November is here. I have been pondering several ideas over the course of the month, one of which is time; it comes and goes so quickly. Technically, one could argue that time passes with every second of every moment. Before we can even process time, it has passed us by. Of course, if we sat around constantly contemplating ideas of this nature, we would likely go insane. It is important to think about meaningful topics from time to time. That may sound obvious, but how many of us are guilty of trudging through life like mindless drones, questioning nothing, caught up in a full speed run on the hedonic treadmill or worse—Feeling lonely among millions in our world of disconnectedness?
It seems the internet is full of fantasy, fake news and shit that doesn’t really matter. This month I want to share a real thought. Let’s forget about the show-and-tell writing style that I normally put out. Indeed, those posts do have their place, but I rarely find them fulfilling. Instead, I want to switch things up a bit and share an idea. In an effort to challenge myself, I hope to entertain you on a mental level versus a visual one. It’s time to clear the mental cobwebs and explore the ever expanding network of thoughts that fill my head.
The topic for November is the PIT, a place within our own mind which can be an dark empty wasteland or an opportunity for growth and empowerment–only YOU can decide. So, if your curious, want to expand your mind and gain a new perspective, or you’re just wondering how mentally unsound I really am, read on.
Part 1: The Pit of Darkness
Dreary days and grey skies void of sun tend to funnel my thoughts into what I sometimes like to call the “Pit of Darkness”. It is here, the culmination of my ideas lead directly to a state of unhappiness. This rot-filled tunnel is the sewer line to the soul; A place where fear rears its irrational, imaginary head, darkness prevails, and negative energy thrives.
Jenni’s 4-Stage Process of Mental Imprisonment ™
Lack of support, personal history/traumas, and poor coping skills (among many other things) can initiate the journey to darkness.
A poor outlook, negative mindset, and pessimistic attitude steepens the grade of the slope from manageable hill to treacherous mountain.
Depression is guaranteed to push you from the ledge and send you plummeting into what seems to be a vast, infinite darkness. Personally, I think the free fall stage is the worst. It’s that overwhelming sense of hopelessness and despair that feels, in the moment, everlasting.
Once you hit the damp, unforgiving bottom you have two options: You can spend your time sulking and stewing in your own negative energy (option 1) or you can figure out what it’s going to take to climb back up to the top (option 2).
Of course, we all want to be the emotionally intelligent bad-ass who never visits the Pit of Darkness but hey, it happens to the best of us. It’s what we choose to do with our time at the bottom that leads to an opportunity for growth. Yes, even in darkness there can be light.
Part 2: The Power of Thought
During the last year, I have frequented the Pit of Darkness an embarrassingly large number of times. I was working the 4-stage process to the max—Self-inflicted sorrow. Lame. So, I started thinking about the WHY behind these visits to the dark side when I had a moment of unexpected clarity.
1. I was not focused on my NOW.
2. I was living in my own private bubble of pessimism and negative energy.
When I find myself in that place, I always know deep down inside that it’s time for a change. Not the drastic, hop on the bike and take off on our awesome adventure because that will solve all of my problems kind of change. Although that sounds pretty amazing, I’m talking about those changes that we can make in our lives right now to improve our overall well being. For me, it was reducing my hours at work so that I could focus on tasks that mattered the most in my life: writing/blogging, preparing for our upcoming journey and working on my own mental/physical health. I was using the power of thought to work my way through The Pit and I was ready to see the light.
Part 3: The Pit of Light
The intensity of the light is not as important as the ability to absorb it. If you fail to remove the blinders, the mental blocks will keep you from seeing the truth each and every time. My personal method is to take the problem(s) at hand and try to see them through a new set of eyes. This can be done by reading, research, confiding in friends/loved ones, meditation and one of my personal favorites (besides talking with Eric)…The Internet. I mean, who hasn’t gotten caught up in THAT black hole of information!?! So many ideas, so little time!
In search of wisdom, I stumbled across 2 ideas that clicked.
One was this quote which I have heard several times. Being human, sometimes we hear things and other times we HEAR things. Let’s just say that this time, I was ready to listen.
When asked what surprised him about humanity the most, the Dalai Lama replied:“Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.
I remember talking to you all about my formula for happiness in a previous blog post.
Time = Freedom = Happiness
It goes hand-in-hand with the Dali Lama’s concept of trading health for wealth. I felt I had that one figured out but then I went back to working full time (which as a therapist basically means 50+ hrs a week). I got greedy in the hopes of furthering our future travels and I paid the ultimate price: misery and lost time in my now.
For me, my original formula holds true. I know money factors in there, but how much money does one really need to live? In my opinion, not a whole lot! I would sacrifice material things and going out to eat for life experiences and early retirement any day! But, that’s me. So I ask:
What is your formula for happiness?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
The other idea that resonated with me was a lecture on letting go by Ajahn Brahm, a Buddhist Monk from Australia. Truth was beaming down from the heavens (aka YouTube) in the form of crepuscular rays and in an instant, everything made sense. I took advantage of this gift of wisdom and absorbed as much as my puny brain would allow. Here it is plain and simple:
Let go of the past. Let go of the future.
Be present in the moment because it is RIGHT NOW that your peace, health, and happiness is being made.
The stick is only heavy if you’re holding it.
Let it go.
Here is the full video if you are interested in learning more about the 4 Ways of Letting Go. I highly recommend it as food for thought.
It all sounds so simple, and it is—Yet, it is not. Undoing years of poor mentation takes time, patience, and practice—Lots of practice. The monk’s words were the keys that unlocked the blinders which were preventing me from seeing the light. His thoughts filled my soul, opened my mind, and helped me to grow in ways I never imagined possible.
The PIT has its place, but must be respected and well nourished. In other words, if you let the PIT sit in a dark space, it will rot. This gooey mess is the epitome of misery, disappointment, negativity. If well cared for, the PIT will bloom into a living tree, bearing eatable fruit; A symbol of fulfillment, positive energy, and growth. We have the power to make our lives whatever we want them to be, but tough decisions can sometimes get in the way of living our best lives and mental side tracks can send us on circular paths of never ending destruction.
Our lives are but a mere blip on the universe. Coming to terms with this idea has allowed me to realize that living each day in the moment, appreciating both the good and bad, is essential. I don’t have the answers, but I have a fire burning inside of me to seek out life’s mini truths and be the best version of myself possible.
What will be next? Ha! Trick question. I’m not going to think about it because I’m living in the moment 🙂
May you all find your own personal formula to happiness and seek the knowledge to be your best self.
Until next time…