60 seconds of Success!

I often wonder why I write here. And why I write the things I write and not other things. 

Today for example, I feel like writing about this moment. A moment of about a minute or so. 

I turned on my phone this morning to send some photos of the cats to their mom. 

But I should back up for a second. We are cat sitting right now while traveling using a website that lets you house/pet sit in exchange of housing. 

The mom of these two adorable cats is a worrier and has asked me to send several photos and videos of them every day. Also she had some rules about her place, like only vegan food in the house and that we meet before she leaves, etc. 

When we first got here, one of the cats who is very attached to her, went in to hiding and was taking a while to warm up. Mom felt anxious and since her departure I have noted how worried she has been. The mom is an energy healer and believes in energy and vibes and kept saying this cat never acts like this, which I took to mean that she thinks the cat doesn’t like our energy and as a result mom doesn’t trust us. 

Her anxiety has certainly spilled over to me. I want her to be happy on her trip and not worry about her cats. I wanted everything to go smoothly. And I want her to like us.

This morning as I was making sure to record videos of the cats being playful and send it to her, she sent me a message offering me some energy healing (as I was feeling sick yesterday)

After I replied back to her first saying I’d love that, but then I realized if I am honest with myself I actually don’t really feel like it at this time. So I tried to politely say actually I feel better so no need to burden her (not my exact words but something to that effect), my mind went in to a whirlwind. 

All of a sudden I noticed I am super anxious. And when I focused, I realized the thoughts are something like; what if she gets offended….. what is she doesn’t like you…. that was not a good reply……

I stopped for a second. Instead of going over to check with my boyfriend if what I said was ok, or to eat my anxiety, I put the phone away. And sat at the edge of the bed and let all the thoughts come “you are stupid, you are bad, you are stupid, that wasn’t good” …. and on and on. And I just let myself feel all that anxiety that comes up when I think that someone is not happy with me….

And then I closed my eyes and asked myself; focusing on somewhere deep in my head and center, “Was what I said kind and expressing gratitude? Was it just me being totally me? YES! And then the other part said, yes, but what if she doesn’t like what you said. 

And I asked myself again, was it me what I said? Was it me being me as best as I could? Did it have every intention of being kind and honest and expressing gratitude? Yes! 

And that was it! I felt at peace with myself. and felt tears of gratitude for this moment of wisdom and freedom. 

This may seem like such a petty and insignificant moment. or the anxiety I had may seem unreasonable to someone reading this. In essence, it is unreasonable, it doesn’t come from reason. and yet, it comes. It comes at times, not all the time. I have many interactions with people and I have no anxiety. 

But I am in a stranger’s house, I want them to be happy with me, to leave me a good review, for our interactions to go smoothly so that the rest of the 10 days we are here it don’ts become tense, etc….. my mind has many reasons why this is important and why it should make me feel anxious. 

For me this moment of hearing something different within myself, these words of wisdom, this, I consider more of a success than becoming a doctor and passing many board exams. 

A moment where I go from feeling anxious, to hearing what the thoughts behind the anxiety are, to holding myself through it, and then to being able to turn to the truth, that what you did at the moment was you and was kind and that’s all that matters and have this actually feel so true, that the voice of the mind surrenders to it, that’s worth all the money I’ve spend on therapy, self-help books and retreats. This moment of 60 seconds or so. 

And next time if this doesn’t happen, if I can’t find solace, if I run off to ask my boyfriend if what I said is ok cause I am in self-doubt or if I distract myself to not feel the anxiety, that’s ok too. I choose to lover her too. I open my arms to her and love her just as much as the one who successfully hears the wisdom. 

ps. I googled “a moment of success” to find a photo that would go with this blog post and a photo of a man on top of a mountain came up…. well, I chose my photo with the cat instead, cause having a cat come and lay on your lap counts as a huge moment of success in my book!

Mesmerized by Louie

I write about my unruly mind a lot but I thought why not also share other moments when my mind is either quieter or able to be spell-bound by beauty around me.

Rumi says every day you are visited by a guest, the guest of different feelings. So I want to tell you about my guest today.

Today, we took our newly-bought camping chairs to the park near our place and set up with books and laptops to work in nature.

In front of me, are so many trees. So many colors, shades of green. Reminds me of the coloring pencil pallets I had as a kid with all the different greens.

Even one with burgundy, purple leaves.

A gentle breeze making the leaves dance. And the sun shining on the field of grass and twinkling through the leaves of trees when I lay back and look up the tree right next to me. It looks like this magical play of light and shade through the leaves.

All these little wild flowers poking their necks up through the grass.

And there is a little river that while sitting is not visible but I can hear it. 

And then I notice there is a guy sitting by the river with his dog. The dog is in the river and the guy keeps calling him to come out. 

Louie!! Venga! Louie Anda! Salte!…. Louie, come out of the river!

Louie comes out of the river, running and leaping and shakes all the water out and runs on the grass. Springing with all his power. All his movements are full of energy.

I am looking at Louie and feel so relaxed, so without worry at this instant. So intoxicated by the smell of the grass, sound of the wind in the leave and the birds chirping and mostly by Louie, how his front paws leap forward, followed by his hind paws, so care-free, rebelling against the pleas of his owner. I imagine Louie saying “yoohooo, I am free, no leash, I am free”

Thank you Louie and nature and my mind for this moment of utter bliss, my guest today.

My mind was so captivated by Louie that I didn’t think to take a photo of him. But in my very amateur attempt, I tried to draw him, although it really doesn’t capture the moment and the energy exuding out of him.

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 🙂

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. 

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.

What to do with all these thoughts?

This morning I woke up with this subtle not so great feeling. Ugh what is the thought. What if I like him more than he likes me? What if I am more attached than he is?…. No in reality, the thought doesn’t even have a maybe in it. It doesn’t come as a question. It comes with certainty; “I like him more than he likes me.” 

So where the fuck is this thought coming from? I really don’t have any objective evidence for it but I know this is how my relationships go down. With this exact, subtle thought. It starts little like this and then festers. If I believe this thought, I subtly pull back. And then of course they react to me pulling back and then I get my self-fulfilling prophecy indeed fulfilled. Then I am sure he likes me less and I pull back more. 

So I do the only thing that I know usually helps me. Write and write. Write all my thoughts. What little word or phrase did I hear that has made my mind go there? When you are a sensitive person with a past that you believe as “failed relationships” and get attracted to unconventional guys who value their independence, it is easy to take little things as evidence for your story. The story I have in my head. I will need him more than he needs me. 

It was helpful to look at the little thoughts that were there as evidence behind this thought and to really ask my self; Is it really true what I am thinking or is it just habitual thinking? Just water down the old river. What is the habitual pattern of thinking for me? I start a relationship and slowly start to have thoughts like these that make me anxious or eat away at my peace and I can’t enjoy getting to know this new person that universe has brought in to my life. 

My habitual pattern is also to get really mad at myself when I have these thoughts. Why they hell do you think this way? Why can’t you not be so sensitive and just not take every little word as meaning something or other. But truth is that getting mad at myself does not help anything. 

So while struggling with all of these thoughts and feelings while trying to go about my day, I stopped and just remembered what I learned in this course I took “mindfulness self compassion” and I also remembered the promise I made myself a few months ago “I will never abandon any part of myself” and here is a part of me that is in pain (meaning anxiety, fear, confusion, etc) and the course said whenever there is pain, there is room for compassion. So I held this part of me that is so scared and confused, telling her she belongs too. It is ok if she is sometimes so sensitive towards every little word and is scared and even wants to pull back. I literally held that part of me like a scared child. It’s ok. You have the right to be here, even thought ultimately you are believing some thoughts that are not valid but still, you are here and if you are here, you deserve to be here. 

I would have never allowed myself to do this before. I used to think that if I am giving room, or saying ok to a part of me that says “I am not liked” or “victim” or “needy” that it will get worse, but what I have realized that it doesn’t. In my case, accepting and loving all of me, even the parts I really wish I didn’t have, actually feels much better ultimately and makes me be able to think more clearly. 

I realized the thought is: what if the kind of closeness I want in my relationship is not what he wants. What if I am fooling myself and making it seem like I want a more distant relationship. The truth is that I don’t exactly know what kind of relationship I want. It’s been so long since I was in a a long term relationship. 

We walk around together talking about how unconventional our lives are and I find myself out of the blue saying “I don’t think there is anything wrong with living in two separate houses and having a relationship like that, some people do it”. Or that “we don’t have to label anything” and I totally and utterly believe it when I say it. 

And then out of the blue I wake up and I also have thoughts like “what if we are dating for months and months and he never introduces me as his girlfriend or what if he wants tons of space to himself, or what if I want to live with him and he doesn’t” Which one of these thoughts are really me? When I am thinking the former thoughts I feel ok about myself. I feel independent and when I think the latter thoughts, I judge myself for being needy.  So realizing this, again, I decide to not judge the thoughts, but see them as my children.………  if you are here, you belong…. It’s ok for me to want more closeness and if he doesn’t, then we want different things and maybe I won’t be with him ….. it’s ok… it’s ok… it’s ok…. It doesn’t make me needy or lesser or not as strong….. it’s ok” 

And that’s exactly what happened. After having this brief moment of accepting all my children; the needy, the scared, the confused, the one in doubt, the one who wants to pull back, the one who may want more closeness than this guy may want, I reached some moments of clarity. 

I realized that the opposite of this could be true as well. In fact I’ve also been there. I could be with a guy,  and he is dropping his life to be with me every moment. He is only wanting to spend his time with me over his other friends. He is telling everyone I am his girlfriend after only some weeks of knowing each other and asking me to do the same. He is planning his entire life around me….. and I can easily imagine the thoughts I would have at that time. Of course I would initially be happy that someone I so admire, is so in to me but I can see that I will probably have thoughts like “do I really want to be with him everyday of the rest of my life? Do I really want to only be with him and have such an exclusive relationship where I am not free to meet and experience conversations and friendships with other men (and I don’t mean sexually but even just friendships) ….. I started to remember my first relationship of almost 10 years and how enmeshed our relationship was….. no room to meet anyone else, no room for new experiences, only me and him all the time and our small circle of friends. I know I don’t like that. I know I’d feel suffocated in that. 

And then the clearest thought hit me. These are all just thoughts. None of it is real. The mind is always looking to improve our situation by pointing out possible “threats”. In the first scenario my mind is trying to look for how I can get hurt, how I can be more attached to him than him to me and can get hurt that way, how my needs may not be met. In the 2nd scenario (remembering my first relationship), the threat is losing my independence, losing my experiences of fun and new, being bored, mundane-ness. 

But what is real? Reality is that at this very moment, I am sitting very comfortably on this seat, typing my thoughts on my laptop, in this adorable, cozy cafe where everywhere I look gives me a good feel, sipping really good coffee in no physical discomfort.  Looking up, there is a few people here in this cafe. There is a plant hanging, a dog curled up comfortably sleeping on the floor, the barista busy pouring coffee, a woman at the bar sipping her coffee. It’s a cold day here and I have my jacket on and feel warm. 

What is really missing? What is the problem? Nothing. 

And what was the problem this morning when I was having all these thoughts. Nothing. I was in the shower, warm water with perfect pressure pouring over my head. Nothing hurting in my body. I had soap, shampoo, everything I needed. And yet, my thoughts about what could be in the future, and what that or this means is exactly what was taking me out of realizing the comfort of the present time and in to discomfort of the unsatisfactory imagined future. 

Really it comes down to this; observe your thoughts, question them, don’t identify with them and in my case, don’t hate on yourself for having the thoughts. As one of my favorite teachers, Byron Katie says “I love what I think, and I’m never tempted to believe it.”

….. and if I can be brave and honor where I am, then also talk to the person I’m in this relationship with, ask him my questions from a place of kindness, and trust what unfolds.

Nothing Means Anything!

What does it mean to live with your mom when you are turning 40 and single?

A few months ago I decided to move in with my mom. I don’t know why exactly. I loved my apartment in MarVista so much. It was my sanctuary. But maybe because I felt like I needed a change and it would help to save some money to be ready for that change. And  I would get to be close to my mom and my favorite furry creature, Hooloo, my mom’s kitten.

So I moved in December. And even though I was worried I may regret it, I have not really missed my former beloved apartment at all. But despite having made this move voluntarily and with really no financial necessity, and despite having actually enjoyed it so far, from the kitchen’s view of these beautiful birch trees where I sit and have my breakfast, to the recent snuggles when Ms. Hooloo allows it, to my mom’s sense of humor and her home cooked meals, to the shorter commute to work, to this adorable room that my feng-shui master of a friend set up for me, despite it all, this move has given my monkey mind a field day whenever it goes in to that self-critical mode, adding to my list of inadequacies how not only am I turning 40 but I am living with my mom. And even when I remind my mind that I have chosen this not because of a lack of career or money but it still insists that none-the-less this living situation leaves much to be desired.
I was having dinner one night with a friend of mine before the move and when I told him I am moving in with my mom, he reminded me of a Seinfeld episode when George is moving in with his parents.  Jerry’s stand-up line was that it is never a good sign when you are moving in with your parents… like you never say: “my career is going great and I am moving in with my parents or I am in a new relationship and I am moving in with my parents, etc”…. It was a funny episode and my friend was merely trying to make me laugh. I know he thinks no less of me for moving in with my mom.
But it reminds me of the book “The Four Agreements”. How we have made these agreements for certain things to mean something and even when it doesn’t mean that, the mind is so fixated on it that it can’t see it clearly any other way. We make everything mean something.
Another night I was at dinner with some new friends and when I told them I moved in with my mom, a few of them voiced their disbelief of how I was even capable of living with my mother at this age. But one new friend who is from Spain actually praised me saying: “This is a great sign that you can live with your mom, most people in this country can’t stand their families.” Clearly what “living with parents” means to him was different than what it means to Jerry Seinfeld, my friends and myself or at least that part of my mind that is saying all of this.
I have had multiple patients of mine in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and even older tell me in such shame that they live with their parents. Many of them have made this choice for financial reasons or other reasons, even to take care of their parents, but this living situation is one more thing they add to their list of failures. I always remind them to not listen to this voice and not make their living arrangements mean anything more than it is. And although I mean what I say to them it with all my heart, but I guess my own mind is still entangled in the same unhealthy agreements.
The agreement that my mind has learned, the one that it uses to subtly torture me is that at every stage in your life, your life has to be in a certain place and have a certain look and if it isn’t there, even if you chose it not to be, then at least it has to be justified by something else more amazing. Like if at 40 you are not married with kids doing DIY projects with your kids and renewing your vows with your husband who dotes on you, then you should be a renowned professor, or have published several books or be traveling the world or be a high-ranking progressive political figure or like my beloved uncle, be involved in many philanthropic, creative projects around the world.
Whaaaaaat? I ask my mind; so you mean that being a physician, even a sub-specialist who sees the most rare cases, treats patients in pain and suffering every day and tries to treat them like her own family is not enough?
How about someone who tries to be honest and say I don’t know when she doesn’t know and to try to look for the answers, who tries to be real, tries to practice mindfulness, tries to do right as best as she can? Isn’t that enough? Isn’t it more than enough? Isn’t as enough as anyone else?
Mindfulness says to watch your thoughts non-judgmentally and to not identify them as you. To basically see them come and go instead of totally being in them. Like you are standing in that space between the water in the waterfall and the rock behind it. And when I watch these thoughts, sometimes I totally see their bullshit. But what really helps me, what actually changes these thoughts to completely different thoughts is remembering and literally tuning in to the voice of that Wise part of my Self, or what I call my Soul.
Soul, who speaks in whispers and I usually hear it best while on a good run or something meditative or maybe after a good cry. This voice that is so incredibly loving and says: oh my love, of course it is enough. Not because you are a doctor and not because of your education or degree or what you are accomplishing or even because you are practicing mindfulness, but because you are you, you are here, you are a living, breathing child of this universe, you are part of the universe and the universe itself. You are enough because you are alive and trying. Waking up every morning and taking another step on this journey.
My Soul’s voice reminds me that nothing means anything, only what you attach to it, only what meaning you give it.
It is not where we live, who we live with, what we do, what we have accomplished and what we haven’t, what we look like, how many friends we have, how many likes we get on our posts. It is not any of these that makes us lovely, lovable, and loved. It is because we are here, we breathe, and we try our bests even when that best is not perfect.
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Insecure or Confident?

I don’t know what age I was…maybe 18… maybe younger, when I heard phrases like “Confidence is the most important thing”, “Confidence is sexy”, “Confidence is the most attractive attribute of a woman”
Whenever I had insecure thoughts in my head, which were not uncommon, especially when it came to how I looked, it would quickly follow by the acute realization that I am not confident since I have these thoughts.
I would sometimes see these women who seemed to somehow embody confidence in my eyes. Most times I didn’t really know them well. Maybe it was at a party, I would see a girl who didn’t seem shy, was beautiful, had a perfect body, or dressed beautifully, or seemed to have an air of detached-ness about her, or maybe a handsome or seemingly “cool” man next to her, looking at her with desire.
Without really knowing anything about her, merely based on her demeanor or looks I would think  “Gosh, she looks so confident. I bet she doesn’t care about what anyone thinks of her. I wish I was confident like that” And of course, having been told how confidence is important, I tried to hide all those areas where I lacked confidence. In fact I didn’t even see it as some areas of insecurity. I didn’t see it as shades of gray. I saw it as black and white. That this person has confidence and I don’t. Either you have it or not.
So, I just learned how to hide it. I learned how to never show my insecurities. I learned to act the opposite of what insecurity wanted me to do. I tried to make friends with confident people. And I tried to be social and outgoing and make it seem like I don’t care about what others think. And I don’t know if I did any of this consciously.
What is ironic is that everyone I chose to be friends with, based on how confident they appeared, when I actually got to know them well, I realized they also have insecurities. And the more they were aware of their insecurities and allowed me to see them, the more I connected with them and the closer our friendships became.
I remember I was talking to a friend who was telling me about how she has felt insecure about this or that in herself and realizing the insecurities makes her feel even more insecure.
This friend is a woman who is an amazing surgeon and one of the most beautiful women I know. She is someone I wished to be be friends with when I first met her in the hospital and saw that same air of confidence in her. She was quite and kept to her self and I took this as confidence and even slight detached-ness which I had come to associate with “coolness”. Little did I know that this was her “shyness”.
I don’t know at exactly which point in time, this big, impossible mountain of misconception about “insecure” vs. “confident” started to slowly chip away. Maybe it was after meeting my teacher, Siri Gian, the healer who taught me how to listen to that inner wisdom, that loving voice that speaks in whispers and for most of my life I wasn’t hearing it over the shouts of the other insecure voices. Or maybe it was in Azita’s yoga classes; a yoga teacher and psychologist who would open the class by genuinely sharing about her own vulnerabilities and emotions. Or maybe it was watching Brene Brown’s ted talks. Or maybe it slowly happened through all of these experiences and still happening as I sit with Homeira, my beloved therapist and teacher every week.
And that mountain started to chip away to this realization; That confidence is not a lack of insecurity, just like courage is not a lack of fear. It is wether we are aware of the insecurity, can accept it, not judge ourselves for it, love ourselves despite of it and look at it honestly and see the unreality of it.
After having talked to many brave women; doctors, artists, lawyers, engineers, dentists, journalists, housewives, mothers, etc, everyone seems to have insecurities around something or other. For someone it is around a body part that they try so hard to perfect, or around money or career or family or children or lack of children or status or partner or lack of it or health or a personality trait or so many other issues.
I know I have many insecurities of my own, but here is the amazing part of this past years of awakening to all of this, that the more I accept where I am, the more I get honest with myself instead of putting up a facade, the more I stop labeling myself as insecure and projecting perfection of confidence on to others, the more I breathe through any insecure feelings that come up and remember that this isn’t real, it doesn’t define me and is merely based on what I have bought in to, the more the insecurities release, shift and transform to real confidence. Not confidence based on having it all, but confidence based on accepting it all.
Thank you all the women (and men) who have bared your Souls with me, putting down the masks we all wear for some seconds or minutes or hours, showing me a piece of your insecurities and helping me heal mine. I am passing it on.

 

This being single

For the past 12 years or more, since my last relationship of almost 10 years ended, I thought I’d just meet someone and get married like every woman I know. And although secretly marriage and kids scared me but the idea of that woman who is 40, alone, unmarried, no kids, pitied and judged scared the shit out of me.
So in these years of confusion I kept wondering why I can’t, like most of my friends, just click with someone. Why is it so hard?
 And of course every friend or aquaintance who learns that indeed I do want a partner but don’t have one yet, offers advice. “You are probably too picky”, “You probably pick the wrong guys”, “You must not really want marriage subconsciously”. A teacher told me that once I fully loved all aspects of myself the right guy will show up right in front of me.
And so I psychoanalyzed myself. I went to therapy. I kept wondering if I feared marriage. I tried to ask myself if I really wanted to get married. That do I really want children or just think I should have them to fit in? Do I want to have children of my own or adopt? Is a woman’s life defined by motherhood? If not, then what will define me? I tried as much as I could to love and accept myself more and more.
And through the years, friends or relatives whom I would run in to, always asked: “Sooooo, have you found the one?” and the “No” that I would have to say felt like such a failure. That I somehow have to justify it by saying “No, but…..” “No, I am not married yet, but I am a doctor and doing yoga teacher training”, “No, I don’t have kids yet, but I am taking this course and starting meditation classes for my patients at work” or “No, but let me tell you about the last guy I went out with and what lessons I learned”
And I just felt a sense of shame. Every year that passed and I am STILL single I felt more shame. And here is what I learned about shame, that once it builds up, you either go hide yourself so you never have to confront with the shame-causing issue or after enduring it and trying so hard to change the “shame-causing issue” you look it really hard in the eyes and say to it: shame, I see you! I see your pain. I see that you have totally bought in to the bullshit, but if you don’t let it go, it will destroy you. If you don’t wholeheartedly embrace the truth it will literally make you want to jump off a bridge.
And so today after years of this, here is what I have to say.
I am still single. I am still hoping to find the right guy some day. I am still probably picky and still probably making “mistakes” and still not sure if I fear marriage or if want to have kids and STILL probably not as loving and as accepting of myself as I should be.
But here is the thing, the truth, is that I am, with my whole heart, grateful for this past very many years of single life with this quest. The quest to find the answer to my “defect.” The quest to find out why I am single.
This quest has taken me on this amazing, beautiful, priceless journey so far. The quest that took me to meet a healer who taught me to connect to my higher self and forever changed my life. The quest which took me to meet many teachers and therapists and finally made me realize that the best therapist and teacher is that higher Self within my own being. The quest that took me to hours of shedding tears of release and exaltation in Kundalini Yoga classes and learning meditation and mindfulness which has changed my life’s moments to richer and more real.
And to putting myself out there and meeting some great men whose encounters taught me about myself and gave me the opportunity to come face to face with my own fears and biases.
And this quest which has brought me to to this day, a day that I thought would never come in to my life. No, I have not found “THE ONE” if that is even such a thing. But the day where I can practice being brave and writing these words. To look shame in the eye, hold its hands and say, let’s open the door and not hide. A day where I am deciding to be humble with my vulnerabilities and write that yes, I am single and I am turning 40 in a few months and sometimes it can be lonely and sometimes it can be scary but most times when I am not in the trance of the messages I’ve gotten from the society I am actually in love with life and this messy and alive journey of being here.