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Posts Tagged ‘emotions’

100-Day Game completed! Wow, lots of great experiences, results, and insights these past 100 days. I haven’t blogged much about it because I was more focused on living it, but here are some of my first thoughts and reflections:

1. My “emotions” aren’t always emotional

By bringing more consciousness to my choices, I started to discern subtleties in how I feel emotionally and physically. One example is when I’m feeling emotionally down or low. In the past I just thought this must be who I am — a sad person — because I so often feel low. What I discovered, though, is that many times it’s a physical low, a tiredness or dip in my physical energy level, that I misinterpret as emotional. And often it can be solved by a short nap or meditation.

Another example: I’ll notice that I’m feeling anxiety and can’t figure out why. It’s not like there’s something specific I’m worried about. Then I remember that I had caffeine earlier and realize that the “anxiety” is actually a physical experience that I’m misinterpreting as an emotional one.

In short, I’m tuning into my physical triggers that create emotional-ish experiences.

2. The best thing to do is nothing (a.k.a. Full-stop for inquiry)

One of the biggest lessons I learned during this Game was that I don’t need to tolerate bad feeling thoughts. If I’m writing, for example, and I start to feel negative about it (I’m judging the writing as bad, or I’m telling myself I won’t meet the deadline, etc.), then more of the same is not going to make me feel any better.

The solution is to simply stop. But not stop and avoid the feelings. Stop and listen to the feelings; experience them so that I can understand them. It’s what I’ve started referring to as a “full-stop for inquiry.”

The path to a better feeling thought is not to tough out the bad feeling thought. The solution is to stop, inquire, listen. Then when I do feel better, I can resume what I was doing from that better feeling place.

3. Redefining “difficult”

One day I found myself avoiding/procrastinating a writing job, and it was creating a lot of suffering for me. So I did my full-stop for inquiry. I put everything on hold, I turned off my phone, and I sat and meditated on what I was feeling to discover the beliefs that were fueling that pain.

I discovered I had a series of beliefs that were causing these uncomfortable feelings. I’ll call this my Old Belief Sequence:

  1. If something is difficult, it means I’ll fail
  2. If you know you’re going to fail, don’t do it (that’s only logical)
  3. The process itself has no value; only the result has value

This was quite shocking, actually, because I think of myself as a person who really values process. “Life is a journey” and all that. So no wonder I was suffering. I had this belief system causing me to feel and act in a way that was in direct contrast to one of my deepest values.

So as a result of this inquiry, I chose to rehearse a new set of beliefs that are more consistent with my values. I’ll call this my New Belief Sequence:

  1. If something is difficult, it means there’s an opportunity to learn/grow
  2. It’s my choice to decide if I want to learn or grow in this way
  3. If my choice is yes, the task is worth doing for its own sake

This feels so much better, so much more open. I have options, possibilities. If I choose to do something challenging, it becomes an exploration, an experiment.

And as you might imagine, after I made this mental this shift during that first inquiry, I couldn’t wait to write! 🙂

4. Small actions repeated consistently produce big results

Part of the reason I included a physical challenge in this 100-day experiment was to test my theory that small actions repeated consistently will produce big results over time. My favorite illustration of this is how water carved the Grand Canyon.

Even after just 100 days, I can see a change in my body shape. The pushups and pullups have given my chest and back some nice definition. If I were to add some exercises that worked my shoulders, I’m sure that would make the change even more pronounced. [My intention is to maintain and build on these physical gains with a new Game I haven’t defined yet. I’ll post here when I do.]

On a longer time frame, I’ve also seen a shift in how my mind operates. Through weekly conversations with a good friend and weekly support group meetings, I’ve spent the past 2 years rehearsing a more optimistic outlook on life. And within these past 100 days, I experienced a qualitative difference in how I’m perceiving the world.

For example, my mind spontaneously anticipates positive outcomes. And if multiple outcomes are possible, my mind spontaneously defines them all as positive so no matter what happens, I feel like I won.

For someone who thought he was doomed to be a sad person his whole life, this is both exciting and terrifying — like the Kingda Ka at Six Flags! I find myself wondering, am I becoming a happy person? And if so, what does that mean? I’ve gotten quite comfortable being sad. Giving up that comfort is scary.

This all brings me back to the theme of these 100 days: conscious choice. I choose to continue, physically and mentally, on this uncertain path. Despite the fear, life feels so much better than what was. And I trust it will feel better still.

Summary of Physical Challenges

Here’s the final tally for the 100 days:

10020/10000 pushups (100% of target)
starting max: 41
ending max: 60

1002/1000 pullups (100% of target)
starting max: 4
ending max: 10

1500/1500 burpees (100% of target)

5/5 hrs plank (100% of target)
starting max: 220 seconds
ending max: 240 seconds

3.6/20 hrs sitting meditation (17.9% of target)
This was the weak link in the chain. I’ll give it more attention in my next Game.

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Emotions, another look

The typical way of understanding emotions is as states of being or feeling. But on my meditation seat this morning, I was struck by another perspective. Let me try to describe it here.

Think of an emotion as a cause that has an effect. Or even more specifically, an action that has a desired result.

Wait, what? Emotion as an action?

Consider this: If my desire right now was to release adrenaline into my system, it would be impossible to will it in the same way that I can will my hand to open or close. And lots of things that we (i.e. our bodies) do are equally impossible through will. But if I were to suddenly become afraid of the grizzly bear that just smashed open my front door, adrenaline would flood my system immediately.

This is the difference between voluntary and involuntary responses.

Now what’s interesting is that I can will my mind to conjure thoughts—including thoughts that cause me to experience the emotion of fear. In other words, I can do fear, in the same way that I can do physical actions like opening or closing my hand. In that way, so-called “involuntary responses” are accessible to us.

This perspective opens me up to new answers to questions like “What should I do today?” I can do peace, I can do enthusiasm, I can do love, I can do joy.

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Emotional state today: Not down

I did not sit today. Once again, I did not make time for it in the morning and then the day got away from me. I must remember the lesson from yesterday: Consistency is the key to growth.

I also did not use my iPod as consistently as I could have, and I found my mind going repeatedly to thoughts of old conflicts and resentment. And I felt them just as real as if they were relevant now. It’s like I resurrected them—emotion zombies eating away at me.

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Today I took an online test that calculates your “biological age” in contrast to your chronological age (how many years it’s been since you were born). If your biological age is lower than your chronological age, then you’re relatively healthy; if higher, then you’re relatively unhealthy. Given that I’m feeling physically like I’m in the best shape of my life, I wanted to try to quantify that with this test.

Now if you know me, you know that I look a good 5 to 10 years younger than I am (I’m about a month away from 41). It’s the first thing I hear whenever someone finds out my age. “You look so much younger. How do you do it?” My answer (half joking, half serious) is usually, “Clean living.”

So of course, I expected the result of this test to be somewhere between 30 and 35. I even harbored a secret hope that because of these 100 Days of Fitness, it might actually be below 30. Nope. My biological age is…

Forty-one.

How could this be? I read through a summary of the results. It seems I did great in the categories of immune system, body fat/weight, exercise, and food & digestion. But I did very poorly in the category of stress/expectation. These were the questions about anxiety, outlook, emotions, and thoughts.

So all of the benefits I get from diet and exercise are completely undone by my negative thoughts and emotions. Let me repeat that:

All of the benefits I get from diet and exercise are completely undone by my negative thoughts and emotions.

Wow.

You see, I knew this concept was true in theory. I had no idea it was happening to such a large extent to me.

I’m so grateful to know this at this new, very personal level. It makes my mental health a clear priority for me. I know how to be healthy physically. That will always be something I can do well. My focus clearly needs to be on developing my skills for mental health…

Once again, through insight I’m led back to something I’ve said many times is very important to me: creating a habit of sitting meditation. Today it officially becomes a daily part of these 100 Days of Fitness.

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Challenging day, emotionally. Man, if I wasn’t doing this 100 Days of Fitness, I would have for sure binged on pizza and beer.

I think I’m going to start to track my emotional state each day. I’m going to start with a simple 4-option scale: very down, down, up, very up. Today was down. Enough to affect my productivity, but not so much I want to cry or die.

Regarding my workout, I focused on pushups again, this time seeing if I could do 8 sets of 25 pushups every 3 minutes. I wanted to simulate the pacing of Workouts A and C, the two workouts I haven’t completed yet.

My results today: 25, 25, 25, 25, 15, 11, 12, 11. For a total of 149.

What was interesting is that it’s about what I was able to do (at least the first 4 or 5 sets) even when I was alternating squat jumps and doing hopscotches in between. So my limitation seems to be muscular, not aerobic.

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Today is the first anniversary of this blog. For a full year I’ve been posting (almost) daily my reflections, observations, and experiences from a focused practice of inner peace. Do I feel more peaceful after one year?

I’m much more in tune with my thoughts and emotions. I’m much more aware of my triggers and recipes for feeling anxiety and stress. I’m more appreciative of the joy I experience and the opportunities for joy in every (conscious) moment.

But most importantly, I’m aware of the layer of experience where all of the ups and downs of life live. A layer that sits on top of a deeper experience of life. A peaceful presence that is always there, that I can tune into at any moment.

Many moments I forget, and I don’t experience peace. But to know it is there means that no matter how often I forget, there are moments of remembering, too. And those moments of remembering are more frequent and reliable than the moments of peace in my past into which I would sort of randomly stumble from time to time.

So, yes, I do feel more peaceful. And it’s fitting that this anniversary falls on Thanksgiving. I am grateful for all of the people who’ve contributed to this blog — readers, commenters, and the wonderful and generous people at WordPress. Thank you all!

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I teach a teleclass on Productive Planning. It’s a powerful planning process I use myself, and I’ve used successfully with clients. I’ve decided to make myself a test case for this planning process over the next several weeks, documenting my productivity and my emotional state of being. Much of it will appear in this blog.

Here’s my top 10 list from this morning:

  1. Daily rituals
  2. Review week and add to list
  3. Daily writing
  4. Daily 100 Days of Peace blog
  5. Send promotional email
  6. Publicize teleclasses on announcement sites
  7. Priority prospect follow-ups
  8. Client paperwork
  9. CD for girlfriend
  10. Email

My state of being: Some anxiety, less so than before I made the list and starting working through it. I’m a bit skeptical of how much I’ll complete by the end of the day. I notice the anxiety lessens the more I focus on the specific task at hand and let go of the rest. Consciously choosing to smile from time to time brings joy into the experience.

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