The mean mind

I was just meditating. Recently started it, not regularly but I realize I really like it when I do it. I am using this guided meditation by Byron Katie called ‘you are supported’ or something like that. 

One of the things that is different about it than other guided meditations I’ve tried is that while she is guiding you to focus on the breath, she also guides you to notice when you are caught in a thought/story and to give the story a name and an image, like a book cover, that encompasses the life of that story and then watch it as the thought goes away.

Doing this a few times, I am realizing that the thoughts that come and they are so frequent and so many of them are mostly self-deprecating. For example, I am focusing on the breath and then the thought comes that “you are not doing it right” or “this isn’t gonna work cause you are getting anxiety”, or an image comes up about a post I put up on instagram and how no one commented and the thought will be “it was bad” or “you are an idiot for posting these things”

And the guided meditation is guiding me to give the thoughts/story a name and an image and watch it as moves away and thank it for its life. So I give it a name like “you are stupid” or “fear” or “self-blame” and the image of a finger pointed at me or a face that is disgusted because that is the image that feels like it goes with the words. 

And it is hard to thank it for its life. But I come back to the breath and just watch the book cover as it goes away and as I come back to the breath, the book cover is gone…. and….. whoops, here comes the next thought. 

And after while, I see that I can indeed thank it for its life, because it is kind of funny how repetitive and mean and useless the thoughts are. They come and then they just go and the next one comes. 

And once I am getting relaxed with the breathing, a thought comes that “you should do more of this”, “you should do an all day meditation” or “you should tell so and so to do this meditation”. “She really could use it”, “gosh, she is so unconscious”  and now the meanness is going towards someone else, the “shoulds”. And I watch that too and do the same thing.

And after while of watching all of this and having it come and go and I am just sitting there breathing, I realize why they say in mindfulness classes or books of Eckhart tole or other mystics, that your thoughts are not you. It makes sense. I am not asking for them to come. I am not deciding to think these thoughts. I am not thinking them. I am being thought, passively.

I certainly see that passive thinking (which is essentially what happens majority of my waking hours), is mostly mean and unhelpful and doesn’t make me enjoy life or be a better person in any shape or form. 

No wonder they say the line between sanity and madness is a fine line. One of the features of obsessive-compulsive disorder and other mental health issues is intrusive thoughts. But in reality, who doesn’t have intrusive thoughts? 

I read somewhere, maybe it was Eckhart Tole saying “Thinking is only a small aspect of consciousness”. 

It is easy for me to hate on the mind, on these thoughts. I don’t want them. I don’t want to hear mean thoughts. But I’ve certainly come to realize hating on anything won’t make it go away. Byron Katie says “I love my thoughts, but I don’t believe them”. She says these thoughts are like little children. 

And when you think about it, the meanness is learned. We have learned that if you are mean or hate on something, you are not accepting it and asking for it to change. So we hate in hopes that it will change. 

I have no solution really here, but to tell you, whoever is reading this, that you are not alone if you have super mean thoughts. You are not alone in wanting to get rid of them. 

I am working on noticing them, not believe them, questioning them, and working on loving them as a mother would love its unruly child that yells and says “I hate you” because it sees that the kid is just confused. Amen to the day that I can keep calm and not be so rattled by my children…. actually put more correctly, the children.

ps. The featured image for this post is a snippet of a big, amazing painting done by my sister of me mediating, which she gifted me for my 40th birthday. I so so love this painting. The monster mind was added by me 🙂

My current antidote to my decision making perfectionism 

I remember some years ago a friend f mine who was getting married called me while she was shopping for her wedding dress. She was torn between two dresses and was having a hard time deciding. In fact I think it had been a few hours of being in the shop with her family and trying one on and then the other and kind of going crazy trying to figure out which one to buy. She was also really determined to buy the dress on this day and not spend any more days on dress shopping. 

She wanted my help with picking the dress. She sent me the photos of both and described to me what she likes about each. I could see why it was so hard to pick one because each was really nice and had their unique features that the other one didn’t have. 

I asked her if she wanted to give it some more time and she said she definitely wants to get a dress today. So the only solution that came to my mind at that time was “then pick the one that you like a tiny bit more than the other, just a tiny bit more. I asked her are you 50/50 or do you think you can be 51/49 with 1% liking the other one? Somehow this helped her. She ended up hanging up, walking back in to the shop, picking one, buying it and leaving. She later told me that her family was stunned of what happened in that conversation that made her make up her mind after having a hard time. By the way, she looked stunning in her dress on her wedding day. It was the perfect dress! 

I remembered this today as I was talking to another friend about both of our own struggles about decision making.  I often myself suffer from decision fatigue. Now that I don’t have a regular 8-5 job anymore and my days are unstructured and made up by myself, I wake up at times with total decisions fatigue. Should I do some work online or should I go for a walk? Should I do yoga or should I read my book first? Should I go to this cafe that has a nice garden or the other cafe that has really good coffee? 

I realize that often I imagine myself in one situation and then the other and my mind wants to figure out what the experience will be like with each decision and which one will ensure maximum amount of enjoyment/benefit/positive outcome and minimize any distress/negative outcome. 

But truth is that just like my friend’s options of the two wedding dresses, all of these scenarios (working on something l like to do vs. going for a walk), (going out with friends vs. stying home and chilling with a good book) all have their own unique features and possible joys/fun and boredom or stress. And the mind, given the task, perhaps by our parents, society, etc, that it should make the best decisions will keep going in this loop of analyzing one scenario and outcome and another and get stuck and distressed and to make matters worse, at least in my case, then the mind will point out that you are so pathetic that you can’t even make a simple decision. You, who are so privileged that you are having to make a decision between this cafe or that cafe. So the mind goes in to shaming. 

So now, level 1 suffering is that I can’t make a decisions, I am in my head and analyzing which is never pleasant and level 2 suffering is that my mind is shaming me for how indecisive I am. And when for example my boyfriend asks me what do you want to do and I don’t know and I keep saying this or that then level 3 suffering which is my mind saying “look at how chill he is and makes decision easily. You are really pathetic” 

But recently, I am starting to use my own prescription that I had given my friend so many years ago. God knows how that thought or wisdom came to me at that time but I had forgotten about it until recently. 

Perfectionism comes at least partly from the belief that “what we decide and do is extremely important and detrimental and can have irreversible consequences and that there is a good way and bad way” 

This thought and belief has only caused me suffering in my life. And I am not even 100% sure if this is true. Just because people say it is or somehow I got this message, doesn’t make it absolute truth. 

In fact, looking at my own life, I have at times tried to make the perfect decisions and it ended up not with the outcome I wanted but later a whole other slew of events that were out my control, brought out a surprisingly better outcome. 

So instead of the belief that leads to perfectionism and stress, I am wondering if it could be that “My decisions are not that important. Things happen in a way that I can’’t really figure out. There are no real mistakes in a bigger picture. And I am allowed to just have fun and pursue what I am interested in this very moment and that is it ok for my interest to change” 

This belief feels a lot better. And who says it is wrong. Who can know 100% that this later belief is completely incorrect. 

So under this alternative belief, when stuck with two decisions, I ask myself which one do you like 1% better than the other right now? 

So today I woke up thinking what do I want to do? Do I want to go with my boyfriend to a cafe that we both sit and work in together. It is fun working with him, bouncing cases off each other, and I’d be making money and we take breaks together and talk. 

And another part of me wanted to be alone today, go for a walk in nature, journal and write. Then the other part said but look at how nice it is to be with him, he is so cute how he is making breakfast and you love being next to him, and maybe you’ll lose him if you keep saying you want to have an alone day, and that it is nice to work sitting next to him. 

Yes, that is also nice but what do I want just a little bit more? I want some alone time today. And it might be that I will go for my alone time and miss him. yes that might be or I may not even think of him and get immersed in my own experience. 

But what helped me this morning, is to think which one do I want just a bit more right now? So I set off on my own and so far I have enjoyed every bit of it. 


Lessons from a night of Insomnia

Last night I woke up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and then couldn’t fall asleep. Thoughts racing in my head and no matter how hard I tried to mediate, or use all my tools of “I am not my thoughts” and don’t believe your thoughts and even counting sheep, they kept coming back and back. 

I sat up exhausted. My neck was hurting and had been spasming all day and the more I thought about the stressful scenario I was thinking of (or more correctly the more thoughts about the stressful scenario crossed my mind) the more my neck felt tighter and more painful. 

I then started having shaming thoughts like “look at how you make your own neck hurt by these petty thoughts and overthinking. Making a big deal out of nothing”. “Your neck hurts because you care so much about what others think and don’t have boundaries”. “You cause your own stress.” 

As if it is not enough that I can’t sleep and have racing thoughts and suffering from this, somehow the mind shames me and points out how I am failing and adds to my suffering. Isn’t that smart and brilliant? 

At this point I got out of bed, walked to the living room and sat on the sofa. All I wished for was a benzodiazepines or a medication that would knock me out. I remembered patients begging for meds such as benzo for anxiety or insomnia or opioids for pain. As doctors, we don’t like prescribing these meds because they cause addiction. 

But last night as I laid there, desperate for sleep, thinking about how the next day I have to get up early, do a long commute and work all day seeing challenging patients and I need a well-rested mind, I felt more and more stressed and felt more and more tightness in my neck and unable to sleep and wished for something to knock me out or someone to come and rock me to sleep. 

And then I thought, well, this is sooo painful. How can I suffer less? It doesn’t seem like I can make these thoughts go away. So instead of resisting them, I am just gonna actually actively sit here and think about this issue. I said to myself “It is totally ok if I don’t get any sleep. I’ll be tired and miserable but won’t die from it”  

Also I said to myself “It is totally ok to have neck pain. It is here and I can’t do anything about it and maybe it is meant to be here” in other words, instead of blaming myself for having neck pain and not wanting the neck pain, I just said ok, it can be here cause obviously it is here and not going anywhere. 

I remembered a saying “Where there is suffering, there is room for compassion” So I gave myself love. I hugged myself and cried a bit (which always feels better) telling myself “it is ok love. I know this is painful. It is ok.” And prayed to all the unconditional love in the universe to give me some peace of mind. 

I laid on the sofa with a blanket over me, made myself as comfortable as can be and let myself think about the stressful scenario. As I laid there actively imagining the scenario (neck tight, anxiety in my chest), I realized how much I am trying to say the perfect thing in this future encounter. And my mind kept going in circles and not being happy with the imagined conversation. 

I suddenly remembered a friend of mine who had had a similar conversation with me in the past and I recalled how she just was herself and had spoken her boundaries which has made our friendship last to this day as close as it ever was. I felt inspired at that moment. I thought to myself there is no way I can perfect this. I am gonna just be me

Maybe I can take refuge in just being me. Maybe I can just trust whatever comes out. And if I let myself be me and love me anyways, I might be more tolerant of others and however they come out as well. Realizing maybe they have been tormented by their minds as well when they seem somewhat short with me. Maybe they wanted to be as nice as possible but didn’t know how. Instead of perfecting this conversation in my head over and over, I will just be me whatever comes out at that moment, full permission. 

As I had this epiphany, I slowly felt those sleepy waves and images take over me. And next thing I knew I heard my boyfriend get up to make coffee and it was morning. 

I woke up with the neck pain and tired. Even kept snoozing, but I felt triumphant. And a believer in not resisting what it. Just allowing everything and loving yourself through it. And I am glad I didn’t have the benzodiazepine cause maybe I wouldn’t have had this epiphany. 


This past weekend I was at a gathering and a scenario came up that has happened often in my life when I have mentioned that I don’t think I will be having children. 

A friend who recently had a baby was there with her mom. This was the first time I was meeting this sweet grandma who clearly loved her grandkid. 

She asked me if I have kids and I said no and that I don’t want kids.

I should say also, that the certainty with which I was saying this was surprising to myself because in the past 5-6 years when asked with similar question, I hear myself say “well, I am really not sure, but I don’t think I want to have kids”

What was really interesting to me about this interaction was that after she made sure that I know I can still have kids in my 40s but don’t want to and my only reason is that I don’t want to spend my days raising children but that I rather enjoy the children and give them back to their parents, the grandma came close to me and in almost a whispering voice, as if she was letting me on a secret said “nooo, don’t say that. you say that now but you will regret it”, “people who don’t have kids will regret it”

Of course this was not the first time I had heard this, especially of Iranians of the older generation or even some of my own generation. 

So this is how the conversation went:

The Persian Grandma: “you say that now but you will regret it”

Me, smiling:  “It’s ok. It’s not like regret will kill me. I’ll live”

Persian grandma looking somewhat surprised “but you will be depressed” 

Me: “It’s ok. I have been depressed in my life before. I didn’t die of it. Maybe I’ll take something if I am really depressed”

Persian Grandma seemed exasperated by my lack of understanding of the gravity of regret and went on to say in Farsi “No you don’t understand. Badbakht mishi” which per google translate is “you will have a wretched life.”

At this point, looking at how hard and with sweet intentions, she was trying to scare me of this childless future, it made me laugh and she laughed with me, and quickly emphasized that I should really think about this more.

Many of us fear regret. This comes up especially about not having children and especially for women. But regret, obviously can come up in many fields of life. What I have realized with doing the work of Byron Katie, is that when someone says “You will regret it” or when we think “I will regret this”, we are seeing an image of a future, where we are for example sitting alone, older, somewhere in maybe a house, looking lonely and sad, and simultaneously seeing images of all these other people who are laughing and having dinner around their tables with their families and multiple kids and the older, lonely us is perpetually sad. 

We, right here, at this moment, see an image of a future (that obviously hasn’t happened and we don’t even know if it will ever happen) of not only a snapshot of feeling lonely and looking with longing in to this happy, lively life of others but what the scared mind offers is that this snapshot will be forever.  What the mind shows us is that at some point, the older you will enter the stage of regret and from that moment on, you will be locked in to that state. Every day, every hour, alone, lonely, sad, miserable, at home alone or walking in the streets and seeing people with their families, all happy, every moment and forever. 

This right here is what people fear and try to scare others with, mostly with good intentions. This is the same fear that comes up when we break up or have the thought that I will never have a partner. Or lose friends or feel like we are losing our tribe or won’t have one if we don’t live similar lives to others. 

The fear of forever lonely and sad. 

What I find comical about this image, only after I did the work of BK many times on loneliness, is that even though we all have heard of “this too shall pass” and even have experienced that our feelings have come and go, we still fully believe the thought and images of “FOREVERNESS”. 

Even though many of us have experienced immense sadness, loneliness, fear, anger, envy, etc, etc and yet maybe later that same day or month or year experienced utter joy, laugher, happiness, connectedness, we somehow think that the regret of not having children or certain other choices, will put you in to a state of forever wretchedness. 

And one might ask this lovely grandma who seems so convinced that childlessness equals wretchedness, how can she know that for sure? Because obviously she has had children and so regret of childlessness is not her own personal experience. Did she do her own personal survey, finding those people, who amongst her circle, I would guess are a few if any, who didn’t have kids and asked them how they feel everyday and every year until they died and observed their wretched lives? Or is it perhaps that she has lived all her life with this image that was handed down to her by some other grandma?

I am sure there are people out there who by choice or chance didn’t have children and may say “I wish I had kids.” As are people who say, I wish I didn’t marry him or I wish I went to school or got that other job. And of course, while they think these thought and see, in their mind, images of their lives and compare it to images of an alternative life, they will likely feel sad.

How can anyone know with certainty what their life would be if they had taken a different path?  In reality, these are all thoughts offered by the mind, comparing an image to another image, taking us away from here and now and creating the feeling that comes up from watching the movie in our head.

Obviously, none of this is to say that having children, for whatever reason, even if out of fear of regret, is bad (or good). 

This reflection is merely a reminder to myself and anyone reading, who has heard these similar comments and maybe felt disturbed by it, to actually look at those scary images that are behind the word REGRET. Our freedom lies in seeing these images for what they are, imagination, not reality.

Thoughts on Two Spanish Movies

Been sick at home for the past few days, having had to cancel a trip I was looking forward to for my mom’s birthday. 

All I am doing, when I am not sleeping, is read and watch movies, mostly in Spanish. (Covid test Negative… phewww!) 

I saw two old Spanish movies that are incredible and although old, feels so relevant. 

One was the story of a woman married to a man who doesn’t know how to control his anger and beats her. What is incredible about this movie is that you get to see the struggle of the man (as well as the woman). The subdued woman who lives perpetually in fear. And the man who doesn’t know what to do with his thoughts and feelings of inferiority, jealousy, anger and has clearly learned to bully. This looks familiar, having grown up in Iran but what I realize is that this toxic masculinity has no borders. Iran, Spain, USA. In this movie, although you can’t help but hate the man and find yourself rooting for her to leave him but I could also see the immense pain of this man who didn’t know what to do with himself and who wanted desperately to change.

Today, I saw Mar adentro (the sea inside). One of the most beautiful movies I have ever seen. The story (Which is a true one indeed), the characters, the incredible acting, the music (which is amazingly composed by the director himself, Alejandro Amenábar). 

I find that conversations around death and suicide are such taboo. The idea of death is so painful and permanent for us that we don’t really want to think about it or talk about it. My mom refuses to let me finish a sentence that starts with “if I die… or when I die”. she interrupts me and says “I don’t want to hear it”

This movie is the true story of a man who became a quadriplegic in his 20s and fought the next 29 years of his life for the right to assisted-suicide (since he couldn’t kill himself by himself) which was denied in every Spanish court.

Somehow suicide is heavily looked down at. Perhaps some think of it as a failure. In one part of the movie, a priest who is also a quadriplegic tries to convince Ramon (the main character) that life is worth living. That perhaps he is not getting enough love or attention, which of course makes his family and friends who lovingly care for him feel humiliated.

Can we really tell someone that life is worth living? Is life experienced by one person, perceived through the combination of thoughts, beliefs, feelings, hormones, neurons, habits, personality of one person is the same as another? 

In another part of the movie, Ramon who is overall a mild mannered, very lovable, smiling man is distraught, crying and saying over and over “why can’t I be like others? why do I want to die?”

I can’t even imagine how I would feel about my life if I was confined to a bed, unable to move any part of my body except my head, totally dependent on others for all my basic needs. 

A part of me hopes that maybe even in that situation I can find happiness by questioning and not believing the thoughts that cause me suffering such as “I shouldn’t be dependent on others”, or “life is better if I could walk”, etc. Thoughts that would make me compare my life to others or my previous life. 

But no one can know unless you are in it. Even now, being perfectly healthy, as hard as I try to do all that I have learned to stay sane and not suffer, I suffer at times. I suffer believing the thoughts that go through my head, that my life should look this way or that way. The comparisons that come up in my head.  

Some days, I suffer immensely because I can’t shake off the sadness or purposelessness that envelopes me. On those days I wonder if maybe my hormones are off, maybe my serotonin is low, maybe genetically I am predisposed to days of being down. 

All of this leaves me with this realization, if with all I know as a doctor, yogi, meditator, doing everything to take care of my mental and physical health, I still get so depressed or anxious or enveloped in utter pain, how can I judge someone else? How can I really know what is going on in someone’s head and what they have done to help themselves or not? 

If I can find even the slightest amount of compassion and self love at times when my brain becomes an utter judgmental bitch, then maybe I can be compassionate to others whatever they are going through. Wether it is the one who wants to kill himself, the one who stays in an abusive relationship, or the one who is learned to abuse. 

If anyone is looking for some great movies to watch and you don’t mind subtitles, I highly recommend “Mar Adentro” and “Te doy mis ojos”.

When you can’t imagine it, can it still happen?

If someone told me in 2019, that later this year, you are going to meet someone. It is going to have the same excitement and attraction as other guys you had liked, but what will be different is that you will feel a friendship and ease with this guy and that this relationship, unlike all the other ones that lasted a few months, will continue and make it even in to a year, I would say “no way! not in this lifetime!”

I just could not imagine the possibility of an easy, loving, relationship that lasts more than a few months where I am not perpetually anxious. 

I was so convinced that I would never have a long term, easy relationship and I had plenty of proof for it.

Some of my proofs were: 

1- All my relationships last a few months and this has happened for so long and so often, so why would the future be any different? And this is what I have realized is that we often take the past and project it as proof in to the future. If it has been this way so often and for so long, then it will definitely continue to be this way. 

2- I heard or read the advice that said “you have to know exactly what you want. You should even be able to imagine it fully, for it manifest”. Well…. I couldn’t imagine anything. Even when I tried to imagine myself in a good relationship with some ideal guy, in my own imagination it’d start going sour and I’d feel rejected in my own daydream which was comical. But I took this as evidence that I can’t meet someone since I can’t imagine it and I don’t know exactly what I want. Which caused further anxiety about this topic. So, I stopped trying to imagine it. 

3- They say “it happens when you least expect it”. This also was not really helpful. Because even though I had completely given up on the prospect of a long term relationship and wasn’t actively searching, but it was always in the back of my mind and I was open to it and still very much wanting to meet someone I’d like to be in a relationship with. So every time someone would say “it happens when you least expect it”, I’d think “shit, well I think I may be still expecting it”

4- I also heard at times or perhaps read somewhere “you may be picking the wrong men or can’t appreciate a guy who can truly love you if you don’t fully love yourself”….. so every time I’d realize I am somehow not loving myself, I’d feel more certain that I am nowhere near a healthy, good relationship and this will just be how my life will be forever.

When I met my current partner, it started with the same excitement of meeting a new person I like and admire. But maybe what was different is that I had just finished the school of Byron Katie and had had some epiphanies that made me decide to practice treating men exactly like women. Seeing them as friends. Not as a potential romantic partner that I’d want to impress. 

We met as friends but within a few days of him showing interest for something more, I thought “here we go, I wonder how long this will last. 3 months or 4 months?”. I kept doing the work of Byron Katie on every fear. and kept telling him everything that was going on with me as sensibly as I could. I kept practicing treating him like a girlfriend despite all that I heard in my entire life about “don’t say this to your guy or don’t tell him everything” And when I would open up about an anxiety or insecurity, he’d be surprise me by being totally like a friend with no trace of judgement. 

And every month, I’d think I wonder how long this will last. Even now, one year and 2 months in to it, practically living together, I wonder how long this will last. 

But what is obvious at this point is that, even if this relationship were to end tomorrow, my previous beliefs and proofs were not true. Because here is one woman who had repeated, short, anxiety-provoking relationships for over a decade, who was working on loving herself (but didn’t fully), had totally given up on a relationship and yet still very much wanted it, couldn’t imagine a good relationship and didn’t even know exactly what she wanted, who suddenly found herself in a relationship she could not imagine in her wildest dreams.

So here is my question to myself (and anyone whom this may resonate with), what other beliefs are you so sure of and have even evidence and proof for that are just causing you pain? What if your hard core beliefs that make you sad and hopeless were just not true? Who would you be without your story?

Journey of self love

For most of my late 20s and 30s, every romantic relationship I entered, after a few months, I felt anxious. Somehow feeling that this person is not in to me as much as they were a week go, a month ago or a day ago. I used to think I am right when I think “he is not in to me anymore”. My proof was that “he was chasing after me last week, telling me how amazing I am and now he is not doing that. he is calling less or he is in his head when we are together. or he didn’t ask to go out this weekend.” This thought inevitability would make me either break up with the guy or act strange (hurt, distant, mixed messages, etc) and somehow the relationship would not work out.

With every guy, I found myself inevitably in the same thoughts, in the same feelings. In the pat 4-5 years, I started to wonder am I just picking all these messed-up guys? or is it somehow me erroneously thinking they are not in to me and they actually are? is it me being insecure?

A friend told me that there is a whole category for people like me. it is called anxious attached. And the doctor in me thought, well this is great, if there is a diagnosis, then there is a treatment. but the more I looked, it seemed to be a cure-less diagnosis. the recommendations were to seek therapy (to see why you have anxious attachment issues) which I was doing for many years and to communicate it with your partner which I tried to do when I could muster up the courage. But with every break up, I felt really defeated. that I am just so wired wrong and inevitably fuck up all my relationships.

About a year and half ago I got introduced to the work of Byron Katie. I was watching a YouTube where a girl was talking about feeling jealous that her boyfriend is in a band with his ex and and every time they are together she felt very jealous. Katie took her through the work (the 4 questions and turn arounds) and I saw how she came to realize the fallacy of her fears, of her fear-inducing beliefs and seemed less jealous by the end of it.

This was so appealing to me. I wanted to let go of beliefs that made me needy and insecure in the relationship. I wanted to do the work of Byron Katie to get rid of those beliefs and be this super cool girl who goes in to a relationship and doesn’t care if her boyfriend is talking to someone else or doesn’t give her attention. I wanted to be this cool, care-free, not-needy girl.

It seemed to work at the moment that I would do a worksheet. I’d feel sad that this guy I was dating hadn’t called and I’d write down “he doesn’t care about me” and then I ask is it true? can you absolutely know it is true?, etc, etc. and by the end of the worksheet I was out of that mental hypnotism where I was convinced “he doesn’t care about me” and I was suffering less.

I started a new relationship and I did the work every time I thought he is losing interest in me. and many times I was able to let go of an intrusive thought by just going through the questions. My relationship continued (unlike all the other ones that would only last a few months). I felt ecstatic. I remember few months in to our relationship, we were traveling together and we had a conversation that made me insecure. I was feeling really anxious and sad thinking that the thought “he doesn’t really love me that much”…. we got home from a day out, I said I want to journal and went to the kitchen and sat and did the work and totally was able to have a different perception. I even was able to tell him about the process and the icing on the cake was that he told me how I had misunderstood him to begin with and how much he loved me.

But sometimes I would try to do the work and it wouldn’t work. I would sit with the intention of getting rid of a belief and it wouldn’t work. I’d feel frustrated and then I’d feel really fearful that this insecure, frustrated, angry, sad (or whatever negative emotion) is now behaving distant or short with my boyfriend and he will leave, that he won’t like me because I am distant and in a bad mood. So I’d sit and try to write and do what work again and again to see if I can get to that blissful and care-free state and sometimes it wouldn’t come……it just wouldn’t come.

And then slowly I realized the most important part of doing the work…..That you can’t do the work to get rid of a part of yourself. You can’t do the work with the agenda of self-rejection, even if that self is the one who is believing a thought that is not true.

I asked Tom Compton (a certified facilitator of the work) to do a session with me and that’s when it started to really sink in (well, after actually 10 sessions with him or more that he kept reiterating the same thing.

Here’s a snip-it of it:

Me: I am in the living room with my boyfriend. He is in his head. he is distant and quiet. I go hug him and he hugs me back but is still distant. I think “he is probably sick of me. he wants his own space. I am so needy”. I asked tom, what do I do when I feel this way?

Tom: Can you feel the needy girl in you and open your arms and welcome her?

Me: hmmm….. ok I feel her. I feel needy.

Tom: Can you welcome here even if she were to never change?

Me: WHAT? hmmm No! not really….. I am doing the work so she will change. if she doesn’t change, she will ruin my life. She will ruin my relationship. I will be alone……actually I hate her.

Tom: Then feel the hate… just really feel it. what is the purpose of this hate?

Me: To get rid of her. to get rid of the needy girl

Tom: has it worked? being at war with her and hating her, has it worked? has it made her go away?

Me: crying, no…. it hasn’t.

Tom: Are you interested in hating this part of yourself? you were under the impression that hating on it would work, now that you see it doesn’t, are you still interested in hating her?

Me: crying, no….. crying (tears of release, tears of sadness, tears from feeling hugged)

Tom: can you open your arms to her?

Me: I am scared that she will ruin my life.

Tom: ask her if she wants to ruin your life?

Me: hmmmmm….. me asking some imaginary part of myself who feels needy “do you want to ruin my life?” and I see this scared girl, saying no, just crying and sad and scared.

Tom: can you welcome her, just at this moment? you will see that these parts of us just want to be seen, accepted and loved. are you interested in unconditional love or conditional love?

Me: hmmmm…. wow, I really do want unconditional love.

Tom: then here is your chance. letting her know she is accepted even if she never changes. that’s really all she wants.

Sessions like this does remind me that this is also what I learned in the mindfulness course I took some years ago. or in the Radical acceptance book by Tara Brach. or what my therapist used to remind me. But somehow during these facilitations, I really felt like Tom showed me the road map. here it is, you wanted to know how to love yourself, here it is….. and only and only after you totally welcome this scared, insecure girl (even if she never changes), then you can say “hey love, let’s do the work together and see if this belief that hurts you so much is true or not.”

Which reminds me of what I read in one of Byron Katie’s books “do the work for the love of the truth, for the love of freedom…..not to change the world”

I am willing to experience this — how to be with one’s own self

This morning I woke up with a whole army of thoughts. Going over a conversation with some friends. Feeling angry of why she said that. Feeling sad at why they think this way. Why do they have this kind of standards. As I was laying in bed, looking at my phone, another thought said I should exercise before going to meet up some friends for lunch. And yet, I was still in bed looking at my phone, while the thought of “having to exercise, shower, get ready and leave and it is not enough time” was lurking around giving me anxiety. 

Then another thought “ugh, I always feel annoyed at this friend”. More thoughts and images of memories of past, so many years ago, when she would say this or that. And how I bet if I tell her this, she’d have this kind of smart-ass remark to give me……. And then I noticed I am having a full-on conversation in my head with her trying to convince her how she is wrong. How her ideas are old. How she should try to have an open mind, and thoughts of her responses that would aggravate me. 

I start exercising and realize I don’t have time. So after 5 reps of biceps curls in one arm, I put the weights away. And decide to go shower. but now I am thinking of how I should have woken up early to exercise. 

As the water pours over my head, I am taken out of my thoughts for a second and realize how tense I am because of all of these thoughts. All of these imaginary conversations that I am having. I am imagining how she would be so adamant in defending her position. How her ideas are so old and how she hasn’t questioned her beliefs. 

In the shower, I say a prayer, please help me see things more clearly. To see how I can be less bothered by these friends, by people. 

I get out of shower. Get dressed. As I am driving, I am still in my head thinking and thinking. But the truth is, I am not thinking, the thoughts are just going and going and going. I want to be present to this moment and yet they come and come and come. 

And all of a sudden, I realize I am kind of at war with myself right now. And what I want more than anything is to just learn to be with myself in peace. How can I be with myself in peace? How can I enjoy my own company? cause these thoughts don’t seem to go away despite all the work I have done on myself, here I am with a million bothersome thoughts. 

And then I had a moment of a miracle. I call it a miracle when a thought comes that is like a balsam to the wound, the peace-inducing thought. And the thought was “what if I was open to my thoughts?” I remembered hearing Tom Compton (who has a podcast and is a facilitator of the work of Byron Katie) say what if you were open to all of it? I said to myself, it is ok Niloo. It is ok to have all these thoughts. They are just a lot of scared little children. They just want everything to be good, for you to be loved, to belong. Even though they sound angry, but underneath it, there is the desire to connect (for my friends to change their beliefs and think like me, so we feel connected). I want to feel loved by them and feel love towards them. This is so innocent. Like a kid that just wants others to play with him and not take away his toys. For us all to agree. 

And at that moment, I felt a release of all that tension. To just be open to the torturous thoughts. Cause they are coming anyways. If I was willing to experience it, somehow the experience of the moment changes when I am open to it. 

I always wonder how to be with oneself? How to not feel lonely? I have heard or read somewhere “if you can’t enjoy your own company and thoughts, how can you expect someone else to?” 

I really think this is the way for me to be with myself, to enjoy my own company. Wether or not I want it, this is my company. These incessant thoughts are part of it. To say “I am willing to experience this” is like saying “I am willing to be here in my body and mind right now” and then feel how it feels to be open and willing to experience something vs. how it feels to not be open and willing, to really not want to experience something that is happening right now. 

Byron Katie’s famous “ Judge a neighbor” worksheet’s last statement is “what is it about this person or event that you never want to experience again?” and then you turn it around and reflect on “I am willing to or are open to experiencing it” why? Because frankly you are seeing it in your head anyways (so you are experiencing it in your thoughts anyways) and why else? because do you want to be free? 

Is he lying to me….. or…… do I not like me?

Last night I was talking to the guy I am dating. I was telling him that not being able to go to the gym (because of the gym closure in this corona times) has made me get anxiety about getting out of shape. At one point, he stopped me and gave me a complement about my body, smiling and saying how he is in to my body. It momentarily (like for 5 seconds) felt good, before the next thought crossed my mind “he is just saying that… maybe he likes my body but preferred it was more toned…. He likes it now but will not liked it if I gain weight” and my “problem areas” or what I think as “problem areas” flashed in front of my face strengthening the thought that “he must not really like my body that much”

Then it hit me. If I don’t believe I am good enough it doesn’t matter what someone else says, I won’t believe them. Which reminded me of the work of Byron Katie (also called “the work”), a self-reflection process I’ve been doing for some time. It is a process of identifying and questioning stress-causing thoughts.

When I do the work on insecure thoughts about my relationship…. for example; he will lose interest in me (a thought I have every time I date someone I am in to), I find out that I am actually looking at his words and actions through the lens of this thought “he is losing interest in me” and finding evidence for it. 

And when I do the work and realize this and go back and for example, read an old text message that at the time had made me freak out, I suddenly realize that I hadn’t even read the text right and dismissed parts of it. 

Forexample, in the first few weeks we had started dating, he had invited me to his friend’s house who was having a party. I texted him saying, do you want to meet up together and hang out before going to your friend’s party? And his response was something like: “I’d love to see you earlier and spend more time with you. I am already here early to help him out but why don’t you come here if you want and we can hang out here” 

When I first read this, the feeling that came over me was that subtle anxiety… thinking  “I am more in to him than he is in to me.”, “he is being nice and polite but doesn’t care much about seeing me as much I want to see him”

I decided to question the validity of this thought, “I am more in to him than he is in to me” by doing the work which is questioning the validity of the thought using 4 questions and then turning the thought around. (really sitting with each question with an open mind)

1-Is it true? 2- Can I absolutely know it is true?  3- How do I react when I believe this thought (as in what emotions come up? What images of past and future come up?how do I treat him and myself when I believe this thought) 4- Who would I be without this thought? (Who would I be looking at my phone with his text on it and couldn’t even think this thought?)

And then turn the thought around and see if the turned around thought (he is in to me as much as I am in to him or he is more in to me than I am in to him, etc) is true or not?

When I did this process, in the midst of sitting with these questions and turn-arounds, I had this mind-blowing realization that as long as I think I am not good enough, as long as “I am not in to me” (which was also a turn around), I won’t believe when he literally says “I’d love to see you and spend more time with you”. I see these words and think oh, he is just being nice. 

And how many times in the day, in our other relationships, we are certain someone is lying or just flattering us, or doubting them. And we are certain of it because in the past our experience showed that this person or another person had just been flattering me. And this is how we live in the past, never really giving the present person, the present moment, the words we are hearing, a real chance. The mind has a narrative that it gets from the past and it projects to now and future constantly. It’s our safety mechanism….. how we protect ourselves from getting hurt. 

I heard a friend once say, I am very good at profiling people. They say one sentence and I can read them all the way. And she was proud of this. But then life becomes dull to say the least. No chance for anything new.

I have heard Byron Katie say “if my husband didn’t wash the dishes last night and I see him in the morning, he is innocent this morning” I used to hear this and find it bizarre. I’d think but he is guilty of not washing the dishes last night.  But the more I sit with events that have hurt or bothered me and find the thought behind the emotion and question it, the more I am realizing how nice it would be if I could totally forget the past continuously and see only the now. And even though I can’t really forget the past, but questioning the validity of my perception of the past allows the past to show itself to me more clearly and often times it is a lot less painful than I had perceived it.

In my forever quest of how to suffer less, my newest friend is this work of Byron Katie but I find the essence of this work the same as what mindfulness (MBSR) says, the same as what my therapist of the past 3 years who describes her spiritual path as “a course in miracle” reiterated to me on each session or what Echkart Tole says. They say it in different wording but ultimately all trying to bring you to the pure experience of this present moment. 

So I guess a moment of victory for me was when I heard the guy I am dating tell me how he is in to my body and then immediately doubted him, thankfully, I then doubted my doubt. Is it him lying to me about liking my body or is it me not liking my body and therefor finding it hard to believe him no matter what he says?

This feeling lonely

Journals from October 2018…. some really lonely days…….

I wonder how many people at this instant feel lonely in the world. How does loneliness feel to them? 

I have realized that at times although alone I don’t feel lonely. And those are the times I feel somehow connected to others or something. That my life matters. 

But when that heavy feeling of loneliness sets in, it feels like I am not connected to anything or anyone. That I am irrelevant.

And today I woke up feeling like that. I had this full week. Busy and full of people and work. And I really enjoyed it. But it is interesting how a little thought comes like “I have no plans this weekend” and then a little phrase or text can … whoosh… take you to that lonely place. Perhaps touch that existential wound that we all have.  At that moment that I heard my sister say she had to get off the phone cause she was gonna have dinner with her husband. This phrase made me think” “Look at how much of a priority they are to each other” and made me feel sad that I don’t have someone in my life that I enjoy his company so much that I would stop my other conversations to go have dinner with him. 

And then while my mind was marinating part consciously and part not so much on “I am lonely”, I got a text from a close friend whom I love to spend time with and haven’t seen in a while. We used to have this weekend ritual together that I looked forward to. Every Saturday we used to start the morning with a dance class, then go to this diner for brunch. We’d share our feelings, laugh and many times cry our eyes out, going through so much tissue paper wiping our tears. But her life has changed. She now has a small kid and has become busy with family plans and even though I know she wants to see me, it doesn’t happen as often anymore. She messaged me telling me that she loves me and that she has seen this beautiful movie with her husband and that I should go see it. Instead of feeling happy that I got this loving text from her, my mind went in to thinking about how these days she spends her entire weekend with her husband and family and makes no mention of seeing me. 

I thought, here I am really looking forward to these encounters. To seeing my sister and to seeing my best friend but their lives are full with their husbands, etc and their priorities are to them. They don’t need me as much as I need them.

So I went from being in peace with my life this past week….Work was good, in appreciation for my medical assistant, my coworkers, my friends who I had spent time with, even how I got to randomly meet someone while on a run and thinking what wonderful surprises you get when you are single….. to waking up with these thoughts, my mind going down the quick sand of “how sad is my life and how un-needed I am to these people I need. And if I wasn’t even here, yes, maybe they would be sad but they’d get over it” 

In the midst of this sad saga, this story of feeling sorry for my self, I thought how can I get myself out of this and went to the only thing that works when I am willing to do it. I remembered the words of my therapist “befriend the loneliness, be with what comes up” so I reached for mindfulness. 

The RAIN practice of emotions – Recognize, Allow, Investigate and Nurture. I listened to Tara Brach’s guided RAIN meditation. Sat with it and just let it all come up. The waves of sadness so strong it feels like it is gonna rip through my heart and would never end. But then the ability to nurture, like a mother that holds an unruly, needy kid with so much love and tenderness. with no judgement. And then slowly and so slowly it is amazing how emotions subtly shift when we don’t resist them. And as I finished this RAIN meditation and started moving about my day, through the ensuing hours, wisdom became so much more clear and accessible. 

I was able to notice all that I love and is here around me. Like this willow tree by my window that dances in the wind and is so soothing to me. or this little kitty that sleeps so cozily and makes me smile or how I love to go run by the trees and feel the air in my hair.

And I was able to have some clearer thoughts. I thought no one can really take the place of someone else.  Yes, my sister has her husband who is her companion but it doesn’t take away from her connection with me. I remember times in my life that I was so busy with what was in front of my face, wether a relationship or new friends and studies in medical school and I had less time for my sister or other friends. Did it mean they were irrelevant? Did it mean that even if I didn’t see them or talk to them for days or even weeks that their presence didn’t warm my heart and give me reassurance? And if any one of them were to “not be here” there would be a giant hole the size of them in my life; their kindness, their wit, their touch… just like after all these years, there is still a hole in my life the size of my dad, even though at times I didn’t spend enough time with him or didn’t even feel fully connected to him while he was alive.

I think no one is immune to loneliness at least at some points in their lives. And when we are going through it, it feels like it will never end. And some of us have come to see  loneliness either as a deficiency on our part or fault of others for abandoning us or fault of universe for forgetting about us. But the truth is that it is just being human, part our need for connection and part our unhelpful and frankly bullshit conditioning depicted perfectly in the famous song by Dean Martin that says “you are no body till somebody loves you” or more like “till somebody shows you they love you the way you think they should” cause they could love you (like my sister and friends do) and your expectations of them makes you think they don’t.

Such is life, my love. This is what I hear from that wiser part of me, the sane part of my mind…. Such is life. And this is a season that has some lonely days in it. And it is ok. And when these self-pitying thoughts pour in your head and deepen the pain of loneliness, just see them, hear them and forgive them again and again, forgive your mind again and again and turn your attention to love, to that ever-present love that is right here, in the dance of the willow tree leaves, the cozy nap of the cat under that patch of sun, the joy of the wind in your hair when you run. Open your arms to all of life.