Thursday, April 25, 2013

Link: Why You Aren't Living Your Dreams...

You should read this article over at "tiny buddha." Its full title is, "Why You Aren't Living Your Dreams and What to Do About It." It's informative and inspiring. Give it a read, and get going on your Grand Vision!

Thursday, April 18, 2013


I have what I've come to consider an excellent app on my phone entitled, "Transform Your Life." It appears to be an extension of the work done by a person named Cheri Huber, who is a self-described "Zen teacher, writer, speaker." Here's her website:

The app is very simple and straightforward. It provides a daily "reading" in the form of a short quote, followed by an "assignment" to undertake. Here's an example:

(image is a screenshot from my phone)

That's a ponderous statement by Mr. Kirkegaard, isn't it? What I get from it is that I have have two choices in life: 1) Be exactly who I am. Tell the truth as I know it; be willing to be (very) different if necessary; be willing to put myself first; and be willing to tolerate some fear/discomfort along the way. 2) Adhere only to conventional wisdom. Do only what others believe to be "safe bets" and "good ideas." Base all my decisions primarily on the consideration of others' approval or disapproval. Force myself to want the things that society tells me I should want out of life.

Let's see. If we take the first route (#1), we'll probably have to contend with the voices of our own fear, and with others' disapproval -- if not constantly, then at least fairly often, probably. Huh. Those are difficult things to endure. 

The other route seems easier. After all, if we take that road, we'll be doing exactly what we ought to be doing -- and that's a good feeling! Most of us want, on some level, to be understood, embraced, and accepted, after all. So if we're doing things because others want us to do them, we're almost guaranteed their approval!

The problem, though, is that route #2 doesn't include YOU. 

Taking route #2 guarantees only that YOU -- your unique self -- will be relegated to the status of a silent, backseat passenger in the road trip of your own life. Others will approve; but you will fade.

I choose the first road. It's scary, and it's full of uncertainty -- because no one's ever lived my life, according to my personal Truth, before! But to me, a slow fade, a slow death of self, is simply no way to live. Not in my opinion, anyway. 

Thanks for reading. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Words, Words, Words

I have an app on my phone called, "Transform Your Life," which, aside from being simple, easy to use, and all-around awesome, is a really helpful daily practice touchstone -- for me, anyhoo. I have it set such that every day at a designated time, I am notified of a new reading and its accompanying assignment. Most of them are excellent, and sometimes the timing of their appearance is downright uncanny.

Today's reading and assignment were, for me, equal measures humorous, humbling, and ponderous. Here's a screenshot:

On one level, today's reading is a little tough for my ego, because I'm a "words guy." I pride myself on my ability to use language as a tool in service of meaningful precision and clarity. And yet, "words are the fog one has to see through." Hehe. It's always a little bit humorous, I think, when the ego bubble gets poked. 

And of course it's true. That's not to say I'm wrong, or that words and language have no place in fostering peace, understanding, recovery, growth, and enlightenment (of course they do); but it is a reminder that we, all of us, construct our realities through language. We have names for everything; we attach meaning to things; we call them good and bad...our thoughts and reflections are shaped and limited by our language. 

Thus, language is a double-edged sword. It has the power to free us, and it has the power to imprison us. And it does both at times, most assuredly. 

So what's with the assignment?

To me, it means that I am to sit down and let in some silence. To take even a single minute to get really simple: to sit down, breathe, and notice what's happening with me. 

In my experience, the literal and figurative words which emerge from these places of quiet and simplicity are the truest of the true; they are the ones that lead to the heart of things.

Monday, April 8, 2013


It's hard to make a practice of being honest, I think. It is for me, anyway. I'm habituated to "protecting" other people from what I really think when there's disagreement or conflict; traditionally, I'm the peacemaker. So for me, it often takes a concerted effort to be really open and honest.

Now, one thing I do know is that it's not necessary or advisable to be completely honest 100% of the time. If we were all completely honest 100% of the time about our opinions, thoughts, and feelings, we'd probably launch Armageddon in very short order. Why? Because our reactions are often completely irrational, and incredibly temporary.

If we 'sit' with our turbulent reactions to the various events of this world, we often find that we calm down, gain perspective, change our minds, and forget about it altogether, even. How many times have you said something you regret in the heat of the moment? Something hurtful and nasty and reactive? Yeah, me too: a lot of times. Now imagine if we just went through our days just like that, without a filter, just escalating and escalating...I'd actually rather not.

So it's good to know how to be honest. It's good to know how to be honest with measures of compassion, actually, because honesty, wielded in certain ways, can be utterly selfish and narcissistic. Although, it can be tough to tell the difference sometimes between compassionate honesty and selfish honesty. And then of course comes the question, "Whose well-being deserves the most consideration right now?" Sometimes the answer is "Mine." 

I digress.

At times, I've royally screwed up in the honesty department on an interpersonal level. I've kept the truth hidden for so long when it really mattered that I laid waste to any semblance of kindness, respect, or decency when it, the now-toxic and distorted Truth, finally came out. On those occasions, the pressure of the truth built up to such an unbearable degree that I couldn't help be anything but selfish. And I've done that a number of times in my life, unfortunately.

I'm responsible for those actions, and I'm sorry for each and every one of them. And the thing is, while it sucked for the other people involved, it sucked far, far worse for me, because I was the one who was ultimately stuck with my mountain of guilt, shame, and confusion. 

What I've learned, then, is that honesty is difficult in practice, especially if you're programmed to make misguided attempts at protecting other people from your opinions, or if you're unsure of yourself, or if you're just plain scared. 

And it is scary.

I think the first time I got really honest for a protracted length of time was in an acting class, interestingly enough (and sadly enough, perhaps). I was 21 years old. I was terrified, because it felt like I was out of control. And I was out of control, in fact: during one exercise, I blacked out, punched a wall, and split my hand open. Awesome, right? (Not so much.)

I'll tell you what, though: as I got better at being honest, and practiced it with compassion, I steadily felt a psychological weight lift from me. I was free, confident, and happy to an altogether new and far-reaching extent.

It seems that my well-being is in direct proportion to the quality of my honesty practice: the better I am at being honest, the better I feel and function -- not just for myself, but for other people, too. Conversely, many of the troubles of my adult life can be traced back, at least in part, to how honest I was being.

I'm telling you all this, folks, because although honesty is difficult for many of us, it is worth it. It is freedom.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Weeks Off, and Balance

I took an unintended hiatus from writing for this blog last week. It was probably Tuesday when I first realized that I hadn't written anything for "MHFH" in a few days, and I felt a surge of guilty anxiety when I realized it. As I was unusually busy, though, the thought didn't linger -- but it persistently returned throughout the week.

You see, I feel responsible for this blog, and rightly so. For one thing, it's my blog, plain and simple, and I've put a lot of time and effort into it. For another, I'm very aware of the fact that the content herein is my content; that is, it's my creation, with my name is attached to it. A relatively simple Google search of my name will now and forever reveal the existence of this blog. Given that discoverability, and given that I have a personal and professional life to attend to, I want the blog's content to be good.

On another note, I feel responsible to you -- again, rightly so. Mental health is serious stuff. It is, of course, possible and appropriate, in some cases, to foster insight and discussion of mental health through less serious means, but I've chosen to write about it with an earnest authorial voice. That means that I have a responsibility to take these posts seriously, and to do no harm by you.

I'm also ambitious, quite frankly. I don't necessarily have a goal in mind for this blog, per se, but I do want to distribute this, and other, work to a wide audience. Pursuant to that, then, I acknowledge the importance of writing well, and writing often.

So, again, I felt uneasy and anxious and irresponsible with each passing post-less day -- at first.

But then, an interesting transformation: my relationship to the thought changed -- or, put another way, my opinion of the fact that I hadn't written for this blog changed. My new responses to the awareness of my non-MHFH-writing were, and are, twofold:

1. Sometimes, the best thing to do is take a break. That's true of just about anything I can think of off the top of my head, and I'd assert it's especially true in mental health. Sometimes we just gotta do other things, know what I mean? For one, life rolls on, and things come up that demand our attention. For another, it's a good reminder that there is, and must be a life outside the consideration of mental health/self-help/psychology/etc. It's part of that little thing we call balance. We cannot long sustain our health, happiness, and well-being without some semblance of balance. Besides, the consideration of mental health/self-help/psychology is ostensibly engaged so that we can live our lives in a more personally satisfying manner.

2. A) I'm not that important. Anyone who reads this blog will go on living their own lives in the manner they see fit, regardless of whether I ever write another post again -- which is exactly how it should be; B) I do this because I believe my thoughts and posts and images are of value, and because, moreover, I like to share them; and C) I live a full, rich, and busy life. I am fortunate to have lots of interests, and lots of things I like to do. Sometimes, those things will take precedence over my self-imposed and admittedly arbitrary blogging schedule. And that's a good thing, as Martha Stewart says.

People who care about other people, and about the work they're doing, fall prey to burnout very easily. It requires conscious practice not to, actually. When you care deeply about the people and ideas you're serving, it's natural to throw yourself into it with everything you have. That's well and good. But it's like drawing water from a well: unless the water supply is steadily replenished, the well is going to run dry.

Unless we take the time to really, truly take care of ourselves, we will burn out -- and that's true for all of us, not just those of us involved in mental health work as patients or practitioners or writers or researchers, etc. We must find a way to give ourselves what we enjoy, what we relish, what gives us peace. It's our spiritual medicine. Each of us is different in that regard, surely. Some people need just a wee dose of it every day; others can go weeks or months without it, and then set a weekend aside and fill 'er up. Whatever it is for you, just do it.

This is a long, elliptical post, which is nice, because my thoughts tend to be that way. Let me just reemphasize what, for me, was the biggest revelation of this week of non-writing:

Balance is good. It might not be recognizable at first, and it might even be uncomfortable for awhile, but it's good. It's necessary. It's a balm for the soul.

Have a good one, folks. Thanks for reading.