Tag Archives: learning to breathe

Broken Glass

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Why is it that we are always looking for happiness, but we refuse to do any work to get it?  Why do we read “self help” books, but not take the advice of the authors?  Happiness is not hard to obtain, and it simply involves changing the way you think.

Just the other night I had a friend of mine (who also happens to be a Shaman) over for dinner.  In the midst of cooking, a glass fell off the counter and shattered all over the floor.  I cleaned it up, threw it in the trash, and continued cooking.  I bought the glass at the Dollar Tree so I knew they will have more that only cost one dollar.  Why get upset over something that is so easily fixable?  In Buddhism we are taught that our suffering is brought about by attachment.  Nothing lasts forever, and I knew the moment I bought the glass that there was a chance it would break at some point.  Therefore, I didn’t get attached to the glass, but I did enjoy it while I had it.  My reaction could’ve been totally different.  I could’ve been angry that the glass broke, and I could’ve allowed myself to get upset over something so small.  However, my friend and I continued cooking, and I have yet to replace the glass.  The empty space in the cabinet where the glass once sat is somewhat a reminder that impermanence is all around us.  Enjoy the things, and the people, that you have in your life now, while you still have them.  Don’t wait until they’re gone to appreciate them or tell them you love them.  Tell them now, today.  Change the way you react to certain situations and happiness is soon to follow! 🙂

Touchdown!

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The Quarterback runs as fast as he can!  He’s at the 40, he’s at the 30, at the 20…TOUCHDOWN!!!

Johns’ team just won the game and he couldn’t be happier!  Sarah, on the other hand, just had her team beat.  She drops her head in shame and exits the stadium.  John continues his celebration out of the stadium along with the hundreds of other fans that are ecstatic that their team just brought home the win!

Let’s look at John and Sarah for a moment.  He is happy, she is not.  Why?  Did the football game make one happy and one sad?  No.  The football game did nothing to affect their happiness, but their reaction to the outcome did.  Had Sarah been a fan of the team that won then she too would be happy.  It’s all in how you respond to the end result.  Say, for example, you get caught by a red light.  You huff and puff, and possibly curse, but then you watch in horror as the car that just went before you gets hit at the next intersection.  You realize that could’ve easily been you, and now getting caught by the red light doesn’t seem so bad.  Now let’s step back.  It shouldn’t take a near death experience to teach you that getting caught by a red light really isn’t that bad.  The next time a red light catches you think, “Hmm, there could be an accident up ahead but the few seconds that this light holds me may keep me from being involved.”  Missing a bus, forgetting your keys, etc. are all things that may benefit you in the end; you just may not realize it.  Let’s say your current relationship ends and you are devastated.  However, three years down the road you  meet that special someone that you know is your soulmate and you begin to wonder what you were doing with your ex to begin with!  The loss of one relationship brought about a better, stronger one.  At the time you didn’t see it that way, but it worked out in the end.

I try to approach all things with this mindset.  I recently read a book that taught you to tell yourself that whatever is happening to you is the best possible thing that could happen to you.  The universe has a way of lining things up to work out exactly as they should.  Trust it, and realize that, although you may not see it now, things may work out in the end.

I Love Burning Things!

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I love burning things.  Absolutely love it.  Now, let me explain.

By “things” I’m talking about incense sticks, candles, and sage smudging sticks.  The other night I noticed I was feeling a little down.  I looked around my room and realized it had become a little bit cluttered.  The room felt stagnant and devoid of open, breathable air.  I got up, opened my window, grabbed a box from the basement, packed away a few things, cleaned (vacuumed, dusted, etc) then decided to light a sage stick so that I could smudge my room.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with “smudging” it is the act of using a bundle of sage (sometimes mixed with other things like cedar, sandalwood, lemon grass, etc.) in order to run off any negative energy in the room.  You light it on fire, then blow it out allowing the smoke to fill the room.  I use a leather bound group of feathers to “sweep” the smoke around the room.  The smoke will cling to, and remove, any unwanted energy.  You are literally smoking out the bad vibes.  This may be all in my head, and it may not do a single thing except fill your room with a small amount of smoke, but it works for me.

I’m obsessed with Native American medicine, healing rituals, crystals, chakras, etc. so any chance I get to learn something about any of these things I’m all over it!  Smudging makes me happy, crystal healing/protection, makes me happy, learning about alternative medicine makes me happy.  All these things are things that I enjoy doing and learning about and they bring me some form of happiness.  So why not light a stick of sage and walk around my room, waving the smoke with a feather?  I discovered a year or so ago that I’m an Empath.  I pick up on the energy of others, whether good or bad, and that energy will affect my own.  Yes, for those of you who don’t understand or follow any of this you will probably stop reading my blog at this point.  You probably think I’m nuts, and that’s okay.  You’re entitled to your opinion 😉 I first realized that I’m an empathic person when I had to attend a funeral.  Upon walking in I immediately felt the sadness, my chest became heavy, my lungs tightened, I was very uncomfortable and for the rest of the day I was extremely depressed.  After the funeral I went home and went straight to bed.  I was exhausted.  I didn’t even really know the person who had passed, but the sad and negative energy that I picked up had literally saddened my heart and it truly affected the rest of my day.  The next day I woke up and decided to do something about it.  I smudged my room (and myself), drank some coffee, cleaned, played some upbeat music, and meditated.  I told myself it’s okay to feel for the family and their loss, but there’s nothing I can do about it so I have to allow those feelings to pass.  And they did.  A few years ago the task of attending a funeral could’ve sent me into a deep depression for a few weeks, but the fact that I now know how to handle it means I can be there to comfort others in their time of need without allowing their energy to attack my own.

I’m sure some of you think I’m nuts, but I challenge you next time you’re feeling down to open a window, play some music, pray or meditate, smile, watch a funny movie, get moving/exercise, clean, and allow all the negative energy that’s getting you down to move on.  Don’t let it stay there because the longer you do, the harder it will be to get rid of.  Have a wonderful day!

Running On Empty

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A few years ago I was driving home when my car died and I came to a rolling stop in the middle of the road.  Luckily, I was on a down hill slop so I coasted into an empty parking lot.  Not sure what was going on I looked around and then realized it had been several days since I had gotten gas.  Yes, my car had run out of gas.  I was one of “those people” who had allowed their car to run on empty and eventually deplete the required fuel in order to run properly.  I buried my head in my hands in shame and mentally beat myself up for being so stupid.  It was almost 11pm and I had to do something I really dreaded…call my dad.  I sat there for a few more minutes after finally picking up my phone and dialing home.  Dad came to my rescue with a gas can and a stern talking to about not ignoring the gas light.  Dad followed me home and I have never again allowed myself to run out of gas.

Sometimes, in life, we have these moments.  We are literally running on empty and eventually we just stop all together.  We sit, we cry, we beat ourselves up, but eventually we have to pick ourselves up and move forward.  It’s not always an easy thing to do, and we may dread it and even put it off for as long as possible.  However, if we stay where we stop then everything stops.  It’s okay to ask for help, and it’s even okay to let someone take the wheel for a short period, but don’t quit.

I had gotten to the point where I had given up.  I had quit and I didn’t care about continuing on.  After several years of some pretty rough substance abuse, and very severe depression, I had finally realized that I wasn’t going to get better on my own.  I had to ask for help, and I did.  I got the help I needed and I was finally able to move on.  There are still bumps in the road, and you may even run out of gas again later on, but just know that the possibility to move on is always an option.  I still pass gas stations and, out of habit, will check my gas tank indicator to make sure I’m not running on empty.  I know that, just because I fill up, it does mean my car will continue on forever.  I have to check it and stay on top of things to make sure I don’t end up in the same situation as before.  Our lives are the same way.  Don’t give up just because you run out of gas, or hit a bump in the road.  Keep going.  You’re not alone!

Late Introduction

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Hello there, and welcome to my blog (even though I’m a little late on this haha)!  I’m so glad you’ve decided to join me on my journey to finding happiness, and becoming physically and mentally healthier!  Let me tell you a little about myself.

I grew up in a small town in middle Tennessee, I have two sisters, and I’m the glorious middle child!  My parents are both teachers and I graduated from high school in 2008.  I’m a gay Buddhist who loves to learn, and I currently work as a 911 Operator/Emergency dispatcher for two counties.  I attended college for a few years at the University of Memphis before moving back home and changing my major from vocal music performance to psychology.  I now attend part time online/night classes at Motlow State.

I’ve always struggled with depression, but it wasn’t until June 16, 2012 (after a very serious bout of depression and substance abuse) that I finally decided I needed professional help.  I checked myself into a rehab facility at Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital for ten days and came out a new person!  Since then I have turned my life around tremendously!  For the first time in a VERY long time I actually enjoy waking up every day, and even wake up early to take in as many minutes as possible during the day.  I cannot tell you how happy I am to be alive and free of all substance that used to bog me down.  I’ve learned to face my problems, learn from them, and help teach others not to make the same mistakes.  I’ve since lost 135lbs, been promoted at work, saved SOOOO much more money, and improved so much compared to the person I was.  Plus I smile…a lot! 🙂

I decided to start a blog not only as a way to journal my thoughts and feelings, but to also help others who may be suffering.  I’ve learned to focus on the good things in life rather than the bad things, but I don’t ignore them completely.  I wake up every day, make my bed, and typically start my day with some yoga, a light breakfast, and some coffee.  I spend this time thinking of things that make me happy, and I also try to center my mind for the day to make sure I get started off on the right foot. My day may consist of many things: working, hiking, camping, swimming, kayaking, walking, dancing, singing, cleaning, etc. but I always do them the best I can, and I make sure I enjoy every minute.  You must be an active participant in your own recovery.  Let me repeat, you MUST BE AN ACTIVE PARTICIPANT IN YOUR OWN RECOVERY AND MENTAL HEALTH.  You cannot just sit by and expect to get better.  Yes, you may be on medication (as I am; a basic depression pill), but you still have to play a lead role in getting better.  Medication can only do so much, and it’s not a fix.  There are still days when I struggle, but those days just remind me that there is still work that needs to be done.

Now that all that is out of the way, I look forward to having you take this journey with me!  Please, feel free to ask questions, leave comments, and share my blog entries.  I want to help others so if you feel that someone you know could benefit from a post or something I’ve said, I won’t mind a bit for you to share it with them.  We are all brothers and sisters of the same species in this amazing universe that we live in!  I’m here for you! 🙂

Rushing to Slow Down

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Your alarm blares, you jump out of bed, take a quick shower, skip breakfast, grab a quick cup of coffee, rush out the door, rush to work, and then wish that your day would go by as quickly as possible.  Once you clock out you rush home, rush through dinner, rush through your nightly routine, and then go to bed.  Tomorrow you’ll wake up and do it all over again.

Why is it that we are so obsessed with rushing through life? Why can’t we just slow down and enjoy the present moment?  From the minute we wake up to the time we go to bed we are often hurrying to get things done.  There are 24 hours in a day that won’t go by any quicker no matter what you do, so why not learn to enjoy some of it?  In the morning I wake up just 20 minutes earlier than I used to in order to make a decent breakfast (which normally consists of scrambled eggs, toast, fresh fruit, and coffee), do some yoga, make my bed, and just relax for a few minutes as I allow myself to wake up.  I don’t even take my cell phone or laptop into the kitchen because I want to have a mindful breakfast, and not allow my phone to distract me.  I’ve noticed such a difference now that I start my day in a more calming and peaceful manner.  I’m not as prone to anxiety, I’m not as likely to get irritated or upset, I’m generally more productive, and I’m just much happier throughout the day.

It’s such a strange practice to actually force yourself to slow down.  We’re not used to that, and if we change our pace at all during the day, it’s normally to speed up in an attempt to get more done.  However, I’ve learned that when I speed up I typically end up making more mistakes and just tend to get more irritated.  Yet, if I slow down, I don’t make as many mistakes and actually get the same amount of work done (if not more) by the end of the day.

I recently bought a new wrist watch and I’ve now developed a pretty neat practice…when the quiet ‘beep’ goes off I stop what I’m doing and take a few deep breaths.  I also think of something that makes me happy, and I make myself smile.  Sometimes the smile comes without force, and sometimes I actually have to “fake” a smile.  Yet, even when you fake a smile it still helps to lift your mood. Try it, it works!

I want to challenge you this week to slow down.  We are always rushing to the next minute, next hour, next day, or the next week, yet there’s no guarantee that we’ll even be here.  So take a few minutes out of your busy day to just enjoy the present moment.  Remember to breathe, remember to enjoy, and remember to live.

Doing Nothing

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I love doing nothing and I love to hike.  I try my best to do it on a regular basis because it’s one of those things that literally rejuvenates my soul.  There’s something about getting out in nature and just being with the beautiful world around you to make you feel connected to the earth.  I often joke when people ask what I enjoy doing on my days off from work because my reply is sometimes, “Absolutely nothing.”  It’s not that I have a boring life, nor am I lazy, but I generally find it refreshing to do nothing…and to do it as much as possible.

My take on doing nothing means to stop what you generally do and just enjoy the emptiness that surrounds you.  My place to do that is in the woods.  The morning of my hike I wake up, enjoy a cup of coffee, load my supplies in my Subaru and take off.  If the weather is nice then I roll down the windows and blast some music.  When I arrive at my destination I unload my pack and make my way to the trail.  This is the point where I will pause at the head of the trail, turn my cell phone on airplane mode (because I still use my camera so I don’t turn my phone off) and take a deep breath.  It’s quiet.  The birds are chirping, the breeze is blowing in my face, the sun is warm on my skin and I stand there doing absolutely nothing.  I live for this moment.  I bask in it.  I listen.  I breathe.  I live.

During my hike I allow my eyes to wander, I allow my ears to explore and I permit every smell (the good and the bad) to invade my nostrils and remind me of what nature has to offer.  My body is operating on a basic level doing nothing, but the few things it takes to survive.  I’m breathing, walking, looking, smelling and feeling.  That’s pretty much it.  There is no cell phone to distract me, no TV to cloud my brain and eyes with countless pointless advertisements for things I don’t need and there is nothing to keep me from enjoying every single second.  Generally I dislike the rain, but hiking is the rain makes me feel so alive.  The water running down my face, being exposed to every drop.  It’s breathtaking.

I challenge you to do nothing.  Literally, do nothing at some point this week.  Just sit back, relax and enjoy the quiet and emptiness around you.  You’ll be amazed at how happy doing nothing can make you!

Crazy Dancing

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There are many things I do on a regular basis if I’m feeling down.  Random dancing is one of those things.  And by random I mean crank the music up and just go to town!  I know I’m doing it correctly if I start laughing at myself.  I spin, I jump, I throw in some dance moves that even Michael Jackson wouldn’t attempt and I just have fun.  Plus, it ends up being a nice little workout.

Some people would ask why I do this.  It’s silly, yes, but it makes me happy.  For just a moment I’m able to have fun and be a kid again.  I am able to laugh and forget that I have bills to pay, deadlines coming up and tests to study for.  It’s the small things, like random dancing, that remind me that it’s okay to act crazy and to have fun while doing it.  As adults we spend our lives doing grownup stuff and it often wears us down.  When I go hiking, traveling, dancing, etc. I am able to get away from all of that.  Those things rebuild by spirit and mend my soul.

I work as a 911 Operator for two different counties.  Full time day shift at one and part-time night shift at the other so there are some weeks when I am just exhausted.  I come home after a long, stressful 12 hour shift and all I want to do is sleep, however, I still make time for crazy dancing and other things that bring me happiness.  People who suffer from depression often get into the rut of feeling down, lonely or tired so we forget about the things that once made us happy.  All this does is start the downward spiral that eventually ends with us curled into a fetal position under our covers crying like a baby for no apparent reason.  I’ve said it before and will say it again, in order to defeat depression you must become a daily active participant in your recovery.  Yes, we may be tired at the end of the day, but a 10 minute walk isn’t going to hurt.

I’d like to challenge everyone who reads this (whether or not you suffer from depression) to take at least two days this week and do something you enjoy.  I don’t care if it’s petting your dog on the couch or going white water rafting.  Do something that brings you joy and makes you smile.  And if you can’t think of anything, do some crazy dancing!  You’ll be amazed at how it might just raise your spirits 😉

My Search for Happiness

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How does one define happiness?  Is it something we can see, smell, hear, touch, give away, steal, find or maybe even create?  Why is it that happiness for one person is not the same happiness for someone else?  Is true happiness only available in the form of a pill or can real happiness be found within ourselves?  Buddhist monks, for centuries, have probably been some of the happiest people in the world, yet they have remarkable little material belongings.  They don’t need “things” to bring about happiness, so how do they do it?

I have suffered from depression for years which eventually led me down a scary and rocky path of drug addiction, unsafe sex, alcoholism and a very well needed stay in a psychiatric hospital and rehab facility.  Since then I have focused on eastern medicine, and hopefully finding happiness without using a pill at some point.  Going on hikes, traveling, watching the sunset, walking barefoot through dew-covered grass early in the morning, dancing in the rain, cooking, kayaking, skinny dipping, learning to laugh, playing with puppies…you know, all that stuff that is supposed to make people happy.  Those are the things that I focus on now.  Even now, there are still days when I have to pry myself out of the bed, but I know that it’s the healthiest thing for me to do.  I refuse to allow even one day to pass without allowing myself to fully enjoy every moment.  Yes, there will be bad days, but I know that a storm doesn’t last forever!  The thing with battling depression is that you must be an active participant in your recovery.  You must pursue happiness and some days you have to use every bit of strength  you have to make yourself do at least one thing to make you happy.

It’s not an easy journey, but so far it’s been a fun one!  Since June 16th 2012 I have overcome by addiction to prescription medication, beat the urge to abuse alcohol, lost 135lbs and have now become a much healthier person…physically, mentally and spiritually!  I want to prove to people that it’s possible to be truly happy in an age when most people are incredibly miserable.

I invite you to take this journey with me!  I won’t post every day and there will be times when I may even bore you to death,  but I promise to share my story and to share my expeditions with anyone who will listen!  I’ve started blogs before in the past and told myself I would post at least three times a week, yet I always fail to do so then I just give up all together.  This time will be different, for I won’t actually set a goal, but will simply write when I can.

So here I go on my search for happiness…join me?? 🙂