And It Never Will Be...
In the last few years, I cleaned up my diet by becoming almost 100% pescetarian (someone who’s mostly vegetarian, but eats fish) and removing or drastically reducing the consumption of “usual suspects” such as gluten, sugars, dairy, etc. Although I feel healthier and more energetic due to these changes, I have to say that occasionally I sorely miss some of the foods I chose to give up.
I recently went through a 7-day cleanse using bentonite clay (check it out, it’s a natural and very effective way to detox your body from heavy metals and other impurities). One day during this cleanse (and maybe because of it), I felt a dire need to consume heavier animal protein and fat. When we ordered Chinese food the next day, I decided to break my pescetarian diet and have roasted duck, something I hadn’t done in 15 years. And I have to admit that I delighted myself in it…
After the meal (or rather, even during it), I felt a lot of guilt and shame, as a good (recovering) Catholic. I had a talk with my husband about it, during which I commented on the fact that I had all these high aspirations for myself in relation to my health, as well as caring for animal suffering and the environment; however, still I couldn’t keep myself from craving and enjoying a guilty pleasure such as this. I also I admired the fact that he was so steadfast in his own habits and decisions (he’s a no-exception pescaterian who doesn’t seem to ever have any trouble following through).
He answered simply: “It’s not perfect. Allow yourself this truth.” He mentioned that sometimes he feels uncomfortable with the idea of eating fish and thinks about becoming a full vegetarian (which we already do several days per week). And sometimes he thoroughly enjoys it and doesn’t feel as willing to give that up. It’s not perfect.
Somewhere along the road, a lot of us pick up this damaging belief that we have to be perfect and consistent, or else; that once we make a decision about something, we should stick to it; and if we slip, that means we’ve failed. We’re then losers who should be ashamed of ourselves and deserve punishment, which often comes in the form of behaviors that are even more self-destructive (and also destructive to others), and inevitably leads to giving up or feeling paralyzed in relation to pursuing our goals.
We know when we need to challenge ourselves and step out of our comfort zone. And sure, we do need to cultivate strong discipline, motivation and persistence, especially when addressing soft and hard addictions (food, TV, Internet, drugs, alcohol, etc) or dealing with procrastination, so that we can continue moving forward towards our goals and dreams. On the other hand, we also need to learn acceptance of the fact that slipping and making mistakes is part of the process, and that failure paves the road to success. We need to learn how to fail epically and still keep going.
Failing is especially good for business. As a matter of fact, the current trend is to fail fast to get that part of the process out of the way and fail mindfully to acquire the necessary knowledge and successfully apply the lessons (please check out some of the awesome videos from The Failure Institute; link under References). Also, sharing our struggles is one of the most effective ways to connect with and engage our audience.
Learning how to make mistakes and fail with humility, without beating ourselves up, is one of the most courageous and self-loving choices we can make in life. And life can be much better if we stop constantly listening to our inner critic and being so hard on ourselves and others. Life has enough challenges already, without us having to make it any harder… In short: It would behoove us to just lighten the “freak” up a little.
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 11/21/2020
Photo by isabella and louisa fischer from unsplash
The Failure Institute - Videos
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Which Wins More Often?
Fear can be all-consuming. As I sat at my desk, trying to come up with a theme for my end-of-the-month blog article (having left this task to the last minute, no less), I realized that I was having trouble thinking due to fear.
Dorian, a Category 4 hurricane, was originally expected to hit land by this Sunday evening and come straight for us (thankfully, now it seems that it won’t touch land, after all). And that brought up all kinds of fear. Fear of losing power (and staying without power for a week or more in the heat and humidity of the Florida Summer, as it happened when Irma hit us a couple of years ago). Fear of our old roof sinking in or being blown away. Fear of bodily harm. Fear of something happening to our loved ones. Fear of the TNR cats around our home being harmed or killed. Fear of the large oak trees in our front yard falling on top of our house or car. Fear of hearing about the aftermath of the hurricane, which always includes deaths and massive destruction. Fear of not finding basic necessities, including drinking water. And so on.
With fear, many physical and emotional sensations follow, such as shortness of breath and a constricted sensation on the chest; cold hands and feet; brain fog… Feeling tired and drained without knowing exactly why… Uneasiness, tension, irritability… Helplessness, hopelessness… And so forth.
Once triggered, fear breaks down into other fears: being in the wrong place at the wrong time; not being or doing enough; not being in control; feeling lost and confused, not knowing the way; making mistakes; losing those we love, including our animal companions; becoming irrelevant and disposable…
Then it expands into more-encompassing fears: going through the next economic crash, which is sure to come; not having enough to survive; the next mass shooting; the current trend of self-serving, narcissistic leaders everywhere in the world; hearing more horrible news about neglect, harm and suffering being inflicted on people, animals and other living beings, the planet; polluted earth, air, water; our self-destructiveness as a race; the end of the world as we know it…
Many years ago, I wrote a poem about the pervading presence of fear:
Fear of being seen, fear of getting involved, fear
Of the consequences, fear of the causes, fear of feeling too much,
Fear of not feeling at all, fear of letting it out, fear of keeping it in,
Fear of getting to know, fear of being in the dark, fear
Of the pain, fear of the joy, fear of life, fear of death, fear of myself,
Fear of you, fear of us together,
Overwhelming, incapacitating, powerful, raw, fear.
©2000 Gisele Marasca
How do we deal with fear? According to Elisabeth Kubler Ross: “There are only two emotions: love and fear. All positive emotions come from love, all negative emotions from fear. From love flows happiness, contentment, peace, and joy. From fear comes anger, hate, anxiety and guilt. It's true that there are only two primary emotions, love and fear. But it's more accurate to say that there is only love or fear, for we cannot feel these two emotions together, at exactly the same time. They're opposites. If we're in fear, we are not in a place of love. When we're in a place of love, we cannot be in a place of fear.”
I believe that one of the most powerful ways to live love and let go of fear is through gratitude. So I wrote the poem below around the same time I wrote Fear:
Thank you for the uncertainty
which makes me search for answers;
For the ignorance
which compels me to learn;
Thank you for the struggles
which make me grow;
For the sorrow which gives me depth;
Thank you for the doubts and indecisions
which cause me to think, choose and take action;
For the courage which drives me to take risks;
Thank you for glimpses of beauty
when ugliness surrounds me;
For light in the darkness;
For air, for earth, for water;
For trust, for beliefs, for faith;
For the friends I can be myself with;
For everything corny, mushy and over the top;
For love! Thank you for the love in me
and for the love around me;
Thank you for first times and second chances;
Thank you for fleeting moments and long pauses;
Thank you for smiles and laughs and music;
For hopes and dreams,
Thank you for me.
©2000 Gisele Marasca
As I reminded myself of how to balance fear with love, I started listing many of the things I have to be grateful for (including the fact that Dorian isn’t going to touch land anymore, and that I live in a safe and sturdy home inland). I also reminded myself of all the help and support we had from friends and family after Hurricane Irma, such as ice bags, a loaned generator for the fridge and a couple of fans, invitations to work and have meals at their homes, etc (we were also invited by several people to stay over, but we had to stay home to care for our 12 pets and rescues). And life started coming into perspective again…
FINAL THOUGHT: Every single moment of our lives, we are given the choice between love and fear. Which one are we choosing most often?
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 08/31/2019
Photo by M.T ElGassier on Unsplash
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Shifting Your Perspective From Pain
I’ve been dealing with sciatica pain on and off (mostly on) for many years now. For the last 3 months I’ve been negotiating a peace treaty with the latest sciatica crisis, but this one is very entrenched and doesn’t seem to be quite ready or willing to vacate its occupied territories (pretty much the right side of my body, from the mid-back down to the foot, with a strong hold around the hip, thigh and knee areas). As anyone who’s familiar with sciatica knows, there’s considerable pain involved in such a crisis. To aggravate things, the pain gets much worse when you sit (which I have to do most of the day, due to the nature of my work) and lie down (which often means very poor nights of sleep). After trying the usual strategies for several weeks (massages, chiropractic sessions, back stretches for sciatica, slow walking, heating pad, pillow under the knees, special seat cushions and back support, etc, as well as some pain medication), my level of exasperation grew to the point that all I could focus on was the pain; especially when lying in bed at night, trying to sleep through it.
As I’ve been practicing Sadhguru’s Inner Engineering mediation techniques twice a day, and also reading his book, A Yogi’s Guide to Joy (under References), it finally dawned on me that maybe I needed to approach this issue in a different way. In other words, what about paying attention to all those texts I’ve read, videos and webinars I’ve been watched, deep conversations I’ve had, etc, about not identifying so much with the mind-body (or the pain-body, as Eckhart Tolle very appropriately calls it)?
Coincidentally, as I was thinking about this, I caught a post by K.C. Miller, founder of SWIHA - Southwest Institute of Healing Arts, in her A Course In Miracles study group on Facebook (link below). The title of the post was “I Choose the Joy of the Divine Over Pain - Lesson #210,” which served as a strong confirmation of my recent line of thought.
So I decided to give it a try. That evening, when dealing with the usual pain and discomfort at bed time, I said to myself several times: “I choose joy!.” I really put my heart into it. And something amazing happened: the pain became less intense; or rather, my feeling of the pain decreased. For the first time in weeks, I fell asleep fairly quickly and had a good night of sleep. I repeated the experiment for the next two nights; same result. And since I was able to rest better, physical healing started taking place; so I’ve had less pain during the last three days, too. In addition, repeating the “I choose joy” affirmation to myself had the effect of self-hypnosis; I actually felt more joyful as I quietly fell asleep, and I’m sure that helped increase the serotonin levels in my brain, which in turn helped with the pain.
As I related my experience to my wise husband (an experienced Vipassana meditator), he suggested that I should try the same exercise throughout the day, and in relation to every challenge that life throws my way. So that’s what I’ve been trying to do. So simple, right? “I choose joy.” Yes, it’s easier said than done, but it’s definitely been worth the effort…
FINAL THOUGHT: “Our lives include both pain and suffering. Pain is physical discomfort, while suffering is the story around pain. The Buddha said, ‘When touched by a feeling of pain, the ordinary uninstructed person sorrows, grieves, and laments, beats his breast, becomes distraught. So he feels two pains, physical and mental, just as if he was shot with an arrow and, right afterward, was shot with another one, so that he felt the pain of two arrows (Being With Dying, Joan Halifax).’ “
Ironically, the harder pain is often the one caused by the mind (the second arrow)... Just remember, however: we can always choose joy!
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 07/31/2019
Image by kalhh from Pixabay
Inner Engineering: A Yogi’s Guide to Joy, by Sadhguru
Being With Dying, by Joan Halifax
I Choose The Joy Of The Divine Over Pain - Lesson # 210 (A Course In Miracles study group hosted by K.C. Miller/SWIHA - A Conscius Community)
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Jon Stewart, former Comedy Central show host, has been in the news a lot lately. If you haven’t seen it yet, please make sure to catch the coverage of his testimony before Congress about the 9/11 First Responders bill (under References). Warning: It will be hard to keep your eyes dry.
FYI, in these days of false idols and celebrities that are all about image, authenticity is hard to find. I probably have just a handful of people that I truly admire and look up to; Jon Stewart happens to be one of them. Coincidentally, I have recently written an article named Becoming A Fully Functional Empath. On this article, I mentioned some of the qualities that a fully functional Empath or Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) often possesses and demonstrates. After watching Jon Stewart’s video and doing some research about his life before and after retirement, I believe Jon Stewart is the ultimate fully functional Empath:
1) He’s obviously a highly sensitive person, who cares deeply for his fellow human beings, as well as other living beings (read below about his animal sanctuary). He wears his heart on his sleeve and isn’t afraid to show emotion for a worthy cause.
2) He has certainly found his voice and the courage to express it through his TV show hosting, writing, acting, producing, directing, public speaking, etc. In retirement, he took the time to come back to the lime light and emotionally expose himself for a cause in which he deeply believes.
3) He took on leadership roles, in spite of how jarring and challenging that probably has been for him; and in the process he’s had to deal with his share of criticism from a lot of disgruntled people along the years. A recent example happened after the aforementioned emotional speech before Congress, which earned the following comment by Republican Senator Mitch McConnell: “I don’t know why he’s all bent out of shape but we will take care of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund” (FYI, after 18 years of struggle, the bill was finally approved by the House following Jon Stewart’s speech, but it’s currently under review by the Senate; please also refer to Jon Stewart’s reply to Sen. McConnell’s comment during his appearance at The Late Show With Stephen Colbert).
4) He served (and still serves) others in a meaningful and self-sustaining way, as mentioned above. In retirement, he and his wife bought a 12-acre farm in New Jersey, which they turned into a sanctuary for abused farm animals.
5) He seems to have been able to establish healthy boundaries and maintains good relationships throughout his career. He has also helped a lot of the professionals who worked with him to advance their own careers in show business.
6) He managed to develop effective coping mechanisms to be out in the world, dealing with life. Humor is obviously his top choice. But he also knows when it’s time to get serious, and will go to great lengths as an advocate for worthy causes.
7) He’s been able to create and maintains some balance in life. Although currently enjoying retirement, he’s still helping abused animals in his ranch and continues to be involved in causes that are close to his heart.
8) He has obviously been able to find contentment and joy in this process, while sharing it with so many others.
9) He has inspired and continues to inspire others to find their own way. As mentioned above, he generously mentored several colleagues and even helped some of them start hosting their own shows, such as Stephen Colbert and John Oliver. He continues to be an inspiration as a vegetarian who helps abused animals, and who doesn’t mind crying on camera in front on millions of people, if that’s what it takes to give the powers-that-be a wake up call. He can also serve as a beautiful example of a fully functional Empath to all of the highly sensitive people out there. Jon, hats off to you!
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 06/24/2019
Video: Jon Stewart’s Testimony Before Congress
The Late Show With Stephen Colbert - Jon Stewart as guest