Here’s one of the truisms we don’t want to hear too often – As long as we rely on external circumstances to provide us with happiness or joy, even when at their peak, we will never know sustained contentment.
Tuned discordantly, as we are, to one trigger-reason or another to feel aggrieved, many of us are constantly struggling with the context of the moment underfoot.
We compete, clash and push back today – as we do every day.
‘Yes’, we admit. ‘I’m stressed. But,’ we are quick to add defensively, ‘isn’t everyone?’
We might even feel pricked enough to add, ‘I’m angry, too! Isn’t everyone?’
That said, yes, most of us understand that in the absence of real satisfaction and happiness, we can fake it till we make it.
When we don’t feel happy, we can always choose to act happy.
If we practice that act of positive deceit, we will actually begin to feel happier.
It works … but only in the fulness of time.
But it doesn’t happen naturally.
It doesn’t happen quickly.
It doesn’t happen on a wing or a prayer.
But, happen, it can.
Modern research has confirmed what we all suspected from way back: regularly doses of joy are essential to our well-being.
Happiness in a brain thing.
Happiness happens once we’ve prompted our brain to release a balanced cocktail of Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin and Endorphins.
It happens through a long-haul practice of committed, healthy, targeted efforts.
When it happens, we say, ‘Thank you, Brain. Thank You, body.”
And we smile.
And we breathe consciously – slowly and deeply.
In time, we are better able to experience more ease, more satisfaction, more joy daily.
Jumping on to that pursuit is an act of self-love – the only one that counts.
A belief is a thought about a subjective perception that we believe to be absolutely true. But that doesn’t mean that it is.
We know that.
It’s highly likely that several of our beliefs are holding us back from reaching the outcomes we desire.
We know that, as well.
What we tend to forget is that when beliefs remain static, they become the control panel of our ego-persona – in sore need of an upgrade.
Reality check: anytime we process moment after moment through knee jerk reactions, we confirm that we’re still driven by early childhood patterns we forgot to update, patterns designed to protect our younger selves
We forgot to optimise our 3-D system, a.k.a. our brain, which controls all our body’s systems.
The flow-on effect is that, in various ways, the set views we have about how to make things happen, how to treat others, how to show up, avoid, deflect and divert keep us from connecting in earnest with the true essence of who we are and, certainly, even with our loved ones.
Bottom line: several limiting and self-sabotaging beliefs rooted in our mind keep us from feeling genuine satisfaction, emotional security and, ultimately, Contentment with What-Is – no matter how cool, how good, how amazing What-Is happens to be in that string of moments.
That said, these beliefs are quick to trigger resentment and a ‘poor me’ view of life should the ebb and flow of karma place us at the receiving end of something we don’t want.
Sometimes, we feel we’ve lived our life for the benefit of someone else. We didn’t want to disappoint. We wanted to be of service. We thought we were doing what we had to do, but we did it under duress.
Sometimes, we accepted a relationship in which we had to pretend to be different from our self. Our likes and dislikes, our aptitude for this or for that were shelved.
Our intentions were honourable when we signed up for the role, but, in time, we resented the demands made.
We resented the commitment we had co-created with the universe.
If we are ‘happy’ because we got something we wanted, we are still stuck on the treadmill.
If we are ‘happy’ because today is a day off, we are still on the treadmill.
If we are ‘happy’ because we felt valued today, we are still on the treadmill.
And if we are ‘happy’ because we got a lucky break, we are still on the treadmill.
Q: why are we always on the treadmill?
A: because our essential ‘we’ is missing.
Q: where is it?
There is little doubt that our mind seizes ample opportunities to churn over and over many of the feelings, thoughts and compensatory actions we had already co-engineered in the character of our ego-persona, by the time we walked through the gates of our first high school.
Each time we followed our negative impulses, or our weed-thoughts, as I like to call them – each time we fertilised and strengthened them.
So, dear Reader, what, within your predominant cluster of weed-thoughts is the one, big, emotionally ‘yuck’ emotion you know is the root cause of a fair chunk of your rooted discontent?
Two decades ago already, my ‘rainbow desire’ was to wake up in the mornings, free of the murky fight-flight symptoms of chronic anxiety that were already active in the pit of my stomach by 5 AM and remained constant throughout each day.
My system was on high alert 24/7 despite leading a safe and comfortable life in a quiet suburb.
Random sounds from the street below, the chirping of birds in the garden, my partner’s movements under the sheet, each activated successive nail-sharp spikes of chemicals which would lead to repeated flurries of heart palpitations.
Impossible to explain how being safe in bed could possibly feel like what, I imagine, a refugee might realistically feel close to dawn, surrounded by invisible but possible dangers.
I longed for that ‘space’ in my solar plexus to be filled with the invigorating vibrations of contentment that my healthy and balanced lifestyle should procure me.
After all, I had always been in good health.
I had always worked in the area of my choosing, and it always afforded me a good income.
I was blessed with, Myahr, my wonderfully supportive partner.
We lived in a house in which we were safe and comfortable.
Later, we adopted Oscar, our adorable and very soul-ful, 8-year-old ‘puppy’ 😊
What was there to not feel calm, contented and thankful for?
In this little mind-meander, I will refer to my ego-persona, the person who’s out there for all to see, as ‘my little raft’.
Even before I began aiming my little raft towards that elusive rainbow of contentment that shimmered at the far end of the sea, I first had to identify the root cause of the anxiety that had gripped my solar plexus for as long as I could remember.
My Achilles Heel, I decided, had to be the ongoing toxic relationship I had with my mother.
I was repeatedly flabbergasted by her sense of self-importance and entitlement.
Her intolerance and suspicion of others seemed boundless.
I could not understand her penchant for belittling just about everyone. Neither could I accept her unwillingness to ever utter the words, ‘I’m sorry’.
I didn’t know then that a narcissistic persona keeps the one in which it dwells wired to unhappiness and to the chronic disappointment that ‘life’ is not given them the special consideration they believe they deserved.
And in my ignorance, time and time again, my mother and I would go down into reactive rabbit-hole arguments which, of course, led to dead-ends in which both my mother and I remained trapped.
I have since learnt that there is never any point in arguing about whose reality is correct. All parties involved always end up diminished by it.
Also, I have realised how emotionally and mentally depleting it must be to be afflicted with such a personality imbalance as narcissism.
So, instead of defaulting impulsively into argument-mode, I now know that I should have found my authentic voice and said things like, ‘I’m not comfortable with this or that. I don’t want to have to worry about us. I’m worried. That really makes me feel sad.’
From family accounts, my mother and her siblings had had a ‘happy’ childhood.
At 18, my petite mother was a head-turner. A vast collection of photos proves it.
That year, she married the strapping young man of her choosing, my father.
At 19, she was a mother.
At 21, disappointed with her life as a soldier’s wife whose husband was often away on parachuting missions behind enemy lines, she obtained a divorce.
My grandparents took me in for the next 5 years.
My mother remarried and, eventually, reclaimed me from my grandparents when I was 7 years old.
Considered handsome in his own way, my stepfather was a calm man who, unfortunately for us, turned out to be an emotionally distant husband and stepfather.
Beyond that, as far back as I can remember, his salary alone afforded us a safe, upper-middle-class lifestyle.
Cartier jewellery and Chanel suits for her.
Rolex watches for both of them.
Sports cars, MGs and Jaguars, for him and for her.
Back to life as it was between my mother and me some 20 years ago.
Though I had spent several years working in Paris, one of those karmic choreographies that ‘makes’ us do things we had not previously considered prompted me to return to Australia.
I settled in Brisbane, one hour’s drive from where my mother and stepfather lived on the coast.
That year, my mother turned 63, and I celebrated my 44th birthday.
Back in those days, as when I was a child, I found my mother to be uncaring of my feelings and highly critical of any of my decisions, priorities and aspirations. Extremely critical, too, she was of the healthy, independent and balanced adult reality I had created for myself.
At the same time, she was divisive and dismissive of just about everything I thought, of everything I did and of everything I valued.
The only exception to my mother’s dislike was my ongoing work as a high school teacher of English, mainly at the Senior level, in which I had steadfastly involved myself after graduating from the University of Texas at 21.
I also taught French and Spanish.
That, my mother respected.
Of course, as my thoughts and reactions were consumed by the emotions created by my perception of my mother’s thoughts, actions and reactions, I, myself, had no healthy emotions, no loving thoughts, for her.
Yet I knew I loved my mother. Yes, definitely, but that love was as dim as a candle’s flame seen behind a thick veil.
The thing is, the longer a wound has been left untreated, the longer it festers.
The more drawn-out and complicated is the healing process.
Then, as always, the only way to move away from a predictable future based on the blueprint of our past is to actively choose to respond differently to the familiar, ongoing stimuli.
In reality, I had simply been a child raised in a physically safe and comfortable middle-class environment by two people who thought that good parenting was about making sure the child remained healthy and was physically well-looked after.
Recurring challenges and needs I faced partly due to ever-shifting social and schooling situations were just ‘life’, my mother insisted, as they moved from city to city, continent to continent, following my stepfather’s work.
They had to be endured.
Every French person is familiar with the proverb, Qui aime bien châtie bien.
It’s believed to have its origin in the Latin phrase, Qui bene amat, bene castigat which, in turn, is believed to hail even further back to King Solomon’s ancient wisdom.
Taken literally, as do most people who use that proverb, the emphasis is on the necessity of punishment to make strong those whom we love.
Some spouses use it with each other and, numerous, of course, are the parents who have made that construct their go-to strategy in the belief throughout the eras when ‘good parenting’ was deemed that easy.
My parents were among them.
I remember my mother’s other succinct lesson on ‘Life’.
‘Be strong!’ she would say whenever I hoped she would show some empathy for my reality, one that she, herself, had not experienced as a child. But, ‘Pick yourself up. Never show your weakness,’ is what I remember getting from her.
Nothing very unusual in that in an era when children were told, ‘Chin up!’ and were expected to be seen but not heard.
I became so good at keeping my emotional, and sometimes even my physical pain to myself that, most of the time, my mother didn’t realise’ I was feeling ‘cast-off’ and entirely dispensable.
Serious question: what if it is true that silence gives shame the oxygen it needs to overtake our feelings and our thoughts?
Apart from the normal childhood and teenage concerns, the added complication for me was that, between the ages of 5 and 17, my schooling took place in several state-run schools scattered around the world.
First in France. Then, in Africa.
Then, in Tunisia.
Then, once again in France for a year or two.
Then, in America for a year and finally in Guatemala, Central America where I graduated from high school.
Navigating through so many dislocating relocations might have been daunting enough for anyone. But, having to go with the flow and learn from curricula delivered in languages unknown to me had added a considerable challenge to my parents’ expectations that, of course, I would easily progress from one year to the next – without any support.
They were right. I progressed.
They were wrong. It wasn’t easy. It was terribly difficult.
Always the ‘new girl’, I was far too shy to reach out and say, ‘Hi, I’m new here. Can I play with you?’
Always the outsider, always on high alert, I felt vulnerable.
I didn’t know then what I know now; that within our vulnerability lies our strength – our courage, should we be brave enough to accept What-Is and push through.
I never felt I belonged anywhere – not with anyone either, but, as I knew there was no point in crying and sulking, I usually kept quiet about my apprehension and my insecurity.
Odd as it might sound, it was after all the path of least resistance.
Then again, perhaps, not so odd as we, humans are primarily feeling beings.
We think after we feel. And, at such times, what I felt brought up depleting thoughts.
Perhaps the presence by my side of siblings or supportive relatives or childhood friends might have bolstered me up but, in the absence of any, I was on constant solitary overwhelm.
In hindsight, of course, I can only sigh, very much aware that what I went through as a child was in no way comparable to what children who live in uncaring foster families or in war zones go through daily.
Be that as it may, as long as going back in time is not an option, the only way forward is … through.
The campaign to ditch my unwanted neural baggage and free myself from the symptoms of chronic anxiety led me to my rainbow-desire.
During that journey, which I hoped would be a short one, I knew I would have to heal my feelings by healing my heart by learning to ‘love’ my mother.
After all, as Yudit CS, my Jewish-Israeli mentor of ten years, reminded me, my mother, like everyone’s mother, father, siblings and relatives, had been appointed to me for a reason – long before my birth in this lifetime.
And she, along with everyone else, had her own story wired deep within her psyche.
When fragmentation occurs between those in our pre-designated clan, Yudit would remind me time and time again, learning how to change frazzled reactions to purposeful responses is the essential first step towards meeting our karmic purpose and, of course, growing through the process.
Serious question: how to manage ‘that’ when, in response to a word or to a subtle shift in my mother’s face, the spike of anxiety ripped through my solar plexus, even before my next intake of breath?
Serious answer: now that I know about ‘gathas’, short verses to recite in one’s mind to recalibrate intentions the moment underfoot, I am much better able to allow ‘purposeful responses’ in the conversation.
When I sense tension building up in my stomach, I immediately find a way to inconspicuously breathe deeply and slowly. In doing so, I side-step a frazzle I know I would later regret.
As my mother is very fond of Oscar, my ever-so gentle and loving dog, I usually take him with me when I visit her.
So, here’s a ‘cute’ homemade gatha I will share with you, dear Reader:
Finding My Self
I breathe in and I see my gentle, all-accepting Oscar.
I breathe out and I see my heart space deep inside my chest.
I breathe in – I am safe.
I breathe out – love infuses the room.
Action: go ahead and create your own, too, dear Reader.
Tick that box! 😊
One day, I told myself, I would reach the point where I could accept that, beyond the trappings of her persona-lity, my mother loved me; that she, in her own way, always had had my best interest at heart.
And that, then as now, like the rest of us, she did the best she could with the mindset that had developed over time as her persona-lity.
Yudit, however had a different take on that. ‘In this karmic play, CC, you are the ‘aware’ one. You are the grown-up, so act like one. Your purpose in this lifetime is to tame your mother with your heart – not by words and toxic energy’.
‘My energy? Toxic?’ I replied.
‘Of course, your energy is toxic,’ Yudit was quick to reply. ‘As toxic for you as it is for your mother. Why would it be less toxic than hers while you react the way you do? Your energy will remain toxic until you free your self from the emotions of your childhood. You survived it all, CC! You were resilient already then. It’s all in the past now. So, for you, now that you are ‘aware’ and on the path, it’s time to move on. Time for you to cultivate your heart.’
‘Easily said. How?’
‘Love your mother now as you wanted to be loved by her when you were young. Unconditionally. In time, she’ll love you back in equal doses. That’s her karmic destiny as your mother, and it’s your duty to create with her how to get her there.’
Of course, under Yudit’s guidance, I eventually realised that, no matter how I felt about it, my mother’s M.O. was not any ‘weirder’ than mine. And mine was not any weirder than the next-door neighbour’s.
Bottom line: I had to actively accept that forgiveness was not a process intended to benefit ‘the one who has hurt us’.
Forgiveness is a process on which we embark for our own well-being.
The ability to truly forgive, which does not mean agreeing or consenting with what came to pass, resonates in the little happiness gauge that’s a part of the limbic system in our brain.
When we forgive, we release ourselves from the past which, truly has … passed. Done!
Now we can move forward.
More whole than before.
More stable than before.
These days, I highly recommend swapping the old ‘F’ word for a new one: Forgiveness.
Not only is forgiveness beneficial for our brain, perhaps more immediately relevant, it allows us to get our power back.
It frees us from the toxic grip of resentment that would otherwise pollute so many moments – even in the dead of night.
When we embark on the path of Forgiveness, we embark on an act of bravery.
We commit to choosing our own way, to changing a future that’s aligned with our best intentions and our holistic well-being.
If we are bound to chase after a future that is dictated by our responses to the present moment, we’d better make sure we are actively and coherently engaged in the moment underfoot.
Luckily for us, in all of our existence, there is only ONE moment presenting underfoot at a time. 😊
Reality check: we are all weird in our own way.
We are all reactive when our buttons are pushed.
Of course, my energy combined with that of my mother would have, indeed, contributed to toxic encounters whenever we met. Therefore, my challenge was to push out all the noise from inside my head.
I had to lead – not by being ‘loud’, but by example.
I needed to raise a fist, a loving fist, inside my chest.
I needed to be strong.
I needed to be wise.
I needed to count my blessings.
I needed to allow my blessings to get me to the other side.
I needed to pretend I saw the glint of a rainbow … until I saw one.
Of course, under Yudit’s guidance, I also understood that, like all of us, my mother had emotional wiring that she hadn’t window shopped for herself.
She, too, was led by an ego-persona that had become hers even before she attended primary school.
She, too, must have some unrecognised grief for something or other that had lacked in her life or that she had mishandled a long time ago.
Perhaps she, too, had failed to fully air out her feelings.
The thing to remember is that screaming and raging, blaming and belittling never brings us a desired outcome.
Not fully. Not permanently.
It does, however, create static on the surface and resentment below.
On the other hand, finding our voice, talking from the heart to explain how whichever situation affects us and responding calmly is the safest, most effective way to make our yearning heard.
It’s true, but it’s a messy process.
It’s emotionally challenging.
It demands discipline.
Sadly though, once our ego-persona is allowed to become our default personality, it’s like we’re a character in a sci-fi script in which we make our own Halloween mask.
Then, somehow, that mask comes to life and overtakes our 3-D human body.
Once in, it co-creates our outer reality through its own emotions, thoughts, actions, reactions and inactions.
Though, all the time, we are there, in those bodies of flesh and fluids, we do not control them.
In truth, they are not us.
Heads up: a vaccine in a fridge is useless until it’s injected into an arm. Proven strategies, too, remain useless to us until we use them.
So, dear Reader, lezz go!
Let’s allow our emotions and thoughts just be and to just fade away.
Carole Claude Saint-Clair©2021
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