The Cure to Comfort

When my life went into turmoil and I didn’t want to live it anymore, I sought what everyone told me I needed–happiness. I had always been told happiness was achieved by completing a series of tasks. These tasks included finding a lifelong career, creating a family, nourishing that family, being a patriot, living the American Dream. The consumerist society I was raised in taught me that if I worked hard I would have money with which to buy things which would bring me comfort. According to media, advertising, and TV Shows, comfort was happiness!

None of those things are wrong, and they certainly do bring happiness to some people. I could see, however, that these were not the things that would bring me happiness. Finding an office job with a salary and benefits was not going to satisfy my days, raising a family was not going to satisfy my nights. These are great life achievements, but these things alone would not sooth the dissonance in my soul. They would not fill the void in my heart. They would not make me feel alive.

At the core of my being, I knew that I was not going to find happiness from money or any amount of material possessions, and the satisfaction of just any old job was not enough to make my heart feel alive! It was hardly enough to get me out of bed in the morning.

So I stopped asking society all the questions, feeling I had been lead astray, and I started figuring out for myself–what is happiness? Is it really the end goal? Is it really what I want?

I certainly didn’t want to be sad forever. I had been sad for a lot longer than I had previously acknowledged. I tried pharmaceutical drugs for my mental health and instead of bringing the clarity I needed, they only clouded me further into my depression. I went to therapists and talked myself into and out of endless loops.

When the outside world and societal suggestions had failed me once again, I finally decided that the answers were not outside of me. I began seeking peace at an internal level, and I found my answers. Answers are not always accompanied by happiness. Sometimes they are accompanied by more questions, unease, inadequacy, and more loops.

But, I am learning a bit about happiness. I am learning a bit about peace. I am learning a bit about life. I am learning a bit about myself.

I’ve come to some conclusions– happiness alone is not enough. Being comfortable does not make one happy. Being happy all the time is not always the thing that brings joy and meaning to my life. Happiness can be comfortable, but comfort does not always bring happiness.

Comfort should not be the goal!

First World Society has an obsession with comfort. We seek it thinking it will bring us peace, happiness and fulfillment. We seek it thinking it will make the world a better place.  We seek it thinking it will strengthen our bond with God, or keep us from needing a God all together. We surround ourselves with material possessions. We do this to remind ourselves that we have no reason to be sad. We do this so we can focus more on the things that make us happy. We do this to be happy–and yet how many comfortable middle class Americans suffer from depression, anxiety, and the physical manifestations of long term stress?

The problem is that we have comforted ourselves numb. We are no longer a feeling society. How can we possibly be happy when we do not allow ourselves to feel anything but materialist comfort? Comfort isn’t happiness–its just comfortable.

I’d like to talk about a few emotional states of being which are often ignored in this need for comfort; empathy, compassion, humility, gratitude, and love. My personal research, as well as the work of many other Spiritual believers and new age philosophers, concludes that these are not emotions we feel, but emotional states of being which we become in the moments we feel them. They are almost indescribable, except through relating experiences. They are what make the experiences.

Regardless of why we should work toward these things, or the nature of what they are, these are emotions which benefit individuals and the world. These emotions are the emotions that bring us together. These are the emotions which save us from more destructive emotions, such as anger, envy, sadness, loneliness, guilt, shame and grief. They don’t keep you from feeling the other emotions, but they definitely give you a direction toward recovery, rather than wallowing. Not all of those things are comfortable. In fact, many of them are conventionally uncomfortable.

Empathy is not comfortable. Empathy is the act of understanding and sharing the feelings of others. To empathize with someone who is suffering is to know their suffering and suffer with them. True empathy allows us to see the world from a new perspective. It allows us to feel the world from a new perspective. A new perspective is hard enough, let alone a hurting one. Suffering is in no way comfortable, but helping others go through their suffering helps us. Being empathized with can greatly decrease the length and severity of our suffering. Empathy creates friendship where it may not have been before. It advances the emotional capacity of  all of humanity when individuals empathize with other individuals. It fosters connections that could open infinite doors to possibility.

Compassion is not comfortable. Compassion is beyond just feeling another’s emotions. It is feeling concern for the suffering of others. Approaching a situation with compassion is to not only to empathize, but to worry about the condition of another. It is to understand their suffering. To be compassionate is to leave yourself susceptible to anxiety and fear. Fear is one of the most dangerous weapons of the ego, and anxiety kills our peace of mind. If we did not approach things compassionately though, who would help the less fortunate? Who would help the less privileged if they could not first feel concern for their condition? Compassion, when not accompanied by fear or anxiety, sparks the call to action in each of us. Compassion is what drives humans to take care of other humans.

Humility is not comfortable. To be humble is to have a modest, or even sometimes low, view of oneself. This is not to say that you should think less of yourself. My definition of humility is not so much thinking lower of oneself, but instead identifying the things that are bigger than oneself, and identifying the things that are smaller than you. Humility allows us to know where we fit into the grand scheme of life. For example, you look at the ocean and realize how small you are compared to this thing that can destroy you, then you look at an ant hill and recognize the power you have to destroy them.

It can actually be painful if you aren’t ready for a humbling moment when it hits. It can be very discouraging. It can be very uncomfortable. It can make us feel like we aren’t enough. But if we are ready for it, and we understand the feeling when it hits us, Humility keeps us growing! It is what reminds us that there is always more. More to know, more to learn, more to grow. Humility brings hope.

One of my choir directors, John Byun, used to always tell us we weren’t a perfect choir– and we weren’t!  After telling us how great we had done, he always humbled us. He always made us see how much farther we could go… so we did. We kept working. We may not have been perfect, but by the end of my two short years with Mr. Byun, we were our absolute best.

Gratitude is not [always] comfortable. It can be the absolute most satisfying thing in the universe to genuinely express gratitude. While a polite person might thank someone for holding a door open for them, do they consider being genuinely grateful for the door being held open? Maybe not. Someone who cannot get the door themselves, possibly someone who has far too much in their hands, would probably feel genuine gratitude. Someone who could easily open a door themselves might not actually feel gratitude. (This is also called privilege.) They might just be saying “Thank You” because that’s what they were taught.

If gratitude is felt but not expressed, or expressed when it is not genuinely felt, it can make the person expressing it feel shameful, which can make the person receiving it feel guilt or regret for having done a nice thing. Contrarily, if we express genuine gratitude to one another, and the rest of this universe, we start to feel better almost immediately. Have you ever thought to thank the Earth for being your home? Have you every thought to thank the animal that died or the plants that were plucked from the ground so you could eat a meal? Did you ever think to thank the bees for loving the flowers so that you could use them to show love for your significant other? If so, great! If not, try it! If you want.

Truth is, some forms of gratitude make us uncomfortable because we have to acknowledge a truth we don’t want to face in order to express it. Expressing gratitude to the animal who died for your meal is the best example of this.

I would like to preamble this– I make no judgement of those who eat meat. Its a personal decision to go vegetarian or vegan and nobody should ever feel shamed into it. It should be an informed and conscious decision made by the individual for the right reasons. So, I say this as an example and nothing more. To express the gratitude towards the animal who died for your meal, you have to first admit to yourself that you are eating a slaughtered animal. Most people are willing to eat meat as long as they don’t have to look at, think about, or see the process behind it. First World Society allows that we don’t all have to do all the dirty work behind every job. We just have to do the dirty work of our own job! But by not acknowledging that someone else has done that work on your behalf, by ignoring that an animal died for your meal, humans raised that life, another human took that life, etc, we are doing ourselves a disservice. We are denying ourselves the chance to express gratitude. We are denying ourselves a chance for a genuine emotional release.

Love, however comforting it can be, is not comfortable. Loving another, truly and unconditionally, is a very tough thing. It requires you to see them as they are, sometimes when they cannot see themselves, and love them. However, more difficult than accepting and loving others is the process of accepting and loving oneself. This is the most difficult part about love for some of us. To truly love others means to have a firm and real understanding of loving yourself. To love others teaches you to love yourself. To love yourself teaches you to love others. Loving others helps others love themselves, which helps them to love others. Love is a loop. This is how love is spread around the world.

Love alone is not enough. It must be accompanied by empathy, compassion, gratitude and humility. When you love something, whether human, animal, the weather, or life itself, it can really hard to remember that those things are nature, which means they will make mistakes. They will not always agree. They may not always be nice. They will let you down, probably without even knowing they’ve done so. In those moments, I think it is absolutely necessary that we feel the emotions that come to us. If we do not allow ourselves to feel the anger, the sadness, the letdown, the fears, then we are not allowing ourselves to complete the loops of insanity. The important thing is not taking action on these emotions. Instead, allowing them to be felt, allowing them to pass, and allowing them to be replaced by other states of being.

In moments when you feel let down by love, empathy helps you to see, from their perspective, why this person has hurt you. Most of the time you see that they have hurt you because they are deeply hurting. In these times, compassion helps us to continue loving them while understanding their pain and hurting with them. From here, we are given such gifts. The gift of helping others, the gift of loving others, the gift of a new perspective, the gift of learning through this person’s experience. To see these things as gifts puts you in a place of humility where you can express gratitude. Expressed gratitude can make the giver feel amazing, and can sometimes greatly help the person the gratitude is being expressed toward. Empathy, compassion, gratitude and humility allow you to keep loving when it gets hard. This cycle of love is propelled by these emotional states and brings possibility to inner peace. Inner peace, accomplished by every individual, brings outer peace. We don’t all have to agree on everything. We just have to agree on allowing others to be and loving them anyway. The biggest battle to overcome is the battle inside. The battle of reaction. The battle of doing what is comfortable for you personally or doing what is most beneficial to everyone.

Its not just about feeling your emotions. Its about feeling them, letting those that do not serve you to pass, and then moving back to that centered state of love. Its about living every decision and every action through those emotional states of being. If you re-evaluate your morals in a clear, egoless state of love, compassion, empathy, gratitude, and humility, you will find the cure to comfort. You will find love, inside and outside. You will find life. You will find yourself.

Feel all of your emotions. Live them. Allow yourself to be uncomfortable so you can be fulfilled. Fulfillment doesn’t just bring happiness–it’s a state of being which brings heaven on Earth.

Apophenia, A reality.

One of my soul sisters has this amazing hobby of exchanging Wiki pages with her friends for the sake of knowledge exploration. She sent me a wiki page recently which introduced me to a phenomenon, Apophenia. This is defined as the human ability to find meaningful patterns in random data. This theory’s creator, Klaus Conrad, described it as the “unmotivated seeing of connections” accompanied by a “specific experience of an abnormal meaningfulness”.

Psychology is very interested in this phenomenon. It is used to discredit that anything in life may be anything other than randomness and that we are the ones who connect these things. They are unconnected otherwise. So a bunch of bad things happening to you in a 24 hour period are all unconnected events, but we call them a “bad day” as if they are all connected.

According to this theory, everything I see as important, vital, and true is all in my head. It is unconnected and a placebo affect that Reiki practices heal. It is unconnected that I see numbers in everyday life and find meaning in them. It is unconnected that I find the patterns and cycles in my life. These things are not actually patterns, but connection made in my own head. We are not connected to each other or any other living organisms. Nothing is connected, in actual reality. We make the connections. They are all in our mind.

I don’t disagree.

“Be the calm in the chaos” is actually a phrase I say often when myself or someone else is in a place of turmoil in life. (I’m sure I heard it from someone much more intelligent and wise than me, but unfortunately I don’t remember who to credit.) I truly see life as the randomness that this theory suggests. Things happen. They just do. These happenings come completely out of left field sometimes and all we can do is deal with them. Our minds, however, are incredibly complex, and frankly, brilliant. Every one of them. They are imaginative and creative, infinite and limitless! They have the incredible ability to see these patterns. They have the ability to make these connections where, quite possibly, they actually don’t exist at all!

I do think the flaw is that this theory is mostly applied to things that seem unreal or abstract to our material, tangible world. I think if a theory is to be applied to one part of society, it should be applied to all aspects. If it does not stand universally, how can it stand at all? (This is, of course, a paradox for this theory– as it denounces connectivity, and for it to apply universally would somehow suggest that all things are connected, which the theory clearly says is not true. Yeah, I see that flaw. Indulge me. Let’s explore.)

So if we can apply this theoretical phenomenon to things like Numerology, spirituality, religion, our own life experiences and beliefs, etc., then we must also be able to apply these things to the less abstract, more tangible. Who is to say that data on a pharmaceutical study is not the exact same thing? Who is to say that psychological researchers are not coming to conclusions they see as fact by these same means? Who is to say that, in a scientific study, the random collections of varying results which leans slightly more one direction than the other is a means of actual proof and not just our brains finding a pattern? And that being said, what is proof in a dimension where Apophenia is absolute truth? Does proof exist in that world?

What if math and science are unconnected? Our greatest method of proof in this tangible world is math, our greatest method of inquiry–science. Humans have developed math and science hand in hand as if they are connected and one can prove the other. But if nothing is actually connected and we are making the connections in our heads and they make sense and work, then why wouldn’t we even consider, that’s possibly all that math and science are? They’re just made up, in our head, based on observations of the material world. They are theoretical. They are one explanation, one perspective of the universe, and that is all.

By this theory, anything and everything could be a placebo affect–even modern, mechanistic medicine.

And that is what I like about the theory.

I believe the placebo affect is a real means of treatment. I believe that all things work because we believe in them and our belief teaches the body to heal itself. Apophenia is another sort of proof, to me, of the Fractal Universe– the possibility of anything being true and possible because the mind projects reality into existence (one aspect of a very complicated theory, but I won’t go into that now).

Alan Watts explains, in one of his lectures, that when we are presented with chaos, we will seek patterns. He actually says that this is the tendency of all of nature and we, being nature, are also prone to this. We see this in the natural world by observance of things such as Devil’s Postpile.

If you haven’t been to Devil’s Postpile, it probably means you’ve also not been to Rainbow Falls or Red’s Meadow. These are all incredibly magical places up near Mammoth Mountain in the Sierra’s. I highly recommend going to visit. Book a campsite in advance though, Mammoth is crazy busy. Lee Vining is a better camp spot if you want to avoid the crowds.

Devil’s Postpile is a cliff of columnar basalt. What this means is that, when you are at the bottom looking up at it, you see columns eroding into a big pile. However, when you are on top of the postpile, you see that almost every column is a hexagon that tiles together with those around it. This natural occurrence is the result of volcanic lava that gathered and cooled relatively evenly over an extended period of time.

A volcanic eruption can be seen as a version of chaos. It certainly is un-orderly, seemingly random, mostly unpredictable. However, the result of that chaos, in this case, is a pattern. So finding the pattern in the randomness is, possibly, not uniquely human. Perhaps its something all of nature does, at times.

Do I see the pattern or did nature create the pattern? Is that pattern in the Postpile a result of the volcano or the cooling air? Is the eruption actually chaos? All questionable, but so is everything else… including this phenomenon itself. After all, to see humans finding patterns is an observed pattern itself. So even this theory is built on a paradox (as I’m finding most things are).

So, is anything really connected or is apophenia the only reality and everything else is delusion? Well, the lucky thing is that it is entirely up to you to decide what this information means in your own life.

Psychologists have concluded that it is beneficial, for the most part. But then, when it comes to the mind, its not always what you think, but how you think it. One article I read about it says, “Rather than merely viewing apophenia as a kind of unfortunate side effect of our cognitive architecture, psychoanalysis pushes us to look at meaning where it seems least obvious. In this way, patternicity is the point, not the problem.” (Psychology Today)

I agree with this idea completely. I have always experienced the chaos and randomness of life with extreme discomfort. Finding patterns and making connections in this life has allowed me to make more sense of that randomness, which allows me to be more at peace when those random things occur. By seeing these patterns I have found purpose and meaning in my life. By thinking the way I do and allowing my brain to do it without self-judgement, I have learned to be creative and expressive and fulfilled.

On a more universal level, connection proves to be a vital part of the Human Experience. As beings, it is a natural instinct for us to connect with other beings. Some of us seek lovers or friends, some seek the presence of trees and nature, some seek the love and loyalty of animals and pets. Even if its all in our heads, it is necessary to the happiness of most of us these days. Otherwise, why would we crave constant connectivity to things like our phones and the internet so much?

The truth is that I have found incredible meaning and purpose in my life by indulging my brain’s ability to connect. At a time when all I could find were excuses to die, believing that everything is connected gave me a reason to live. In fact, it gave me infinite reasons to want to live, forever. I’ve got every thing and every one and every time to connect with!

So, yes, its possible that this theory is the only shared reality and everything orderly in the world is a figment of our individual realities. It’s also possible that we shouldn’t care.

“The mystery of life is not a problem to be solved, but a Reality to be experienced.” -Aart Van Der Leeuw

Live out LOUD!

Happy January!

Although in years past I have been very reluctant to look at the turn of the calendar year with any significance, I am feeling quite motivated by the promise of this year! I am invoking change and I’m refreshed by the opportunity for New Year’s Resolutions.

I’ve decided on a few intentions for this year. Self-expression is one of them! My hope is that by reaching out into the vastness of the realm of the interwebs, I will make connections with other humans and find out how beautiful our differences are and how similar we can really be. I want to know you. I want you to know me. I want to connect, learn, grow and be forever changed. I want to be better, every day.

So I begin this New Year by looking back at this past year.

2015: A Year of Awakening.

On January 1, 2015, I decided to embark on a journey to change my life. I asked for things to make more sense. I asked for answers to questions I had been asking my entire life. Questions that were never answered. Questions that were answered too often with too much variance in the findings– almost worse than finding no answers at all.

This decision was brought on by an absolute need for change. It was prompted by a state of trauma and a pattern of avoidance that lead to crippling anxiety and depression. I decided to change myself in an attempt to save myself. I decided to change because if I hadn’t changed it would have cost my life. And if I don’t continue to live better, and always be better, then it still could.

So I chose my route toward the answers, or perhaps it chose me, and I dove in. Head First. I submerged myself in books, blogs, and articles. I watched videos, lectures, and TED Talks. I experimented. I meditated. I contemplated. I journaled. I talked.

I fought.

I fought with my own head. I fought with my loved ones. I fought on the internet. I was used to fighting, as I had been doing it my entire life. This time, however, I was fighting myself, on behalf of myself. A battle I had always faced, but never had the courage to engage.

I found some of my light. I faced some of my darkness. I challenged some of my contradictions. I questioned literally everything. Through that process, and by those means, I discovered my truth. I discovered what I believe to be the truth of the Universe (or at least, my Universe).

Although the details of this journey will likely be expressed in future blog posts, I post this vague entrance to my journey to provide you with a brief overview of my findings and a glimpse of myself.

Although I very much believe that every individual’s experience is too different and unique to justly compare to another’s, I do see the many similarities. After all, what is this thing we keep calling “The Human Experience” if it isn’t somehow a collective, shared, and relatable one.

It is my hope that every human in need of answers will find them– that they will find the truth of their Universe, even if that truth contradicts mine. I do think that truth has many ways of being found. I also believe that, although some people may find others who share their truth, your’s needs to be found by you.

Because you are an individual. You are a whole human being! (You are a Whole, human being! You are a Whole Human, being.) Even if you meet your person in this world– whether they be a loving mother, best friend or significant other– you are a whole person in your own right. You have an incredibly unique perception of reality to consider. You are an individual whose life is yours and yours alone.

Nobody else can live your life for you. Nobody can rightly tell you how to live yours. In fact, it only makes life harder when you are trying to live a truth that was forced onto you by society or parents or peers.

So the choice is yours, it really is. But I challenge you to strip yourself of outside influences and find your truth.

Find your truth and live it. Express it freely! Openly! Loudly! Make it a part of everything you do and everything you are. You don’t need to force it on others. You don’t need to use your truth as a means to put down or judge others. You only need to figure it out, believe it genuinely, and live it, loudly. You do this for yourself. You do this for others. You do this to live, because surely at the end of this life, you will die. Why not do some real living first!?

You are an individual! However you came to be in this world, you ARE! YOU EXIST! YOU are alive. It is your birthright to live this life–YOUR life. You don’t have to live it how others tell you to live. You have the incredible opportunity to be exactly who you want to be if you first figure out and visualize who that is and what needs to change to get there. Anything is possible. There are no real limits of the mind.

You are the cure to your problems. Benefits of this cure include, but are certainly not limited to confidence, empowerment, love, compassion, empathy, knowledge, clarity, awareness, courage, strength, purpose, and infinite possibilities.

I will caution, however. This journey toward truth is not an easy one. It is harder before it is better. You will have to face many parts of yourself that you’ve avoided, or possibly didn’t realize you had. You may lose yourself entirely before finding the person you were born to be. You may experience excruciatingly painful lows, but they will be accompanied by ecstatic, surreal highs. And you’ll know how to make it through the hard times when you know more good times are coming.

I don’t want anyone to think I have completed this journey. I have gained incomprehensible knowledge which has only led me to more dead-ends, more questions, and more discovery. It may take me my entire life to become who I’m meant to be, but damn is it worth every mistake.

So if it pleases you, if it interests you, if it intrigues you, if it terrifies you… please embark on your own journey toward personal truth.

Challenge your contradictions. Question your beliefs. Love unconditionally. Empathize with others. Express gratitude. Even as a work in progress, know your truth, as it stands now, and LIVE. OUT. LOUD!