Looking at the Big Picture: Part 2

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Looking again at the Big Picture has been one of the most important lessons I have learned in life.    I have been contemplating on this concept in more depth.

When we have a problem, something that worries us, we tend to focus on that problem obsessively.  We don’t think about anything else except what worries us.   And while we continue to focus on this obsessive “problem”, we tend to miss everything else.  The rest of our lives which we miss is what I consider the Big Picture.

For example, I may start worrying about the car that I have in the shop under repair.  I would start worrying about how expensive it can be to repair it.  I can start obsessing about how I would go places without my car.  So I can go on and on focusing on the situation that I have chosen to identify as a problem.   But if I choose to Look at the Big Picture, I consider other situations that would give me a different perspective and therefore a new feeling.  I can choose to think about the good health I still have.  I can think about the job I still have.  I can think about the possibility of learning to catch the city bus or using a taxi.  I can so thinks of so many other scenarios that will diminish the stress of having my car in the shop.

Consider also how small our planet is compared to the rest of the universe.  When we think only about our community, our neighbor , or even our personal lives, we can easily become preoccupied with self righteousness and anxiety.  We can get easily upset when things don’t go our way and start feeling angry, anxious, or afraid.   But when we broaden our perspective to include the universe around us, we begin to see how miniature our worries are, and how small we really are.  Our “rights” become more insignificant.  The whole universe surrounds us and continues to function without caring about our individual preoccupations .  planet

When we also consider how we perceive ourselves individually and worry about our mortality , our fears can be alleviated by recognizing that we all experience the same fate of death and that we are simply in a journey to something bigger than our limited lives .

When we focus on our faults and shortcomings, we tend to put ourselves down. We tend to punish ourselves with rituals and traditions in an attempt to make things better. But again, when we look at the bigger picture , at the fact that we are all imperfect beings, and we all live on the same planet with almost identical needs, we can then begin to forgive ourselves (and others) and commune better with others.   We can begin to accept ourselves with our limitations.  We can better see the commonality among us.

So the next time you feel stressed, angry, or afraid, pay attention to what is it that you are thinking about.  What is it that you are looking at?  Are you looking at your individual preferences and desires?  Are you thinking only about your individual agenda?   And if so, consider looking instead at the Big Picture. 

Peace versus Happiness

There is a difference between being alert and conscious of your surrounding, and being distracted by thoughts, doubts, and illusions.  There is a great analogy I want to use from one of the famous stories from the Bible. In the Gospels, there is a story about Jesus walking on water while his disciples spot him from a boat.  His closest disciple, Peter, asks Jesus if Peter could approach  him by also walking on water.

Now, at this moment, did Jesus tell him: “No, no, no! Don’t do that! You will drown!” ? Or did Jesus say : “Are  you sure you want to come and walk on water?” ?

No, Jesus did not say anything like that.  How did Jesus respond? He said one simple word: “Come!”

So Peter got off the boat and started walking towards Jesus… on water.  How did he do this? By focusing on Jesus.  Again, by focusing on Jesus.  And what does that mean?

This is not a religious post preaching about following Jesus.  Bare with me for a moment. If you haven’t stopped reading so far, you are about to find out what this post is really about. …

There are many stories and teaching inside and outside of the Bible that can be used to describe what I am talking about here.  Focusing on Jesus was all Peter needed to do to remain calm,  stable and walking forward.  In our current lives, we would also need to focus and be aware of the Present moment, in order to remain calm and stable.  But as soon as Peter looked down and was “distracted” by the waters and his current circumstance, he began to feel fear, panic, and began to sank.  Jesus had to then reach down and rescue Peter from his “distraction.”

It is easy to lose tract of the present moment by paying attention to our thoughts, doubts and illusions.  But remaining conscious and aware of our surroundings will bring us peace and joy.  Not happiness.

Being happy depends on circumstances.

Being at peace does not.

 

The Need to Belong

  We are  all wanting to belong to a particular  idea .   We identify with a sports team by being fans and worshiping the team mascot.  Or we choose to identify with a political party and idolize the candidate that represents the party. Or we may want to identify with a specific religion or philosophy , and live our lives based on a set of values.  We can even identify with fashion, culture,or ethnicity.  All of this, simply to feel as if we belong ..

And why do we want to belong? So that we can feel secured and protected. So that we don’t feel alone and vulnerable.   We fear being alone.  We dont want to be different , to prevent being singled out, ridiculed, and marginalized.  We want to blend with the crowd. 

How Mindfulness can help with some symptoms of Mental Illness

While working with some people with mental illness, I have learned a lot about how effective mindfulness can be in helping with some symptoms of mental illness.  I counsel individuals with a diagnosed mental illness.  Some of these people can suffer significantly from their symptoms.  For example, today I visited a lady who lives by herself and 12 cats.  She suffers from Schizophrenia, the paranoid type.   She is also hard of hearing.    When she opened the door, she complained that she could not sleep because the “voices” were too loud.  Can you imagine not hearing anything, except voices that scream at you  and don’t let you sleep at night?  I usually prompt her to distract herself by engaging in an activity that she enjoys, such as painting or watching TV.  Any activity that she enjoys and helps to be focused on the present moment.

I often encourage people to focus on the present moment in order to distract themselves from the thoughts that are triggering the anxiety, anger, or sadness. But recently I have tried to encourage clients to change their perspective by changing their physical position.

When we displace ourselves and have a different perspective, we are suddenly doing some mindfulness. For example, if we usually sit on the same side of a table out of  habit, but suddenly decide to change to another side, the perspective will change.  And when the perspective changes, our attention are automatically shifted to the surroundings.  We will then start studying, observing, and adjusting to the new perspective.  We start being mindful.

While talking to another client in counseling, I suggested to her to change to the other side of her sofa.   She was hesitant to do so because her usual side of the sofa makes her feel safe and secured .   But this “security” is only temporary and superficial.  It simply gives her a false sense of “power” and “control.”  But the idea of maintaining power and control does not lead us to inner peace.  It only triggers more anxiety and insecurity.  So letting go of the urge to be “in a safe place” is always short lived.  It is like being hungry for chocolate, so we go back to eating the chocolate candy that we crave for  and we are then satisfied.  But the satisfaction only last a certain amount of time and it eventually goes away, and we feel the urge to eat chocolate again.  By surrendering our urge to feel secured, we finally can start living inner peace.  We start experiencing true freedom.

Yet another client  has been struggling with grieving the death of her friend, but she tends to think about ending her own life in order to “join” her friend.  I reminded her that it is normal to be sad and to miss the deceased person.   It is healthy to set up time aside to cry and to be withdrawn.  But it is also healthy to return to the routine of every day life.  And this can be accomplished by changing  and engaging in new activities.  Every time we start something new, either a volunteer work, a new hobby, or a new chore, we are forcing ourselves to pay attention to the present moment.  We are inclined to observe and study what is NEW.  And it keeps the thoughts that were making us feel angry, anxious, or sad away from our minds.

So next time you feel anxious about whatever is causing the anxiety, one way to shift the focus is to move to a different spot.  Once you change spots, simply observe.  Look around you.   Contemplate on the details of your surroundings .  Also try to engage in a new activity.  Study it.  Learn from it.

And enjoy the present moment.  Fully.

Fearing death

imageWhy do I fear death so much?

It is simply a normal part  of existence from one state to another. It is an inevitable experience that everybody goes through. I have been taught that when a loved ones dies, they’re supposed to be in a better place, so why do I fear it so much? My fear is caused by my thoughts, so I should be able to change my thoughts so that I can change my fear into something else.  I also feel anxiety, but I remind myself that it is caused by my thoughts and my concepts in my mind. I should be able to manipulate my thinking so that I can be in a more peaceful state of mind.  It has been difficult to empty my mind so that I’m not  always lost in my thoughts. I am not my thoughts.  I am not my feelings. I’m not sure if they are actually “mine.”

 So why do I let them dictate my life?    Is it really “my” life? Or am I  just part of the collective set of consciousness where every human being shares with me? And if so,  should I even use the word “I” at all  to define this consciousness that is experienced at the moment? This moment is all that I really have.  This moment where I am writing this post.  The eternal presence  that cannot be taken away, not even in death. Or can it? Is the source of my fear the thought that death  can take away the eternal presence? Or simply the the fear of the unknown?

There’s no conclusion to this post. There’s no answer or solution but I can provide at the moment. Just questions to ponder.

Death and Sickness everywhere

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In my  personal life, I have heard and seen people getting sick and dying … Mainly because of cancer. These are the moments in life where I pause and reflect more about this present existence .
What are we? What purpose brought us to this existence ? Is our awareness of this thing we call life accurate? What awareness will we have , if any, after our bodies die?
No wonder people tend to believe in the afterlife.. To give us hope about this mysterious state of being.

Life goes on, but what exactly is this life? We hear all the time that this famous person and that other person died.  But what does it mean for “me” to die ?  It happens everywhere, and to everybody.  Yet we rarely think about it happening to us.

What would it be like ?  I may find out when my heart stops beating.   Or I may not even realize I have died… Like when I fall asleep and don’t realize it until I wake up the next morning . I don’t know.

But they know. Those who have passed away know.

I shall experience it too.

The Beauty of the Present Moment

Every thought , every idea we have and memories, are not in the present moment.  We cannot experience the present moment if we are constantly thinking about other things, ideas … The only thing we can know for sure… what we can be certain of is what we are experiencing right now.

Everything else is an illusion .   A fantasy.  A fabrication of the mind.  Even if our thoughts and ideas seem like they are tangible and sometimes objective, the reality is that that they are simply subjective ideas.  Which can then create anxiety, sadness, and resentments.

Not all thoughts trigger anxiety and sadness; but being in the present moment never triggers these feelings.  Being in the present moment can only bring peace.

We can make ourselves feel peace and tranquility by simply being in the present.  Only with patience and practice can this be achieved.  As soon as we allow ourselves to focus on our thoughts, then we are prone to uncomfortable feelings.  We may start feeling insecure.  Sad.  Angry.  Anxious.

Focusing back in the present… the here and now, will bring contentment… and peace.

That’s the beauty of the Present Moment.