I grew up thinking that beliefs are something to be proud of, but they’re really nothing but opinions one refuses to reconsider. Beliefs are easy. The stronger your beliefs are, the less open you are to growth and wisdom, because “strength of belief” is only the intensity with which you resist questioning yourself. As soon as you are proud of a belief, as soon as you think it adds something to who you are, then you’ve made it a part of your ego. Listen to any “die-hard” conservative or liberal talk about their deepest beliefs and you are listening to somebody who will never hear what you say on any matter that matters to them — unless you believe the same. It is gratifying to speak forcefully, it is gratifying to be agreed with, and this high is what the die-hards are chasing. Wherever there is a belief, there is a closed door. Take on the beliefs that stand up to your most honest, humble scrutiny, and never be afraid to lose them.

9. Objectivity is subjective.

Life is a subjective experience and that cannot be escaped. Every experience I have comes through my own, personal, unsharable viewpoint. There can be no peer reviews of my direct experience, no real corroboration. This has some major implications for how I live my life. The most immediate one is that I realize I must trust my own personal experience, because nobody else has this angle, and I only have this angle. Another is that I feel more wonder for the world around me, knowing that any “objective” understanding I claim to have of the world is built entirely from scratch, by me. What I do build depends on the books I’ve read, the people I’ve met, and the experiences I’ve had. It means I will never see the world quite like anyone else, which means I will never live in quite the same world as anyone else — and therefore I mustn’t let outside observers be the authority on who I am or what life is really like for me. Subjectivity is primary experience — it is real life, and objectivity is something each of us builds on top of it in our minds, privately, in order to explain it all. This truth has world-shattering implications for the roles of religion and science in the lives of those who grasp it.



February 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

Today I am thankful for:

1. Coffee

2. Pumpkin spice creamer

3. Homemade waffles

4. Awesome hubs

4. Pretty snow

5. Season 2 Downton Abbey

6. Morning yoga

7. Finishing tasks




February 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

Yeah, so I cheated.

I went grocery shopping on Tuesday. That’s the day the health food store gets their weekly bread shipment, according to my sources, so I popped over there after class to stock up on vegan-friendly groced goods. Problem- I was rushing. I knew I wanted pita chips and hummus for a snack so I went over to the chip section, but couldn’t find my usual brand. I found an alternate but it was…wait for it…$6/bag! Now, in case you didn’t know, let me just make this clear: I am in Graduate school. Thusly, I am on a tight (tight!) budget.

I kept looking. A few minutes later, I found the bread section, and lo and behold, there are another brand of pita chips. Still not the brand I usually purchase but much more reasonably priced, so, relieved, I threw a bag in my cart. I paid for my purchases and went home.

I spent an hour making Tabouli (okay so, I wasn’t super involved. It took an hour to refrigerate after dumping it in a bowl and adding water…) and once it was ready, it was 2pm and I was STARVING. (again, very dramatic. I would have been fine.) So I grabbed my pita chips and realized: They were parmesan. Blerg!

I still ate them. I admit it. I’m going to finish the bag. I have been reading labels like crazy for the last 12 days, and trying to avoid the smallest bits of animal product, but I am going to eat these parmesan flavored pita chips. They are almost gone.


Editors Note: The above blog was written January 12, 2012, during the month I was a very reluctant vegan. It was accidentally not published, thusly is being published almost a month later.


February 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

So I’ve been doing some reading.

I found the bookA Beautiful Offering by Angela Thomas in my parent’s basement. I’ve been looking for devotionals for awhile, something meaningful to think about each morning. Usually I gravitate towards actual chapter books, and this one seemed perfect, as well as inexpensive(!), which is good criteria for a grad student.

In the book, Angela goes through the beatitudes, one per chapter, and applies it to a woman’s life. I love books geared towards women anyway (gee, I wonder why?) but this one definitely speaks to me. I just read the chapter entitled “Falling in Love” based on the beatitude:

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6

I love her take on this verse. She speaks in the chapter about how it’s easy to lose track of your hunger for Jesus, to become distracted by life’s events. She calls the reader to think back on a time in their lives when they first fell in love for Jesus, to recall that previous passion. And she speaks of Jesus as an understanding creator, who understands that we are merely human, yet longs for us to hunger for Him. And our life is a beautiful offering when we begin to hunger and thirst after Christ, to allow him to fill our daily lives and to seek his face.

I’m obviously paraphrasing, as I’m definitely not a writer. But this devotional spoke to me. I do get distracted. I have fallen away from daily seeking Jesus. I may pray in passing, or even spend 10 minutes reading a book about Him, but I have lost my hunger and thirst for righteousness.

So ask. Ask God to fill you with that desire again. And seek Him actively, passionately, and daily. hourly. I’m saying this for myself.

“Life is a beautiful offering when you are crying out for God to come and make you hungry for his righteousness, because He is the only One who will satisfy your spiritual appetite with the food that can fill your soul” -Angela Thomas A Beautiful Offering.



February 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

To become who you want to be:

You cannot simply be. You cannot arrive immediately at the place where you have always wanted to go. The path is not straight. There are not manuals. There are trials and errors and boulders. There are even mountains. There are trees to chop down and rivers to cross and detours. Lots and lots of detours.

It isn’t a straight shot. You cannot proclaim yourself to be, and simply be that thing. You have to fight for it. You have to push hard, and rest hard, and cry sometimes, then laugh louder than you cried to make up for it.

We don’t know everything. We barely know anything. You have to ask stupid, stupid questions to find out the simple, simple answers. And then sometimes you forget those answers and mess up. And when you mess up, you learn again what the answer was and eventually it will stick. A child is not born that knows everything, you must teach that child how to know to eat and calm themselves and not to touch hot things and to speak softly in libraries.

Imagine how that child feels when they try something for the first time- remember learning to tie your shoes? It took tens, hundreds of tries to tie your shoes. You were given rhymes and instructions and long periods of time in which your parents were late for dinner parties because you had to try to tie your shoes yourself.You messed up and remembered that that way didn’t work, and eventually you got the rabbit into the hole and figured it out.

And now, you still know how to tie your shoes. Because you asked questions and practiced and pushed yourself and learned.

You cannot simply know. You have to be taught. You have to learn. You have to try and fail and try and fail, and sometimes do that alot. I know everyone says this, but it’s true.

I say this because people are scared to try. We don’t know, so we don’t try. At what age does that kick in? At what age do the words “I don’t know” find their way into our vocabulary, and we stop crying to our parents to give us more time to learn to tie our shoes?

Failure is not stupid. I don’t care who says it is. Failure is not stupid. To try is brave. You probably won’t do everything right the first time. Probably not even the second. But the 50th time you do it, you’ll feel pretty good. And by the 2000th, you’ll feel ready to tell someone else. And by the 5000th you get awards because you’re so good. But you will absolutely 100% never get to that award if you don’t try it the first time and the second time and keep doing it the third.

Someone may even tell you to stop because you didn’t do very well the first time. Ignore them. Someone else may say you aren’t “naturally inclined” for that thing, or that you lack the talent. But smile, and walk away, and stop talking to those people. The only people you should talk to are the ones who teach you what you did wrong, who encourage you to try again, and those who remember what it feels like to fail. It feels bad. You might cry. Your mind will tell you to quit. It will say everyone thinks you’re stupid and you can’t do this thing. Tell it to take a flying leap, and tell yourself you will succeed. It’s hard to do at first, to not think you’re a failure, but you aren’t. You are a trier. A doer. A learner. And eventually your mind will catch up with you.

And don’t forget what it feels like to fail. Never stop trying new things. If you ever feel like you are complete, that you know it all, go take a french class or feed orphans or try to build a tall building by hand. Because you need to remember to learn. And remember what it feels like to fail sometimes. And then go talk to the person who feels like a failure, tell them what they did wrong, encourage them to try again, and tell them you remember what it feels like to fail.

You need to be in life. You have something you want to be, and you should be it. And if you decide, once you get there, that wasn’t what you wanted to be, that’s okay. Just find something else to be, and be it. Because we should never stop trying to be what we want to be. Climb mountains and drink rivers and fall into holes and sprain your ankle then get up, go to the doctor, and try again. Keep trying and failing and trying and failing. And be.


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