Things I Learned from Group Therapy

After a challenging student placement that saw me withdraw from university, I decided to seek out a counsellor. I attended weekly group sessions for about two years where I learned a lot about myself, the world and other people. I wanted to write down the key lessons I have learned in case I ever forget them, and in case they are useful to others. This post is the very essence of everything I have worked towards since I chose to do something about my mental health. In no particular order, here are the life-transforming lessons:

  1. It is more important to give energy than to take it. When I say energy, I mean love, attention, kindness.
  2. Don’t be so selfish all the time. Other people matter just as much as if not moreso than you.
  3. See each person as beautiful and love them. Open your heart to everyone you meet.
  4. Centre yourself when you are adrift. When you realise you are acting in a way that dishonours your most authentic self, take a breath, centre yourself, and then do what you need to do. (Be part of the Way.)
  5. Life can be tiring, but giving energy to others is invigorating.
  6. When you start to change, you meet resistance; keep changing. When your old beliefs fight for importance in your life, keep walking along and choosing your new beliefs. The more resistance, the more profound the breakthrough if you don’t give in. (There is always resistance before a level jump, a shift in energy.)
  7. Be mindful. The world is full of miracles to witness. Don’t miss out on them.
  8. One small success is worth celebrating over x amount of failures.
  9. If nothing changes, nothing changes. If we always do what we’ve always done, we’ll always get what we’ve always got. We must change if outcomes are to change.
  10. There is a whole world outside of your head. Don’t forget the ducks.
  11. Listen when people speak, don’t just wait for your turn to talk.
  12. If you concentrate on stressors, particularly negative feelings in your body, they amplify. Focus on something else and they diminish. They rely on your attention to become important.
  13. Everyone has their flavour, even if they don’t know what it is. We are irreplacably unique, and we change the world in our own ways.
  14. You can find out who you are by cutting out the unnecessary things in your life and challenging yourself to do what scares you.
  15. Cherish life. Be aware of death; none of us can say we won’t die today. It’s better to let go now rather than kick and scream at the end.
  16. I’ve never heard anyone who was on their deathbed say “I wish I had more time to earn a few more dollars.”
  17. All people are broadcasters and receivers of energy, whether they know it or not. We affect the people around us just by what we’re sending out. Don’t be a drag on other people: uplift them, support them and give generously.
  18. We can’t stop thoughts/feelings from coming in. We can choose whether to hold onto them.
  19. It takes time for change to manifest. There is sometimes a delay in applied efforts and visible results. Don’t be disheartened.
  20. Let go of things that are not helpful. Hold them if you need to, but then tell them to someone, let them go, and don’t pick them up again.
  21. Writing or saying affirmations are a stand in time. They are a way of standing up to all your old beliefs, saying “I don’t need you any more,” and choosing to believe something different.
  22. Happiness is not a thing you get and keep forever. It is an attitude, at every moment of every day, no matter how you’d rather feel instead.
  23. Let go of your tight hold on things. You’ll be happier.
  24. That means you don’t need to work everything out. There’s no need to. It’s not your job to. It doesn’t improve your life to.
  25. Letting go of fear facilitates peace. You will never become peaceful by running from what scares you.
  26. Running from what scares you makes your fears stronger. It gives them power. Every time you get scared you have the choice to empower yourself, or empower your fear.
  27. There are three levels of becoming an active agent of change: 1) feeling without any idea what’s happening; 2) becoming an observer of one’s thoughts and feelings, and; 3) standing at the bridge of your authenticity.
  28. When you start to go into the whirlpool of stress, focussing on problems and negative feelings, the thing you need most is a slap in the face with a wet fish. That is to say, a reality check, so that you don’t keep contributing to the spiral of stress and you realise that actually things are pretty okay. (See Point 10.)
  29. Difficult people can be seen as gifts, treasures and teachers: as opportunities to learn what you still need to let go of. Thank them for it.
  30. Whenever you think of someone that has hurt you, send them love from your heart and wish them the best. It will make it easier to let go of them.
  31. When you have your head stuck up your arse, try caring about other things and other people to break the cycle.
  32. It can be impossible to project a positive future when you’re stuck in an anxious mind-set. But trust me, the future can indeed be positive and bright, even if it’s hard to imagine.

Finding God Across the World

My time on holiday was really great. There were a few low moments where things went horribly, but the majority of my time was highly enjoyable, and some of the best experiences of my life. That post, however, is for another time. I just wanted to quickly talk about some of the spiritual realisations I’ve come to while I’ve been away. I’d also like to make it clear at this point that I do not support many of the acts people commit in the name of religion, nor do I approve of the institutions of religions that dominate the world through force, wealth or manipulation. It is spirituality, the desire to connect with the divine, that I respect (so long as it is not forced on others, and does not bring about unnecessary suffering to the self, or especially to other people). This post will not be for everybody, so please don’t feel inclined to read let alone agree with what I have to say.

Just before I left I had a sudden urge that I really, really wanted to reconnect with God. To put it simply, there’s only so much I, as a limited human being, can accomplish in my life and in my mind, and sometimes I need a little help to be more. Even simply put, it’s difficult to describe what I mean by this. I don’t mean I want an omnipotent divine force to intervene in the events of my life to make things go well for me. I just feel a need to connect with myself and the world in a deeper, more meaningful way- to go beyond ‘ordinary’ life, based solely on the material world (that, which the Enlightenment has taught us, is all that we truly ‘know’). Some might say that I need to reconnect with the divinity within me- Om Namah Shivaya (a statement I now realise is far deeper than I can currently comprehend). I’ve realised that God, whatever He, She or It is, is an integral part to my identity. And I really want to honour that, rather than lock that away in the closet of my self because I’m scared of what people will think of me. There seems to be a huge amount of fear and discrimination against someone who makes a religious gesture in public (like the sign of the Cross for Catholics, or the five daily prayers in Islamic faith). I feel that people believe Christianity in particular is bigoted, unknown, even a scam for money. Or perhaps I’m just paranoid and seeing what I think others see. It’s difficult for me then to be honest about what I believe, however unknown and crazy it might seem.

I wrote a post a while ago about my religious beliefs. They’ve evolved slightly since then, but they are essentially the same. I just wanted to share some of other things I’ve realised, remembered, or been inspired to believe throughout my holidays. There were many times while I was away that I felt utterly at peace and assured in the knowledge that God exists. I’d like to share some of those experiences now. Please excuse my elaborate descriptions and evocative imagery- it is not my intention to win you over with pretty writing. I am trying to describe the essence of the moment when everything came together and made perfect sense- those epiphanies where my faith was confirmed or those insights about human kind and the nature of reality that struck me like a bolt of truth to my soul.

As I sat in the presence of the ruinous Tintern Abbey, on a bench under an oak tree planted to commemorate King George V, I saw the leaves falling in the autumn wind. Each leaf fell to the ground, following a path through the air. Sometimes they dropped almost directly to the earth, other times they swayed as though they were on a cradle of wind. Others spiralled, some clashed, but each of them had a unique journey. And for some reason that sight struck me deeply. I felt in the very core of my being that God was at work. He (or She or It. I will refer to Him as He, because that is how I have always understood God, most likely due to my Catholic upbringing) knew the path of each leaf before it fell, and He knew the exact moment when each leaf would leave the tree. I cannot say if it was He who plucked the leaf and carried it on His breath, but at the very least He knew everything about that tree, everything that had ever happened to it and would happen to it. I cannot explain why I was so certain of this, but I knew it in my heart of hearts. And if God knew so much about a tree, how much did he know about each and every human being on the planet?

As I was kneeling on the peak of a sand dune in the Sahara Desert, watching the sun set over the endless waves, mounds and ripples of the golden earth, there was a great openness and emptiness in the world which I perceived for perhaps the first time. I was seeing only the smallest fraction of that great desert, yet it was more than my eyes could see, far off into the horizon. I could not hope to perceive or comprehend it all. The entirety of the world is a far greater thing than any one so small as a human being could understand. And it seemed to me, that in that vast emptiness, there was God. He existed in the thermals, He existed in the sky. He existed in the sand, and the wind, and in the rocks. It does not fit with my understanding of God as the energy of life, but somehow, He was present in the landscape of nature. (Just wild conjecture here, perhaps even sand has ‘life’ and ‘will’, and when enough sand gathers, one can feel the presence of God.) For some reason, this made me remember that every human being in the world can be redeemed. There is no one too evil, no one too lost, who cannot be brought back to their inherently good nature with love.

On the mountain of Sinai, where it is believed Moses first met God in the form of the burning bush, and the locus where he later received the ten commandments, I sat on the cliff of the mountain and contemplated God’s work. It had been hard work to climb the 3750 Steps of Repentance, but the difficulty of the journey just made the rewards more beautiful. Many times I stopped the climb to look at the mountains and just stand in awe. The mountains surrounding Sinai had all been climbed by the Christian monks who lived there and white crucifixes had been made and planted at the peak of each one. From the top of Sinai, I could see so much and yet know so little. It was emptiness up there. There were people, for sure, but once you were away from the bustle of the tourists and the men selling food and drink, there was a great sense of nothingness. But it wasn’t awful, the kind of empty vacuum that demands it needs to be filled. It simply was.

In Scotland, as I sat at the rings of stones (mysterious in element and placement) akin to Stone Henge, I watched as the leaves fell from the trees. There had been green leaves which turned to gold. Over time that gold turned to red. And finally, that red turned to brown as it covered the earth. I was struck by the certainty that all life would one day end, and that this was the most natural thing in the world. All living creatures had an expiry date- a time to die. And struggling against this is futile, wasted effort and energy. I believe to my heart that there are greater things in the world than my life. I am certain that if I could save a trainload of people by throwing myself into peril, it would be a very worthwhile gesture. My existence is but the smallest of blips on this enormous organism we call mother Earth, and though life is the most precious of gifts, my individual life is almost worthless in comparison. It is wrong to cling selfishly to one’s own life at all costs. Nor should one just lay down and die. Life is meant to be lived, but when death comes in earnest (as it must for each of us), it cannot (and should not) be resisted.

The Chapel of the Virgin Saint Mary had long since fallen into disrepair. Once (and possibly still) used for black magic and sacrifice, humankind had stopped tending to the building and it had become overgrown with plants that crept up its walls and occupied its floors. Sunlight streamed in directly from the ceilingless roof to nourish the flora, and I couldn’t help but think “so this is what it looks like when God reclaims the Church”.

In the great cathedral of Saint Paul’s, I was slightly sickened that so much effort had gone into constructing monuments of war and killing. The sculptures and the paintings that adorned every wall and surface were exquisite, but I felt very strongly that the artists were just showing their skill for the sake of their employers or for the love of creation/education, using the Glory of God as an excuse to make incredible artwork. The whole building seemed to be a testimony to human skill and greatness. The private chapel to the side where one could pray was temporarily closed, and I didn’t see a Sacramental Lamp anywhere in the building- the red light of the lamp is supposed to indicate the presence of God/Christ in the House/Tabernacle. Plus, it was open to tourists to walk around and admire with audioguides and maps for only £17. There was a pastor nearby who was waiting for the evening chorale performance, and I spoke to her about my discontent. She told me, essentially, that the cathedral was still a house of God because it was a community who gathered regularly to do works of goodness in His name. It reflected the real world: Christians gathered every day to pray, and people from all walks of life and different belief systems were among and around them. Furthermore, no one was ever charged for coming in to pray or partake in the daily ceremonies. I found it hard to feel God’s presence there, despite the majesty of His house. A saying popped into my head as I walked away, a little disgusted and confused: “God needs no nobility. He needs not red cloaks or golden scepters or gargantuan monuments. These are what people need.”
This led me to realise that the most spiritual places in the world are the places that humankind has not yet touched or overly influenced. Those artificial places where people gather as special because  of the people, not the buildings and the ornaments within. We try and prove we’re more than animals, that we’re “civilised”, but the authors of Genesis made a fundamental mistake by declaring us the wards and superiors of the other inhabitants of the earth. They did not understand who we are in the world and what our purpose is. I myself can’t say the full extent of either, but I knew very deeply that all life is connected, and that not only are we connected but what we do to others we do to ourselves. It is no worse to shoot someone in the foot as it is to shoot yourself. If more people understood this, and remembered it, I think the world would be a very different place.

 

I’m afraid my memory fails me after this. I have only notes I scribbled down. I can’t imagine why I presumed I would remember the context in which I wrote them. But I remember being so still, and seeing such beauty, that they just made sense to me. They were the most natural things in the world to realise. I realised, one day, that the world is beautiful. And that it was always beautiful, and it will always be beautiful. And that I didn’t make a very sizable mark on this big ol’ planet we live on, but it is always worth adding to the beauty. And the best way I can do that is be beautiful. Not in a physical, vain way, but in a spiritual way: to be that shining beacon of love and hope and peace in times of anger and despair and stupidity. And that is a very worthwhile pursuit. My happiness and my kindness are a gift to the world which negativity and ignorance pollute.

 

It’s taken me far too long to write this post, and I’m far too tired to put it off any longer. It’s a big topic, which I just wanted to share in lieu of an explanation, and for the sake of sharing openly. I’ll get around to posting about my actual holiday soon enough. Peace, all <3

Superman’s Secret

Sidenote: I have been struck by the most brilliant idea. I will invent a brand of underwear that is reinforced so it takes the function of a cup- protecting a gentleman’s most vital area. Just think of how popular they’d be- no more cups in football, no sir. No more getting kneed in the balls by grumpy women- I’ll make millions! Just think of the service I’m doing to mankind!
 
And, I’m going to be the first to wear them, so you can suck on that Ellie! Ha!
 
I shall call them: Super Jocks!

Revelation on pr0n

"I shall hereby make an effort to stop going to porn sites."
 
Three people noticed my MSN nickname this morning, and I got three different responses:
1. It was ignored. He was too busy floating on a bliss of clouds as he explained about his new girlfriend. About twenty minutes later, "You looked at porn? I never knew that o.0"
2. "You should still go, there usefull;)"
"For what?"
"For making you happy ^o)"
3. "I’m reading your display name."
"And what are you thinking whilst reading it?"
"When did you first go to a pron site?"
"Probably a few weeks after I got the internet." When my parents stopped monitoring what I did, that is. I was very, very young.
 
ANYWAYS!
 
Let me continue explaining why I have made such a terrible decision that will most likely cripple me for life.
 
My friend is twelve, turning thirteen, and he ended up fooling around in the cinemas with the girl he was sitting next to in some isolated corner, while on a field trip with his class. Unfortunately for them, she let out an involuntary moan, and that was that. They were taken outside, but no real punishment issued, and life carried on as per normal. My little bro there has five or seven older siblings, so that’s where his experience came from. The girl’s though, I can only assume she’s been introduced to porn at some point in her life, and furnished something of an addiction.
 
There’s too much free porn on the internet. Sluts, for lack of a better word, smothering half the sites out there. The majority of internet sites is pornography related, apparently, and I can believe that to some extent. Regardless, kids (such as myself when I was seven or  eight) should NOT have access to these things, no matter how cool they think they are. Teenagers are almost encouraging one another to get laid as soon and often as possible, without any respect for the act of making love. Firstly, it’s pathetic. Secondly, it’s putting them in a dangerous situation at such an early age. With so much of their life not yet lived, kids and teenagers might make decisions that cost them a great deal more than they bargained for in the future.
 
At any rate, I will no longer support porn sites. Not your casual slutty type porn sites anyway. *sigh*
I really pity the poor girls who have nothing more to offer than their highly over-worked bodies. They deserve more of a chance than simple prostitution. I wonder how many of them have died from STD’s. Basically, damn the porn industry. Most of it’s done without taste and should burn, like the crazy frog.

Yeah it’s another life thang.

After thinking furthermore about the meaning of life, I have reached yet another conclusion. Rather, I have ideas that branch off and elaborate a little on the conclusions I have already drawn.
 
Our entire lives are all we know. They are all we will ever experience on Earth, and however insignificant we are to the rest of the universe, we are still people. We still know we exist, and so we exist as best as we can, seeking happiness and joy in life. It’s all we can do.
 
 
 
I would also like to apologise to Ivy for mentioning her so little in my entries, and for not telling her how much I love her. When I get to Singapore on the 19th, I will make sure she doesn’t forget what that means.

Life again, again, again. Yes, again.

EDIT: Firstly, to Pete. I apologise. There was just that one single grey strand of hair peaking out from the hundred thousand others, daring me to take it. I couldn’t help myself, it was just too irresistable. Though it’s entirely my fault, I still think you could have avoided swearing loudly at me and drawing attention. Mr Presser was in a grumpy mood that arvo, I hadn’t wanted to piss him off further and avoided asking questions. Noticed? Probably not. Nobody notices what I do (keeping quiet) until I don’t do it. Nonetheless, I apologise to Pete, Mr Presser, and anyone else whom this entry offends.
 
After consulting the most intelligent person I know (no offence to everyone else, but in comparison, most of y’all stupid dumbasses =P), I have reached another conclusion.
 
After a lonely and determinetal day at school, thinking restlessly to myself, I have realised that we’re all incredibly insignificant to the universe. That doesn’t go to say we’re not important to ourselves. Life is the one shot at happiness we get, and so there’s no point in moping around and complaining about how we’re all going to die, because we’re all going to die and complaining will have been a very unproductive way of spending your time. Nonetheless, those of us who feel like they don’t care about what little time they have to be happy, well, good for them (not literally, fool!). It’s their life, so long as they don’t take other people’s happiness away. If they do, well, that’s the sad, but there’s always a balance. Happy, sad. One cannot exist without the other.
 
At any rate, consulting Mr Mueller (who gave a one period [hour] lecture without saying "Um" once, digressing but still covering everything we needed and more with concise and impeccable delivery) has lead me to think that the meaning of life is to live. While this is an unsatisfactory answer for most people, there’s no singular answer. There’s no checklist in life. It’s like a journey- more important is the journey itself than the destination. Another example is what is the goal of friendship? There is none, really. Life is life. Make what you will of it, find meaning for yourself. You experiences will shape your answer, so you alone must realise it.

Life, again.. again.

In all fairness, this is just a general question. I’m not being spiteful, I’m not being happy-go-lucky, perhaps a touch apathetic, but nothing more. My question is this.

 

Why is it important to live? More specifically, why is one individual life supposedly important when there are more than 7 billion of us?

 

Honestly, if you were to die right now, the world would keep spinning, and life would continue. Those who knew you would weep for you, and we would miss you, but life would go on. So really, why is it so important to make sure someone does not die? Why are people more worried about the death of a king who never did anything than the death of the 25 000 children alone that die of starvation? One every 3.47 seconds. One child every three and a half seconds, and nobody cares. Whereas $1 is $20 in another country, and in that other country it only costs $1 to save a child’s life, most of us do nothing. I do nothing. I can’t spare 5 cents to save a child.

 

Honest to God, what’s stopping me from selling everything and giving it to the people who really need it? I don’t need anything in my life, because compared to the rest of the world, I will not make all that much of a dent. If I was the next Hitler, sure, I’d get some attention, but really? Life isn’t worth it. I wouldn’t mind death, because nobody else would mind all that much. So long as someone remembered my  name, I would be happy that I’ve made something of an imprint of myself on the Earth. But really? It wouldn’t matter.

 

I guess in a way, life has no meaning. You live, you die, someone else lives and remembers you, and they die. We live to die, and though our population is forever growing, there will come a time when none of us will live. The sun will explode at the very least, swallowing us in a black hole with massive catastrophic destruction that will eliminate every trace of our existence or something along the lines several million years from now. I don’t think humanity is willing to wait that long to meet their own destruction- they’ve certainly hurried the process a long a bit by trashing the environment and letting poverty flourish. Nevermind. Everyone will die sooner or later, in theory, and nothing will matter. Macbeth said it well.

 

"Out, out brief candle! Life is but a walking shadow, a lowly player who struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more." Something along the lines of that. It ends with "signifying nothing." Really, it’s rather strange we’re all caught up with unfinished homework or not having enough money to go on holiday once a year. If life really does have any meaning, you may as well make it yourself by ensuring everyone has a good time. Be kind.

 

Captain, if you’re out there, you told me you knew the meaning of life. I could use a little help here.