Monday, 18 April 2016

Blog break - bon voyage!

This blog has not died a death, it's on a break until I come back from an extended trip in June. Stay tuned!

Photo via Tumblr.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Everyday happiness series - what we accept, we get

Here's a new post for my everyday happiness - series, this time discussing how we actively co-create our lives by a mere act of accepting. The previous parts are 1# - How to be happier? and 2# - How to quit worrying and envying?

Teaching #3: what we accept, we get

Or, the standards you pass by, are the standards you accept.

How many times have you thought - why am I being treated this poorly or unfairly? Chances are, in average life, that at least a few. Hopefully not every day. But if you think that way every day, this post is definitely for you.

Let's start with a story about my own life. I migrated to Australia with my then-husband (whom I found in my early 20's) years ago, but due to a number of things - huge personality clashes being the major issue - we ended up separating pretty soon after the relocation. I was in a new country with only a handful of (not-yet-so-close) friends, away from all the familiar safety nets such as my family and old friends. To get back on my feet and to manage financially, I decided to find a flatmate.

This flatmate was found quickly and on the outside, she was the sweetest, sunniest thing you can imagine. However, I soon learned that I had walked into a trap. She had her own reasons to live with a flatmate and those reasons revolved around having a crutch to lean on in everything - housework, socialising, and taking care of all of her practical and emotional issues.

Within three months, our cohabitation had spiralled into coercion by emotional blackmail - not a day went by I didn't hear "everyone else would do this for me", "a true friend would do this", "if you were a decent person, you'd do this", etc. The expected tasks ranged from scrubbing the toilet floor, doing her grocery shopping and putting together her IKEA furniture to inviting her to every single social gathering I went (she didn't seem to have many friends of her own, despite the social media appearances).

At first I was happy to help, because I thought it would be a win-win and give-give situation. Of course I can pick a few things in the supermarket for her, too, while I'm there. She had a health condition, so of course I could do some of the heavier tasks. Surely she would help me in turn, too? Right?

Well, that didn't happen. Somehow it was always me doing, giving, helping, taking care of stuff. And not getting a lot in exchange, not even gratitude.

Then, Christmas came and I bought her a present - just something inexpensive as a polite token - and instead of thank you I got an angry response: "now you made me feel bad, I don't have anything for you, why did you do this!". Later on, I learned she was siphoning a portion out of our rent monies so I actually had paid more than needed. I got so fed up I moved out immediately.

The reasons why I tolerated that in the first place were: 
  • I believed her claims that "a good friend / anyone else would do this, why wouldn't you."
  • I didn't have many other people to turn to and I was afraid I'd lose the few friends I had if I actively "rebelled"- I may have been seen as a selfish person if I hadn't helped a flatmate.
  • I had a very nice apartment in the city centre I'd need to give up if I moved - there was no way I could have afforded something as nice on my own.
  • I thought "this probably is how it is for everyone, there's nothing out of the ordinary going on", regardless of the nagging feeling that I'm being taken advantage of.

Now, this is not nearly as severe as being in an abusive relationship or being bullied at work (or school), but it taught me clearly that the phrase "what we accept, we get" is true. If I had stayed, I would have got more of the same and the chances are the emotional blackmail would have spiralled to be worse. I was already losing time, effort and money, I could have been losing my self-esteem and my own life, too - she was actively undermining my dreams and tried to dig a trench between me and my brand new love interest.

I walked out of this experience just with a few surface scratches but it was an eye-opener for why people stay in relationships that are hurtful and harmful. Because it's so easy to slip into thinking that this is what everyone's life is and surely others wouldn't make a fuss out of something this insignificant. Hardly any abuser starts with a full-blown beating - it starts with small but constant undermining and emotional and mental manipulation to make you think you are in the wrong and they are in the right; and you are just being silly and selfish if you don't agree. 

But this is where everyone's inner voice comes at play. Is this right? Am I being treated right? Is this what I want for myself (or for my children/others involved)? Is this the life I dream of?

The same applies to any relationship and situation. Are you disrespected or mistreated at work? Speak up, gather evidence, gather support groups, lodge a formal complaint or leave the place. It won't get better by itself nor by accident. 

Is your partner being unfair or worse, abusive either verbally or physically? Speak up, seek help, leave if needed. I know it's not easy but it won't magically change to better. Someone must take action and if it's not you, who could it be? It won't be the abuser because they are getting exactly what they need by keeping you at bay. 

The same teaching applies to much milder everyday situations, such as someone being rude. Don't take it. Stay firm and don't let someone's lack of manners dig into your personal space. It only tells who they are, not about who you are. I personally stay away from name calling during arguments, because I want to keep the conversation or debate civil. I've never yelled at anyone "you're a fucking idiot", because I would then open the gates to be called the same. 

Here's a tarot spread to examine this topic in more depth: 
  1. What am I accepting from others I shouldn't?
  2. What action can I take to change it?
  3. How am I behaving towards others I shouldn't?
  4. What action can I take to change it?
  5. How to feel more centred and empowered?
  6. How to behave to invite better treatment towards myself?
9 Wands, Witches Tarot. Defend your truth, message and authenticity (8 Wands) with your passion, drive and motivation (Ace of Wands) - don't let anyone walk over you. We all have the same right to exist and become the best versions of ourselves. 

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Everyday happiness - series: how to ditch worries and envying?

This post relates to my series "how to find more everyday happiness?" I mentioned when I started this series that I get to attend courses at work regularly on work life balance, mindfulness etc. and this series is inspired by the most pertinent teachings I've encountered. Here's the first part, Teaching #1: what you focus on, will expand.

Teaching #2: worry and envy feel useful, but are not

Of course, in the idea world, no one would need to worry or feel envious, ever. But in this reality of ours, these emotions come and go with the regularity of clockwork. Firstly, what do I mean by useful? Let's examine.

Nobody worries just for fun or entertainment, duh. We worry because we either can't help it (the thoughts and anxieties just circle around, no matter what else we try to think); or, we feel that by being worried we're actually doing something for the problem.

Think about it. How many times you've caught yourself or someone else saying - if I stop worrying, things most definitely won't improve! Then I'm just letting everything go, letting bad things happen, I'm not being prepared. However, being prepared and being worried are not the same thing.

Worrying is mulling over the same or similar thoughts and anxieties in one's head, all the what ifs and worst case scenarios. It might feel like preparing - after all, it's good to know what to do if the proverbial hits the fan - but is worrying really necessary for planning? Isn't it actually hindering planning, by making you feel more scattered and powerless?

Let's face it. All the worrying in the world will not keep you safe. Things can still go sideways. What's the point in worrying, if you've already prepared as well as you can - worrying won't add anything, it just takes away your ability to focus and enjoy. 

I grew up in a family where my parents worried about money constantly. We had it tight and it wasn't always given that there would be money for that month's grocery bill and us kids only got new clothes three times per year: when the school year started, for Christmas and birthdays.

However, a pressing need can trigger two reactions: creativity and anxiety. My mum was always good at making things by hands and if we lacked something, there was a good chance mum would come up with a crafty idea. My poor dad, on the other hand, probably had a blood pressure peaking to the moon and back. But did that help in any way, if there simply was no money?

The most difficult thing about stopping worrying is to allow yourself to do it. It's so ingrained in our behaviour that if we stop feeling anxious, it's as if we don't care. And that simply is not true.

A wise person once said: if you worry about the war every day and it never comes, you have unnecessarily lived through war. And can worrying stop a war? Well...

Same applies to envying. Nobody wants to envy, or admit being envious. And yet, it's one of the most common feelings. It's just so easy to slip into it when we see someone having what we'd like to have - or worse, feel we should have instead of the other.

Envy might feel justified and useful, just like worrying. What right does my neighbour have to have such a nice car? Or my colleague to have such a successful relationship, beautiful kids and new home? What have they ever done to earn those? I've worked as hard if not more, I should be the one who's rewarded!

Life does not come with a fairness guarantee. It's up to us to decide what to do with that fact. Whether to work harder and try to achieve what the target of our envy has, or succumb to bitterness.

Spiritually minded people think that everyone has their own karma and hence we receive what we deserve. In my view, karma is not punitive but educational. We can always learn from every situation in life. I believe that if we practice and learn more selfishness by being bitter and envious, we'll also get more "bad karma" - but bad karma merely means more chances to learn how not to be selfish and bitter.

Envy is closely related to hatred in the sense that both are toxic for ourselves. Being envious or bitter is like drinking poison and expecting the other to die.

However, worries and envy can be useful if they are used as the initial trigger to improve the situation. 

The future worries you? Come up with your best plan to tackle the worries and start taking care of them, one step at a time - and then, simply relax. There's nothing left to do so you might as well take it easy and let the universe handle some of the stuff, too!

Someone else is successful? Great, that just means it can be done by you, too! Success and love are not limited resources which diminish from the world if somebody makes it. It's quite the contrary. The more positive people feel, the more helpful and encouraging they are towards others, too. Working together instead of against each other always produces better results.

Here's a spread to examine these questions in your own life (just focus on worry OR envy, if not both are your issues).

How to get rid of worrying or envying?

1. What causes me to worry?
2. Why?
3. What action to take to stop it?
4. What should I focus on in my life instead?
5. What causes me to envy?
6. Why?
7. What reminds me not to envy?
8. What is something I have that others wish they had?

Be the King of Fire (Wands) of your own life: authentic, confident, worry-free and fun-loving leader. There's no point in envying or worrying. Joie de Vivre tarot, Paulina Cassidy.