What is Mindfulness? – The Philosophy of “I don’t give a damn Sh*t”

My mum hiking The Stawamus Chief, Squamish, BC

My mum hiking The Stawamus Chief, Squamish, BC

I have very cool parents. A father with the ability to dream big, despite life’s knock backs, the man still has some big aspirations. His encouragement is limitless and he has every confidence that, no matter what I do, I’ll be okay.

My mother on the other hand, she lives by one philosophy which she insists on passing down through generations. A guru in her own right, my mother never ever gave a “damn sh*t!” We, we being myself and my siblings, all used to laugh at her funny sayings, this one in particular.

My parents grew up in a generation surrounded by very strict Indian traditions and extremely outdated cultural practices. Also, one of the first generations to genuinely experience the struggles of integrating into a western society, from racial prejudice through to raising children that adopted very different values to those she and my father were raised with.

An avid reader, my mum grew up reading books on philosophy, psychology, and spirituality. She generally read anything that allowed her mind to explore, to escape the realities she was forced to surrender to. All our lives, during the troubles that came with financial turmoil, crooked family politics and the bullsh*t that came with living an arranged life, she never let her spirit die.

We all grew up hearing “I don’t give a damn Sh*t!” around the house, as she belted it out during stressful moments. In her charming in-glish accent (an Indian accent with an English undertone), followed by a delightful laugh that made any unfortunate situation seem small and insignificant. It’s only during the last few years, having figured out my own path in life, I connected with what mum actually meant by the words she uttered.

My mum has practised mindfulness her entire life, before the world began trending it, mum was living it. In every difficult situation, she would never let negativity infiltrate her mind. It was like this mantra shielded her from turning into a bitter old lady; resenting the world and everyone in it.

I always thought she held onto a hope that things would get better one day, as many do in unfortunate circumstances. I thought that was where she drew her strength. In actuality, that one-day was always her present day, the here and now was the time to laugh off her troubles and focus on whatever bliss currently existed, however big or small. Be it the fact that we had a day with a full healthy meal on our plates or, at the very least, love and closeness in our family.

Today, at 64, mum continues to share lessons of mindfulness to any person she meets. It makes complete sense why people warm up to her very quickly. She lives life as if life is literally the only thing she owns, and so long as she maintains control over her own mind, the force that drives her life, she’s the most fortunate person she knows.

So no matter what situation you’re faced with, no matter what your current circumstances are, practise having full control over your mind and be aware of your thoughts. That’s what mindfulness is. Mum taught us to focus on everyday bliss, however big or small, it exists, we just have to start paying attention to it.

Negativity can only affect us if we allow it to and what mum actually means by ‘not giving a sh*t’, isn’t that she doesn’t care, it’s that she’ll continue to fight for the one thing that can’t ever be taken from her; she will never surrender her mind to negativity, no matter how hard life tries.

VanCity

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The Importance of Maintaining Intention

Tofino

I’d recently took a trip away to Tofino, British Columbia, to complete some work and escape the distractions of everyday life. When I arrived I was ready to churn out pure productivity, I could already feel my ego withering away as my inner-desires activated, engaged by thoughts of freedom, fun and accomplishment.

It was late, dark and very quiet. I immediately felt a slight anxiety as I entered this small town as lone outsider. I pulled up and greeted my AirBnB host with very quick hello and was given a 2 minute tour of the property, not even 10 minutes had passed by and beers were already being poured. I could already tell that this town had adopted a ‘live-in-the-moment’ mentality and any thoughts of anxiety were soon forgotten.

My host was an energetic character originally from Alberta, Canada. He’d given up his lucrative career working on an oil rig, to pursue his passions. He became an artist and had moved to Tofino to seek liberation and to freely create. I had told him about my initial anxiety and how quickly it was dispelled, I mentioned my work and my writing and my reason for visiting. He talked about how many of the people living in Tofino weren’t really from there, many of the people he had met and many of the people I had interacted with, seemed to have similar reasons for being there.

My first day though was pretty amazing, normally when I wake up my first thoughts are to check my Blackberry for any new emails from potential clients, and to check my blog-stats. The internet connectivity was awful so right way I was forced into mindfulness. I got up early, caught the sun rise, meditated, went for a run and had my first Vegan breakfast (it was delicious) all before 7am.

After I had showered and changed, I took my laptop down to a waterfront restaurant and within minutes I was tranced into a flow state. Usually I would check all sorts of social media platforms and spend the first hour catching up with the rest of the world. This time was very different.

Later that day, I explored the neighbourhood and struck up conversations with random people. It became apparent that many people who come along to Tofino, although initially motivated by escape, were really there to just be themselves. To engage the capabilities of their identities in order to discover bliss. Nobody seemed too focused on status, money, popularity or anything else that bound people to lives that lacked fulfillment.

Nobody really cared about anything else other than making the most of every moment and that didn’t really mean partying and having fun in the traditional sense. It meant making the most of one’s passions, perfecting skills and becoming the best individual one can be. Investing every spare moment engaging an inner spirit and tapping into a self-confidence that came with true independence. Many people had visited from bigger towns and cities, only to remain there after experiencing some sort of detachment. Towards the end of my trip, even I was contemplating the thought of calling it home.

I couldn’t help feeling empathy for those that sought freedom and liberation there. Many people seemed to have detached from their old lives, only to attach themselves to Tofino. I wondered how many will learn to carry this experience with them as they re-enter the lives they’d left behind.

My mum had incidentally given me a book called “why —– mind matters.” It explored Buddhist philosophies concerning the mind. It was an easy book and within the first ten minutes I came across this quote:

“Man is essentially the manifestation of his thought forces.”

I thought I went to Tofino to work, to finish some writing as I embark on yet another goal. I thought I had to be there to bring back the inspiration and motivation I sought, to complete my book. Truth is, Tofino just allowed me to calm my mind and had given me time to think. It reminded me of the importance of focusing internally.

Prior to this trip, my mind seemed to be in several different places at once, I couldn’t focus on writing and output seemed to lack passion. I had all the same ideas, but at home I couldn’t bring them alive because I kept trying to focus with an external intention.

In other words, I was focusing on an outcome of a task rather than the purpose of carrying the task out. So when I would attempt to write at home, I was driven more by thoughts of getting my book published and the possibility of new opportunities and travelling more. When writing in Tofino, I reconnected with the internal intention; I wrote because I enjoyed it and because I’m passionate about what I want to share.

Now that I’m back on the ferry heading back home to familiarity, I’m returning with my intentions intact. I feel I understand what it means to put my mind to something now. We can be anywhere in the world physically, but what truly matters as we embark on ambitious goals, is where we allow our minds to travel and where we can take the world.

Vancouver Relationship and Life Coach

Understanding Detachment and the Meaning behind This ‘Spiritual’ Philosophy

Post by VanCityLifeCoach.com

“Attachment is the root of suffering.” – The Buddha

Detachment

I’ve been reading a lot about detachment, or non-attachment if you rather and like most, I’ve always believed the philosophy of detachment simply meant not letting material possessions have rule over your life. Which I guess is true, but teachings suggest that detachment roots much deeper than that. That one must detach oneself from people, emotions, thoughts and desires…basically, all the things we latch onto that give our lives meaning and purpose are none and void, if we wish to experience true freedom; liberation.

I was beginning to feel a little bewildered by the concept because it conflicted with a lot of my own ideas and beliefs. For one, I thoroughly enjoy connecting with people, so does this also mean that love keeps us from ever reaching this experience too?

After raising more questions and failing to firmly grasp the concept, I continued on with my day. It was only when I began my daily meditation that the concept re-entered my mind. As I sat there, cross-legged and awkwardly ready to achieve stillness and serenity, I was overcome by answers.

Detachment doesn’t necessarily mean living life a recluse and closing off connections and interactions to the world around us. Nor does it mean finding a spiritual place to live out the rest of our days trying to reach a higher level on consciousness. I began recognizing detachment as building a more mindful relationship with life, and how that journey towards mindfulness begins from within.

I always talk about identity and living life by the true values of who you are, by doing so you guide your life in a more fulfilled direction. I still believe this and it aligns with everything I’ve learned recently too.

Detachment is not about creating distance, I feel it’s more about understanding the true significance of life so that we better connect to it. For instance what do my possessions mean to me? Well if you think about it, they don’t actually mean anything. As a living organism; as a force of life, my possessions really have no value.

So feeling like I learned something amazing, I shared this conclusion with a friend of mine and he said “well what if you were on a life support machine, you’d need that wouldn’t you?” Ah…that got me thinking and the thought kept me up for a couple of nights as my mind was once again riddled.

A few days had passed and I was writing a letter to a client of mine. I was fully engaged in a state of flow and out of nowhere I found the response to my friend’s question: ‘Well why am I, or would I, be afraid to die?’ That one realization blew my understanding of attachment wide open, particularly how attachment causes us to fear/avoid one of life’s uncomplicated and inevitable outcomes. At that moment I felt completely present. I finally understood the significance of detachment and how it fits in with life’s most basic principles, right up there with death and breathing.

I started to look at my life much more closely, everything from brushing my teeth in the morning through to picking up my nephew for a cuddle after work. What does it all mean to life, not my life, just life in general? My nephew has only existed for several months and now I feel I can’t live without him…how and why does this impact my life so much? How and why does this rule my life? Each answer only raised these same questions.

The more I broke down my life and especially as I delved into my past, I noticed how little control and influence I had over it. I clearly wasn’t grasping what life meant at all. I was living life attached and as a result, I was indeed suffering: from my lack of confidence (controlled by what other people thought of me), to the fear of paving my own path (expectations from and responsibilities to those around me)…it all made complete sense.

I’m thinking that maybe we could all use a little less attachment in our lives, to step away and embrace actual life. Maybe I’ve got it completely lost in translation or just maybe, I’ve stumbled upon the beginning of something more definitive for myself.

I am also realizing that detachment has just as much, if not more to do with the physical realm than it does with the spiritual. I think detachment isn’t this glorious concept that I’ve always thought it to be, I think the true beauty and power behind this philosophy lies within its simplicity.

Either way, this recent experience has at the very least, taught me to keep my mind and my eyes wide open; to be more mindful and aware, and that outcome alone is priceless.

VanCity

Why Guilt Can Advocate Positive Change

guilt

They say love can make you do crazy things and if you’ve ever experienced it you’d probably agree. The emotion is so powerful that it has an overwhelming impact on your identity. When I think about it, I could probably push myself to do a lot of senseless things for the people I love. When an overwhelming power like that takes over you, you realize the force and the significance of emotion.

Guilt is an emotion that, if given enough attention, can harness the power of your true identity and direct you towards positive change.

When guilt arises, it’s very easy at first to deny it. It’s easy to just push it aside into the darkest quarters of your mind as you indulge in one distraction after another. It’s not easy to forget a powerful emotion like that and by battling against it you deceive yourself, causing you to embrace and justify inner torment.

A weight difficult to shed, it can really keep you down from progressing in any positive direction in life. What you may not realize, guilt can be the biggest reveal of your identity and you can use this emotion to navigate yourself towards becoming the best that you can be. Although you may not want to admit it, but honesty is the policy you need to adopt here. Be honest about how you feel, be honest about why you’re guilty and be honest about wanting to overcome this guilt.

Guilt is one of those powerful emotions that allow you to reveal your identity or cause you to lock it away. When you  experience true and life altering emotion, you’re required to take responsibility for yourself.

Just as you have to reveal your aspirations to the world in order to achieve them, you must allow your guilt to rise in order to harness its power towards positive change. It’s also crucial to admit that you want to stop feeling guilty. It can feel ironic, but it if you apply positive thought, you present yourself an opportunity to develop positive change.

Processing your guilt causes you to evaluate and reflect, it causes you to face awareness and challenge the identity you’ve been living with. Powerful emotions like love and guilt have such an effect because they expose your truth. They reveal the most vulnerable parts of your identity and it’s within this vulnerability you’re able to connect to your true self.

When you choose to turn away from powerful emotions, you choose to deny who you really are and what you truly want. You begin to destruct your own identity, probably beyond recognition as you stray further away from fulfillment.

Remember, we are all flawed beings and perfection is an illusion that halts evolution. Hiding or turning away from your emotions because of mistakes and misdirection will only restrict your ability to find peace of mind. Keep you from making the changes you need and want to make in your life.

Every single one of us has the ability to be great, after all we feel the same emotions. What separates those who achieve genuine greatness and those who do not, is how emotions are harnessed.

Guilt allows you the opportunity to learn about yourself, it reminds you of your humanity and your desire to connect with others. Guilt is a chance to discover reason and purpose. Guilt is an opportunity to better your life so that when you do, you can make healthy amends.

Give yourself this opportunity to make positive changes and return to the world proving that you have learned, experienced and are repentant. It was Ghandi that said “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.”

Vancouver Relationship and Life Coach

Positivity From Failure: 4 Ways I Make Failure Work For Me

 

maya

This post is dedicated to the memory of a great inspiration – Dr. Maya Angelou.

People ask me about failure all the time: “Terry have you ever failed at anything?” Of course I have, you can’t make it to success without it. If anything, failure is necessary to succeed and I have a bucket load I can share but instead, let me share with you how I make failure work for me and how you can to.

The reason there’s this illusion some people have of me that I never fail, it’s because I don’t let failure make me feel like a failure. As much as I am in control of my own success I’m very much in control of my failures when they occur too.

I have my dad to thank for this mind-set, he always lectured me on mistakes, he would tell me not to fear making them, embrace them, always learn from them and never repeat them. I feel 9 times out of 10, the result of failure is directly linked to one’s own mistakes.

With dads teaching firmly in my back pocket with everything I do, my relationship with failure has never been negative, failure is the best learning tool life will ever throw at you; you won’t truly know why you shouldn’t touch fire until you get burned.

Here’s 4 things I have associated with failure and why I have such a good relationship with it.

1. The process of Trial and Error – If ever there was a ‘how to’ guide on life – trial and error should be the title. From the dawn of time, this is how we learn. Sometimes you just have to get burned to understand for yourself what not to repeat.

2. Risk Management – We have so many tools at our disposal to research and asses risk and sometimes its common sense other times it’s gut instinct – but before taking any action you can also asses risk from previous failures and ensure contingency plans are put into place to limit such risk.

3. Knowing what to acquire – The valuable lessons I’ve learned from my failures are the ones that have taught me what I need to acquire to ensure success the next time. Be it knowledge, research, assets etc. Failures can highlight the fundamental components you might be missing to ensure success.

4. Identify Growth – Out of all the things I have accomplished to the person I have become today. I have learned more about myself through my failures than I have through anything else. Coping mechanisms, the ability to continue forward with my journey and source motivation, how to handle and silence critics and the disbeliever, but most importantly –  having gained self belief. My very identity and character from ‘then to now’ can be measured by the impact of my failures.

I wouldn’t feel successful without my failures, even though I’m still working to get to where I want to be, I am successful, because with every failure I move from strength to strength… no text, holy book, nor teacher or motivational speaker…nothing will ever be able to teach me the things I have learned from my own failures.

There is a positive side to failure you just have to be willing to embrace it.

Vancouver Relationship and Life Coach

Celebrate a Legacy – Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

Like many of us, I first heard of Mandela’s death through social media. It was like someone was throwing this huge celebration and everyone was tweeting live, shouting out about this legend that had just walked into the room. Rather than mourn the loss, people celebrated a legacy – a sentiment that struck me instantly. It was a celebration. I was inundated with inspiring quotes, thought provoking images and an abundance of love filled in each tweet, status update and post. It was nice to see people’s vulnerable side, each message held a true meaning, an honesty they could share through a voice that had impacted the world. It was unsettling to know that the world suffered a grave loss, but hopeful, that as a global community we kept his spirit, of which, will aid a movement amongst a new generation. I have confidence knowing that my young nieces and nephews will grow up unafraid to stand up for what they believe in. They will learn about this courageous man and others like him, who suffered and fought for freedom and civil rights.

So as we continue to celebrate his legacy, I shall continue to remember “There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”Nelson Mandela

 Reference:

The Guardian – What did people tweet about Mandela?

 

Vancouver Relationship and Life Coach