“A thought is harmless unless we believe it. It’s not our thoughts, but the attachment to our thoughts, that causes suffering. Attaching to a thought means believing that it’s true, without inquiring. A belief is a thought we’ve been attaching to, often for years.” – Byron Katie
When I was 22 years old, I was stuck in a life that I hated. Even though I had just graduated from college, and was surrounded with all the love, support, and possibilities in the world, I was lost.
I was self-conscious, confused and bitter. Instead of feeling a sense of pride in my accomplishment, I walked in a daze of hopelessness that I’d never felt before. I had no idea that this misery I felt in my youth and beyond would translate into the best gift of my life: a spiritual awakening. An awakening to my positivity, my love, my compassion, my empathy, and my grace. An awakening to my soul.
I was tired of thinking the world was difficult, that everything was happening to me, that I had no control, and I realized that being bitter, upset and judgmental wasn’t going to get me to where I wanted to be. I wanted to change.
I ended up going to graduate school for marriage and family therapy, and it was there that I started my journey towards self actualization and a different way of thinking. Fast-forward four years, and I’m still in this awakening and there’s so much that I’ve learned. And you don’t need to go to graduate school or become a therapist to reach this awakening.
1. Every painful experience in your life will have a lesson (if you’re willing to find it).
You don’t have to, but life is undoubtedly better when you look for the diamond in the rough. Life isn’t always easy, most things in life worth anything are. But we can go through life without meaning, and be bitter, or we can find the meaning, and acquire wisdom.
Lots of painful experiences are out of our control. If they are, all we can do is change the way we think or feel (find meaning/lesson/gift, completely accept it as is, or stay miserable. If something “bad” is happening in your life, ask yourself: What is the meaning? What is the lesson?
I promise you’ll find one, even if it’s not right away. We learn to know that whatever happened in our lives was meant to happen. How? Because it happened. “When we argue with reality we lose, but only 100% of the time.” Another golden nugget from the lovely Byron Katie.
2. Your thoughts aren’t true.
Most of our thoughts and belief systems about ourselves and the world developed long ago in childhood. It’s outdated and no longer serves us. But a lot of those thoughts have become beliefs so deeply embedded inside us, they can be tough to shake. Here are some of the most common:
- There’s something wrong with me.
- I’m not good enough.
- I’m a bad person.
- I don’t deserve.. love.. happiness.. success.. (etc.)
- I’m not worth it.
- I can’t trust anybody.
- I’m ugly.
- I can’t trust my own judgement.
- It’s not okay to feel (and show) my emotions.
- I’m powerless.
- I’m a failure.
- I’m out of control.
- Nobody likes me.
What we don’t realize, is that these beliefs are just thoughts that we choose to believe. We believe them to be true. But the beauty is, that they are not true. Just because we think it, doesn’t mean it’s true. Because you are NOT your thoughts. They are not a part of you. Anything that comes and goes is not YOU. When you notice these thoughts (or beliefs) come up, it’s an invitation to tap in to your mind and look at what’s going on inside it. We must learn to challenge and question our thoughts and beliefs, instead of attaching ourselves to them and believing them.
According to Byron Katie, there’s a part of our brain in the left cerebral cortex (referred to as the interpreter) that literally exists for you to self-identify. In other words, this part of your brain holds onto the thoughts and stories you buy into about yourself, whether or not they’re real. By paying attention to the thoughts that disturb you, you’re able to decide if you really want to believe them. This awareness is so powerful.
“If you put your hand into a fire, does anyone have to tell you to move it? Do you have to decide? No: When your hand starts to burn, it moves. You don’t have to direct it; the hand moves itself. In the same way, once you understand, through inquiry, that an untrue thought causes suffering, you move away from it.” ― Byron Katie
3. Your lows are sacred.
I truly empathize with and respect people who hit really low lows, their rock bottoms, the worst place they’ve ever been… and pick themselves up. Those places where you are painfully alone, hopeless, and just in extreme emotional pain… those are the times where we can reclaim our power and pull ourselves out of the mess we most likely co-created.
This is inspiring and powerful, because it teaches you what you’re made of. You learn who you are when you’re stripped of your comfort, identity, and pride and become aware of what you’re truly capable of.
Regardless of what happens to you in life, it’s up to you to decide what you make it mean.Do you make it mean you’re a failure? Or do you make it mean something else? Perhaps that it was just another hurdle to jump on you way to success? You’re the only one who decides what you make it mean about yourself… and what story you write.
“Life is simple. Everything happens for you, not to you. Everything happens at exactly the right moment, neither too soon nor too late. You don’t have to like it… it’s just easier if you do.” – Byron Katie
4. There are two types of Discomfort. Which one do you choose?
When we are aware that EVERYTHING we do in our lives is to either feel or avoid feeling a certain way, we realize that all our behavior centers around this notion. We usually want to avoid feeling scared, anxious, embarrassed, rejected, shame, hurt, and the list goes on. This is where in our lives, we won’t take risks and avoid putting ourselves out there in fear of feeling those uncomfortable emotions. We stay in our comfort zones to avoid feeling discomfort.
But what we don’t realize is that we’re going to feel those uncomfortable feelings regardless! Because once we don’t show up, we don’t take action, we don’t risk; then we aren’t going to get the results we want in our lives. We still end up feeling discomfort. We’re still in pain, and often miserable. Would you rather feel discomfort by stepping out of your comfort zone and taking action? (The type of discomfort that gets you a step closer to the results you want in your life?)
Or would you rather feel discomfort by staying in your comfort zone, and not taking action? (Which by the way, isn’t going to get you anywhere, especially not any closer to your goals). That’s where we get to choose which TYPE of discomfort we want to experience. Because we are going to experience it either way. Shouldn’t we at least experience the type that gets us closer to our dreams?
“As long as you think that the cause of your problem is “out there”—as long as you think that anyone or anything is responsible for your suffering—the situation is hopeless. It means that you are forever in the role of victim, that you’re suffering in paradise.” ― Byron Katie
Many people shy away from this level of awareness, discomfort and change. But this is where growth and awakening happens. Outside of our comfort zone. Inside of awareness. The only true way out, is in…
What do you think about your thoughts? Do you question them or automatically believe them to be true? What have you learned from your struggles? Were you able to find the gift or lessons?