You Always Were and Always Will Be Whole and Complete

“Always engage in the quest for life’s meaning, which is inner peace.” ~Longchenpa

When is a person complete? When have they finally “made it”?

Is it when they find love? Success? When they prove themselves?

I must have asked myself these questions a thousand times growing up. As soon as I recognized that you could be deemed successful or not, accepted or not, loved or not, I wondered where I fit in.

I questioned whether I was on the right path and when I would finally arrive. I wanted to be a total package. You know, the real deal. A real catch. In a word, complete.

Of course, at the beginning, I didn’t have much to go on. Just the minor dramas and bothers of middle-class suburbia, but I put those pieces together as best I could and set off to become complete.

During adolescence, being complete meant getting the good grades, wearing the right sized jeans, and being “nice” or “sweet” or “cute.”

Later it was awards, relationships, and status.

Then came the Ivies, the ring, the house, the kids.

I wanted to be successful, so I did what I was supposed to. I followed rules, checked boxes, and really applied myself.

I wanted to be happy, so I planned out everything with precision as if my lasting happiness lay in getting the details just right.

I wanted connection, so I tried to please everyone. I figured it was easier that way and a small price to pay for being universally loved.

When all was said and done, I was good, but I could have been kinder.

I did everything I said I would, but I could have done more.

I was a real powerhouse, but I didn’t feel confident.

And I still wondered when I would feel complete.

At least half of me felt unsuitable to be seen by the rest of the world.

I was painfully shy. I gave myself a pep talk every day just to make it out of my room. I cried without warning. I worked out too much and didn’t eat enough. I wore too much makeup.

By adulthood, I’d become hurried and hardened.

I denied myself the simple pleasures, and I didn’t even remember what listening to myself felt like. And as much as I longed to be known, I avoided being seen.

There was no room in my life for sweet contentment or stillness. Living was about getting to tomorrow, not being right where I was.

Somehow, I must have confused complete with perfect.

Complete meant existing within a narrow scope of our human experience. It meant having all of the light and none of the dark. Having flaws or struggles made me less than. (I held my attachment to my ego against myself, too.)

So, round and round I’d go.

The more I held on to these beliefs, the more they let me down. I didn’t feel successful, happy, or connected, and I sure wasn’t confident. None of my planning and plotting stopped me from being hurt or rejected. None of the hardness made me stronger.

How can anyone feel complete when they only ever accept a fraction of themselves?

There were plenty of times I considered letting it all go and making a big change, but I feared that my empty hands wouldn’t find something else to hold on to. We need a way to understand how the world works and where we fit into it. Once we’ve got it, we’ll hold on—even if it hurts.

All I ever wanted was to feel secure, connected, and fulfilled, and you don’t just let go of that. But, I also felt misled, and I was ready to uncover the truth.

I started by asking different questions, like what gives a person meaning, how do you define success, and what makes a person whole?

Whole. It was an interesting thought. Whereas complete felt like finding the missing pieces and becoming something, wholeness felt like being what you already are.

Slowly, softly, things shifted.

I started looking at the whole of me, not just the shiniest parts. This wasn’t easy. We all have that side of us we’d rather not see, and I’d pushed mine far, far away.

Even with this desire for something deeper and more authentic, I worried that maybe I’d missed my chance. Maybe I really was incomplete.

Oddly, that’s when it clicked.

Those parts of me, even the one struggling with this whole being whole thing, are all part of my wholeness. Being whole means seeing perfection and imperfection, hurting and healing, fear and courage as one in the same. It’s the shadows that give the light away.

Okay, I thought. What if wholeness included all of me?

Like being a painfully shy child?

Or the years of abusing my body?

Or crying in the car outside work?

What if it included the dysfunctional relationships I stayed in too long and the healthy ones I ran away from?

Or the ways I allowed myself to be changed and the times I resisted authentic expansion?

This shift has been richer than being kinder to myself, though I have learned to be my own best friend. And it’s deeper than having confidence, though I feel bigger and stronger than ever before.

This shift toward wholeness is about loving the whole of me fully and openly. Not in spite of the flaws but including the flaws. It’s those parts of you that you probably don’t want to see, the ones that are struggling to keep up, that need your love the most.

I’m not perfect about this by any means. Sometimes I forget and slip into old patterns, sometimes on autopilot, and sometimes with full awareness of what I’m doing. But perfect has nothing to do with it anymore.

There’s nothing to hide or change when you’re focused on wholeness. Being whole is simply a matter of being.

Whole is complete in itself, and it’s always enough.

Right now, whether you’re standing in the shadows or basking in the light, you are whole.

You’ve hoped and dreamed, doubted and feared.

You’ve surprised yourself (for better and for worse).

You’ve done exactly what you set out to do.

You’ve fallen flat.

You’ve succeeded and failed, fallen and risen, hurt and healed.

You’ve loved, lost, and lived to love again.

You’ve stood in the shadows and danced in the light.

You’ve sung and cried, whispered and yelled.

You’ve been winter, and you’ve been spring.

In your lifetime, you’ve learned to crawl, to walk, to run, to soar.

You’ve said just the right thing at the right time and the things you didn’t mean.

You’ve been right and wrong, hard and soft, fearless and afraid.

You’ve felt pride, shame, joy, sorrow, serenity, distress.

And you will again.

All the things you’ve done and the things you’ve seen, the people you’ve known, the heartbreaks you’ve stitched back together, the plans you’ve made, and the plans you’ve had to let go, the celebrations and growing pains are part of your wholeness.

Maybe you’re feeling like you’re really not okay. You’re still whole.

The key to making this shift is trusting in the process of working it out as you go and picking up the little gems along the way. No part of this needs to be perfect.

So, take a step, any step in the direction that feels closer to whole.

If you can, give thanks to the shadows as much as you would to the sunlight.

Thank you falling for teaching me I won’t break.

Thank you sorrow for reminding me to care for my heart.

And learn to look at all of yourself from the most loving perspective. You are the exact right combination of experiences, insights, strengths, and imperfections that make a person whole.

You always were and always will be wholly beyond compare.

About Leslie Ralph

Leslie is writer and artist who hopes to leave the world a little brighter than she found it. Her people are soul-searchers, deep feelers, and big-hearted dreamers that crave inner peace and inner truth. Download her free ritual for receiving to bring true healing, inner peace, and lasting joy into your life.

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Creativity Coloring Page for Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal

Hi friends! Since Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal launches in three weeks, I’ve recently been sharing some of the coloring pages, which all depict things we can do to minimize anxiety in our daily lives.

So far I’ve shared:

Today’s tip: Create something with your hands.

If you’ve ever immersed yourself in any type of creative activity, you know how meditative and calming it can be.

When we’re focused on the next brush stroke, bead, or stitch, we’re deeply immersed in the present moment—not caught up in our thoughts, fears, and worries.

This is why I decided to include doodling and coloring pages in this journal. Research has shown that coloring calms down our amygdala—the fear center of the brain—and it also activates the parts of the brain that are responsible for focus and concentration.

Beyond that, coloring and other creative activities bring us back to the ease of a simpler time—before we had to worry about bills, bosses, and other stresses of adulthood.

When we were kids, we didn’t need to make time for creativity; it was as natural as breathing and saying no to things we didn’t like. Whether we were pretending to be pirates, fairies, or superheroes, we were always eager to pick up some cardboard and markers to make our own accessories and props.

And for that brief flicker of time, all we saw was the fantasy in our head, projected onto our bedroom or yard.

For many of us, childhood wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies, but the time we spent creating was.

When I look back on my life up until now, I see that all the happiest and most defining moments involved some form of creativity.

Like the decade I spent working at an afterschool program for kids, where I directed them in plays, made some of their costumes, and often designed arts and crafts projects for us to try.

And the years I spent sketching in my book of shadows (during my teenage wiccan years), trying to create a guidebook for magic and light in the dark ages of my adolescence.

And the time I spent crocheting afghans for everyone I love—first during the three months I spent at a residential treatment center for eating disorders, and later while traveling across the US with assorted mobile marketing tours.

These days, I don’t create with my hands often enough. I’m more likely to create something digitally (like the many coloring posters in the fun & inspiring section). But whenever I disconnect from technology and focus on making something from nothing, it’s like the whole world stops—along with my thinking mind. And for a brief flicker in time there’s only heart. Just love, joy, and pure presence.

I know there are a lot of you out there who also enjoy creating, and I would love to connect with you. So please, take a minute or two and say hello. Introduce yourself if we’re not acquainted, and tell me about something you’ve recently created, or you’d like to create. You can even share a picture if you’d like. Whatever it is, it’s a piece of your heart, and I would love to see it.

From now until June 26th, you’ll get three bonus gifts, including a guided meditation series on letting go, when you pre-order Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal. All you need to do is order a copy here and forward your purchase confirmation email to worryjournal@tinybuddha.com

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest book, Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for pre-order. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram.

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Understanding the Cycle of Pain: How to Transmute Anger into Empathy

“When we get angry, we suffer. If you really understand that, you also will be able to understand that when the other person is angry, it means that she is suffering. When someone insults you or behaves violently towards you, you have to be intelligent enough to see that the person suffers from his own violence and anger. But we tend to forget … When we see that our suffering and anger are no different from their suffering and anger, we will behave more compassionately.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

There is so much to be angry about every day because life is unfair.

My own situation right now is infuriating. I left my job and my home country in large part to return back to the US and help my mom care for my father. During that time, my mother’s frustration with her role as caregiver, along with the emotional stresses and practical limitations it placed on her, often boiled over into rage directed at me. This situation persisted for ten months.

Immediately after that, she herself became terminally ill, and now my role is caregiver. My whole life plan has had to change as a result, so my hopes of going back to my old life now need to take a backseat to my mother’s illness, which was brought about by her own behavior (smoking). For so many years I had asked her to quit, to which she reacted—you guessed it—angrily.

When it was clear she wasn’t doing well, I encouraged her to see a doctor. She got angry with me.

While in the hospital, she was frustrated at being confined to a bed. She took her anger and frustration out on me for that too.

Now, faced with difficult treatments and limitations on her lifestyle, she lashes out at me every day or two. Me—the only one at home with her, and the only one of her four children who has the will and/or ability to care for her in this way.

I’m not going to lie—it’s difficult to refrain from reacting in kind, and sometimes I do just that.

In my cancer caregiver support group, I found this is a common thread—people are angry, and they have difficulty directing and dealing with that anger.

One woman has a husband whose blasé attitude toward his cancer puts him in a lot of dangerous situations. This completely stresses her out because she is in a constant state of worry about his health and safety. But, rather than expressing these sentiments, she has internalized them, allowing anger to slowly fester.

It was a significant and therapeutic step for her to actually admit that she was angry. Her way of coping thereafter was to withdraw from her husband in order to preserve her own emotional well-being.

Another woman was angry because her husband, sick on-and-off with cancer for nearly twenty years, was also depressed through his illness, leaving her as the sole caregiver and breadwinner. Needless to say, her marriage was far from the storybook version she’d originally had in mind. Her way of dealing with her anger was to be productive—to be the best mother and caretaker she could be—and occasionally vent or break down to some trusted friends or our group.

There is nothing wrong or shameful about either of these two approaches. Both women have shown incredible fortitude in the face of difficult situations. Furthermore, their reactions were certainly much more constructive and peace-promoting than simply popping off and reacting temperamentally.

However, I have found it helps take me to an even more peaceful state to remind myself of the cycle of pain.

In this cycle, as succinctly described by Thich Nhat Hanh above, people act out in negative ways (e.g. aggressive, uncaring, etc.) as a result of inner pain. Even if that pain is difficult for us as outsiders to understand, it is there as a matter of fact.

Though it may help to intellectually understand the specific causes and dynamics of the individual’s pain, in most cases that isn’t possible because you cannot get inside someone else’s head. But we can still accept that the other person is in pain. Once we accept this, we can relate it to our own and therefore feel empathy.

This is very difficult to do in the moment. What helps me when I feel the flush of temper is to take a deep breath and close my eyes. When I take in that breath, I imagine myself “breathing in” the other person’s pain, which appears to me internally as smoke or pollution.

I then imagine in my head what they are going through. That is why it helps to understand what the pain is. In my mother’s case, it’s the fear of her disease as well as the discomfort with suddenly having to deal with the restrictions it places on her time and activities.

I imagine them dealing with that pain, and as the breath comes in I feel a sensation permeate my body. I then let out the breath, which I imagine to be a vapor of peace. I feel lighter and calmer.

I call this alchemy for the soul—transmuting anger into empathy.

When I expressed this in the group, I was met with crickets, except for the woman who was angry about her husband’s careless attitude about his condition. She had two comebacks.

First, she said although that was a “nice” sentiment, she needed to take care of herself at this point and not worry about her husband’s emotions. After all, as the cancer sufferer, he was receiving all kinds of sympathy from every corner. Fair enough.

Secondly, she said that it takes a lot of energy and effort to “suppress” your feelings when you’re already feeling exhausted from being the caregiver. I understand that too.

At that point, I dropped the matter, firstly, because I sensed her slight agitation and secondly, because I thought it might strain the dynamics of our safe place if I came across as a preachy teacher in a group of equals.

What I wanted to say was that this is not about her husband’s feelings. In fact, quite the opposite—doing this would be all about her emotions.

To hold onto anger and need to direct it somewhere, to me, is draining. I need to carry it around and find where to put it. I need to put effort into not blowing up at someone. To me, this exercise of alchemy for the soul feels like the opposite of “suppression,” whose Latin origin literally means to “press down.”

When I perform my little alchemy ritual, the feeling is much more of a lightening up or dissolving kind of sensation. Rather than doing someone else a favor, I feel like I am treating myself well, which allows me to treat others well too (and not begrudge them for it!).

Even when someone else is clearly the “cause” of your anger, it helps to remember that it isn’t really him or her—it’s his or her suffering that is at the root of the hurtful actions. Yes, they are responsible for what they do, but it helps to remember that it’s human to sometimes act out when you’re hurting.

If you feel that this thinking lets the person off the hook too easily, remember that however hurtful someone’s actions are, no one can “make” you feel a certain way. Ultimately, how you react internally to someone’s actions, what you choose to focus on and how you think about it, is your own responsibility. To blame another person for how you feel is to give him or her power over you.

To be clear, I’m not making excuses for bad behavior. If someone does something cruel or thoughtless or aggressive to you, it is his or her failing for doing so. But however hurt you may feel in the moment, that person does not have the power to make you carry that hurt with you in the form of anger.

Once again, this has nothing to do with you being a saint and deigning to give that person compassion or forgiveness; it’s about you taking care of yourself by stopping the angry chain reaction that can lead to all kinds of hurt and unfortunate behaviors.

Why not just allow yourself to just be angry and make up a sad story about what was done to you in which you are cast as the victim? In a sense, you’re totally justified in doing so, but where does that lead? How does that help you? The truth is, you very well might have been a victim of someone’s aggression in that moment, but only you can make yourself remain a victim by carrying around the negativity.

When you help yourself by letting go of your anger, you help everyone else around you too.

This is a practice that has very much helped me, but it’s not the only way to deal with anger. I’m always in search of new strategies myself, so please feel free to tell me what’s helped you cope.

About Joshua Kauffman

Joshua Kauffman is a recovering over-achiever and workaholic. Leaving behind a high-powered life in business, he has become a world traveler, aspiring coach, and entrepreneur of pretty things. Amateur author of a recent memoir Footprints Through The Desert, he is trying to find ways to share his awakening experience, particularly to those lost in the rat race like he was.

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Life Is in the Little Things: Finding the Extra in the Ordinary

“The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.“ ~Jimmy Johnson

“Write about what we did today,” my daughter said. She knows I often write once she is asleep.

Dully I thought, “What we did today wasn’t that exciting.” Yet, for her, it obviously was.

She gets lost in her experiences, deeply entrenched in the realms of her imagination that continue to weave each experience she is having.

From my perspective, I took the kids and their friends to a nature reserve so they could get muddy and play. I needed them outside, away from the house where cabin fever sets in quickly and the mess builds up even more quickly along with my stress levels.

Instead, we had a nice walk, first to see a waterfall, then for them to play in a stream and slide in the mud. After that, we had a picnic and I watched them all get lost in game after game led by their imaginations.

When we got home my daughter set about making a Lego creation; there is a national competition going on and she wants to enter. She created a platform with a throne for the queen to sit upon after she climbs the magical rainbow-colored staircase. She had been reflecting upon that staircase the night before long after she should have been asleep.

To the side of the queen was her courtier, and they overlooked a courtyard where many of her subjects had gathered so they could have a conversation. The courtyard was filled with beautiful flowers and another large plant that stands in the corner.

The nuances of this creation I am sure to have missed, but I glimpsed beyond the plastic bricks that my mind wanted to adjust here and there, resisting the urge to ‘fix’ them. It was a thing of beauty.

As is her habit every day, she also drew several pictures, each with its own story, ever evolving with lots of princesses and fairies. Then there was the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory audio book that she finished listening to, and the story of the Unicorn Riders we read at bedtime, each with their own stories and life lessons to untangle and reflect on.

Not to speak, of course, of the majestic bun she has insisted upon having in her hair these holidays, with four braids that I carefully reproduce every few weeks (after a trip to Fiji last year). My hair dressing skills seem to have unwittingly evolved in all these requests.

For me, I was just getting through another day of the school holidays. For her, though, she was a princess dreamily going about her day.

After the kids were asleep, I pulled out the journal I keep to record all the things to be grateful for, or that were uplifting. Here is the sad effort I wrote:

“The sun shining through the leaves at the reserve warmed my soul.” That was it, other than noting with thanks that my partner had gone to work all day long to provide us with money.

Yet when I’ve sat down to fill my cup with a little writing, another voice speaks from within. One that sees much more in the day than I obviously had at first glance; it sees the ‘extra’ in the ordinary.

When my daughter said to me a few days ago “It seems like I’ll have more fun when I’m young than when I’m old, Mum,” I understood why she thought that, but it also made me a bit sad.

I lamely told her adults experience fun in a different way, then I realized I was just kidding myself. While that in itself is true, I knew there was no kidding the kids; they know when you are having fun or not.

It’s time for an attitude shift. Sure, when I took the kids to the pools the other day, I did it to get it over with, since they have been nagging me for months to go. It’s an indoor pool, noisy, busy, and it stinks of chlorine. When I was a kid, I would have loved it too. Even as an adult, if I had peace to swim in the large pool it could be enjoyable.

But being responsible for the lives of two little kids who are not yet able to swim properly yet go hurtling into the depths when the wave machine comes on, and in separate directions, it’s not so relaxing.

Today, however, was more relaxing. No chlorine smell, only the smell of freshly cut grass. No loud echoing background noise, just the sound of kids laughing and playing.

Come to think of it, we passed a really tall tree with fruits scattered all over the ground underneath; they looked like lemons. Except this tree was about twenty meters tall, so it was a bit of a mystery to me, and it was quite nice just to notice it and wonder what it was.

It was also quite lovely to see the various dogs going past with their owners, clearly loving being out running around just as much as the kids were.

After our picnic I even joined in the fun by doing a pretend tap dance while all the kids sat on a bench watching and giggling.

When we got back to the house, the kids had all enjoyed their time in the fresh air and sat quietly drawing while I was able to hose down the clothes caked in mud. I have to admit to some satisfaction in seeing the colors of those clothes emerge again from the mud-brown-grey they had turned.

I enjoyed listening to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as much as the kids did, and it was interesting to connect the dots on a recurring dream I used to have, any time my life got a bit out of control, about the lift that went sideward and upside down.

And when I came to read them their bedtime story, the Unicorn Riders pulled me in to their mythical world and left me on a cliffhanger as it was time to turn out the lights.

Now, here I am, sitting contentedly tapping away on the keyboard. My cat is curled up next to me purring away. I am now reflecting on what a joy it is to have these kids that I waited for so long to come.

Even though they drive me nuts at times, and life can be pretty intense, it is worth it to glimpse life through their lenses.

I’ve also just realized that my long awaited new pillow arrived today, contoured to cater for exactly the way I sleep; this is not just great news, it is sheer bliss. How could I have left this and all these other snippets out my journal?

All these years spent longing for things, recording my dreams, and yet once they are here somewhere in my psyche they turn to hum drum, stressful even. “This is what it is to be human,” I remind myself. “To always want something more.”

It’s the age-old paradox of noticing what about my experiences I would like to change, while still appreciating in the moment the things that I do have. Instead, I seem to have slunk down into just taking for granted what I am experiencing and getting frustrated that what I want isn’t here yet.

This is dumb, I know. It would be healthier to celebrate the sheer miracle that this life I am leading has been entirely of my own making. There is so much power in that. I remember a few years back, when my partner complained to his godparent about how hard it was to look after the kids, she reminded him that this was his dream.

It’s true, it was our dream to have a family, and we spent years trying to make that happen. My partner even wanted two girls; he had names for them and everything. After we realized we needed to stop trying so hard, our wish came true.

But it’s not just about kids; it’s about the place we live, the life we lead, the people around us—it’s all of our own making. And it’s actually pretty spectacular.

I’m reminded of a little exercise of Marisa Peer’s I did one day, where I had to imagine seven-year-old me turning up at the front door of our house in my mind’s eye. I had to invite young me in and show her around. It was quite an emotional exercise. Looking at my life today through young me’s lenses was pretty gratifying.

Thanks to my daughter, the dull response to her initial thought that I should write about today has turned to a sparkle. It wasn’t so unspectacular after all, I realize. In fact it was quite extraordinary and really quite fun.

So often we focus on what’s lacking, or what didn’t meet our expectations, but we’re a lot happier when we appreciate the little things and recognize the beauty in the ordinary.

About Shona Keachie

Shona teaches by the power of example how to find our inner truth among the often harried day-to-day practicalities of life. She regularly provides people from all walks of life with a fresh perspective on anything they feel stuck with and is happy for you to get in touch. To follow her blog click here.

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In Search of the Sacred: Escaping Facebook’s Sticky Web

“You leave the present moment every time you check your phone.” ~Deirdre Jayko

Facebook was driving me to distraction! One late-winter evening, I prepped for a mood-saving hike in the snow. Magic happened on the trails in the moonlight. I decided to check Facebook for a friend’s answer to a message.

Who knows what caught my attention, but I ended up skipping from post to post. Once I emerged from my Facebook haze, I realized it was too late to walk safely. What had I accomplished in place of my hike? What did I even read about?

As I put away my warm clothes and went to bed, I promised myself I was going to change my Facebook usage. It was eating away at my life. I was driving myself to distraction.

Social media usage bothers people for a variety of reasons. Drilling down on those reasons reveals a larger theme of loss of control. In spite of ourselves, we spend way too much time scrolling through mindless content. Seemingly against our best intentions (sometimes, against our will), we waste countless hours on the site.

My frustration level only escalated once I made the decision to torch my Facebook profile. Getting off the site seemed impossibly complex! What about people I only had contact with through Facebook? What about seeing photos of relatives and friends? What about the writings and photos I loved to share? Each time I planned on hitting “delete,” I would give up and decide it was too complicated.

Every morning, I would roll out of bed and check Facebook. The silly thing was: I didn’t want to check Facebook. It was a subconscious habit. I didn’t even realize I was doing it.

A red notification of some type would fuel my addictive response. Someone liked my post. Someone commented on a post. A close friend posted something new or had messaged me! That little red symbol is addicting, especially if your life is stressful. It gives your monkey mind an unsatisfying play date with the inane.

One of my passions has always been escaping to the woods for a solo hike. One cold, crisp February morning, I chucked my smart phone into the trunk and set off down the trail into the woods. I was the only human on the prowl, and it felt great.

Clambering along, I took a hard look at my Facebook addiction. I was bothered by the unhealthy anxiety reliever and the gambling-like satisfaction of the red-symbol jackpot. Yet, it seemed something deeper was bothering me about my Facebook use. I wanted to explore this feeling in more detail.

I sat watching squirrels scampering through the tree heights. I reflected on that slightly sick feeling accompanying social media usage. We become caricatures of ourselves on Facebook. The nature of the beast is such that experiences are condensed into soundbites for public broadcast—an exaggerated and polished version of a moment. My real-time sharing with family and friends was much different than this public sharing.  Online interactions lacked substance and depth. On some level, they are not authentic.

Thesaurus.com shares some synonyms for caricature: cartoon, parody. distortion… mockery? And (ouch): travesty and sham. Maybe too harsh in some situations, but, honestly, these words reflect my feelings about posting.

Instead of chilling with my squirrel friends, I would scroll mindlessly as time slipped away, as my life slipped away. I made a pact with myself to delete my Facebook account. I created a statement of intent in my journal, signed and dated it.

I still didn’t get off of Facebook.

A few weeks later, I cruised to work, jamming to my favorite Gordon Lightfoot songs. The open road and dreamy music made me feel young, wild, and free. Suddenly, texts from my kids began interrupting the music. I had notifications coming in on Messenger.

As a result of some of those messages, I began fighting the urge to check my work email before I arrived. I cursed silently that I had not taken the time to learn how to disconnect the damn phone, so I could just hear my music. Constant bombardment of stimuli. Not only irritating but also unsafe.

I turned my phone off and threw it in the back seat. SILENCE. As I watched the trees and fields skimming by, I thought about my life before all this technology. I was beyond revolted with perpetual connectivity. I drifted back to my resolve to delete Facebook.

I practice my spirituality in the woods. My nature time is sacred time, my interface with the Great Mystery. As I added gadgets, my secret, unique, sacred relationship with the earth had seemed harder to access. Would I ever feel that connection again? A hypothesis began shaping in my mind. Would I feel more spiritual and be able to access a deeper level of awareness if I got off of Facebook?

I thought about the sticky web that is Facebook. Not only did I have over 200 “friends” of varying levels of intimacy, I had hundreds of photos and memories all neatly time-lined for my reminiscence. I felt the stress of giving up a potential audience for my creative works.

I was stuck in an uncomfortable spot for several weeks. I wanted to get off Facebook to test my hypothesis, but I inexplicably felt trapped on the social media. I began to realize how I was being manipulated in an unhealthy way.

I couldn’t torch my Facebook despite my great desire to plunge deeply into my spirituality. I was hooked. I hate being hooked or controlled by anything. So, I redoubled my efforts.  I developed a plan to get off Facebook in steps.

In the first step, I deleted people I really didn’t know. I quickly deleted about thirty people. It felt good to finally start on my goal. I focused on being more in tune, being more aware, being more spiritual.

As I whittled down my friends, the people became more intimate. People that mattered in my “real” life. I started getting confused about who to delete next and how to delete them. Should I send them a note? Would that be strange? Should I make a public post?

I stalled for another couple of weeks. I was acutely aware that social media traps people and creates a labyrinth of complexities, a maze of prisons. I didn’t like how that made me feel.

A few weeks later, I opened my journal to write. My signed pact stared back at me, forcing me to address this disturbing phenomenon of being trapped on Facebook.

That evening, I curled up on the couch with a cup of coffee. My sole intent was to reduce my social media presence. I sent a private message to select people, explaining I was leaving Facebook and providing my contact information.

A few wrote back, asking, “What’s wrong? Are you okay?” My ego raised up a bit. Wow, they think something has gone wrong in my life. I should stay on Facebook to prove nothing is wrong. I slayed that ego dragon and pressed on with my quest.

As I mass deleted my friends, Facebook acted like a real creature, bombarding me with more “people I may know” than ever before. It made me wonder if the site is programmed to recognize when someone starts deleting friends. Maybe not…but the new potential friends were very intriguing.

How did they manage to target my profile with these people? I was tempted to click on some of the new profiles but moved on towards the goal. At times, the process of deleting friends felt great, but mostly I felt a sense of loneliness.

Eventually, I had no friends. I experienced a mix of relief, sadness, and anxiety.

Even the shell without friends proved a sticky trap. I belonged to groups that only posted on Facebook. I also had “liked” very entertaining pages. Could I give up Randy Rainbow videos, and adorable pictures of cows and elephants from the Gentle Barn and the Elephant Sanctuary? Yes, I can access their websites when I need a fix. I ‘unliked’ all my awesome pages.

The hardest sacrifice was abandoning all my kids’ pictures and my life experiences neatly time-ordered. I pressed on because I wanted a deeper, more authentic life.

I was ready for the final step—deletion! I couldn’t find the deletion button. Deactivation is not the same as deletion. All your info is stored and ready to be resurrected. I didn’t like this privacy issue, and I didn’t want the option to reactivate! I found it easier to google “delete Facebook account” and follow a link from a separate website, than try to find the instructions on Facebook.

Finally, I found the delete account button and smelled freedom. Like a creepy, ex-partner who decides he isn’t going to be rejected, Facebook notified me deletion would take two weeks, and I could hop back on anytime in that two weeks.

Thinking back on all the sticky traps of Facebook and the recent media attention on privacy breaches, I thought, “Why do we allow this? Why are we okay with this?” It is not authentic or satisfying to live this way.

The first afternoon free of Facebook felt super!  A few days later, I felt similar to when I left home for a new job in a new city. Kinda lonely and lost, but ready for a new adventure. I definitely missed my friends back in Facebookland. I wondered if I would ever talk to some of them again.

I jokingly asked my kids, “Do I still exist?” Sometimes, I caught myself clicking through news sites more often, simply out of habit. I realized some of my clicking provided a method of anxiety relief. The other sites just didn’t have the addictive quality of Facebook, and I eventually quit the mindless clicking.

As the days move on, I notice subtle differences in my thinking. I feel a soft, calm sensation as I drive to work or create projects. I notice light patterns as the day shifts to dusk. I am more present in my own life. I feel a novel sense of boredom from time to time. Surprisingly, I really like feeling bored. It has stimulated my creativity and my humor. You have to work a little harder when there is nothing to do.

One morning, I was goofing around with my dogs on the couch, playing with their paws, scratching their ears. I had not really connected with them in that manner in a long time. A kind of bored goofiness came over me that had been destroyed by the constant clicking. I felt like a little kid, lazing on Saturday afternoon. Boredom is not a bad thing.

I also became really aware when my loved ones were ‘hooked up.’ It seemed weird that they would be so intent on staring at screens. It should seem weird, shouldn’t it? We’ve been deconditioned to this insanity.

Occasionally I have moments of discomfort about my exodus. What about when my son graduates? Or, I have an article published? Or I travel to an exotic location? What if I take a killer photograph or observe a rare animal in the woods? Who will know?

I guess I’ll share these experiences, successes, and photographs during lunch with my close friends and around the table with my family. At this point in my life, that feels so right to me. My smoother, more relaxed, unplugged mind is savoring the days I have left.

I went to the woods today. I walked quietly and softly on the earth. I left my iPhone at home. The perfect scene for a photo and an unexpected animal sighting went uncaptured. With no phone to grab, these snapshots won’t be shared with the masses. How refreshingly beautiful.

A little squirrel scampered on a tree, chattering to me. It was so quiet, so calm in the woods. I became lost in the moment. I felt that deep, sacred connection with nature that is so precious to me. I transcended into that other world, the world that remains hidden from a noisy mind. A place void of anxiety, of ego, of caricature. A place rich with connectedness, with earthiness, with authenticity.

About Amy Funk

Amy has degrees in psychology, gerontology, and nursing. She loves to hike, bike and canoe. Her passion is empowering others by presenting on the topics of aging, grief and nature. She writes a quarterly post on authentic living. You can sign up for the newsletter here and learn more at agingwithamy.com.

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The post In Search of the Sacred: Escaping Facebook’s Sticky Web appeared first on Tiny Buddha.

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Meditation Coloring Page from Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal

Hi friends! As I mentioned last week when I shared the music coloring page from Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal, I’m planning to share some of the other pages, twice weekly, until the journal launches on June 26th.

Each page depicts one simple thing we can do to help ease our worries.

Today’s tip: Make time for meditation.

Of all the healthy habits I’ve adopted, meditation has been, by far, the most transformative.

It’s enabled me to observe my negative, obsessive thoughts instead of getting caught up in them, and it’s helped me create space between my thoughts and my response, so I’m less apt to do and say things I’ll later regret.

The beautiful thing about meditation is that there are many ways to do it, to suit your schedule and needs.

You can use guided meditations (I’ve included four in the pre-order bonus package!); you can learn any number of different techniques for seated meditation; you can practice deep breathing; you can try a movement-based practice, such as yoga, qigong, and meditative walking; or you can simply practice mindfulness in your daily life—while eating or doing the dishes for example.

And even if you only have five minutes, you’ll experience the benefits.

Research has shown that anxiety can change the structure of your brain, increasing the size of the amygdala (the part responsible for your fear response), causing you to become even more anxious.

A regular meditation practice can reverse this. It can literally change how your brain works and, consequently, how you respond to the events in your life.

My preferred forms of meditation include:

-Yoga (Vinyasa, hot yoga, and yin yoga—which a teacher recently described as “basically a nap with light stretching”)

-Guided meditations (I’ve found tons of free options on YouTube)

-Deep breathing (alternative nostril breathing being my favorite)

If I have the time, I’ll go to an hour-long yoga class at a studio down the street (which also allows me to clear my mind a little on the walk) or find a thirty-minute guided meditation online.

If I have less time available, I’ll do five to ten minutes of poses, a five-minute guided meditation, or a few minutes of deep breathing. No matter what I choose, I always feel calmer and more centered after.

Do you have a regular meditation practice? If so, what’s your practice of choice, and how has it changed your life for the better? Your experience could help other readers find peace, calm, and healing, so please share the good!

From now until June 26th, you’ll get three bonus gifts, including a guided meditation series on letting go, when you pre-order Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal. All you need to do is order a copy here and forward your purchase confirmation email to worryjournal@tinybuddha.com

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest book, Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for pre-order. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram.

Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

The post Meditation Coloring Page from Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal appeared first on Tiny Buddha.

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5 Journal Prompts to Help You Let Go of Anxiety and Find Peace

“You don’t have to control your thoughts. You just have to stop letting them control you.” ~Dan Millman

There was a time when my mind was completely consumed by worries, and I lived in a perpetual state of panic.

I worried about things I’d said and whether people were judging me, things I should be doing and whether I was using my time well, the state of my life, the state of the world, and just about anything else one could worry about.

Life always felt scary and uncertain, so I always felt unsafe, and worrying gave me the illusion of gaining some semblance of control.

Well-intentioned people advised me to just be positive—then I’d feel a lot better about life. But I’ve always found the concept of positive thinking somewhat frustrating.

First, it made me feel guilty, since no matter how hard I tried to avoid negative thoughts, they’d inevitably pop into my head. Secondly, it was exhausting. To constantly monitor your mind takes monumental effort, and it seemed contrary to my goal—to be less burdened by my brain.

Still, there’s no denying that our thoughts influence our feelings. When we sit around dwelling on everything that could go wrong, or everything we think we did wrong, we end up feeling drained and depressed.

So what’s the solution, then? How can we allow ourselves to be human and simultaneously ensure we don’t drown in our fearful thoughts?

For me, journaling has been key.

Journaling has helped me find solutions to my problems, identify and let go of things I can’t control, and change my perspective on the things I want to change but can’t.

It’s also helped me recognize my own strength so that I can worry less about what’s coming and trust more in my ability to handle it, whatever it may be.

If you’re looking for a little mental relief this week, I recommend starting each weekday with one of these five journal prompts from Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal: A Creative Way to Let Go of Anxiety and Find Peace

The beauty of these particular prompts is that they help us focus on the moment, be kind to ourselves, and have faith in ourselves and our journey, wherever it may lead.

5 Journal Prompts to Help You Calm Your Anxious Mind

1. Today, I choose to let go of the things I can’t control, including…

2. I recognize that I don’t need to have all the answers right now. Today, I give myself permission not to know…

3. Dear inner critic: You always focus on everything I’m doing wrong, but I know I’m doing a lot right, including…

4. I know I’m strong enough to handle whatever comes at me, because I’ve survived a lot, including…

5. Instead of worrying about making the “wrong” choices, I trust that no matter what I choose…

You don’t need to write anything specific or lengthy, though you can take all the time you have and need. The important thing is that you get in the habit of thinking about yourself and your problems in a new way.

It’s not about suppressing thoughts or replacing them with positive ones. It’s about directing your mind to useful thoughts so you can spend less of your life feeling worried and overwhelmed.

Just like gratitude journaling can help us feel happier and more optimistic, keeping a worry journal can help us feel calmer and more at peace.

If you’re interested in pre-ordering a copy of Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal, which officially launches on June 26th, you can reserve a copy here.

Once you receive your purchase confirmation email, forward it to worryjournal@tinybuddha.com and you’ll receive access to the following free bonus items:

  • Four guided meditations on letting go (of control, the need for approval, stresses/pressure, and self-judgment)
  • Three colorful desktop wallpapers with cute Buddhas and calming quotes
  • An exclusive interview with me and Ehren Prudhel, founder of the soon-to-be-launched podcast Next Creator Up, in which I discuss how I’ve overcome worries related to writing my first feature film

I hope these prompts (and the other activities in the journal) help you as much as they’ve helped me!

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest book, Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for pre-order. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram.

Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

The post 5 Journal Prompts to Help You Let Go of Anxiety and Find Peace appeared first on Tiny Buddha.

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3 Ways to Stop Worrying and Feel Less Anxious

“There isn’t enough room in your mind for both worry and faith. You must decide which one will live there.” ~Sir Robertson

Do you consider yourself a worrier?

Maybe even a perfectionist or Type A personality?

When I’m not at my best, I can be all of those things combined. (Not cute, I know.)

Because of this, I know exactly what it feels like to be stuck in my head, with tightness in my chest and emotional wrenches in my gut.

If you also struggle with worry and anxiety, then I feel you. I rode the worry struggle bus for a long time—until I finally addressed my psychology.

Why Your Psychology Matters Most

My aunt once told me (after I called her in the middle of a freak out), “You’re worried because you’re trying to control the future Kari, and that’s impossible.”

Woah. Paradigm shift. That’s when it all ‘clicked’ and I realized that my issues with worry and anxiety were all self-created.

Then it got me wondering… If I created this worry and anxiety with my thoughts, maybe I can create relaxation with my thoughts too.

After researching the psychology of worry, I learned some practices that helped transition me from an uptight chronic worrier into a pretty relaxed person. I still have my moments, but it’s nothing like before.

Today, I’d like to share three of my best practices with you. I hope they can help you reduce your worry and anxiety too.

Let’s start with the most practical piece of advice.

1. Practice using coping imagery.

This involves visualizing yourself handling worst-case scenarios with confidence.

And just to be clear: You’re visualizing the worst-case scenario, not the best case. It’s like defensive pessimism, which can actually help with anxiety more than positive thinking.

So instead of worrying about being crushed by the worst-case scenario, try visualizing yourself handling it with confidence.

Here’s an example (that I cringe to share with you because it seems so silly in hindsight):

I recently started dating a guy who I developed some serious feelings for. I had the most successful first date of my life with him, and it’s been amazing ever since.

But instead of getting excited about the potential, I started worrying about all the things that could go wrong. (Like I said, being a worrier is self-created misery!)

Specifically, I was worried that in the future we wouldn’t be able to see each other for weeks because he was crazy busy. I grew anxious over feeling devastated in the future by the potential lack of quality time I crave.

Although it wasn’t even a problem yet, I started worrying about making plans to the point where I started sabotaging the romance by “trying too hard.”

I let my anxiety consume me, and I became the chaser instead of allowing something beautiful to naturally unfold. I hated that I started to sabotage something beautiful, but in that moment, (it felt like) I couldn’t help myself.

And this is where the switch happens.

Instead of worrying about how devastated I would feel if we couldn’t spend time together, I started visualizing myself feeling okay if I didn’t get to see him. (I chose “okay” instead of “happy” because it needs to be realistic.)

Instead of thinking about the void, I thought about all the other wonderful things I could do with my time, like surf or entertain my hobbies.

This seriously helped put my mind and body at ease! Here are more details for the process:

How to Do It

To practice using coping imagery, start by imagining the situation that brings you anxiety. How do you feel? What are you thinking?

Then, start to imagine a warm glow of confidence radiating from you. Imagine being in that situation feeling totally confident and capable. How does it feel? What are you thinking?

Then, imagine something going wrong—something that you’re worried about—and imagine yourself handling that situation with confidence and ease too. What thoughts and feelings helped you handle it

Get comfortable with these thoughts and feelings and keep mentally practicing them.

This “mental rehearsal” helps activate neuroplasticity, your brain’s ability to rewire itself and form new neural connections, like new thought loops.

The more you practice using coping imagery, the more you strengthen the new thought loops for positive thinking (or defensive pessimism) and weaken the thought loops for worrying.

In time, you’ll naturally become less of a worrier because your brain has been trained to think confident thoughts instead of worrisome thoughts.

2. Be willing to feel uncomfortable.

Worry and anxiety often come from trying to protect yourself from pain. And I don’t blame you. Our primal brain is wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain; and anxiety is often caused by worrying about the potential pain that we might feel in the future.

Sometimes we’re so afraid of emotional pain and loss that we forget that they can’t physically harm us.

And this is where the saying “make peace with discomfort” will serve you very well; because your ability to be uncomfortable is directly related to your ability to be a relaxed person.

Sometimes we assume that we need to be comfortable in order to be relaxed. But sometimes being relaxed simply means feeling uncomfortable and being okay with that.

The more discomfort you’re able to tolerate, the less you’ll worry about preventing it from happening.

For me, I had to develop the skill of tolerating uncertainty (which is an uncomfortable feeling for me) in my dating life. Although uncertainty feels uncomfortable, I learned to make space for it instead of worrying about making it go away.

If you want to develop the skill of tolerating discomfort too, here’s how you can do it:

How to Do It

A great way to train yourself to tolerate discomfort is to take cold showers. Yup! Even just a five-minute cold shower a day can train your brain to tolerate discomfort.

Not into cold showers? Another great practice is setting aside fifteen minutes every day as your “uncomfortable practice periods.” These practice periods will help you develop the skill of tolerating discomfort.

So whenever you start to feel uncomfortable in your daily life, use it as practice. Hold space for the discomfort and make peace with it as best you can.

For example, if you really hate public speaking, then use your weekly company meeting as a place to practice being uncomfortable by speaking up at least once.

The more you practice feeling uncomfortable, the better you will get at being uncomfortable. And the more uncomfortable you’re willing to be, the less worry and anxiety you will feel.

You’ll learn to let life unfold naturally without worry.

3. Plan what you can and let the rest unfold.

During the months preceding graduation from college I experienced the biggest bout of anxiety and worry that ever consumed me.

What if I don’t get any interviews? What if I totally flunk the interview I get? What if I get the job and hate it? What if, what if, what if?

Fueled by tons of stress, I worked really hard to apply to dozens of jobs before I graduated. In constant panic mode, I refused to leave my desk to play because I was convinced that every ounce of my energy needed to be dedicated to solving this problem.

In the end, I ended up getting a job through a friend who happened to mention the opportunity through random conversation.

I couldn’t have planned for that.

All my preparation paid off, but there was one lesson that I took away from all the unnecessary worry and anxiety:

If I had done everything the same, but did it all in a relaxed fashion, I would have created the same result.

“Let go of the idea that gentle, relaxed people can’t be superachievers… One of the major reasons so many of us remain hurried, frightened, and competitive, and continue to live life as if it were one giant emergency, is our fear that if we were to become more peaceful and loving, we would suddenly stop achieving our goals.” ~Richard Carlson

Sometimes we get tripped up thinking that stress is somehow essential for getting things done. And while some stress is beneficial, extreme stress and anxiety are not necessary for success.

You can be a totally relaxed person and still get everything done—without worry.

How to Do It

Sit down and write down all the things you’re worried/stressed about. Then pretend like you’re coaching someone else with those problems.

What advice would you give them? What steps would you have them take?

Then, follow those steps and stop there. Don’t worry about whether or not you did enough. You followed your own advice, and you can relax about the rest.

Plan what you can, and then breathe. Don’t let your mind continue to race about all the things that could go wrong (unless you’re using Coping Imagery).

Just have faith that what’s meant to be will be, and let the universe carry you for a while.

You’ve Got This

Together, these three steps helped me seriously reduce my anxiety and worry. Will you join me and try them too?

Start by making coping imagery and “uncomfortable practice periods” daily habits. This will help you develop the skill of tolerating discomfort, and your worry and anxiety will lessen.

In time, you will get better at letting life unfold the way it was always meant to be.

Some days you might still find yourself on the worry struggle bus. But maybe this time you’ll feel like you’re in the driver’s seat.

About Kari Dahlgren

Kari Dahlgren is an anti-diet weight loss coach with a radical philosophy: You can love yourself lighter. Learn the tools to stop binge eating and love your body by subscribing to her new YouTube channel and following her blog!

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The Lost Art of Silence: Get Quiet and You’ll Know What You Need to Do

“Silence isn’t empty. It’s full of answers.” ~Unknown

Last week I was visiting the Scandinave, a Scandinavian-style bath spa, with my mom, when it struck me how rare true silence has become. By true silence, I mean silence in the form of not speaking, but also silence in the form of reflection, pause, a capacity to become still, a capacity to just be and not do.

The art of silence was lost. Even at these baths, where the goal was to disconnect and enjoy the stillness of nature, there was constant chatter among groups with voices audible across the pool. It didn’t matter that signs were posted around the area, encouraging silence:

Honor Silence.
Speak Quietly.
Absolute Silence.

As a society, we have forgotten how to become quiet, how to become still. We are always on the move, always busy, always doing. We’ve forgotten how to just be.

This lack of silence pervades our lives. It’s in the moments filled with meaningless small talk about the weather to avoid simply sitting in silence. It’s in the moments on the subway, filling our ears with music, busying our minds with our phones, to avoid simply sitting in silence.

As a yoga teacher and practitioner, I have seen it showing up in the form of teachers filling classes with an endless stream of cueing. I have seen it showing up during savasana, the final resting pose, which gets cut short to avoid the anxiety of watching students fidget in the uncomfortable silence.

To me, this is a tragedy.

Silence creates space in our lives. It allows us to pause between moments, to process and reflect, to see beyond the surface into the depths of our lives. When we cut out silence, we cheat ourselves out of the fullness that life has to offer. Only in the silence can we truly hear the whispers coming from within us, urging us towards our highest potential.

Silence breeds deep connection, not only to ourselves, but to the world around us. The energy of a silent room filled with people is almost palpable. In silence, we are all powerfully connected to our higher selves, to the universe, and to each other.

For one moment at the spa, I felt this. Sitting in absolute silence in the sauna, silence brought a group of strangers together. We were all present, sharing the same moment, connecting with the world and not with our phones. It gave us space to turn inward, to take stock of our internal landscape, to let go of what no longer served us, and to renegotiate who and how we wanted to be in the world.

Without silence, we keep moving forward, not really knowing where we are or where we want to go.

I came away from that day of silence and quietude with a new awareness of what was happening in my life. In those moments of silence, I could hear my inner voice growing louder. Where it was once only a whisper, easy enough to ignore, it suddenly became deafening.

After a day of silence, I had no other option but to face it. I went home that day and had a hard conversation. Potentially one of the hardest I’ve ever had.

I realized that I hadn’t been honoring myself in my relationship because I had been afraid of losing something that I loved. My partner and I weren’t on the same page with what the relationship meant to us and what we wanted from it. Unintentionally, I lost pieces of myself to the relationship—by being the one to compromise, by being the one to follow, by being the one to give in. In this way, I put my relationship with myself last.

I stopped cultivating things I loved that were separate from him, in order for us to spend time together. I didn’t go out of my way to make my own plans on the weekend.

In the silence, I heard my inner voice becoming louder and clearer. I couldn’t go on feeling this way or being this way. The silence gave me the space to hear what my heart was saying and the strength to listen. Something had to change.

I had to stop sacrificing my own needs and desires just to please someone else. I had to start standing up for myself and making it clear that what I wanted mattered too. I had to start making my own plans and doing things just for myself, and not always waiting to see if he had other plans in mind. I needed to be me, wholeheartedly me, first.

It was scary to have that conversation, to feel like I might lose it all, by voicing what was in my heart. I was scared of what would happen if I stopped going along with it, if I started putting myself first. But I couldn’t avoid the conversation anymore. The silence roared.

Perhaps that is why we avoid silence—because once you hear the voice in your heart calling out, you can’t ignore it. You can’t go on denying what’s in your heart once you create the space to hear it out. And that can be scary.

Usually the voice within wants you to do the hard thing. The voice doesn’t want you to settle. It doesn’t want you to give up. It wants you to live to your highest potential. It wants you to climb mountains. It wants you to dream big and live big. And living that way isn’t always the easy thing. It’s not always the comfortable thing.

Leaning into silence might seem scary. It might even be painful at first because your mind and body will fight it. But I urge you not to run from the silence any longer. Embrace it. Allow it to create space in your life, because it will transform your life. Ultimately, the silence pushed me farther into the life I dream of, into a life of passion, of meaning, of giving myself my best shot.

Here are some ways you can rediscover the lost art of silence:

1. Start small.

The more time you spend in silence, the more powerfully it will impact your life, but diving straight into a ten-day silent retreat might not be the best approach. In fact, it might have the opposite effect.

Instead, slowly introduce small pockets of silence into your day-to-day life. If you drive on your daily commute, try turning off the radio. If you take public transit, take out the headphones and put away the phone. Feel this silence and notice what’s happening around you and within you.

2. Set aside time for meditation.

Block out a specific time in your day or week for a meditation practice. Perhaps it is first thing in the morning, or before you go to bed at night. Set a timer for five or ten minutes, sit or lie down with your eyes closed, and simply breathe. Watch your breath move in and out of your body.

3. Use mantras.

While at the baths, I used mantras to move into the silence. My mantra of the day was “Life flows through me with ease.”

In the silence, I heard myself fighting against the ebbs and flows of life—holding on to expectations, worrying about how things might turn out, resisting where things were going.

Sometimes our minds see silence as an opportunity to berate us with thoughts, thoughts about not being good enough, about missing out, about being in a hurry, about not having enough time. Our minds will be particularly active if we aren’t used to the silence. Your mind will fight the silence. A mantra can help you to quiet the mind and settle into the silence.

4. Use movement, such as yoga.

If our minds are particularly active and we have a hard time just sitting in silence, we can start with gentle, mindful movement to ease ourselves into it.

If we aren’t used to sitting in silence, our bodies can get very antsy. Silence can make us anxious. By using movement, we can soothe our nervous system and our minds, to make it easier to ease into a state of being.

When I first got to the baths, I used a few neck and shoulder stretches to relax my body for stillness. This focus on the body in turn helped ease my mind into the silence.

Embrace the lost art of silence. Your highest self will thank you.

About Kiara Elliott

Kiara Elliott is a Pranalife Certified Yoga Teacher and aspiring workplace wellness health promoter. Her mat is her practice ground for making changes in her life. She loves sharing her passion for yoga and wellness with others so they can reach their fullest potential. She also loves reading and having coffee with friends. Check her out on Facebook here or Instagram (elliott_kiara).

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