Todays meditation word: Self-worth

Self-worth

Some mornings – like this morning – I wake up feeling totally useless and pointless. What have I contributed to the sum of human happiness in the world? What have I contributed to the happiness of me? How do even justify my existence?

There is nothing that anyone can say to me that will get this feeling off of my soul. There is no self-talk or inspirational book I can read that will make it better.

There is nothing that I can eat, drink, smoke or inject that will make it go away. Although some of those will remove the pain for a moment, they won’t change the feeling. And when they wear off, the feeling of uselessness will be a whole lot worse.

On days like these I have a number of options of what to do.

I can decide that there is no point, and stay in bed all morning, then get up and mope and feel miserable. I can write a few e-mails telling anyone that will listen – and even those who don’t want to – how miserable I am. I can look for validation in others telling me that I am worthwhile – but reject that validation when it comes, because I know, deep inside that I’m worthless – if they really knew me they’d agree that I was worthless too.

But whilst my body might not be moving much, my mind would be working overtime, going over and over all the mistakes I’d ever made, and how nothing would ever get any better.

At the end of the day I’d go back to bed totally exhausted, wake sometime early the next morning, and repeat the cycle.

Or, I can choose to do something different.

What I choose to do today is “Act as if”. I can feel self-respect if I do things that respect myself. I can feel self-worth if I do worthwhile things. There is an old saying that I can’t think my way out of negative actions, but I can act my way out of negative thinking.

So today I got up, showered, shaved and dressed. I put out some food and water for the wild birds that I love to see in my garden. I put a load of laundry on, washed the dishes and made fresh coffee. And I came to my computer to write.

Has anything changed? Not in what people call the real world, no. But in the world I live in – the world as experienced inside my head – there is a chink of light.

Maybe I’m not useless, if I can do all that when I don’t feel like doing anything. Maybe the point is just to live life on life’s terms, one day at a time. Maybe I’m not worthless, just for today.

Todays meditation word: The Past

The past

 

Sometimes, we spend too much time living life in the past.

It’s easy for us to look back at things that happened before and try to live them all over again in the present. Maybe they are happy memories, and we want to recapture the things that happened before. We want to know again that excitement of a first love, the taste of a fresh picked strawberry, or the feel of the sun on our bodies in the never-ending summer.

And then we look at our current life, and it doesn’t match up with our memories. Our current relationship – or lack of one – does not compare. Nothing we eat ever quite matches that taste we have in our memory. The summers are never as good as they were back then.

On the other hand, the memories may not be positive ones. It may be we are thinking about someone who hurt or abused us, or occasions where we hurt or abused others. We go back and think about what we could have done or said, what we could have done to protect ourselves or how worthless we are to have acted in the way we did. We are discontented and irritable – we can’t live our life now because of regrets about the past.

What we are really doing here is being dishonest – we are not accepting reality.

It is good to have memories of the things that made us happy – as long as we realize they are memories. We can share them with others, and feel again the happiness they gave us. But it is important to keep making new memories – today is a day that we can look back on with pleasure in the future!

When we spend time regretting the past, re-running conversations and thinking about actions we could have taken, we are trying to change the past – and that is impossible. The facts of what happened cannot be changed. Where we did wrong we can make amends, and indeed should do so for our peace of mind. Where we have been hurt, we need to stop torturing ourselves by wondering what we did wrong or could have done better.

Acceptance doesn’t imply anything about saying that past abuse was right, but it is about accepting that it happened, rather than trying to change the past and make it un-happen.

Living in the present means knowing that the past happened – and that it is past – over and done with.

We need to only live today – yesterday has already been used.

Todays meditation word: The Future

The Future

Sometimes, we spend too much time living life in the future.

Maybe we say:
“I’ll put this relationship on hold while I build up my business, and then I’ll spend more time with my partner.” Or:
“In the next five years I’ll make this amount of money, and then I’ll have really made it.” Or:
“I’ll go on this new diet, become thin, and then all my worries will be over.”
The only problem is that one of two things happen.

Maybe we don’t achieve the thing we set out to do:
there is a downturn in the economy and the business struggles.
Unexpected bills arrive and we’re not able to save the money we needed.
We go off my diet and don’t lose the weight.

Whatever the reason, our plans go awry, and we feel a failure. And also, because the plans didn’t work, it’s obvious that this is the reason we feel so bad. We just need to put more effort into the business, cut back more on expenses, find a better diet – maybe THEN we’ll be happy.

On the other hand, we might end up achieving our plan. We throw ourselves into the business and it’s a great success. We scrimp and save and achieve our monetary target. We starve ourselves and reach the “ideal weight”.

And then maybe we find that our partner hasn’t waited for us, or that we now have no interests in common. Or that we have the amount of money we planned, only now that is not enough. Or even though we’re now skinny, we’re still miserable and isolated.

It is good to plan – it’s good to work hard at something we love to do, to save for the future, to be careful with what we eat. But none of these things will guarantee a happy future.

And there is a simple reason – there are no guarantees.

The future is out there as one of the three elements of time that we experience – past, present and future. We get to control how we are today, but we don’t get to control the future – we only live in the present.

And really living in the present means enjoying what we can do today. Sometimes what we do today is plan for the future, and that is wonderful, so long as we don’t put off our joy till some golden age when our plans come true.

Part of enjoying the now is seeking for our goals – but only part. Mostly, we need to remember that life is happening today, and we need to enjoy it now – not tomorrow.

Todays Meditation Word: Assumptions

Assumptions

I had a couple of interesting lessons about assumptions the last few days, with the world showing me once again that I don’t know everything – in fact, I know very little.

I hadn’t heard from someone for ages, I’d kept up my side of the conversation by e-mail, but had not had a response. And I assumed I knew why, and was accepting of that. Then – surprise! – I heard from them, and I made another assumption based on what they had said. Then I hear from them again today and once again my assumption was incorrect!

On a much less “personal” front, I was planning on going somewhere by bus, and turned up at the bus station, only to find there were no buses! My assumption there about their running times proved totally wrong, and I had to go back home again.

Both of these incidents point up something about the way I view the world, because I often think I know the answers. Often, I see others hurting themselves and want to “help”, because, after all, what I would do would be much better.

But even if meant for the best of intentions – and mostly my intentions ARE for the best – I can get it wrong for a number of simple reasons:
• I don’t know the whole story
• I don’t know what else is happening
• I can’t control others, their thoughts, actions or reactions.

I guess we can’t help but make assumptions – it seems to be part of our human make up. I can’t be down on myself for making the assumptions about the reasons for my friends actions – but I didn’t have to act on them. And that is the key, it seems to me – to do the next right thing anyway, regardless of what others may – or may not – be thinking.

In the end, I’m only responsible for my actions – just because I feel I know something, doesn’t mean I have to act on it. But I can maybe test out my assumption.

Testing out my assumption about my friend meant keeping in contact despite of what I thought I knew.

In the case of the bus, I should have checked first, and you can be sure I will next time!

Todays meditation word: Able

Able

I live on a river, near to the sea, and there are large flocks of birds, including lots of sea gulls.

It always seems to me that sea gulls actively enjoy flying – I’m sure that this is just a fancy on my part, but when I watch them glide and dive it seems to me that they do it for the sheer joy of flying. They do it because they can.

Sea gulls also seem to want to hunt their food – throw bread for them, and rather than land, walk up to it and eat, as most other birds do, they will swoop down, grab a piece of bread without stopping, and gain the air again.

When I stop feeding them out on the river bank here, they came and stand on the small parapet that marks the edge of the quayside, waiting for more food from me, or for something else to happen.

It was on one such occasion when I spotted a gull with only one leg. This caused a double take for a moment – was it just standing on one leg, with the other held up like flamingos do? No, it hopped along the wall, and it was evident that it did, indeed, have only one leg.

It seemed not to be a great disability for the bird – it did have to hop, where he others walked, but given the way the gulls feed on the wing, this didn’t seen a great disadvantage.

Did it even know it was “disabled”? It competed with the others for food – and as I saw this bird every so often for weeks, it seemed successfully. In flying it seemed to make no difference: and whilst it couldn’t walk like the others, it got around just find. It accepted what it was, and made the best go of life that it could.

Sometimes, we compare ourselves to others, and find ourselves wanting. This person has a better job; that person more money; he has a better writer; she is a better public speaker.

But the truth is we are all good at some things, and not so good at others. To be a success is to use the talents we have to the best of our ability. And sometimes, what makes us different makes us uniquely able. Paradoxical as it sounds, sometimes our biggest defects are our biggest assets.

Todays meditation word: Happy

Today I am willing to be happy. What does that mean? – don’t I have to wait for good things to happen so that I can be happy? What has willingness got to do with it?

Well, to some extent that’s true – external things can influence me to be happy or miserable – but really it’s up to me to decide if I want the external event to affect my internal mood. But if I’m willing to look for the happiness in any situation, I can find it.

Just recently, we had snow – we don’t get snow very often in my part of the world, and the sight of it made me smile – I was happy it had snowed. After 3 days of more snow, and with no sign of a thaw, it was not quite so “different” anymore.

Many of the people I met, who had initially been happy with the snow, were now getting less tolerant of it. Some were complaining about the slippery sidewalks, and indeed these were real concerns. Others talked about the cold, and 4 days of below freezing temperatures did bring their own problems. More complained about the local authorities not doing more to clear the snow from the minor roads, many of which did still have a lot of ice on them, making driving difficult.

And yet through all that, being happy was still an option – some would say they were happy simply because they were complaining! But for me it was something to be experienced, to photograph, to wonder at, and – yes – to be happy about.

As with the weather, so with most of the externals in my life – I can’t change control or change them. Most emphatically I can’t control or change the people in my life – they will continue to make their own choices about what they do and say.

But whilst I can’t control the externals, I can control my actions – I can make choices.

And for today I choose to be happy.

Todays meditation word: Feeling

Sad, upset, miserable, as well as cheerful, pleased, happy – all these are “just” feelings. But I tend to label some of these feelings as “bad” and some as “good”, and there is a danger that when I have one of the bad ones, I’ll try to avoid it or hide from it. And equally, when I’m having a “good” feeling, I want it to continue and never stop. Both of these reactions are a manifestation of self-will – of my desire to control the world.

Well, it seems that I’m not God, and so don’t get to control the world or very much in it. Feelings come and go – they are transitory and everything changes – even change changes! I don’t get to hold on to “happy” any more than I get never to feel “Sad”.

And there is a balance here – we have to accept our feelings because they are real and need to be acknowledged. But we also need to remember that they are just feelings, and ask ourselves -do we need to act on this one? Or just let it change?

Sometimes, I just need to admit the feelings to another person – just admit them and more on. Sometimes I need to act, when the feeling is there because there is something I need to change. This is where I need to try to listen to my inner voice to work out what the next right thing to do is.

Feelings are valuable; we have them for a reason. Like physical sensations, they are neither intrinsically good nor intrinsically bad – they just are. If I get a sensation of pain when I touch a hot stove, I don’t label the feeling as bad – it is a good warning that I need to move my hand, and quickly! When an action of mine continually makes me sad, that isn’t a good or a bad feeling – but it is a good indication that I may need to change that action.