What Is Your Identity?

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In our modern society we have so many external factors that we use to identify ourselves.  In fact, not only do we use these things to show others who we are but we use them to tell ourselves, falsely, who we are.  These are often things like how big your TV is, what type of phone you carry with you or the clothes you wear.  For me it’s watches and cars.

In the end, you are not your phone or your TV or even your clothes.  Styles and devices often change.  Statistically speaking, you probably wont be driving the same car you are driving today in 10 years.  You may feel a deep sense of identity from that car right now, however. We draw a deep sense of identity from our friends as well.

The grand illusion is that we are not those things.  This was a concept that has taken me a very long time to understand. When you look deep in to your soul and try to understand who you really are then material things start to mean less to your overall identity.

One big problem that I, and most everyone else, have is attachment to these things because I feel they define me.  Meditation is something that has helped me with this.

Ask yourself today, “who am I really?”

Learning To Meditate – How-To

A Rose

Discovering Meditation

In late 2008 I was working in an IT job.  I worked Monday through Friday, was off by 4pm and had my own desk.  Unfortunately, this type of work just isn’t what I’m passionate for.  I was often stressed out working with someone who was constantly worried about not getting jobs done on time or that the boss wouldn’t be happy.

One particularly stressful day, my co-worker (there were two of us in the IT department) left for lunch in a panic.  Looking back on it, I cannot even tell you what they were so upset about.  My heart was pounding and I was feeling wrecked.  I went online and looked up stress management techniques.  I found a short how-to type website that told me to close my eyes and just try to breathe and think about inhaling and exhaling.  It told me to do this for five minutes.

So I set a timer and for fine minutes I did my best just to think about inhaling and exhaling.  After five minutes I felt like a new man.  I felt like my energy was back and my stress had been released.  I was blown away that I could calm myself down do easily in such a short amount of time.

Developing My Practice

I started, in the next few weeks and months, to research this technique more and more and found that this was meditation.  I had heard about meditation my whole life but had always thought it was just for hippies to sit around and chant “om” and be lazy.  I had no idea what meditation was for or how to do it.

In 2009 I started a new job in a new state and decided to learn how to meditate more effectively.  Meditation would become an on again, off again relationship over the next few years. but when I was diligent in my practice I felt great.  Since my practice has been fairly steady for the past many months, I contribute this practice to my mental well-being that I have been experiencing.

Most Common Concerns

The most common thing I hear people say when I suggest they meditate for stress and anxiety relief is “I don’t know how to do it”, which was my problem years ago.  The second thing I hear is “I’ve tried it and I couldn’t make my mind stop.”  Let me address both of these concerns for you right now and hopefully you can start a practice of your own.

Meditation 101

Here is a step by step how-to guide to meditation:

  1. Sit comfortably somewhere where you wont have many distractions. Background noise shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Start repeating a mantra (a word or sentence that you choose, can be literally anything) in your head over and over.
  4. Focus also on your breathing.
  5. When thoughts pop in your head, think of them being taken away on clouds and go back to steps 3 and 4.
  6. Stop after a few minutes when you start to feel better.

That’s it.  That’s meditation.

But I Can’t Stop My Brain

Meditation is a “practice”.  You don’t “do” meditation, you practice it.  The first time I tried shooting a basketball I missed.  I miss 50-60% of the time still after 30 years.  This doesn’t’ mean I should stop trying to shoot a basketball.  It just means I wont hit the shot every time.  You will have thoughts in your brain that come a lot more often than you wish during your meditation practice.  Just remember step five and practice, practice.  Maybe after many years you’ll be meditating like a monk.  Until then, you will feel the benefits.  I guarantee it.

Be well. Be positive.

Changing Course After Overcoming Anxiety

When I started this blog on January 1, 2014, I had a mission to end the year in a much greater state of mind than when I started it.  October through December of 2013 were very rough for me.  I was riddled with anxiety and was starting to withdraw from daily life.  I knew my family couldn’t take much more of it and neither could I.  I started on a journey to discover peace and serenity.  By the end of the year I had found it.

I haven’t had a real anxiety attack in month.  Sure, there’s the occasional little bit of nervousness that I’d like to think is normal but the bad anxiety that I used to have is gone.  So for a blog that is about overcoming anxiety, there aren’t a lot of stories to tell.  That is not to say that the anxiety couldn’t come back.  It most certainly will.  I have set up a lot of things in my life to prevent it from coming back.

I think this is the best direction for me to take in this blog right now.  I’ve started practicing meditation, carrying crystals in my pockets, using sage to get rid of negative energy and just trying to stay present. I’d like to share some of this with all of you as well as tell stories about me and some of the struggles and bumps along the way.

I may have knocked out the giants in my life.  They was in a coma but they’re not dead.  My mission is to stop them from coming back.  This is something I want to share with all of you.

I will, however, direct my attention off of the anxiety.  I feel as if the saying “what you resist persists” is true.  If you focus on something, even not wanting it, it’ll keep showing up.  So my focus will mostly be on positive outcomes.

How Putting Myself Out There Is Paying Me Back

I’ve often written about my experiences with sharing my anxiety struggles and having people come to me and tell me that they also struggle in the same ways I do.  I’ve found that by putting out my successes that I’ve had friends come to me and share how they have also succeeded.  Not only that, but others who are struggling have come to me to ask me for more information on how they can achieve some success in their struggles as well.

Lately, I have been spending some time in the morning meditating.  Last week I started meditating for 30 minutes instead of the normal 20 that I have in the past.  To be honest, the only reason I started doing that was because a good friend of mine told me he does at least 30 minutes per day and I thought I’d challenge myself to do the same.  Being the extrovert that I am, I said something about my increase in time on Facebook and had a couple of my friends reply and tell me about their meditation practice and how it gets them through the day.

Sometimes you can’t tell who is struggling and who is using something like meditation or even medication to feel better.  So now, I’ve seen that not only do people relate to my struggles, but my friends and I seem to relate to each other in how we achieve success over our struggles.  It’s really opened my eyes to how incredible a lot of my friends are.  Many of them are financially successful and seem to not have a care in the world… on the outside.

Not only has this given me a new perspective on life and the people I know, it’s also helped me to not feel so afraid.  Maybe I can reach out and help someone as my confidence grows.  Just knowing that others are experiencing the same fears helps.

Recently, a guy at work expressed some concern to me that he was having a great deal of anxiety lately.  I gave him some tips and hope he follows up.  Honestly, the greatest tip I could give him, is something he’s already figured out.  Just open up to people, talk about it and don’t stigmatize it.

Be well. Be positive.

Anxiety vs Will Power

What if having will power against anxiety only makes things worse?  Or maybe it would be relying on will power alone to combat anxiety.

I can do some incredible things with will power.  I’ve gone on some diets that have been very successful, I’ve committed to workout plans for long periods of time and I get out of my house every day despite having social anxiety.  But will power doesn’t fix my anxiety.  I’m not sure forcing myself to do some of the things I do really help or they might even exacerbate the situation.  Sometimes I just have no business being out and about with as much anxious energy as I have.  It’s like a drug addict saying “ok, today I’m not hitting the pipe!”  By the next day they’re still addicted and haven’t dealt with the problem that causes the addiction.

There are times when life is an uphill battle and I’m only working to keep the battle going, not end it once and for all.  There are days when I feel like I’m trying to run uphill during an avalanche.  Maybe, just maybe, a better solution would be to stop fighting and take the chair lift instead. So what are my battles?

I struggle with… well… er… ok so my battle is with me.  There, I said it! It’s me! I’m fighting myself.  Like some sort of lunatic. It’s a brain that never stops rambling on and on and me who buys in to everything it tells me.  As they say in 12 step programs, it’s time to let go and let God.  To have faith that everything is working for my benefit.

I’ve been meditating the past couple of weeks.  Not only have I been meditating but I picked up a book about meditation, strangely enough, called “The Buddha Walks Into a Bar…”  My plan is to become quite proficient in meditation that I can quiet my mind end the battle that I’m fighting against myself.

Meditation and Relaxation

My wife is always saying to me, “Just relax!”  To which I reply, “I don’t know how to relax.”  It is very rare that I simply kick back and really relax.  I’m constantly moving, getting up to get something, working…etc.  So it was very nice yesterday when I downloaded a meditation program from Project Meditation and was able to spend an hour relaxing.

In 2009 I started meditating as a way to cope with my anxiety.  I felt like I got very good at it and would seem to enter an almost trance like state.  The feeling was euphoric and I feel as if I almost became addicted to that feeling.  Unfortunately, after about three months of meditating daily for 20 minutes, I started to feel as if I was losing my mind.  I had a constant feeling of dread and fatigue.  I was no longer relaxed and became quite unpleasant to be around.  I stopped meditating and these feelings faded within a matter of days.

In 2011 I tried again but this time using a meditation technique that included audio files with binaural sound waves.  The idea is that the sounds will cause your brain to be tuned to the same frequencies as the audio files.  It’s scientifically proven and did work for me.  Again, after a few months, I started to feel like I was losing it again.

I’ve done a lot of research and found that this can be normal.  It is one final road block on the path to peace.  This time I’m determined to get through it.  Although I don’t like to take it, I have anxiety medication that can help me get through this point and still come out with my marriage intact.

So during yesterday’s meditation session, the narrator walked us through the process in a 20 minute audio file.  He explained the benefits of meditation and what to expect.  Then he had us do a short meditation to get started.  After the short practice meditation he told us to play a different audio file where we would meditate for 10 minutes.

The basic idea is that you pick a mantra that you repeat over and over while letting other thoughts pass and trying to clear your mind as much as possible  He says to try to think your mantra in a rhythm that syncs to your breathing but also that the rhythm can vary if you’d like.

Over the course of 10 minutes, I feel as if I had very few thoughts.  I felt very relaxed and at ease but seemed to notice and be aware of my surroundings despite the fact that my eyes were closed.  I felt the anxiety and fatigue of the day dissipate and a sense of calm fill it’s space.  For the rest of the day I felt like I was able to handle life’s challenges with ease.

I’m in no way saying that I’ve become a Zen master.  This was just one experience but I believe in the benefits of meditation.  Being still and not doing anything is always going to be relaxing.

A couple of months ago I asked someone on an online forum about my negative experiences with meditation.  He said I may need a therapist (which is true) but then he said that the deep euphoric trance like state I achieved isn’t the point of meditation.  He said, “what did meditation teach you?”  A question I had no answer to.  It didn’t teach me anything.  He didn’t elaborate on that question.  He doesn’t have the answer, only I can answer that.

I’ve heard that Zen masters will some times sneak up on their students while they’re meditating and hit them in the back with a stick.  This is to find out if the student is fully aware or if they’ve fallen asleep to entered a trance.  Yesterday, I felt very aware of my surroundings and feel like this is a good sign that I’m on the right track.

I think this is going to be a great journey.  Do you meditate? Do you have any insight you’d like to share?

Be well, be positive.

Layering My Journey

Life is a series of moment strung together one by one.  By the time we all go to bed at night we’ve accomplished many different things.  I’m willing to bet that almost all of you wake up, get out of bed, eat at some point, use the restroom and eventually lay back down in bed.

This was a very busy weekend for me.  Friday I sent my kids off to school and had very few plans for the day.  While I was walking home from the bus stop my friend Juan was driving by and asked if I wanted to run up to Wawa (a gas station/sandwich shop nearby) for coffee.  I had coffee waiting for me at home and I had to meet a friend who was coming in from out of town but I accepted his offer anyway.  I hadn’t seen Juan in a while and the 15 minutes it would take to go get coffee (to go) with him would be time well spent.

Normally, I would spend that time looking at the clock and obsessing about getting back in time to meet my other friend.  Instead, I made a calculated decision and decided that I could go and be back on time without worry.  So that’s what I did.  Instead of watching the clock, I enjoyed my time chatting with Juan.

Once I got back, however, I didn’t have time to sit.  I left right away and headed out.  I wrote Friday in my “Traffic And Life” post about how I decided to enjoy my time stuck in traffic instead of worrying about being on time.  In the end, everything was ok.  When it was time for Derek to leave, I made it back to my side of town in time to enjoy lunch with my wife and a friend.  Not only that but there was plenty of time for me to go running before I had to run out to the store to grab some things for dinner (it was pay day!) before my wife and I headed out to see a friend for her birthday.

During this whole busy day, I noticed a lot of down time in between.  Not between every event of the day but it was there.  It got me thinking about my daily routine.  I have more than enough time to write my bog, read… etc.  So I started thinking about what I could add that would enhance my life right now.

In 2009 I got in to meditation.  It worked, and it worked well.  At times, I had never felt better.  Unfortunately, after about 3 months, I started feeling like I was losing my mind so I quit.  I’ve since learned that this is common and that if you can just keep going, things will improve greatly.  20 minutes of my day is all I need to practice meditation so that is what I’m adding.  I’m laying my recovery efforts.  My running is going well, I’ve been reading and following the advice of my books and I’m starting to feel better.  I have days I could be doing yoga but have not yet started because I was getting acclimated to running.  I now feel like I can add that as well.

My giants are not all the same and my journey wont be a single straight line to confront them either.  If I’m going to be successful, I have to immerse myself in this journey and follow many paths at the same time.

My anxiety manifests itself in many different ways and I plan to stand up to it in many different ways.

Be well, be positive.