Thursday, June 17, 2010

What if You Start with Love

Things always work themselves out. And sometimes you are perplexed by the outcome. So that’s how it meant to end? And I’ve been wondering all this time, playing with all the wrong guesses. Occasionally the situation will get a predicted development so you can exclaim with self-righteousness, “I knew that!” But not always. Some circumstances are simply out of our hands. It doesn’t strip them from meaning and significance for our particular life. Everything has a meaning. And a message. But too often we shut our eyes and close our ears, refusing to see and hear, because interpreting the signs can act against our ego. “You need to be kind to people” the universe seems to be saying. But people are not kind to me – is your initial response. You need to take down your armor and act with love – but love leaves me vulnerable because we are living in a cruel world...

Living in New York makes you tough, but how do you know when it’s too tough? When you are scared to let the shade of emotion out? When meeting people you start off by judging them? You scrutinize them to anticipate any possible ways that they might hurt you. And then you decide pretty quickly that you are not up for pain so you won’t give them a chance to get to know you, so that just to hurt you later on. You become an expert of avoidance – avoiding eye contact (eyes give away your true emotions), avoiding conversations, avoiding encounters. In the end this approach leaves you invincible. And being alone is the price for that.

How do you undo the damage which it clearly is? Is there a way to melt your emotional coldness? I read about one solution which seems pretty doable and powerful: you start off by loving people. Pretty simple, eh? But can you really turn around when you are, let’s say, at work – look at all your indifferent coworkers and think in good faith “I love you all!” Can you think the same about some grumpy customers waiting in line at the supermarket? Or some person who gave you a look of pure hatred on the subway just because you happen to be white? Or someone who is deliberately hurting you with their words because you disappointed them by being yourself? Nothing is that easy. I just set my foot on this path and I realize that it takes constant control and self-discipline.

What are the gains? You set yourself free in a most surprising way. You are giving without asking for anything in return so there’s no room for disappointment here. If you begin with love it allows you to see people in a different light – you actually discover that they do have something they are worth loving for even if it didn’t seem like it at first glance. We all have our stories that shape us, but even a seemingly heartless person is warming up if you shed some love light upon him. Giving love costs us nothing because we have limitless amount of it yet it’s something we as a rule guard most fanatically. The usual mindset is that sparing love without a good return is a poor investment so it needs to be preserved till a better occasion presents itself. But I believe that with love the less you give it – the less you have it.

It’s a new beginning for me – to practice unconditional love for everyone I meet in the course of my life. But it already makes me feel calm and protected. I strive to create an aura of love and warmth around me and it won’t be achieved quickly or easily. And I will probably slip at times. But it feels so damn right to at least try. And even though it will probably be awhile before I see the impact on my own life, I am sure it will change tremendously. I also want to believe that practicing love will inevitably lead to more positive healthy thinking and provide the antidote for selfish and self-destructive thoughts.

I love you all and I wish you happiness!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Can You Get the Best Out of the Worst?

We all at times find ourselves in unpleasant situations. Our immediate natural reaction is to start searching for a way out: even if you can’t figure it out right away, the process will provide some consolation because you are doing something as opposed to staying passive, so eventually things will change for the better. What if you have to stick around for a while? What if you have to endure something that absolutely poisons your life and everything that’s good in it? Is there a positive approach to endurance that seems to be stretching your limits too far?

In the last couple of months I went from almost liking my job to hating it enormously. There’s a number of reasons to that: I lost my entire team, I am working on a failure project that keeps dragging without an end in sight, my daily tasks got tedious and pointless, I get no guidance from the upper management so I am left there on my own to do meaningless things that have zero effect on success (or the absence of one) of the project. So my only motivation is that I still get paid but even that can end rather soon since the company has financial difficulties and just laid off one third of its work force.

I already made a decision to get another job, the trick is I am going on a 3-week trip at the end of August so it would be quite unreasonable to make a move before September. I made a conscious decision to stay here for the summer (or till I get laid off whichever comes first). It means continuing doing things I don’t believe or see any point in because that’s what I am getting paid for. It means pretending every work day for the next 2+ months - pretending that I am working, coming up with innovative ideas, projecting future success. Fake, fake, fake. It means trying to control my face so that it doesn’t give away my emotions, so I need to look at least neutral, not sour as I feel. It means having to compose myself every morning and “push” myself out of the door of my house. It means taking a deep breath before getting off the elevator on the 10th floor of my office building. It means taking another deep breath – a happy one this time – getting on the elevator at 5 pm, because the day is over. It means buying a lot of books to read my sadness away. It means reading a lot of blogs at work in hopes of improving my level of positivity. It means wanting to live in the future instead of the present moment.

I made a decision and I am willing to stick with it. Yet I imagined it to be easier – I will just come in every morning, minimum activity, zero caring, go home – forget it. I didn’t expect that living with such disgust would be so utterly difficult. And there isn’t a single thing to hold on to for strength. No friends left in the office (smart people quit in the right time), no exciting and distracting assignment (apart from reading blogs which is self-assigned). Nothing is there to help me feel better about the whole enduring process. So as always I have to come to my own rescue and dig some good out of the mud. So here’s how you can find positive moments in an unpleasant situation:

- You learn. Most importantly you learn something about yourself that can only be learned through a hardship. Now I know I will never be able to grow thick skin and I don’t have to. Being sensitive, caring too much, taking it personally can be a curse in the wrong setting. But it also what makes me different, it gives me a heart, it’s why most surprising types of people feel attracted to me. So hopefully I will be able to find a job which will allow me to stay sensitive and emotional as I am.

- Who said endurance is a bad thing? You read about ascetics who practice self-denial to achieve spiritual discipline. So I am sort of doing the same. A little bit of suffering is good for your soul. You become humble and you accept your lot. You even begin seeing everything in a different light, through the “martyr’s eyes” so to say and there’s certainly something to this experience.

- You will appreciate what’s to come. Sometimes you really need to hit the bottom to enjoy the going-back-up process, to be grateful for the good things in your life, to know exactly when your life took the right turn and feel good about it because you have something to compare to. You now know what you are not cut out for and will stay away from doing it. You understand better what you need and what you don’t need. And what’s most important, when the whole unpleasant situation is over, you can commend your spirit for enduring the hardship with grace and not letting it break you.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Because I am Angry

It’s easy just to be angry at the whole world. Once you start, there’s no end to it – and you suddenly have a million reasons to justify your anger. The world is an unjust place. We all deserve happiness. And we all just wait for it to fall down on us from the sky and we’ll plunge in and swim in the ocean of euphoria.

But going back to anger… It’s easy to act like a little child who stomps his foot and yells, “I want it, I want it all, and I want it now!” Boy, do we all have an endless list of unsatisfied wishes. And once some of them come true, we quickly forget how badly we wanted them and move on to wanting yet even more desperately other things we are convinced we deserve in this life. I remember a girlfriend of mine who was single for years: once she finally got some kind of a boyfriend, she tried to get the most out of him to compensate herself for the loveless years. She wanted to be showered by his love, attention and generosity. She grasped him with the zest and energy he was unable to hold up to, so he removed himself from the picture pretty quickly.

I keep thinking about the constructive-destructive nature of our “I want”. It’s what’s driving us to move forward, progress and achieve success. It encourages us to learn and grow. But if we lose patience, if we get angry at the entire world for not getting what we want today instead of tomorrow, it’s a sure beginning of enormous discontent and self-destruction. We no longer notice or appreciate what we have – we are too busy focusing our attention on what we don’t have.

In these moments it’s useful to keep repeating this saying as mantra – the right things come in the right time. There are no random people in our life. And someone is hurting you only because you did your share of hurting in the past. You really have just one option – to try and become a better person. To suppress your anger. To forgive. To give love without asking for something in return. And as you begin to change, you will know for sure that you are moving in the right direction. It will feel right. Your ocean of happiness is right there waiting for you, stop hitting your imaginary breaks and you will discover a shortcut.
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