Joy 101 — How to Open the Door to Your Emotions

Image of a daffodil. A nice symbol of joy.

Joy, or her gentler sister, happiness, can seem elusive. We have been told by our society we will be happy when we achieve a goal or gain an item we have coveted. I’m here to tell you joy can be found without any of that. Not only can it be found, without those items and experiences, but pursuing them at all costs can interfere with joy.

The reason many of us find happiness so elusive is that we have decided to shut the door on emotions.  Let’s back up a little. Emotions can be labelled “good” or “bad”. That is a simple idea. Anger, envy, jealousy and hate are seen as negative. Even sadness and regret can fall into the “bad” category. We all seek the “good” feelings of joy (that’s what this blog is about!), happiness, love and contentment, for example.

Social rules of engagement further say we can express the good emotions, usually, in public, but not always. Try laughing out loud during a eulogy if you don’t believe me. The bad emotions, however, should be hidden and denied. If you are really angry, it is generally not acceptable to express it in the moment, especially if when angry you throw and break things.

So, what am I getting at? We have been taught to greater or lesser degrees when and how and if we can express the emotions we are feeling. Truth is, if you feel impatient, you feel impatient. It is neither good nor bad, it just is. The trouble starts if you decide to lash out at someone because you are feeling this way, but I digress.

When an emotion is created energy is built up. There are tons of hormones, bodily reactions and sensations associated with all kinds of emotions. If you choose to repress them, in the moment they occur, that energy does not dissipate. It stays somewhere in your body and waits to be released.

We are all familiar with someone who strikes out in anger at some small slight. In some instances this can simply be a build up of anger, that was not expressed at the time it formed. The energy from the anger is still trying to escape and a small thing sets it off. It is expressed in an inappropriate situation and seems out of proportion to the small slight that set it off.

Forcing ourselves to not experience emotions, when they occur not only can backfire, like described above, it takes a huge amount of energy to keep your emotions under control all of the time. Enter addictions. If we have anger, sadness, hate and other “bad” emotions we are trying to suppress, not express, and their energy is building up, one of the ways to deal with this is to avoid it. Shopping, gambling, legal and illegal drugs (governments decide on this distinction so I would argue the distinction is not real), over-working, over-exercising…there are too many to list. These things numb us and allow us to ignore the pent up emotions we have stored in our bodies.

Unfortunately, this does not work long term. Unexpressed emotions can erupt at unexpected times, can lead to illness, stress and depression and worst of all, we cannot just block the unpleasant or “bad” emotions. When we block emotions, we block all emotions.

In order to get to joy we must feel all emotions, the “good” and the “bad”. This includes all of the emotions we have failed to express in the past. If we want to get to a place where we can feel joy, happiness and contentment, we must feel and express what we have been told are unacceptable, or what we have found are unpleasant emotions.

Here is a step by step guide on how to release repressed emotions:
1. Find Time

The actual exercise can last from a few minutes to over an hour depending on you personally, how many emotions you have repressed, how long you have been storing pent-up emotions and how painful the experience is.

In addition to the time spent doing the work, you will need recovery time. This is not the type of exercise you should do right before going to work, or before a social outing. Leave time to take a walk, have a shower or bath, get outside, listen to good music or some other activity that will act as a balm over the wounds you are about to open. This is not the best time to turn to any addictions or bad habits you may have.

2. Find a place

You are looking for a place where you will have the maximum amount of privacy you can muster. This may be more difficult for some, especially if you live in a home that does not afford you privacy. You may need to find a wooded area that is not heavily populated, or park your car in a secluded area. You may need to ask a friend if you can do this exercise at their home. Do whatever you can to find a place where you can make noise, feel safe and not have to worry about your surroundings.

Depending on you personally, you may prefer one of the two following things:

1. Some individuals need to have a place where they cannot break or damage anything. If you know or suspect this may be you, plan for it. Have things you can break, pillows you can punch, paper or cardboard you can tear, that sort of thing.

2. Others need comfort. If this is you, grab a blanket or shawl, wrap it around you and sit somewhere you feel safe and secure.

3. Do the Work

a.  Think of things that have rattled you. Remember times you were wronged or shamed or felt hurt. Play music that makes you feel sad. Watch a movie you know dredges up emotions. Do what you need to do to have any emotion surface. Allow yourself to feel and express the emotion.

b.  Be prepared for rage, anger, crying, sobbing, yelling, laughing or any other way an emotion can be expressed. Let it happen. This is a highly personal and individual experience.  Do not get pulled into a thought process about why you feel this way, or that you shouldn’t feel this way. If your brain is demanding attention, focus on describing how the emotion appears in your body.

c.  Create a picture in your mind about the sensations. “My stomach is a red ball of liquid” for instance. Do not say, “I am angry”, describe the sensations using colours, textures and shapes. There can be no judgement. Do not berate yourself for being weak or for having the emotions. Try to stop the part of your brain trying to understand and explain what is happening. Allow yourself to fully express the emotions that come up.

d.  It is normal to start with one emotion and have it evolve into another. Do not judge yourself for starting with sadness, for instance, becoming angry, feeling hate and then laughing out loud. This is normal. The order I gave was just an example. The emotions will come up in an unpredictable way.

Note:  even the most painful of feelings will last a maximum of 90 seconds. There may be more than one wave of emotions, but each will only last 90 seconds. You can allow even the most uncomfortable sensation to last that long.

e.  When no more emotions surface, or you’ve reached your limit. Stop. Do the activity you planned for before you began, like go for a walk outside.

It is not possible to do this exercise wrong. As you do it more often you will become accustomed to how to release the emotions without trying to “think” your way out of it. You will know you are doing it correctly when you feel slightly “lighter” afterwards. If you feel like you have re-experienced the trauma that caused the emotion initially, you are in your thoughts too much. Practice describing the sensations visually while doing this exercise, that will help.

4. Repeat

This should be repeated as often as possible. The sessions will decrease in time and intensity. Piece by piece you are dismantling opening the door to emotions. This is when joy starts to flow into your life. It is not possible to feel joy exclusively, you must feel all emotions and this exercise will help you to do that.

Moments

Our life is composed of moments. We like to dream about wonderful things like unfathomable riches, or a great vacation, getting that ring or promotion, but the truth is, we are living right now.

So, how do you feel right now? It is not too much of a leap to guess that you are warm, fed, clothed and have access to the internet. You are reading this, so you must be! But do you feel like you are OK? Are you savouring it?

Not too long ago I was faced with a relatively minor decision. I could pay $40.00 to take a “short cut” on the drive home, or I could drive over an hour through rush hour traffic, likely bumper to bumper.

Being fully conscious of my values and priorities, I decided to put some good music on, put the roof of my car down and just go through the traffic.

I could’ve stressed about the congestion, damming all of the people around me, wishing those in charge had made better planning decisions and been angry the entire way home. Or, I could recognize those around me were stressed, give them a little compassion and listen to some good music. It takes such little effort to drive that slow!

It may seem like a small thing, and it was, but our entire life is like that. A long time ago, I decided I didn’t want to look back on my life and see only stress and turmoil. For that drive, I was content. I knew it would take over an hour. An hour of my life I wanted to enjoy, not stress over.

Choosing to be happy now, even in gridlock, means that increasingly my life becomes filled with moments of contentment and joy. Isn’t that what we all want? Why not choose to be happy now? 

The Perfume Radical

photoIt turns out that nail polish may not have been my gateway makeup. I realized recently that I have worn perfume for a very long time. I feel undressed without it. I love the aroma surrounding me. I know others enjoy it because I often receive comments about how nice it smells.

This simple accoutrement brings me joy. There I said it. There is no other reason to wear perfume (for me at least) other than I enjoy it. I try to pick out a new scent each time I purchase perfume. I would have stayed with “Sensi” by Giorgio Armani forever, but it was discontinued. It suited me perfectly, had a classy, well-rounded floral scent and managed to last all day. Now that I have worn many different scents for a period of time, noticing a hint of a particular perfume can take me back to a period in my life.

Unfortunately, like so many other enjoyable things in our lives, our increasingly intolerant society is beginning to insist that many work places should be “scent free” as though shampoo and deodorant are unscented. Lets not forget the automatic air fresheners that are sprayed in many washrooms either! Most people appear to enjoy the fleeting smell of a nice perfume, the operative word there being “fleeting”.

Whenever the topic of the “scent free workplace” comes up, I make sure I mention that I wear perfume everyday. If you apply it properly, no one should be offended. It should never be noticeable beyond your arm’s length. Which means that only those that you are directly next to you would ever know you are wearing it.

When I say this people are often shocked. First, we have all become accustomed to accommodating everyone around us as much as possible. So it is politically incorrect to admit I do something, for pleasure alone, that some people have said bothers them. Second, if I am wearing perfume, why hasn’t anyone brought the “scent free” policy to my attention? The truth is that very few people actually have a true reaction to perfume. The policy got broad acceptance because of those very few individuals who wear too much scent and that can be unpleasant if you need to work near it or can’t get away from it.

I do enjoy noticing the perfume during the day and my impression is others do as well. This applies equally well to fingernails. I enjoy the appearance of them throughout the day. My little artist enjoys painting them, perfecting the finish, matching them to my clothing or to the lighting.

Perhaps I’m a radical. I am tired of the smallest of minorities deciding the behaviour of the majority. We cannot reduce all inconvenience to zero. We cannot reduce all risk to zero. Is it wrong to simply enjoy things, even if there is a small but real chance that someone might be inconvenienced?

These small things are unimportant in the large scheme of life. I could not argue that I would not be able to live without my perfume, or nail polish, but they do bring us into the moment. Noticing my perfume or my nails brings a flash of joy and appreciation at unexpected times. I can see why these superficial things are important to me. They can remind me that life can be simple, that small things can make a big difference and everything is not about something larger.

Post Narcissism — Searching for Normal

IMG_2077One of the questions that I often get on my blog is, “How do you fully recover from a narcissist?” As I am currently in the process, I’ll let you know what I have tried and what has brought relief, but I am not claiming that I am all of the way out of the darkness.

What I can say is that there is more joy now in my life than there ever was while I was living with a narcissist. The act of removing myself from the environment and then separating myself as completely as possible from the drama made room for all kinds of joy and satisfaction to flood in. On an average day I am content, happy and I feel like the world is full of opportunity and promise. That is a good thing.

I have been helped along the way by meditating and journaling. I hesitate to write that because that is where most people stop as though doing those two things results in immediate healing of all symptoms and a reversion to the innocence you once had. This was not my experience.

What these two practices did, in summary, was made me aware of my thoughts and feelings. As these two elements surface, it gave me an opportunity to look at them, see if they were serving me and decide whether or not I wanted to hold onto them. A few examples will help illustrate what I am trying to say.

One thought I had was, “I should’ve acted differently.” (substitute in anything here: faster, more forcefully, more honestly, more decisively, more intuitively, more in defense of myself). Really? This thought does not hold up to examination for two reasons. First, I was doing my best with the information that I had at the time. Second, thoughts like this keep you caught in a pattern of wishing things were different. The past will never be different. Find a way to accept that you acted the way you did and just embrace it. Forgive yourself if you need to. The point is, when you are stuck thinking that things should have been different, you are stuck. Try: “It happened. I am no longer there.”

This sounds like word games, but it stops the inevitable next thoughts that begin to rewrite how things should be now if you had acted differently then. “I wasted so much time.” “If I had acted differently they would have loved me back.” “I should’ve seen my situation earlier and more clearly” blah, blah, blah…. you didn’t. I didn’t. Lets move on.

Another thing I became aware of was all of the emotions that I was still harboring: resentment, hate, love, anger, jealousy, regret, and so on, and so on. These emotions need to be honoured, not analyzed. You feel whatever you feel. Regardless of how bad these things are, they are only emotions. Let yourself experience them as much as you can and they lose their power over you. Allowing myself to feel all of the emotions that surface has allowed me to release decades of old pain. I have remembered how scared I was as a five year old getting my tonsils out in the hospital; how devastated I was when my dog died when I was a teenager and other equally traumatic things that occurred.

The process goes like this. You are present in the moment and you notice the slightest flicker of an emotion. Focus all of your attention on that flicker. If you are like me, you have learned to immediately push these slight emotional whispers aside and pretend they are not there. Try to break this habit. Notice the flicker. Sit with the thought that brought it on for a moment and let the emotion expand. When you fully experience the connection to the memory that holds the pain, you are likely to have an emotional response: laughter, tears, rage… Once you have allowed the emotion to be expressed it is no longer as painful.

I can now remember the anguish of my dog dying without the extremely painful hurt it caused. I had been holding down this pain for over thirty years. Think of how much energy and focus that took!

If you are like me, you may be harboring emotions that should have been expressed a long time ago and not all of them are related to the narcissist that you had in your life. Releasing these feelings is like opening a gateway that lets emotions flow out and creativity, joy and connection flow into your world.

This is an ongoing exercise that is allowing me to go deeper and deeper into who I am at my core. The true me. The complete me. Which brings me to another truth. In order to survive where I was living, I learned to hide parts of myself. The parts that were taunted, belittled, ridiculed or unwelcome. This is a survival technique that anyone that has lived with a narcissist learns. The first time you put your heart and soul into choosing and arranging fresh flowers in a vase and you are told that they are in the way, a waste of money and a waste of time, is the last time you allow yourself to indulge. Pick your own example. I know there is one.

I have been paying attention to things that I enjoy. Little things like small flowers, good music, colour, art and writing. These are things that I have always enjoyed, but the toxic atmosphere of living with a narcissist blocks your connection to these things. I became so focused on just making it through my days, behaving in ways that wouldn’t rock the boat or provide fodder for an attack and trying to figure out what was going on, I lost all connection to myself and my desires. I lost a sense of who I was.

I have been gradually reclaiming these things but it takes paying attention to today. If your mind is preoccupied with regret, unexpressed emotions, thought patterns that keep you trapped in a past that was confusing and painful, you will not get to the present. It is only in the present that you start to enjoy yourself, to notice the joy in your life and reconnect with the parts of yourself that got shoved aside when you were in survival mode.

The Narcissist Survival Guide is now available

The Meaning of Life?

http://trekcore.com/gallery/albums/picard/picard_s5hq_pbvariant.jpg
http://trekcore.com/gallery/albums/picard/picard_s5hq_pbvariant.jpg

When Jean-Luc Picard is faced with his mediocre new life after travelling back in time to fix a “mistake” he made when he was a young man, we all understood the significance of his epiphany. It is better to live a passionate life full of experiences, mistakes and opportunities than it is to play it safe and end up in an uninspiring life of drudgery.

In this particular Star Trek episode, Q sends Jean-Luc back to address a regret. Jean-Luc decides not to battle a Nausicaan this time. This saves Jean-Luc embarrassment and gives him a new lease on life. All of this is occurring during open heart surgery to replace the artificial heart that was required because of the initial fight with the Nausicaan. What Jean-Luc discovers is that his new life, as a low level technician, does not inspire him and he decides that he would rather have a meaningful, albeit shorter, life than a safer boring one.

Even though we understand this concept, our current preoccupation with “safety” at all costs is in direct conflict with this entire notion. How many people do you know who take any risks at all?  The mantra, “Better Safe than Sorry” is unquestioned, as an almost religious belief, which begs the question, Why?

Over several centuries, we have gone from believing that everything is in the hands of a supernatural being to worshipping science as the be-all and end-all answer to every conceivable question. There is a comfort in knowing that facts can be determined, numbers can be added and used to prove points. It is defensible to state knowledge and support arguments, but is that all that there is?

We all need something to be passionate about. That is how we were designed. A quick look around will reveal that people stand up against injustices, fund raise for medical research and put their energy into things that are important to them. Problem is, without recognizing that this is our very nature, many of us take the latest snippet of news, research or gossip and become passionate about that. This causes our passions to be paper thin and as changing as the wind.

Have you noticed the current obsession with kale and avocado? If you missed the initial scientific announcement that these are the new “super foods” you must have at least noticed that you can get avocado at almost all of the fast food places now. It is a topping on burgers, an ingredient in salads and included in beverages—yes, beverages.

We have internalized this notion that doing all that we can to avoid death, or prolong life gives our lives meaning. But does it? We understood what Jean-Luc felt because a life without passion and purpose is, not only depressing, but it misses the point. Could it be possible that the purpose of our lives is to find joy and live in passion?

Jean-Luc had the opportunity to re-live that part of his life and he went back and got into the fight again. For us mere mortals that have to live linearly I guess we should just follow our passions more and do those things that bring us joy, but more on that later.

What are you Passionate About?

IMG_3673When was the last time that you were so eager to do something that you couldn’t wait? How about stopping to just enjoy the moment, or “smell the roses”? I’m not talking about getting to the end of work so that you can relax, or worse looking forward to retirement, I’m talking about looking forward to actually doing (rather than not having to do) something. This is not “living for the weekend”. I’m talking about actually having something that you love to do.

If you find that you cannot remember the last time that you had that Christmas morning feeling, or even some activity that you look forward to, there could be a few reasons. One of the more common reasons is that there is simply nothing in your life that makes you feel excited or passionate or inspired at all. This can be the result of several factors.

The first factor is that in order to feel emotions we must be willing to feel all emotions. In our Prozac society, feeling bad is often seen as a choice–and not a smart one at that. But I disagree. In order to feel the range of emotions that we are capable of feeling you must be willing to feel the good and the bad.

It has been recognized that shutting out unpleasant emotions closes the door on all feelings. We cannot selectively feel only those emotions we want to feel. When we block some, we block them all.

Anger, fear, pain and loneliness are not pleasant feelings. Many of us have found ways to avoid experiencing this unpleasantness. We eat, smoke, drink take antidepressants, shop, watch television or play video games. We all have our own avoidance mechanisms.

These mechanisms allow us to focus on something other than the discomfort that we are feeling. No one alive can avoid unpleasant emotions forever, mainly because unpleasant stuff happens to everyone, but also because these emotions do not go away when they are not experienced. They get stored up in your body waiting for an opportunity to be expressed and having a detrimental impact on your health in the meantime.

Not allowing ourselves to feel emotions can be likened to holding a door almost shut. When the emotions start to come through the door we lean on the door, not quite able to lock it shut and a lot of effort (or avoidance tactics) is required to hold the door in place. Unfortunately, all of the good emotions are held on the other side of the door as well. Love, passion, joy and happiness get stuck on the other side. We increasingly become disconnected from not only the bad and uncomfortable emotions but we can no longer tap into the good emotions either.

Another factor that can get into the way of being passionate is that we’ve told ourselves that we cannot have what we want. Written this way that seems absurd, but we were all raised in a society that taught us how we were supposed to behave in order to be successful and acceptable. You need to have a job that will give you enough income to support yourself; good parents always put their children first; good little boys and girls do not behave that way; there is not enough time and my personal favourite, if it is not productive it is not worth doing at all.

Many of these beliefs are not even conscious; we have just learned to push aside desire when we know that we cannot accommodate it. I would love to sail, but I don’t have a boat and I don’t live near the water, so when I think about sailing I’ll delegate it to when I retire–for instance.

Finally, we have to be willing to listen to our own hearts and actually dream about what we would like to be doing. This type of activity, or non-activity, is equally discouraged in our society. Someone that takes time to do nothing is often seen as unproductive and I don’t have to tell you how frowned upon that is in our culture. You must be willing to be unproductive, to allow yourself to dream and fantasize about possibilities before you are going to be able to tap into what you really want.

Passion and excitement make life worth living. If you realize that you no longer feel passion at all, ask yourself if you are feeling anything. Have you learned to suppress all of your emotions? What are you doing instead of feeling them?

Take the time today to ask yourself what you would love to do (today, not some time in the future!), pay attention to what you tell yourself about why you can’t do it and consider the possibility that those reasons may not be true. If you can’t think of anything that you would like to do, take fifteen minutes to do nothing. Let you mind wander and see what comes up, it may amaze you.

Post Narcissism — Searching for Normal

IMG_2077One of the questions that I often get on my blog is, “How do you fully recover from a narcissist?” As I am currently in the process, I’ll let you know what I have tried and what has brought relief, but I am not claiming that I am all of the way out of the darkness.

What I can say is that there is more joy now in my life than there ever was while I was living with a narcissist. The act of removing myself from the environment and then separating myself as completely as possible from the drama made room for all kinds of joy and satisfaction to flood in. On an average day I am content, happy and I feel like the world is full of opportunity and promise. That is a good thing.

I have been helped along the way by meditating and journaling. I hesitate to write that because that is where most people stop as though doing those two things results in immediate healing of all symptoms and a reversion to the innocence you once had. This was not my experience.

What these two practices did, in summary, was made me aware of my thoughts and feelings. As these two elements surface, it gave me an opportunity to look at them, see if they were serving me and decide whether or not I wanted to hold onto them. A few examples will help illustrate what I am trying to say.

One thought I had was, “I should’ve acted differently.” (substitute in anything here: faster, more forcefully, more honestly, more decisively, more intuitively, more in defense of myself). Really? This thought does not hold up to examination for two reasons. First, I was doing my best with the information that I had at the time. Second, thoughts like this keep you caught in a pattern of wishing things were different. The past will never be different. Find a way to accept that you acted the way you did and just embrace it. Forgive yourself if you need to. The point is, when you are stuck thinking that things should have been different, you are stuck. Try: “It happened. I am no longer there.”

This sounds like word games, but it stops the inevitable next thoughts that begin to rewrite how things should be now if you had acted differently then. “I wasted so much time.” “If I had acted differently they would have loved me back.” “I should’ve seen my situation earlier and more clearly” blah, blah, blah…. you didn’t. I didn’t. Lets move on.

Another thing I became aware of was all of the emotions that I was still harboring: resentment, hate, love, anger, jealousy, regret, and so on, and so on. These emotions need to be honoured, not analyzed. You feel whatever you feel. Regardless of how bad these things are, they are only emotions. Let yourself experience them as much as you can and they lose their power over you. Allowing myself to feel all of the emotions that surface has allowed me to release decades of old pain. I have remembered how scared I was as a five year old getting my tonsils out in the hospital; how devastated I was when my dog died when I was a teenager and other equally traumatic things that occurred.

The process goes like this. You are present in the moment and you notice the slightest flicker of an emotion. Focus all of your attention on that flicker. If you are like me, you have learned to immediately push these slight emotional whispers aside and pretend they are not there. Try to break this habit. Notice the flicker. Sit with the thought that brought it on for a moment and let the emotion expand. When you fully experience the connection to the memory that holds the pain, you are likely to have an emotional response: laughter, tears, rage… Once you have allowed the emotion to be expressed it is no longer as painful.

I can now remember the anguish of my dog dying without the extremely painful hurt it caused. I had been holding down this pain for over thirty years. Think of how much energy and focus that took!

If you are like me, you may be harboring emotions that should have been expressed a long time ago and not all of them are related to the narcissist that you had in your life. Releasing these feelings is like opening a gateway that lets emotions flow out and creativity, joy and connection flow into your world.

This is an ongoing exercise that is allowing me to go deeper and deeper into who I am at my core. The true me. The complete me. Which brings me to another truth. In order to survive where I was living, I learned to hide parts of myself. The parts that were taunted, belittled, ridiculed or unwelcome. This is a survival technique that anyone that has lived with a narcissist learns. The first time you put your heart and soul into choosing and arranging fresh flowers in a vase and you are told that they are in the way, a waste of money and a waste of time, is the last time you allow yourself to indulge. Pick your own example. I know there is one.

I have been paying attention to things that I enjoy. Little things like small flowers, good music, colour, art and writing. These are things that I have always enjoyed, but the toxic atmosphere of living with a narcissist blocks your connection to these things. I became so focused on just making it through my days, behaving in ways that wouldn’t rock the boat or provide fodder for an attack and trying to figure out what was going on, I lost all connection to myself and my desires. I lost a sense of who I was.

I have been gradually reclaiming these things but it takes paying attention to today. If your mind is preoccupied with regret, unexpressed emotions, thought patterns that keep you trapped in a past that was confusing and painful, you will not get to the present. It is only in the present that you start to enjoy yourself, to notice the joy in your life and reconnect with the parts of yourself that got shoved aside when you were in survival mode.

The Narcissist Survival Guide is now available

The Perfume Radical

photoIt turns out that nail polish may not have been my gateway makeup. I realized recently that I have worn perfume for a very long time. I feel undressed without it. I love the aroma surrounding me. I know others enjoy it because I often receive comments about how nice it smells.

This simple accoutrement brings me joy. There I said it. There is no other reason to wear perfume (for me at least) other than I enjoy it. I try to pick out a new scent each time I purchase perfume. I would have stayed with “Sensi” by Giorgio Armani forever, but it was discontinued. It suited me perfectly, had a classy, well-rounded floral scent and managed to last all day. Now that I have worn many different scents for a period of time, noticing a hint of a particular perfume can take me back to a period in my life.

Unfortunately, like so many other enjoyable things in our lives, our increasingly intolerant society is beginning to insist that many work places should be “scent free” as though shampoo and deodorant are unscented. Lets not forget the automatic air fresheners that are sprayed in many washrooms either! Most people appear to enjoy the fleeting smell of a nice perfume, the operative word there being “fleeting”.

Whenever the topic of the “scent free workplace” comes up, I make sure I mention that I wear perfume everyday. If you apply it properly, no one should be offended. It should never be noticeable beyond your arm’s length. Which means that only those that you are directly next to you would ever know you are wearing it.

When I say this people are often shocked. First, we have all become accustomed to accommodating everyone around us as much as possible. So it is politically incorrect to admit I do something, for pleasure alone, that some people have said bothers them. Second, if I am wearing perfume, why hasn’t anyone brought the “scent free” policy to my attention? The truth is that very few people actually have a true reaction to perfume. The policy got broad acceptance because of those very few individuals who wear too much scent and that can be unpleasant if you need to work near it or can’t get away from it.

I do enjoy noticing the perfume during the day and my impression is others do as well. This applies equally well to fingernails. I enjoy the appearance of them throughout the day. My little artist enjoys painting them, perfecting the finish, matching them to my clothing or to the lighting.

Perhaps I’m a radical. I am tired of the smallest of minorities deciding the behaviour of the majority. We cannot reduce all inconvenience to zero. We cannot reduce all risk to zero. Is it wrong to simply enjoy things, even if there is a small but real chance that someone might be inconvenienced?

These small things are unimportant in the large scheme of life. I could not argue that I would not be able to live without my perfume, or nail polish, but they do bring us into the moment. Noticing my perfume or my nails brings a flash of joy and appreciation at unexpected times. I can see why these superficial things are important to me. They can remind me that life can be simple, that small things can make a big difference and everything is not about something larger.

Stranger than Fiction

100-0201Stranger than Fiction” a movie I rewatched recently on Crackle because I enjoy the messages in it. The movie takes a stab at determining if self-will or destiny reigns supreme. It asks, “How do you want to live your life?” Ultimately, it examines the relationship we have with ourselves and the world around us. As a Coneiya (ko-NEY-yuh) practitioner, this is one of the things that I teach awareness of.

We can get so caught up in the conversations we have with ourselves that we completely miss the life we are supposed to be living. In the movie, Harold Crick counted and calculated every aspect of his life and experienced it through numbers; 32 teeth brushed 76 times. Then he became aware of a second voice that was not his own, “With better vocabulary.

Symbolically, this second voice could represent the fact that the voice in our heads is NEVER who we are. It can be difficult to realize this because it is our closest companion, but it is simply the word generating part of our brain, doing what it does best, which is generating words. When you are having trouble making a decision, who are you arguing with?

It wasn’t until Harold found out that his death was imminent that he was shook out of this trance. This is apropos because many people are ripped out of this self talk delusion because of a great loss or tragedy. The delusion is thinking that the voice in our heads talking to us all day is very important, perhaps the most important part of who we are. It is not. These words are just a series of things that we’ve decided to say to ourselves, like, look both ways before you cross the street. We repeat truths in neuronal assemblies like deep treads in a well worn road. The trick is to get out of the rut and start taking control of how you steer.

Another message that I like in this movie comes from a man helping Harold during this difficult time in his life. The man suggests that Harold enjoy his life to the fullest in the time that he has left. This inspires Harold to buy a guitar and learn how to play it. It is important to include the things in our lives that we enjoy.

That is so obvious that it feels silly mentioning it, but too often we get so fixed in our patterns that we don’t even stop to think about how we would want to spend our time. We decide that we will do all of the things that we enjoy when we retire or win the lottery or at least not today. Adding joy to your life today is much more satisfying than listening to all of the things that you have gotten into the habit of telling yourself.

How do you want to live your life? What have you done today that was enjoyable? How much of your life is routine? Are you telling yourself that it is not OK to focus on what you love?

Harold had become unobservant. He was counting everything around him and calculating instead of engaging in his life. What are you focused on? How much you eat, shop, drink, watch television? What you SHOULD be doing with your time? Those rumours you heard? Time to wake up and pay attention. Cool movie. I recommend it.

 

 

Great Leap

20130427-212345.jpgIt was a puzzle that I couldn’t figure out. I simply did not have enough information. My three-year-old self was standing at the top of the staircase that was just outside of my bedroom. At the time, we lived in one of the A-frame houses that were built en mass to house the soldiers that were returning from the war.

The ceilings in these houses were ten feet high and the staircase reflected that. It was made of solid wood, as was the remainder of the house, and ended in a small landing that also opened into the living room and exited to the outside.

The question was a simple one. If I jumped, would I make it to the landing? I knew that gravity would take me down. What I couldn’t determine was whether or not I could make it out far enough to miss the stairs and land at the bottom. There was only one way to find out. I jumped.

I was elated. I caught enough air to get the sensation that I was going to make it. It felt as though I was in the air for an extended period of time and I would never have to walk down the stairs again. This was thrilling and exciting.

I suppose it could be argued that I could’ve remained safe and unsatisfied, forever wondering whether or not I would’ve made it, but that is so much less fulfilling.

The joy in living comes from taking chances like this. There is no doubt that I could’ve hurt myself, but aren’t we hurting ourselves by always staying as safe as possible? How much of your life have you spent doing exactly the same things that you did the day before and the day before that? You may live to be 110 but does that count if most of those years were repeats of the year before?

Then I hit. The momentum from the jump took me the rest of the way. I tumbled all of the way to the landing. No worse for wear, I felt proud of myself for answering my question and that I had set a great mystery to rest. If I had flown over the staircase and made it to the bottom safely it would have been a great triumph and everyone would agree it was worth the risk, but wasn’t it anyway?

This willingness to take a great leap has brought all kinds of opportunity into my life. What do you wish you had the “guts” to try? Take another route to work. Go to a new type of event. Wear a different colour. You will be amazed how much more stimulating you will find your life if you try something that you’ve always wanted to try. Even if you hit the last few stairs and tumble to the bottom, at least you would have experienced the exhilaration of being suspended in the air, if only for a moment.