The Attraction of not doing TOO well.

‘TOO well’ What does that mean? It means going near or beyond the inner limit of ‘doing well’ that we have fixed for ourselves or more usually, was set for us. Going beyond what we were brought up to feel we deserve by our parents, social environment, class, neighbourhood. This can be in the areas of happiness level, material wealth, health or relationship harmony.

So this morning I was reflecting on the very poor quarterly results my business has had. This follows a successful year, the best results the business has ever had and the most money I have ever earned.

I wondered what about me is the cause of this result. In business its always your fault and your responsibility and so one doesn’t need to look far to find the cause of any problems. It’s always with me.

There is something glorious about being in control to that extent, knowing that I can change the course I take. It can also be daunting at times to take full responsibility and know that the buck stops here, every time. No recourse to the childlike state of wanting to be saved by a shining knight or to blame someone else.

So I glimpsed the attraction to not doing well, the pull towards failure. Here are a few I found this morning, some of which were more relevant in the past for me…but may still be activated at times and cause a conflict of goals. In fact if my main conscious goal is to be successful in every way this whole list demonstrates sub goals that can interfere with the main goal if not made fully conscious. After each I have put the kinds of affirmations I use to answer each fear or mistaken belief. I have done this really quickly this morning to its not complete, I may add to it later on.

  • It can come from adhering or being subject to unrealistic levels of perfectionism. If you are not doing it perfectly or hugely massively well you might as well fail – being perfect is a hard benchmark to chase, far too hard. It can suck your motivation – so why bother even trying – I am enough, I work hard enough, I love myself whether I fail or succeed

 

  • It can come from being over criticised as a child. You get the message you can’t do anything right, so you conclude like I did, that I may as well not even bother trying too hard. The parents won’t be pleased by your efforts and the desired praise won’t be forthcoming anyway. In fact I may as well do everything wrong, since you are being constantly chastised anyway. So rebel against this and that and everything including doing well in life – I no longer have to rebel against what others consider normal, I observe what works and use it, I can encourage and praise myself, I am very pleased with myself 

 

  • Hang about in struggle and you don’t need to take a fall from success or a high position. So if you don’t  allow too much success in, there is no chance of tumbling from the position, nowhere to fall if you are already scrambling about on the ground. So saving face? Pride is that – there is no need to worry about failing and losing face, life has its ups and downs, many times I have recovered from failure successfully and will again if necessary

 

  • Hang about in struggle and theres no danger of pride developing or getting carried away with feeling superior –I trust that I will maintain healthy levels of humility and I am conscious when my ego tries to step in and take over,

 

  • If I am successful people will probably not like me. I have had some of this already, friends who have called me right wing or attacked my lack of ‘social benefit’. People seem to associate doing well with right wing and selfishness. ‘The rich are to blame for societies ills’ is the dominant social paradigm. To be popular in the UK you have to fail, to be hated, just succeed – I am less and less concerned about being accepted and liked the more I accept and like myself, I accept that we can’t be liked by everyone and that to be yourself sometimes requires others disapproval 

 

  • You may lose some friends, and your social circle may change, you could feel abandoned – I feel compassion for myself and allow change to take place

 

  • Fear of causing others envy and jealousy. Your success may make others feel inadequate and they may consciously or unconsciously compare themselves to you- I feel compassion for any suffering I see in others and I feel compassion for myself

 

  • To ease up on the succeeding a bit…get back to old comfy familiar territory of struggle and strife and worry and uncertainty and living on the edge- Even though it can feel scary at first its actually quite exciting to explore new territory, I trust myself to thrive in the new circumstances and to cope adequately with new situations

 

  • My own unworthiness kicking in perhaps as doors of a better life open up to me and invite me in – I work daily on allowing myself to experience happiness and success, and I am mindful of my positive qualities and worthiness and I feel gratitude for all that I have in my life 

 

  • Fear of increasing guilt. The guilt says why would I want to have so much when most have so little? I trust that the more I have, happiness, wealth etc, the more I am able to share, and the more good I can do in the world, there is no need for guilt

 

 

 

Allowing more Happiness in

I have a sense that it's our choice how much happiness we allow in. I have had a love/hate relationship with happiness all my life. It has felt more comfortable to be mired in interpersonal drama, in relationships with dysfunctional or just incompatible people, to be struggling financially, to be focused on what is not right most of the time. That's what is familiar. A sense of feeling safe with lack of safety.

To happiness I respond as if it is a threat, so with anxiety, unless it is experienced within the familiar confines of what I have deemed to be 'safe'. The safe forms for me are walks in the woods, taking photos of flowers, staring blissfully at a sunset, enjoying the music I so love. Levels of almost uncontainable bliss are experienced quite often. It also makes me happy to share these things with a close friend. These simple and nearly always available pleasures mean that no matter how my moods may temporarily swing to and fro, I can find joy easily again and elevate out of self preoccupation into nature. So that is all great, and I am thankful for this permanent salve. I am aware however that I observe levels of happiness in others that I don't know about. The harmonious loving relationship, the stable finances and lovely permanent home….

I have gone back to basics in an attempt to understand the self deprivation. Then I saw the self contempt in the mix. The 'not good enough' belief. So gradually I have been allowing a simple happiness of acceptance of being me. There are even times now when I really feel a sense of celebration of myself. It's similar to what I feel when I take the space and time to really see and celebrate the uniqueness of another, and so in a way it's not actually even personal, not in a narcissistic sense.

It's great being me I sometimes realise! And that includes every character defect too. The realisation is what utterly uniquely fabulous being we all are. "If we really saw people, every person we meet would be the love of our lives" Byron Katie said, and I really get that. I can be in love with everyone I meet, the postman, the taxi driver, my mum, my sister…my neighbour….I marvel at them and myself and feel a thrill of awe and wonder at times. My biological evolutionary programming does not allow me to live in such an undefended state normally though, and appraising how much threat another poses is part of looking after myself in a healthy way….but there is a hint that perhaps we can go beyond feeling threatened by others. I am not there.

Coming from parents in an unhappy marriage I don't know how to do those loving close reliable intimate kinds of romantic relationships. It's so alien to me. I am not even sexually attracted to healthy functional successful men. But present an attractive slightly broken and lost man and I am instantly interested. Combine that with a strong 'helper' personality trait and idealism you can imagine….One of the downsides to being an idealist personality type is that you see the potential in others, even if it's a mile from actuated and will require years of therapy for that person. Realists don't have this issue, they see things as they are clearly, end of.

There are levels of happiness and joy in relationships I won't allow in because they are unfamiliar to me and so feel dangerous. It's the same for levels of personal happiness levels. I seem more comfortable focusing on problems. That is partly our negativity bias we hear so much about from the evolutionary psychologists. But it's also partly growing up in a dangerous household with an unpredictably emotionally and physically violent mother. I learned to be on alert all the time, certainly not to relax back in a sense of safety. There was much love from her too, but it could quickly change and so wasn't trustworthy. Relaxing back into love and wellbeing and feeling safe was not taught to me, and that is where joy arises, when we feel safe. In a stable environment. We can create those conditions for ourselves though even if we weren't taught it.

So what can I do to coax myself out of these now self imposed limitations? It has been my life's work. Here are a couple of the actions I took that I have done that have let more happiness in.

– dare to imagine more, and different from expectations given to us by others. I used to write lists and descriptions of my ideal life. What kind of partner, exactly my ideal house, car and job if I gave myself full permission to 'have it all' . I examined the washes of feelings that came up and embraced them, feeling arose of unworthiness, of self judgement and criticism, and that was valuable and they are all allowed. The effect of this was a gradual expansion of my parameters.

– as my life becomes more stable, successful and calmer and I start to feel safer, I watch out for unconscious tendencies to sabotage harmony, the pull back to familiar dangerous waters, the excitement of living on the edge, the gambling risk taker.

– self compassion has been the single most life changing addition to my life. It is a tool that I now use when I remember to, whenever I experience suffering. I use self compassion to soothe myself, and thereby experience greater emotional regulation. It has given me more courage to be honest with myself as the pain of doing this isn't so scary, self compassion is available to tend to the wounds and the pains. So if I'm going to meet a client and performance anxiety arises I can give myself a literal or metaphorical comforting hug, and say 'it will be alright, and even if it doesn't go well, that is also alright'.

– appreciation and gratitude when I remember to activate them, are immediate comforters. Things aren't so bad when I write a list of all that is going well. Counting ones blessings is a great way to feel more balanced, and it nudges out that tendency to complain.

– learning mindfulness has taught me to slow right down, to remember my breathing, to see my passing thoughts and witness that feelings come and go. There is no need to panic. So every day I work at this, a joyful work it is as I am helping myself and making life better. Many little exercises throughout the day, short moments of being present to what I am experiencing. So I set up a chair in the pool in the morning and I say over and over as I swim towards it, 'rest with everything'. Rest with this feeling of anxiety, rest with that worrisome thought, rest with that anger, with this joy, with this appreciation, rest with it all….and it moves on.

– for nurturing a sense of self knowledge and developing a well rounded self acceptance, writing a list of personal defects and positive qualities is a great exercise. In that order. Quite important to end with the positive qualities rather than defects so that we don't come away with a sense of even greater inadequacy! As my self compassion has grown I am no longer quite as daunted by the facing of my faults, and can unflinchingly face them without my self esteem being bruised. The self esteem is more robust now and in facing my faults I'm more understanding towards others, more compassionate and able to see how such qualities arose, often no fault of our own. There are mostly simple adaptations that took place in response to circumstances in life outwith their control.

– tempering generosity. I used to love giving to and helping everyone I met. I have noticed that unexamined giving to others does not work, for them mostly, and can be a waste of resources for me. If I give to others beyond their capacity to receive, they may reject the gift and me. We cannot receive more than we feel we deserve at any time. So now when I consider giving, I feel into how appropriate it is. Not do I feel they deserve it, but do they. Am I trying to buy the affection or loyalty of another with being over generous? Why do I feel obliged to pour out resources like this? Am I doing compulsive giving to buy love/approval/acceptance? Good questions I've had to answer.

– spending time around those who allow happiness in areas I have not allowed in for myself. This has been very valuable, to observe how others are with it. It can reassure the scared part of myself, when I see others safe and doing well in these areas. So spending time with friends with happy functional marriages, or confident people who can make public speeches, or being around and getting to know my wealthy clients and watching how they are with it. Learning by observation and maybe a little imitation….

Will continue this…

Resting with Whatever appears

Want to share a quick post on what I have I found to be an effective soothing excercise. The other day before I got in for a swim I positioned a chair at the end of the pool. I used it to remind me to rest, to allow what is occurring to just be there, to relax. Every time I swam towards the chair I said to myself

Relax with the thoughts coming up

Relax with the feeling of anger

Rest with the anxiety

Rest with the greed

Rest with the crazy thoughts

Rest with not being present

Rest with the situation right now

Rest with the guy splashing me as he passes

Rest with the nasty thoughts

Rest with the state of the world

Rest with all the feelings as they appear and disappear

Rest with the insecurity

Rest with the judgements

Just rest with whatever is occurring, the myriad of thoughts and feelings and sensations. The pleasant and the unpleasant.

The portal

There is a portal I can go through any second of any day. It has taken me a lifetime to find it. It takes me from hell to heaven or heaven to hell. It is a tiny invisible switch, and it’s the realisation of a choice. The mind can create a perception of my life that makes me miserable and that focuses on what is not right, what needs improved, problems and complaints, personal defects, failures.
It can equally create a perception that life is full of miraculous wonders everywhere I look, including myself, my amazing progress and how far I and have developed and how humanity has come in the last 100 years. The support that I have, how fortunate I am to be in a safe secure area relatively free of violence and war, the abundance of opportunities we have at our fingertips, the excellent medical and education facilities. The list goes on, as does the list that can take me further into hell. 

I found myself slipping into hell this morning. A complaint from a client arrived, joined up with another thought of how things are not right, not working, are a failure, then to my inability to sort it, then a further turning towards deficits and problems, next thing I’m thinking I’m all alone and nobody cares! Just like that! My emotions felt dampened in response, and helped to create more of these thoughts once activated. 

Been reading recently that we are hard wired for perceiving problems, part of our primitive survival mechanism. I have certainly felt drawn towards that compulsively at times. I have a tendency towards unhappiness from early experiences. That just means I need to remind myself more often of the choice. Like I’m doing now. 

When I think about fully opening up to the joy, I notice that I am afraid of stepping fully in, there is a fear of loving everyone and everything unconditionally. I suppose I try to defend myself with negativity, it seems to put some distance between me and everything ‘out there’ (that could hurt me), it creates an illusion of separation, a mistaken idea of safety by keeping myself separate when I’m not really and can’t ever be separate from anyone or anything. 

Gusts of the unexpected

One minute it’s all down in the dumps next it’s encouraged and cheerful. I’m like a leaf on the wind blown about by adversity and good fortune. A client is happy or a client is not happy, this effects my mood. So much for equanimity. The Mindfulness App just popped up with “note the Mountain Within You” as I write this.

This is it. This is IT. Right now what is happening this second is it, in its mundane boring silent normalcy. Right now this very second as I take my breath. This is all there is, and how I am with it I decide. Is this moment Allowed to be in its miraculous unexpected creativitity or is it hell? It can be so many contrasting things and yet look exactly, the same from the outside.

What I’ve discovered is that it is more enjoyable when expectations are recognised and dropped. All ideas and beliefs of what it ‘should’ be like, what it should feel like. What I want, don’t want. Then I get in the way of being with it all as it comes and goes naturally. I’m more in touch with what is true on my own. 

It’s quite a juggling operation, to mingle with well known others who have those expectations, pretty much everybody except the odd drop out or poet. Got to pretend a bit when talking to them, play the part. And can easily find myself falling into the illusion of what I’m saying, believing the rubbish that comes out this lying mouth. It’s always only a minute particle of what is true, and it’s mostly cancelled out by something more true I’m not saying. Even worse, what I actually say very often is determined by what they expect. Their script. I’ve got next to no integrity haha. Yet increasingly I’m outrageously just myself when meeting strangers, new clients particularly, and loving the freedom after dropping caring what they think, caring if I get the job.

Finding the most balance here by being completely alone (never really am though really of course) largely, by hunting down the expectations I secretly harbour and saying bye to them. Joy in next to nothing. Which actually always seems to exceed any expectations I no longer had. Gusts of unexpected tiny little amazing gorgeous happenings take place that blow me away. Noticing some pattern on tree bark. The way the light hits the wall. The patina on the lock. The smell of Wisteria reaching my nose. Knowing the right thing to say at the right time. That only seems to happen when I don’t try. If I try to manipulate an outcome, then it’s hit or miss or just plain lame. Rehearsed rubbish. Not fresh unexpected and free.

For the magic to take place, for the Tao/Rigpa/the Force to move me completely into its choreography I need to not be there. Need to not be there! Stand aside, no personal goal in mind. It’s been a lifelong task learning how to stop being manipulative. Not to want anything when interacting. Though that is impossible too. We don’t want others to hurt or kill us! But not trying to squeeze a particular outcome is a tricky one to drop for me. To let go. Trust. Give up control.  Open to the unexpected. Leave the familiar scripts behind. Enjoying playing with this. So this week my homework is

– to stay quiet and listen and observe more when interacting with others, be there to serve the moment

– to watch the urge to take over and gain control of conversations

– to remain aware of the bodily sensations when interacting, where any anxiety is felt physically or excitement

– slow down, right down

– use all the senses

World Weariness

Yes, that describes this particular story I am in right now. Getting caught up in the story of ‘me’ness. These posts are more long winded when Im in the ‘me’ story, but here it is anyway…telling a story to arise out of the story.

Been submerging in silence and space and nature a lot daily and also in vastly increased and contrasting worldly activity and work tasks. So many new clients, projects to manage, getting the money in, the men, things going very wrong, designs, details, cad technicians, other designer, changes of details, texts, emails, calls, visits, meetings here. A lot has been going ‘wrong’ recently. Usually its once in a while and gets swallowed up in my calm approach but many things happening at once, sigh, well….

I have found the mood to be getting more grumpy and exasperated. When too many things don’t go right and require more and more time and attention. Then I lose consciousness of the backdrop of spaciousness in which the activity takes place, and turn my sight to the details where I get lost and emotionally involved. I have been getting annoyed here and there with clients and the guys. Ruminating too much over what is not going right. It is tiring to engage at this level. It can happen in an instant too. Remembering takes constant vigilance and practicing being present.

I watch the mind when I indulge like this, how strange to witness that part of me enjoys this conflict and drama. It has been starved and getting a chance to be back there is like a feast. Of blood and gore though.

Need little self coaching here. What can I do to help redress the balance and invite myself to remember the spacious backdrop that is me and all of us and everything? So notes to self-

  • The practices of exercising more vigorously and more often – it is helping greatly to be physically fitter and I have much more energy – the days of deep fatigue seem long gone now. And the body is losing weight – its been dropping off lately and Im on a BMI of 25 now so don’t need to go any further unless it feel right….Im feeling good for it, so each day continue going to the gym and encourage the body a little further each time as it feels right, it can take a little muscle burn on the weight machine or another 5 minutes brisk walking, then the swim then the jacuzzi to rest the muscles. This is self kindness in action.
  • Continue the evening park walks. Last might I was out there after 10pm, still light, submerged in damp after rain aromas, flowers, mud, lush greenery, birdsong – its therapeutic reminder that I am part of a bigger picture than my little daily worldly concerns that blow so out of proportion regularly, perspective restoration.
  • Be honest when anger arises, when impatience arrives and see the fear, the perfectionist tendencies, the poor me, the wanting someone to rescue me, feeling weak, feeling lost, feeling alone, boredom, the jealousy and envy, the desire and longing, the cowardice. It is okay to acknowledge those things, it won’t destroy anything, it will only expand the idea of ‘me’ out to include and ever widening everything. Nothing left out. It is all in there and none of it diminishes me or makes me a ‘bad’ person. These qualities are all have fear at their root and can be soothed. Allow them to come up and cuddle them when they arise. Smile at them. The more I can acknowledge the wider I become, and meeting them with compassion makes me less judgemental of everyone for displaying these qualities.
  • Remembering consciously what is going right, in small and big ways. My son is happy and thriving living independently in Spain and enjoying and learning and so wise for his age and having fun. Friends and family are largely happy and healthy. I have a nice safe quiet house in a good area that is inexpensive. The massive park with fields and a river, a pond, horses cows and wildlife and woods is less than a mile away. I have wonderful shops nearby that supply my every need. I have enough money to buy what I need and want. I have nobody in my life Im in conflict with. I have a mindfulness at my fingertips all day long to help me remember. I love my mindfulness class on a Wednesday evening. I have space and freedom to be myself.
  • Allowing encouraging thoughts that acknowledge what is being done well, that I am managing to carry the responsibility I have chosen to take on, that my skills and talents are appreciated. This is a little antidote to the fearful thoughts of self doubt that arise. Its a gratitude list really, thanking myself and life for the support.
  • Acknowledging that antidotes are on another level not required, and that all is rigpa, the stress, the temper tantrums, the cool breeze and birdsong, the bills arriving, the gardens, and that it is all perfect and does not require changing just an adjustment in my relationship to them all.
  • Finding ways to be kind and generous even in small ways, a smile to a stranger, little visits to relatives nursing a dying father, a hello to a friendly dog, asking the woman at the check out what kind of day she is having, complimenting a neighbour on how she looks – sharing reminds me and others that we are not separate and that life supports us. 

    “The world you see is just a movie in your mind.
    Rocks dont see it.
    Bless and sit down.
    Forgive and forget.
    Practice kindness all day to everybody
    and you will realize you’re already
    in heaven now.
    That’s the story.
    That’s the message.
    Nobody understands it,
    nobody listens, they’re
    all running around like chickens with heads cut
    off. I will try to teach it but it will
    be in vain, s’why I’ll
    end up in a shack
    praying and being
    cool and singing
    by my woodstove
    making pancakes.”

    —Jack Kerouac, excerpt from a letter to his first wife, Edith

 

“If there is peace in your mind you will find peace with everybody. If your mind is agitated you will find agitation everywhere. So first find peace within and you will see this inner peace reflected everywhere else. You are this peace. You are happiness, find out. Where else will you find peace if not within you?” ~ Papaji ~

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Invited Resistence

I think I just did by writing that last post about how easy it is to make healthy choices! 

Since I wrote it I have been assaulted by every affliction under the sun, from irritation and anger to anxiety and self doubt and melancholy. Mostly the thoughts have been a very me centred last 12 hours. Me me me me me. All about me and my concerns. My loneliness. My fear. My irritation. My hard time. 

The very opposite of the spontaneous creative feeling that comes with forgetting the self. How to be with this suffering? Well self compassion of course! I turn towards the pain and angst and I send it love. I allow it, embrace it, stay with the feeling physically and soothe it like a baby crying. 

Sinking more deeply into the freedom that is our natural state, tends to arouse that which stands in its way. It all pops up to be addressed. So hello anger fear and irritation, sadness self doubt and the rest of the gang. There there, it is okay. 

This too shall pass. Afflictions are also part of Rigpa, I’m learning that they can come and go without causing much distress if I don’t make a meal of them. 

Bedtime, it’s 11.30pm and Rush are on the radio. A fine end to the day.