Monthly Archives: August 2011

The 9 Epiphanies That Shifted My Perspective Forever

Standard

The 9 Epiphanies That Shifted My Perspective Forever

By David

 

Over the years I’ve learned dozens of little tricks and insights for making life more fulfilling. They’ve added up to a significant improvement in the ease and quality of my day-to-day life. But the major breakthroughs have come from a handful of insights that completely rocked my world and redefined reality forever.

 

The world now seems to be a completely different one than the one I lived in about ten years ago, when I started looking into the mechanics of quality of life. It wasn’t the world (and its people) that changed really, it was how I thought of it.

 

Maybe you’ve had some of  the same insights. Or maybe you’re about to.

 

1. You are not your mind.

 

The first time I heard somebody say that,  I didn’t like the sound of it one bit. What else could I be? I had taken for granted that the mental chatter in my head was the central “me” that all the experiences in my life were happening to.

 

I see quite clearly now that life is nothing but passing experiences, and my thoughts are just one more category of things I experience. Thoughts are no more fundamental than smells, sights and sounds. Like any experience, they arise in my awareness, they have a certain texture, and then they give way to something else.

 

If you can observe your thoughts just like you can observe other objects, who’s doing the observing? Don’t answer too quickly. This question, and its unspeakable answer, are at the center of all the great religions and spiritual traditions.

 

2. Life unfolds only in moments.

 

Of course! I once called this the most important thing I ever learned. Nobody has ever experienced anything that wasn’t part of a single moment unfolding. That means life’s only challenge is dealing with the single moment you are having right now. Before I recognized this, I was constantly trying to solve my entire life — battling problems that weren’t actually happening. Anyone can summon the resolve to deal with a single, present moment, as long as they are truly aware that it’s their only point of contact with life, and therefore there is nothing else one can do that can possibly be useful. Nobody can deal with the past or future, because, both only exist as thoughts, in the present. But we can kill ourselves trying.

 

3. Quality of life is determined by how you deal with your moments, not which moments happen and which don’t.

 

I now consider this truth to be Happiness 101, but it’s amazing how tempting it still is to grasp at control of every circumstance to try to make sure I get exactly what I want. To encounter an undesirable situation and work with it willingly is the mark of a wise and happy person. Imagine getting a flat tire, falling ill at a bad time, or knocking something over and breaking it — and suffering nothing from it. There is nothing to fear if you agree with yourself to deal willingly with adversity whenever it does show up. That is how to make life better. The typical, low-leverage method is to hope that you eventually accumulate power over your circumstances so that you can get what you want more often. There’s an excellent line in a Modest Mouse song, celebrating this side-effect of wisdom: As life gets longer, awful feels softer.


4. Most of life is imaginary.

 

Human beings have a habit of compulsive thinking that is so pervasive that we lose sight of the fact that we are nearly always thinking. Most of what we interact with is not the world itself, but our beliefs about it, our expectations of it, and our personal interests in it. We have a very difficult time observing something without confusing it with the thoughts we have about it, and so the bulk of what we experience in life is imaginary things. As Mark Twain said: “I’ve been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” The best treatment I’ve found? Cultivating mindfulness.

 

5. Human beings have evolved to suffer, and we are better at suffering than anything else.

 

Yikes. It doesn’t sound like a very liberating discovery. I used to believe that if I was suffering it meant that there was something wrong with me — that I was doing life “wrong.” Suffering is completely human and completely normal, and there is a very good reason for its existence. Life’s persistent background hum of “this isn’t quite okay, I need to improve this,” coupled with occasional intense flashes of horror and adrenaline are what kept human beings alive for millions of years. This urge to change or escape the present moment drives nearly all of our behavior. It’s a simple and ruthless survival mechanism which works exceedingly well for keeping us alive, but it has a horrific side effect: human beings suffer greatly by their very nature. This, for me, redefined every one of life’s problems as some tendril of the human condition. As grim as it sounds, this insight is liberating because it means: 1) that suffering does not necessarily mean my life is going wrong, 2) that the ball is always in my court, so the degree to which I suffer is ultimately up to me, and 3) that all problems have the same cause and the same solution.

 

6. Emotions exist to make us biased.

 

This discovery was a complete 180 from my old understanding of emotions. I used to think my emotions were reliable indicators of the state of my life — of whether I’m on the right track or not. Your passing emotional states can’t be trusted for measuring your self-worth or your position in life, but they are great at teaching you what it is you can’t let go of. The trouble is that emotions make us both more biased and more forceful at the same time. Another survival mechanism with nasty side-effects.

 

7. All people operate from the same two motivations: to fulfill their desires and to escape their suffering.

 

Learning this allowed me to finally make sense of how people can hurt each other so badly. The best explanation I had before this was that some people are just bad. What a cop-out. No matter what kind of behavior other people exhibit, they are acting in the most effective way they are capable of (at that moment) to fulfill a desire or to relieve their suffering. These are motives we can all understand; we only vary in method, and the methods each of us has at our disposal depend on our upbringing and our experiences in life, as well as our state of consciousness. Some methods are skillful and helpful to others, others are unskillful and destructive, and almost all destructive behavior is unconscious. So there is no good and evil, only smart and dumb (or wise and foolish.) Understanding this completely shook my long-held notions of morality and justice.

 

8. Beliefs are nothing to be proud of.

 

Believing something is not an accomplishment. I grew up thinking that beliefs are something to be proud of, but they’re really nothing but opinions one refuses to reconsider. Beliefs are easy. The stronger your beliefs are, the less open you are to growth and wisdom, because “strength of belief” is only the intensity with which you resist questioning yourself. As soon as you are proud of a belief, as soon as you think it adds something to who you are, then you’ve made it a part of your ego. Listen to any “die-hard” conservative or liberal talk about their deepest beliefs and you are listening to somebody who will never hear what you say on any matter that matters to them — unless you believe the same. It is gratifying to speak forcefully, it is gratifying to be agreed with, and this high is what the die-hards are chasing. Wherever there is a belief, there is a closed door. Take on the beliefs that stand up to your most honest, humble scrutiny, and never be afraid to lose them.

 

9. Objectivity is subjective.

 

Life is a subjective experience and that cannot be escaped. Every experience I have comes through my own, personal, unsharable viewpoint. There can be no peer reviews of my direct experience, no real corroboration. This has some major implications for how I live my life. The most immediate one is that I realize I must trust my own personal experience, because nobody else has this angle, and I only have this angle. Another is that I feel more wonder for the world around me, knowing that any “objective” understanding I claim to have of the world is built entirely from scratch, by me. What I do build depends on the books I’ve read, the people I’ve met, and the experiences I’ve had. It means I will never see the world quite like anyone else, which means I will never live in quite the same world as anyone else — and therefore I mustn’t let outside observers be the authority on who I am or what life is really like for me. Subjectivity is primary experience — it is real life, and objectivity is something each of us builds on top of it in our minds, privately, in order to explain it all. This truth has world-shattering implications for the roles of religion and science in the lives of those who grasp it.

Advertisements

18 Rules for Living

Standard

Dalai Lama’s 18 Rules for Living

Tips & Advice

  1. Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.
  2. When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.
  3. Follow the three Rs:
    • Respect for self
    • Respect for others
    • Responsibility for all your actions.
  4. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
  5. Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.
  6. Don’t let a little dispute injure a great friendship.
  7. When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
  8. Spend some time alone every day.
  9. Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.
  10. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
  11. Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time.
  12. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.
  13. In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don’t bring up the past.
  14. Share your knowledge. It’s a way to achieve immortality.
  15. Be gentle with the earth.
  16. Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.
  17. Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.
  18. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.

Pizza

Standard
If You Have to Explain It, It’s Not Funny: What the Dalai Lama Can Teach Us About Jokes
Posted: Wed 06/15/2011 01:50 PM | By: Ruth Baron

Imagine someone tells you a joke—in two separate languages—and not only do you not get it, but it seems like maybe you’re the butt of it. It’s an age-old problem, and last week it happened to the Dalai Lama on Australian TV.

Once again, His Holiness the Dalai Lama shows an uncanny knack for handling an uncomfortable situation. His response: Laughter always helps. It’s a graceful demonstration of compassion for the journalist who looks desperate for a time machine, and it helps us forget that we’ve just heard a groan-worthy punch line. It made us remember what the Dalai Lama once told Oprah: “I don’t take myself too seriously! That makes me happy.” Today it makes us happy too. (via The Hairpin)

15 Styles of Distorted Thinking

Standard

15 Styles of Distorted Thinking

15 Styles of Distorted Thinking

1. Filtering: You take the negative details and magnify them, while filtering out all positive aspects of a situation. A single detail may be picked out, and the whole event becomes colored by this detail. When you pull negative things out of context, isolated from all the good experiences around you, you make them larger and more awful than they really are.
2. Polarized Thinking: The hallmark of this distortion is an insistence on dichotomous choices. Things are black or white, good or bad. You tend to perceive everything at the extremes, with very little room for a middle ground. The greatest danger in polarized thinking is its impact on how you judge yourself. For example-You have to be perfect or you’re a failure.
3. Overgeneralization: You come to a general conclusion based on a single incident or piece of evidence. If something bad happens once, you expect it to happen over and over again. ‘Always’ and ‘never’ are cues that this style of thinking is being utilized. This distortion can lead to a restricted life, as you avoid future failures based on the single incident or event.
4. Mind Reading: Without their saying so, you know what people are feeling and why they act the way they do. In particular, you are able to divine how people are feeling toward you. Mind reading depends on a process called projection. You imagine that people feel the same way you do and react to things the same way you do. Therefore, you don’t watch or listen carefully enough to notice that they are actually different. Mind readers jump to conclusions that are true for them, without checking whether they are true for the other person.
5. Catastrophizing: You expect disaster. You notice or hear about a problem and start “what if’s.” What if that happens to me? What if tragedy strikes? There are no limits to a really fertile catastrophic imagination. An underlying catalyst for this style of thinking is that you do not trust in yourself and your capacity to adapt to change.
6. Personalization: This is the tendency to relate everything around you to yourself. For example, thinking that everything people do or say is some kind of reaction to you. You also compare yourself to others, trying to determine who’s smarter, better looking, etc. The underlying assumption is that your worth is in question. You are therefore continually forced to test your value as a person by measuring yourself against others. If you come out better, you get a moment’s relief. If you come up short, you feel diminished. The basic thinking error is that you interpret each experience, each conversation, each look as a clue to your worth and value.
7. Control Fallacies: There are two ways you can distort your sense of power and control. If you feel externally controlled, you see yourself as helpless, a victim of fate. The fallacy of internal control has you responsible for the pain and happiness of everyone around you. Feeling externally controlled keeps you stuck. You don’t believe you can really affect the basic shape of your life, let alone make any difference in the world. The truth of the matter is that we are constantly making decisions, and that every decision affects our lives. On the other hand, the fallacy of internal control leaves you exhausted as you attempt to fill the needs of everyone around you, and feel responsible in doing so (and guilty when you cannot).
8. Fallacy of Fairness: You feel resentful because you think you know what’s fair, but other people won’t agree with you. Fairness is so conveniently defined, so temptingly self-serving, that each person gets locked into his or her own point of view. It is tempting to make assumptions about how things would change if people were only fair or really valued you. But the other person hardly ever sees it that way, and you end up causing yourself a lot of pain and an ever-growing resentment.
9. Blaming: You hold other people responsible for your pain, or take the other tack and blame yourself for every problem. Blaming often involves making someone else responsible for choices and decisions that are actually our own responsibility. In blame systems, you deny your right (and responsibility) to assert your needs, say no, or go elsewhere for what you want.
10. Shoulds: You have a list of ironclad rules about how you and other people should act. People who break the rules anger you, and you feel guilty if you violate the rules. The rules are right and indisputable and, as a result, you are often in the position of judging and finding fault (in yourself and in others). Cue words indicating the presence of this distortion are should, ought, and must.
11. Emotional Reasoning: You believe that what you feel must be true-automatically. If you feel stupid or boring, then you must be stupid and boring. If you feel guilty, then you must have done something wrong. The problem with emotional reasoning is that our emotions interact and correlate with our thinking process. Therefore, if you have distorted thoughts and beliefs, your emotions will reflect these distortions.
12. Fallacy of Change: You expect that other people will change to suit you if you just pressure or cajole them enough. You need to change people because your hopes for happiness seem to depend entirely on them. The truth is the only person you can really control or have much hope of changing is yourself. The underlying assumption of this thinking style is that your happiness depends on the actions of others. Your happiness actually depends on the thousands of large and small choices you make in your life.
13. Global Labeling: You generalize one or two qualities (in yourself or others) into a negative global judgment. Global labeling ignores all contrary evidence, creating a view of the world that can be stereotyped and one-dimensional. Labeling yourself can have a negative and insidious impact upon your self-esteem; while labeling others can lead to snap-judgments, relationship problems, and prejudice.
14. Being Right: You feel continually on trial to prove that your opinions and actions are correct. Being wrong is unthinkable and you will go to any length to demonstrate your rightness. Having to be ‘right’ often makes you hard of hearing. You aren’t interested in the possible veracity of a differing opinion, only in defending your own. Being right becomes more important than an honest and caring relationship.
15. Heaven’s Reward Fallacy: You expect all your sacrifice and self-denial to pay off, as if there were someone keeping score. You fell bitter when the reward doesn’t come as expected. The problem is that while you are always doing the ‘right thing,’ if your heart really isn’t in it, you are physically and emotionally depleting yourself.

*FromThoughts & Feelingsby McKay, Davis, & Fanning. New Harbinger, 1981. These styles of thinking (or cognitive distortions) were gleaned from the work of several authors, including Albert Ellis, Aaron Beck, and David Burns, among others.

Trying this next weekend

Standard

Get Yo’ Nails Did

by Molly McAleer

Newsprint nails are all the rage right now, so why not just be a bunch of trendhounds and conform, right?!

To be perfectly honest, I don’t love this style because I think it’s a little hard and the only people who do it really well seem to have the hour and a half of time and patience it takes to do it correctly. What I did here is not the absolute best version of this (I think this tutorial is pretty impressive), but I’ll still break it down for ya.

 

newspaper1 600x450 Get Yo Nails Did

Start by getting your supplies together. All you need is ten pieces of newspaper cut into manageable strips, some rubbing alcohol (it costs like, a dollar and is probably already in your medicine cabinet), a shot glass, a nail polish of your choice (I used Birthday Babe by OPI), and a top coat.

The newspaper should be real newspaper with soy ink. You know how some newspapers come on nicer paper these days? That’s not gonna work. Just grab a copy of The Post or something.

 

newsprint2 600x450 Get Yo Nails DidPaint your nails and wait for them to dry. This is one of the reasons this whole process is kind of annoying. You need to wait until the nail is dry all the way through, which can take about 15 minutes depending on how many coats you used.

 

newsprint3 337x450 Get Yo Nails Did

Pour a little bit of rubbing alcohol into your shot glass. If you don’t have a shot glass, good for you. You can use any cup or container that’s small, but you want there to be enough liquid in there for you to fully submerge your nail in the alcohol.

One nail at a time, dip your finger in the alcohol for about a second and a half and then immediately apply a piece of newspaper.

 

newsprint4 600x450 Get Yo Nails Did

I always think this part looks dumb and that’s also why I’m not a fan of this process. I’m always like, “Great job sticking a piece of newspaper to your alcohol-soaked finger, Molly.”

I’m really hard on myself. You might not take it there when you’re doing this, but if you feel dumb during this part, know that we’re probably soul sisters.

Wait 30 seconds and then peel the newspaper off your nail. You should have a reverse print on your nail of whatever the piece of paper you laid on top of it said. It’s just like Silly Putty.

Repeat this process on all of your nails and then wait another five minutes or so for the printing to dry. Then you put on your top coat, which really helps the letters stand out.

 

newsprint5 600x450 Get Yo Nails DidI got smart this time and used the *SPOILER ALERT* crossword puzzle solution on my thumb. I’m always unimpressed with the way standard writing looks on my nails, but I am actually kinda into the way my thumb looks here.

This style is basically the bane of my existence because I can’t seem to get it right, but I bet this is just another example of practice making perfect. If you really love this style, keep trying it out. I mean, I wouldn’t suggest you put Malcolm Gladwell time into this or anything, but it’s your life.

Molls

Molly McAleer (A.K.A. Molls) is a writer, Tingling Internet Sensation, co-founder of HelloGiggles and a boss bitch. She lives in Los Angeles with her chihuahua, Wagandstuff, and keeps her nails fresh at all times. You can see more of her work here.
See more posts from Molly