We live in a world of diverse people with varying abilities and personalities and in constantly evolving circumstances. This makes having expectations with a one size fit all approach very tricky.
What are expectations? Expectations are future oriented; that is they are beliefs we have about something that is most likely to occur. As you can see, they take our awareness out of the present moment which challenges our ability to respond in the now.
Many people believe that having high standards will motivate and inspire them to reach some goal, keep them from being lazy and idle, and prevent them from being exploited or taken advantage of. The disadvantage of too high standards is that they don’t motivate us, but instead make us risk avoidant because we fear failing so we don’t even try.
Unrealistic expectations are unhealthy. Our emotions, self-worth, and self-esteem are intimately connected to the beliefs and ideas we have about our bodies, ourselves, our roles, and our lives. When we fall short of meeting an unachievable idea, we can end up feeling inadequate and worthless.
And when these expectations are extended into our relationships they invariably lead to resentment and discord. We can end up jumping to conclusions that limit you and others with the word “you always forget…” or “I always mess up…” Over time these idealistic beliefs can ruin our relationships with ourselves and others because they cause us to feel and act in negative ways.
Some examples of unrealistic expectations are believing good relationships are always smooth sailing, needing to always be perfect and positive in all situations, being liked and praised by everyone, needing things to be fair, being in control of situations beyond our control, expecting to be able to do everything, and not making mistakes. Too high expectations set us up for disappointment, self-loathing, and resentment.
A peaceful mind is borne from having realistic, and accurate expectations of ourselves, others and situations. Relaxing our high standards helps manage anticipation and expectation, which play a vital role in healthy living.
May you be expectation free for a happier, healthier life.
Last month’s article on combating energy drains referenced a point about setting boundaries as a health maintenance technique. Here’s an in depth look at this crucial self-care tool.
We set up boundaries, rules, or limits to take care of ourselves. These psychological, emotional, and physical ground rules are essential for clarifying our own expectations to ourselves, in communicating them to others, and also in relaying what others can expect from us. They symbolize a commitment to self-love and self-respect.
Depending on the setting or people involved, our boundaries, or behavior codes will look very different. Personal, emotional, physical, and family relationship boundaries will manifest in one way, and those with coworkers or professional relationships, and even social media relationships in another way. We don’t have the same expectations and don’t treat all the people in our lives in exactly the same way.
People with healthy boundaries value their own opinions, understand their needs, clearly communicate their wants and needs, can say no, and can accept others’ boundaries. They are able to respond to individual situations and decide on what they will and will not take responsibility for, and are less likely to be manipulated, or taken advantage of. Clear, flexible, and firm boundaries make us feel strong, in control, confident, happier, and less stressed out because we are able to compromise and communicate our needs in varying situations. These healthy relationships are based on healthy boundaries of respect, trust, compromise, and acceptance.
On the contrary, if boundaries aren’t well established, people are confused about what to let in and keep out. And when their boundaries are regularly allowed to be breached or trodden on, they grow depressed, resentful, and anxious, and can often leave interactions and conversations feeling drained, angry, and abused.
Too rigid boundaries are also unhealthy as they can isolate a person. They usually manifest as being closed off emotionally or physically from others, being controlling, and not willing to take risks, and are often the result of past bad experience.
To create and maintain healthy flexible boundaries or rules, consider the following points:
Reflect on your life. Become mindful about the situations that make you uncomfortable, stressed out, fearful, disempowered, resentful, and disappointed. Examine them to understand the source of these feelings and what you may be neglecting in your life.
Establish your Boundaries. As soon as possible after becoming clear about where you lack clear rules in your life, begin putting small manageable ones in place. For e.g. saying no when you regularly say yes or vice versa and then build up over time. Make these limits firm but flexible and not extreme, so that you can respond to individual situations in a clear and calm way.
Reinforce your boundaries. This is especially true in the beginning and with the people who know you for a long time. Initially they may be taken aback, but consistency in maintaining the new ground rules will help everyone adjust. Over the long term, this will avoid hurt feelings, frustration, and confusion.
Respect others’ Boundaries. Just as you would like people to respect your rules, you should honor theirs. Pay attention to what they like or dislike, or their behavior and manners. For e.g. some people don’t like having their image on social media, they like being punctual, don’t sit with their feet on the sofa, or don’t open other people’s fridges.
Communicate your Concerns. Let others know in an assertive, non-confrontational tone as soon as possible when they have breached your boundaries. This may be difficult, but it is very important because it prevents depression and resentment from setting in.
Self-Kindness. Compassion for yourself is crucial in maintaining emotional and mental health. If you are able to honor, respect, and care for yourself, it will help you stand up and speak up for yourself when you need to. For inspiration in maintaining your goal, keep the company of people you admire and whom you aspire to be like.
Setting up new life rules will require tenacity but it is doable. When you feel uninspired remind yourself of the benefits of having these boundaries in place and recommit to following through.
As a mindfulness mentor, I will be happy to help you become empowered to establish boundaries for happiness and peace.
Good luck in establishing your new ground rules.
Do you feel tired, uninspired, and incapable of fulfilling your life goals?
You may be leaking energy. This is quite a common experience which can happen in many ways, over time, and unless you are sensitive, it may be beyond your awareness. One steady way we lose our vitality, drive, or oomph is by simply putting up with or tolerating daily annoyances like putting off paying bills, not cleaning out the garage or cupboards, or not dealing with something bigger such as speaking to friends who always show up late, or your habit of not saying no, or of not following through after researching a decision.
In energy healing work, we bring relief and healing to clients by following the principle of restoring balance to a middle range. In biology this is called homeostasis. For instance, if someone’s energy is too high or hyperactive, we bring it down, if they are too cold, we warm them up, or if the person’s energy is sluggish, we crank it up and so on.
Restoring balance is the key to good health, a happier mind state, and greater effectiveness and success in life. You are better able to achieve your dreams and manifest the life you envision when you get rid of the things that drain your vitality, and when you surround yourself with things that boost your energy.
Living from all aspects of our being also helps create balance. If 90% of our life is spent working, then rest, family, relationships, and other priorities will suffer. So finding a healthy balance between working (tension) and resting (relaxation/play time) is crucial.
We lose energy in different ways and these drains should be plugged as soon as you discover them. The effect of not plugging the leaks can lead to many symptoms. See how many you recognize in yourself:
Mental & Physical Exhaustion
We are overworked with few opportunities for relaxation and meaningful connection in a hyper busy world. Each day we encounter ever shortening deadlines, multiple projects, and home and social demands that leave us overextended. It is challenging in this midst to find a way of soothing and calming our nervous systems. Contrary to common opinion, watching television or playing video games does not relax, but actually drains us; this is especially true if we watch the news constantly. To sustain ourselves in this grueling schedule we resort to stimulants like caffeine and energy drinks or even drugs, which may get us through the day, but in effect we are running on empty. A depleted and unbalanced body and mind that is slowly leaking energy is one that is prone to illness and disease.
Illness and disease
Our bodies use lots of energy to actively fight infections, diseases, and even when doing regular maintenance like cleaning or repairing damaged tissue, etc. Be mindful of the levels of mental and emotional stress, and physical exertion you are experiencing as this will help you recognize when your body is slipping into imbalance due to energy loss. Disease sets in easily when energy imbalances persist.
In energy healing practices like Reiki and Pranic healing, the healer works within the biomagnetic (life force) field surrounding a body where the onset of disease is first revealed as energetic distortions or imbalances. Working with the body’s natural wisdom, healers create conducive conditions for healing to occur.
Whenever we are strongly attracted or averse to things, situations, or people, our emotions become overactive and obsessive. Our altered perception of the situation or person is exacerbated by the stories we fabricate about the desired or hated object. As our thoughts spin in rumination, our emotions heighten so that they become easily triggered. Losing connection to our inner selves, in this way, leads us to lose life force energy because we are not living our truth. In other words we aren’t being authentic and accepting of ourselves. So if we are playing roles that don’t resonate with our deeper selves or we base our feelings on external circumstances, we will not only be at the mercy of every external situation, but we also lose energy.
Being present with an open heart and mind and simply letting ourselves and others just be is how we can begin to rebuild our inner connection to self. From this place of strength and stability, we can tackle any emotional situation with a calm presence.
Healthy Boundaries & Saying No
Not having healthy boundaries is a huge energetic drain. If, however, your boundaries are clear and firm, this lets you and others know what you will allow, what protects you and allows you to thrive. Boundaries like you can’t yell at or hit me, let people know what you will and won’t tolerate. We lose energy whenever we quietly let someone criticize or tease us, or take advantage of us.
We can train ourselves to say no and thereby avoid feeling overwhelmed by people and situations. Start out by saying no in smaller inconsequential matters or things (like saying no to a weekly dinner invitation with friends). Once you grow your self-confidence with this hurdle, work your way up to declining those things you feel obligated to do.
No matter what goal you aspire to in life, it is going to require your full authentic presence and energy. Begin by taking stock of your life and noticing what drains and what energizes you.
May you be filled with energy and purpose.
After a year and a half of working from home and over Zoom, many people are preparing to return to the workplace. However, they also aren’t feeling as confident in their ability to simply pick up from where they left off before the pandemic.
So much in our world has changed since Covid 19 waylaid our way of life. The combination of external and internal changes requires great adaptation and resilience from us. Work environments have changed in many ways: new coworkers, bosses, policies, and sadly, even new gaps where former coworkers may have passed on. This is on top of the changes we’ve experienced in our families, communities, and within ourselves.
All these changes can shake our sense of confidence and cause us to doubt our ability to function and thrive again even in known environments. If the life disruption you experienced was caused by a layoff or being given early retirement, then this can topple your self assurance. Confidence and identity are closely tied to career, and having a gap in one’s work history can exacerbate feelings of uncertainty about one’s ability to do the work again. This internal resistance to the fear of failing can wear us down which can further shake our self assurance.
To overcome this resistance to change, we need to rebuild our belief in ourselves and grow our confidence again. The following suggestions can help you get started:
Not being physically in the workspace among coworkers can cause you to forget your capabilities and your successes. And the human tendency to focus on current struggles and challenges makes it easier to overlook past achievements. It is important to take time to reflect on your past personal successes, and the challenges you’ve overcome so you can know your mettle. Recall and list your contribution to the successes of your team or the company and visit websites where products or services you helped create are on displayed to boost your self confidence. Connect with friends and former coworkers, managers etc. and solicit their feedback on what it was like to work with you, so that you can be reminded of your potential and successes. You could also ask their advice and even for introductions. Taking the time to remind yourself in this way is important for your wellbeing.
All of us have changed in little and large ways since this pandemic. Changes like the loss of a loved one, a job loss, loss of social status, and alteration in mood and temperament cause shifts in identity. For instance, if a spouse passed away due to Covid, the surviving spouse now has the responsibilities of both parents and sole breadwinner, and the stresses become greater. Acknowledge the stress that the changes are adding and give yourself time to feel your feelings. Remind yourself of your ability to adapt and cope by recalling past episodes where you survived and came out stronger after facing a challenge head on. Form a support network to help cheer you on and return the favor by supporting and encouraging others who may be facing similar struggles. Helping others is a particularly powerful way of growing confidence and relieving depression.
Watch your Thinking
Keep an eye on your thinking. Be especially on the alert for negative thoughts saying you can’t do it or you’ll fail or you don’t have it anymore and aren’t capable. The first step is becoming aware of them, and the second is actively changing them by challenging them with positive thoughts. Back up your counter thought with evidence from your life. Look at how you helped make a difference not just at the office, but also in your personal life, home life, and your friendships. Review how you’ve dealt with the upheaval and changes wrought by the pandemic, and then identify the skills you employed to help you cope. Maybe you are more flexible, resilient, and brave (identify other qualities you’ve noticed). Then when you begin to doubt yourself bring these valuable life skills to mind, so you can feel empowered to confidently enter the workplace and the world again.
Also bear in mind that everyone is going through similar challenges and feeling some level of anxiety and stress, (even if they are better at hiding it), so know that you aren’t alone in the journey to reentering the world feeling strong and confident.
May your journey back be filled with wonderful opportunities.
The pressure to follow trends, be an influencer or the creator of the latest fad is at a fever pitch. Everywhere and at all times, we are constantly led to believe we need to be and act a certain way, be seen in the trendiest places, and wearing the newest fashion. We are made to feel like we are failures or aren’t good enough if we aren’t keeping up.
If we were to ask the people who subscribe to this way of living, we’ll surely find that deep down they aren’t happy or satisfied, and that chasing after external gratification and possessions is an exhausting and unfulfilling way to live.
When we cave in to societal pressure, we forget how to be true to ourselves and we may not even know who we are. This alienation from the self causes distress and depression because in trying to realise others' ideas for our lives, we fail to fulfill our own goals.
Living an inauthentic life shifts us away from our beliefs and values, consequently our behavior, speech and actions are out of sync with our deepest self. This separation affects our ability to create meaningful connection with ourselves and others, so it can make our relationships tentative and uncertain.
Integrity or being true to ourselves means being honest about the things we value and desire, like having strong moral principles, honestly communicating our wishes to ourselves and others, being honorable by keeping our word, and most importantly believing we are good enough and not comparing and competing with others.
It requires courage to listen and respond to your own calling. The steps below will help you learn how to begin living an authentic life.
Awareness and Acceptance
Change begins with acceptance. First grow awareness of the areas of your life that you struggle with or from which you feel disconnected. Consciously acknowledge what needs re-working; you can even say it aloud to yourself to grow your acceptance of your humanity and your willingness to grow. If you struggle with identifying your likes, dislikes, beliefs, values and goals, consider completing an online authentic living questionnaire.
The ability to embrace all aspects of ourselves – the good and bad -- is being authentic. Intellectually we all know that no one is perfect, but most people believe that we must never show our weaknesses or faults and we strive diligently to be perfect anyway. This playacting is fake living. Ironically others feel empowered to share their own fears, and worries when we can acknowledge or own up to our growth areas. We can learn to celebrate ourselves and others for the willingness and courage to grow. Being vulnerable empowers us because we are no longer hiding or running away from ourselves, it helps us to stand up for ourselves, speak our truth, and live without pretense and falsity.
Self-Trust in Challenging Times
When you know and feel deeply connected to yourself, you know you can rely on and trust yourself when things get tough. So knowing your values, for e.g. not harming or being honest, you can fall back on them to guide you through a difficult time and especially in the heat of the moment.
Taking the time to connect to your deepest self and feeling strong enough to live from that self is a valuable investment for happiness and peace of mind.
May you connect with your truest potential.
Everything in life is relative. Even painful relationships provide the opportunity to know ourselves better.
I’m reminded of the time I was weeding between heirloom tomato and patty pan plants. The shallow growing weeds were easy to uproot, but they spread themselves out under the hairy tomato branches, to which I’m allergic, and into the spiny squash plant. By the time I was done weeding, I was scratched and itching badly.
In the same way, relationships can frustrate and leave us feeling prickly towards the other person. Some relationships with colleagues, family, and friends can’t just be discarded, but have to be regularly tended to, much like a garden. And we may emerge from these engagements feeling bruised and upset. To maintain connection and still feel safe and empowered during these interactions we can try to use them as learning opportunities.
To build and improve relationships we must recognize our own contribution to the dynamic. This requires an honest look at ourselves.
Each one of us has work to do on ourselves. With this candid and clear acknowledgement, we can leverage the difficulties we may be facing with loved ones or colleagues to forge an honest relationship with ourselves.
It is common for us to unconsciously project our failings or desires onto others (projection). Ironically we are blind to our own growth areas or challenging behavior because we can always justify or reason away our attitude or behavior. However that blind spot becomes apparent when we point a finger at someone else.
So use this opportunity to make clear your own stumbling blocks.
Just like in gardening, you have to get your hands dirty to get a bountiful yield; you must be willing to uproot your ignorance (unconscious habits, attitudes, reactivity) so you can have fulfilling, meaningful relationships. This will take effort and time, but the reward will be knowing yourself, your coping ability in stressful encounters, your priorities, and of course, having happier relationships.
May your relationships thrive through clear seeing.
Most people gravitate to meditation primarily for its relaxation and calming benefits. However, in addition to calming, it also provides many profound possibilities for transformation.
As a meditation teacher and someone who has been meditating from a young age, it is easy to forget and even overlook the significant and small changes that have resulted from consistent practice. Writing this article is a wonderful reminder.
The success of any new or developing habit depends on several factors. A very important one is regular review of our motivation and the benefits of the habit. For example, if you are engaging in a healthy eating plan, a quit-smoking regimen, or a new meditation practice, then recalling your reason for undertaking it, the required daily tasks, and the benefits will help you refocus, adapt, and remain inspired until you reach your goal.
An important support to meditation is reflection. Reflection can be done on the go; while walking or doing things you can think deeply about life experiences to gain an understanding or insight about them. Formal meditation is sitting still on the meditation cushion/chair and meditating on the contemplation insights to gain a deeper felt experience of them. This combination of noticing, reflecting, and meditating on experiences will help you gain control over your behavior, thoughts, speech, and feelings to empower and transform you to meet your life goals.
I’ve broken down the benefits of meditation into categories simply for the ease of reading and grasping, but in reality the benefits overlap and are compounded with one change affecting and building on another.
Develop valuable life skills
Intelligence alone isn’t enough to ensure successful and meaningful relationships or even a prosperous life; it also depends on having vital life skills. Life skills grow our emotional and mental resilience (emotional intelligence), so we are able to effectively deal with emotional demands, mental pressures, and social expectations in skillful beneficial ways. Regular reflection and meditation practice
Cultivate clear seeing and awareness
We believe that the way people, situations, and things appear to us are actually how they are. In fact, our perception is almost always clouded by emotion. The two most important emotions affecting how we process and relate to our life experiences are attachment and aversion. Another way of saying this is liking and disliking. As an example, attachment or desire is wanting a new car which causes us to exaggerate its good qualities and overlook any faults. Then when we have the car, our attachment makes us afraid the car will get damaged or stolen. Aversion is disliking or hating someone or something, and only focusing on their or its negative qualities, and overlooking the good qualities. Or it could manifest as being in a challenging situation and only focusing on the hardship of it. Liking and disliking increases our pain and anxiety, and causes us to act in ways that are damaging to ourselves and others. When these emotions are operating our ability to see clearly is severely impaired. A regular meditation and reflection practice
Getting to know ourselves
The Tibetan meaning of the word for meditation is ‘growing familiarity’. In meditation we are becoming familiar with ourselves and whatever other object of meditation we are choosing to focus on. Every time we make the effort to sit in meditation, we are demonstrating determination and steadfastness in connecting with and getting to know ourselves. In the meditation space, we experience ourselves as we are and let go of judgments of ourselves and others. We learn to deal with our expectations, idiosyncrasies, beliefs, attitudes, and blind spots. Meditation and reflection practice
The overarching idea is that while meditating requires individual effort, the impact and benefit are widespread.
The beneficial changes meditation creates in one individual tend to ripple out and affect our personal and professional relationships and society, as well. So ultimately our personal effort and commitment to a meditation practice can have a global effect.
May your perseverance in meditation lead you to great well-being.
In uncertain, stressful times much may seem out of our control. At such times it is particularly important to reflect on the things that are within our control .
The one thing most out of control in our lives is our minds. An untamed mind is a constant source of joy and sadness. We know from experience the rollercoaster ride we go through when our thoughts and emotions buoy us up and then drop us in troughs. These yo-yoing experiences arise because we aren’t aware of what’s happening in our mind. When we are unconscious of the content of our mind’s activity we are taken by surprise and consequently get uncontrollably sucked into situations.
Meditation is any method that helps keep the mind from wandering, and that helps us experience things as they really are. Meditation isn’t:
Formal sitting meditation trains the mind to inhabit a serene part of the experience spectrum so that it (and consequently you) aren’t tossed from one extreme to another. This is called equanimity. In meditation we discover that each moment is fluid, unpredictable, and unique. This realization clarifies how unrealistic it is trying to control every external phenomenon and person so that we can feel safe.
The Indian sage, Shantideva, described this struggle in an analogy. He said it is as if we are trying to cover the entire earth with leather, so that we don’t injure and bruise our bare feet. Clearly that’s impossible. The only thing you can do is to wrap your own feet in leather to protect yourself. Recall how often we have tried to control external forces by putting out one fire after another, all so we don’t suffer. This failed strategy only leads to increased stress and frustration.
The most effective way to deal with the irritating co-worker or neighbor, physical and emotional pain, and unfair work or world situation is to work with your own mind. Learning to meditate is the ultimate protection from life’s irritations, and the best tool for empowering you to live a calm, aware, and skillful life in a challenging world.
There are many different types of meditation with different purposes and benefits. Below are just a few of the more widely known meditation techniques:
When choosing a meditation technique it is important to consider your personality and temperament and to choose a technique that resonates with you, your goals, and needs.
To effectively do this, begin by getting to know yourself a little better. Take a few minutes a day to reflect on your life, goals, needs, and your way of dealing with the world. You can also do this by noticing your likes and dislikes, and your attitude and reactions to things and situations.
You could also choose to work with someone who can guide you to the best technique when you're beginning
and who will progressively lead you to other suitable meditation techniques as your skill level develops.
I will be teaching a beginning online mindfulness meditation class, which introduces students to several different meditation techniques focused on calming, growing attentiveness, and wellbeing. Check it out here. Hope to see you in class.
May you be supported and empowered in your journey to wellness.
Success means many things to different people. One of the hallmarks of success is being able to listen not only to others but to oneself as well.
However, with the deluge of information we are exposed to, it is not easy to distinguish our own thoughts from those we regularly hear from the world around us. Each day we are told what to desire, what to think, how to feel, what to choose, so it is hard to tease apart our own thoughts and feelings from the externally imposed ones.
We know from experience when we look back on situations in which we wished we had spoken up or regretted missing an opportunity, that we let ourselves down because we were confused by other opinions, or were too afraid to listen to our inner voice, instinct, or intuition. And the converse is also true: on the occasions we did respond to our inner calling we remember how our self-trust and self-confidence soared.
To reestablish a connection and relationship with yourself, try to do some of the following steps each day.
Listening to yourself will help you fulfill your goals and attain your idea of success. It will help you feel happier and improve your self-esteem.
May you follow the voice of your inner guide.
2020 has been a year of enormous change.
We’ve lived through almost an entire year of upheaval with varying degrees of success in our coping methods. But this year has also been an extreme example of life-shattering imposed change.
Within this larger shift, we also experience smaller alterations and modifications in our lives. Using these less fear-inducing changes as a training ground, we can grow our resilience and coping skills to prepare us to handle big changes.
By all accounts, 2021 is likely to require us to continue adapting to new ways of thinking, acting, and being.
If we have the mindset that change is problematic and should not happen then we’ll experience greater discomfort and suffering. The Buddha called this the second arrow. The first arrow is the incident that created the pain, e.g. touching a hot pot without a glove and getting burned. The second arrow is the mental anguish or irritation we feel towards ourselves for making the mistake.
The only way to successfully work with and truly grasp life’s impermanent nature is to remain present, and to learn to move with its fluctuating rhythm.
Reflect on the following insights to help grow your resilience and flexibility.
Make mental and journal notes of your coping methods for the challenges you’ve overcome. Honor your struggle and celebrate your successes in skillfully coping and adapting. Know that you have come out stronger for having undergone those changes.
May you meet change with calm acceptance and courage.