Equanimity

I woke up this morning feeling a greater sense of calm. I still only got my usual six hours of sleep (give or take), and my cat Inori still caterwauled the night away, but for whatever reason, I felt present. I climbed out of bed and sat on the floor, staring outside, listening to the sounds of the 7am morning with a warm inner glow. I then proceeded with my usual morning meditation and eased myself into an even greater state of peace. My morning coffee that followed tasted richer and more aromatic. My eyes beamed at how beautiful my 900sq ft apartment is and how nice the warm morning shower felt on my body.

Equanimity.

That’s where I was.

I recently discovered my new word. If I had balls to get a tattoo, Equanimity would be inked on my forearm. Maybe with a hashtag too. I love that word. Besides its precisely balanced meaning of mental calmness and composure, it has the perfect combination of sounds when spoken. Equanimity.

Feeling a sense of mental calmness and composure in recent days has been enlightening for me, especially during recent months. I can certainly take away many inadvertent gifts from uncertain times and continue to remain positive.

How do I do this?

I’ve recently been extending my meditations to practices of gratitude. Though I have countless things to be grateful for, I’ve especially been grateful for the meaningful relationships I’ve been in the past.

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Photo credit: Tina Nord

When I look back at some of my relationships (both short and long, since time is rather insignificant to me), I always take away something valuable. If you know me well enough, you’ll know I’m a deep thinker. I feel, I analyze and I learn to see things with greater depth and appreciation.

For instance, in one relationship, I learned about personal growth and trying to achieve greater things beyone my 9-5 lifestyle. You might say becoming an author, speaker and blogger was in many ways a result of my willingness to see myself beyond my corporate clothes.

In another, I’m extremely grateful for being introduced to counselling. This catalyzed my much needed healing journey, propelling me to gain a deeper understanding of my childhood pain. I also learned about being present and how to enjoy the moment. “Why can’t you sit still and just enjoy things with me?” she’d use to say.

Finally in another relationship, a very important lesson I’m grateful for, was I finally learned to see my self-worth. I internally questioned my value in the relationship, and only realized it after it was all said and done. And she reminded me to demonstrate gratitude for what I already have, which helped put me in a place where I am today of greater happiness.

My gratitude meditations includes all these lessons because I’ve learned from all my relationships, and I’ve valued them deeply. While most of my peers are keeping themselves busy these days binge watching Netflix, I often find myself meditating.

It’s a great time to be present with myself and to live in the now, appreciating what I’ve created in my world. My blogs, my writing, my creations, my vulnerability, my compassion are gifts meant to be shared and to bring healing. We can all learn from thinking more abundantly which means seeing things as learning opportunities, rather than losses. Especially (as I gracefully age), living in the moment, worrying less and simply allowing the Universe to take its course has become one of my daily mantras.

And after each deep meditation, I rise up feeling a sense of growth, presence, happiness, and balance. I stand taller, walking with an even bigger smile on my face.

That’s the power of Equanimity.

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Jason Lee, Author of Living with the Cat, the 9 Biggest Reasons Why Your Life Sucks!

I’m an Enneagram 4! (and the irony behind my discovery)

I’ve always carried a sense of creativity ever since I was a kid. I used to love writing short stories in elementary school for the class to read out loud. Throughout the rest of my school years, Art class was by far my favorite outlet, followed by Creative Writing to release my sense of quirkiness and ambitious imagination. Fast forward to adulthood and I somehow managed to bury the right side of my brain in order to eat brand named cereal for breakfast, thus choosing the road more travelled for my career. I became a scientist or more precisely a Food Developer with a steady income. It’s an enriching career filled with rewarding experiences, learning the science and development behind food manufacturing that most of us take for granted. But, after long days of repeated trials, I go home and relinquish myself of the title, “certified Foodie”, devouring my microwaved dinner with great ease.

Then, as the evening wears on, I gladly turn to my true passion: learning something more about WHO I am. The artist in me. The creator. The writer. The TRUE me.

Afterall, even Superman preferred to be known as Kal-El.

OK, that was a bit narcissistic, but if you know me, you’d also know that was only a metaphor.

I love the art of creating something useful with my imagination, whether it’s putting together a surprise birthday gift or writing a blog to freely express my state of mind. I find pure joy and liberation expressing my emotions, my thoughts and exploring the queries of self.

The other day, my counsellor (and dear friend) Guillermo (aka “G”) asked me, “Jason, have you ever heard of Enneagram tests to understand yourself more?”

I immediately Googled Enneagram tests and discovered a wealth of info (thank goodness for the internet!). For those unfamiliar and interested, you can read more about Enneagrams here. In short, it’s sort of like a Myers Briggs personality test, but this scores your values and beliefs, then categorizes you into 1 of 9 possible traits. The nice part about the Enneagram test result is that it provides a spectrum of where you score. In other words, if I was a category 4, I can easily swing into traits of a category 1 or category 2 personality.

The 9 traits are as follows:

  1. The Perfectionist
  2. The Giver
  3. The Achiever
  4. The Individualist
  5. The Investigator
  6. The Skeptic
  7. The Enthusiast
  8. The Challenger
  9. The Peacemake

Why did I do this?

Well, as starters, I’m an Enneagram 4 (inside joke that only Enneagram 4’s can appreciate). I’ve wondered for quite some time about my greater purpose in Life, other than to create sugary beverages for kids to love and moms to write grievance letters to. For those who know me, I’ve struggled in the past with depression and sometimes can feel melancholic, though I generally consider myself to be a positive person. I admit I do fear being rejected, yet I crave closeness. Even worse is when I’ve rejected parts of myself: my inner quest for deeper understanding of our human psychology, my emotions and my natural ability to be compassionate to other people’s emotions. When I didn’t acknowledge these parts of me, this became a slippery slope to feelings of low self-esteem and self-worth.

I’ve known G since 2014 and he’s by far been my favorite counsellor after all these years. He wasn’t like any other counsellor I’ve worked with before. He’s so much more in depth, often times not following the rule book of what a traditional RCC would say to you (and trust me, I’ve been a client of many). This context made G’s recommendation about Enneagrams all the more enticing because he’s always understood me and my constant quest for self.

The best part was G accepted me (not because he’s also a fellow #4) and because he told me in his delightful Argentinian accent, “Jason, you need to welcome ALL parts of yourself and not judge or devalue them. You are rejecting yourself, not making it possible for others to accept you. Only by seeing the value in your strengths, will you discover a true sense of self-worth. You lost sight of your gifts, your strengths and as a result your self-esteem. Your negative energy drowned the positive person who’s always been there! Bring him back!”

(Like I said, not what a typical RCC would say, but his message hit home).

I’m an Enneagram #4 – The Individualist! (aka the Romantic)

The accuracy for me on the Enneagram test was profound! It was like my computer became a mind reader and spewed out my exact personality on the screen. It’s a fun, short quiz that I took online and quenched my perpetual thirst for understanding myself.

Quoting from Crystalknows.com(one of many sights that does Enneagram tests), Enneagram 4’s:

Basic Desire

The basic desire of the Type 4 is to  build a distinct, meaningful identity and to express it in the world. They tend to crave authenticity, but may struggle through uncertainty and doubt along the way to discovering their individuality. Fours may feel misunderstood if others fail to recognize their unique, identifying traits.

Type 4’s tend to defend themselves by unintentionally adapting characteristics from friends, in order to appear more genuine.

Basic Fear

The basic fear of the Type 4 is that they do not matter or have significant impact on the world. In less healthy, times, they often feel misunderstood, outcast, and unrelatable. In order to distinguish themselves from others, Fours may work hard to be unique, creative, and expressive.

Strengths that are typically associated with the Enneagram Type 4 personality include…

  • Ability to connect deeply with their own emotions
  • Sensitivity to and understanding of others’ feelings
  • General awareness of their own growth areas
  • Imaginative and creative deep-thinking
  • Being consistently and authentically themselves

Weaknessess that are typically associated with the Enneagram Type 4 personality include…

  • Withdrawing in times of difficulty
  • Fixating on what they don’t have
  • Tendency to focus too much on themselves
  • Reacting strongly and emotionally to hardship

Here’s the Irony..

Enneagram 4’s struggle to find their tribe and to feel understood. But the irony when I learned more about myself through the Enneagram test, was I felt a sense of belonging. I finally could exhale that long awaited sigh of relief. I am understood! I am accepted! At long last! Being highly introverted, this was groundbreaking material.

The key for myself is to constantly seek inspiration and to create. I’m surrounded by inspiration. This is especially true if it’s focussed on personal growth to improve the man I am, and to contribute to a greater good beyond myself. Creating something is easy for me, whether that’s in a form of writing, journaling, blogging or something else cathartic. I’m grateful I rediscovered my passions over the years. I realize it’s important for me to have an outlet for my emotions and running thoughts. In fact, I’ve just submitted a number of applications to volunteer for several mental health organizations. In putting my energy towards something I’m passionate about, I’ll be able to further channel my constant search for purpose. In addition, this breeds positive experiences to feed my desire for growth.

Learning about this and continuing to be woke these last several months has filled me with a ton of optimism. So what if I march to my own beat? So what if I feel different and misunderstood? That’s me! I’m an Enneagram 4 and wear that proudly… well, until tomorrow anyway, when I need to scratch that itch inside of me again (another inside joke for us Enneagram 4’s).

Happy Friday everyone!

(There’s many free online Enneagram tests (simply Google Enneagram Tests) you can take as well. It certainly fascinates me and I’d love to read your comments on what your Enneagram test results show!)

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Jason Lee, Author of Living with the Cat, the 9 Biggest Reasons Why Your Life Sucks!

 

 

 

 

 

Self-Love: It is Here

Facing our inner fears is perhaps one of the most terrifying experiences a guy can have. Why is it so painful and daunting to look deep into that abyss? Is it because we’re afraid we’ll discover things about ourselves that we’ll reject? It’s painful enough if the World rejects you, so why would I delve deeper and run the risk of rejecting myself as well? Why would I walk straight into a burning house?

Truth is, until we’re able to face our fears and befriend them, patterns in our lives will continue to repeat themselves. Specifically, I’m talking about poor attitudes towards others, broken relationships, displeasure at work and feelings of unhappiness at home.

Several weeks ago, as part of an exercise from a Men’s Group I joined, we were asked to request from people we care about to tell us something about ourselves that we’ve been unable to hear. In other words, “Tell me something you’d like to change.”

The exercise was empowering for several reasons. One, it promoted good listening skills without judgement. Two, it separated another person’s perspective from my own and allowed me to see myself from a different vantage point. Three, it strengthened my ability for personal growth and change. Four, it promoted self-awareness and trained me to pay attention to my body and thoughts, and to see if I can listen without taking things personally in order to be at a place of acceptance. Five, it’s a good litmus test for my self-love/self-esteem if I was able to hear feedback without feeling discomfort. Remember, we can listen to other people’s opinions, but we don’t necessarily have to agree or respond to them. That demonstrates personal fortitude. I asked four close friends, one of whom was my son and here’s what they told me:

“You can be inflexible with other people’s opinions sometimes.”

“At times, you seem to have your mind already made up, even though you hear out their perspectives.”

“You can be judgemental sometimes in a passive way which makes it a bit suffocating to be around. For the most part it’s great, but there’s times, I feel I can’t be myself.”

“You analyze things a lot! You analyze situations and what people say too much.”

When I took a step back and heard what they all said, I acknowledged their perspectives.

Was it easy to hear them? Yes and no.

Was it useful? Absolutely!

I got to learn a little bit more about myself and work towards self-improvement. That being said, it is ONLY their perspectives and I need to recognize that I will not change just because someone suggested these things. I need to process the information and become more mindful of these, and see if there’s a balance between accepting myself for who I am vs finding areas I can improve upon if there are behaviors that are hurting others.

The beautiful part after I immediately thanked them for their feedback was I felt a deep sense of gratitude for them. I saw this as something positive. My friends (and son) ACTUALLY know me well enough to generate a caring opinion of me. They weren’t sharing with the intention to hurt me. I feel fortunate that they’re in my life and I am important enough to them to even notice these details about me. I welcome all parts of myself, good and bad. I matter to them and it was such a positive experience to realize this.

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Photo by Aaron Burden from Pexels

What is Self-Love?

So, why are we so afraid of our feelings of sadness, hurt, love and anger? Our emotions are real and a part of us. If we reject them, we are rejecting a part of who we are. It’s perfectly healthy to feel.

We’re afraid sometimes to be in touch with our feelings because we might learn that we have insecurities, or we’re afraid of abandonment. Maybe, we’re afraid of creating intimacy because deep down we feel we’re undeserving of it; we’re not good enough. Why would anyone want to be with me? These are questions that point towards self-love.

Self-love is a term that I feel is over-used. Without context on Social Media posts, the words don’t mean a whole lot, until we truly grasp the concept of its definition. Self-love is the ability to be vulnerable and in touch with all your emotions. We don’t numb them out, or push them away. Instead, we allow them to flow within us. There’s no “marker” or “sign” you carry around that says you have self-love. You just know it, when you allow the feelings of sadness, hurt, anger, love, forgiveness and compassion to flow inwards. You become aware and are able to receive these feelings without resistance. You can talk about them and you befriend the feelings instead of choosing to run away from them.

In a more Universal sense, self-love will be reflected back to our outer world. We will receive what we feel inside. If we feel sadness, anger, longing and resentment, we will receive the same in return. But when we allow ourselves to feel self-love, self-compassion, and self-acceptance we will receive those back from the world. How wonderful is that instead?

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Image credit: Pexels

What came out from the exercise, in retrospect and over the past several weeks, was a greater realization of my own dignity, self-worth and self love. I feel a greater sense of empowerment, knowing I’m a better man today than I was yesterday. I give myself persmission to love myself.

Growth and change is a process.

All things will come together when I allow things to be.

It is here.

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Jason Lee, Author of Living with the Cat

 

FB Live on the Healing Place Podcast

On The Healing Place Podcast this morning I had the chance to chat with hostess Teri Kamphaus Wellbrock raising awarenesss for guys about their mental health and encouraging men to take this time of isolation to learn more about themselves.

Thanks Teri for a great conversation!

Learn more about Teri Wellbrock here.

Shall I Start a Men’s Group?

I can’t put together a bookshelf if my life depended on it, even if they’re ones from IKEA. From what would seem like an easy 20 minute job, can take hours for me. Oh, and a whole shitload of F-bombs that follow.

I’ve never been a “handyman” and it still puzzles me especially in this day and age, we still call it a handy “man”. Let’s just say, I’m not very good when it comes to fixing or building things at home.

I’ve never really quite fit the bill when it comes to the stereotype that all guys are into fixing things, drooling over muscle cars, drinking beer on a Friday night watching sports while trash talking their buddies. Ok, I admit, I do watch basketball but it’s well documented why Basketball has become my sport of choice.

When it comes to being a Man, what’s more important to me has been listening, sharing thoughts, being compassionate, encouraging others to share their feelings and challenging others to think deeply for themselves. That’s been my scene ever since I could remember as a kid, but I’ve only finally come to embrace in the last 5 years.

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Finding purpose has often been my drive in recent years. As a publisher, author, dad, colleague and peer, I’ve very seldomly taken things as face value. Do I over analyze? Sometimes. Do I want more meaning behind things that happen, other than surrendering to the notion that “it is what it is?” Most definitely. This is maybe why I tend to overthink things.

Recently, I’ve been teetering with ideas for my next project (simply because I feel lacklustred sitting at home EVERY night flipping channels on a TV set). As most of my readers know, one of my main goals is to help motivate men to talk about their feelings and thoughts more; to embrace their emotions instead of running away from them. This is directly connected to bringing awareness to our mental health and finding healthier ways to cope with it. Digging deeper, I want to help men realize that the core of their past is what drives their belief system; and to be at peace with that foundation is what essentially brings us closer to the state of bliss in our relationship with others. Healing inner wounds takes courage that many men (including myself before) can not hear, see or comprehend. To many, that’s just New Age fluff dreampt up by self-proclaimed gurus who need their head’s examined.

But I’m here to change that image for guys.

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So, I’ve toyed with the idea of starting a men’s group. What would that look like? What’s my objectives? What are my core pillars for this group going to look like? I had so many questions and started to get really excited with the idea of being a leading voice of change. With so many ideas, my head also started to spin with doubt, questioning how, where and when I would start such a thing.

Men’s groups have evolved greatly over the years. Back in the 19th century, men’s groups were essentially a bunch of guys in fraternities initiating each other, getting together, dressing up and boasting each other’s masculinity. But gradually over time, thanks to things like social justice, and the feminist movement, men’s groups started to evolve. Initiations into some of these groups began to mean something greater than belonging to an exclusive club of men. I read somewhere (and I’m paraphrasing) that intiation is a ritual bringing people across a state of transformation, whereby demanding change in the conscious and subconscious mind. That’s powerful if used in the right context of a specific men’s group. Unfortunatley, there’s radical groups out there who use this definition for the lesser good of humankind.

Then it struck me. Since I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around starting a men’s group, why not join one? The idea of joining one used to evade me because I always imagined myself in control of a group, facilitating them and leading a group of like-minded men. Hmm, why must I lead? Why must I be in control? Then I realized, that was my ego talking.

I peeled off all the layers of my goals and ultimately it came down to this in its most simplistic form: I want to help men share their stories so they can feel safer and become more aware of their mental health. P-E-R-I-O-D.

No where in that objective states anything about leading a marching band, right? Again, that’s my ego thinking that things have be done MY way, therefore I need to lead.

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Conclusion:

I’ve come to realize there’s others way to lead and help. If I stay true to my objective, all I need to do is find a men’s group out there that shares the same values as me, and join them! There’s so many out there that I can contribute to. Being a part of something IS being of service to others. I do not have to lead a group necessarily to help others. To do something great, or to be someone great, can be about being a part of something that matters to me.

Having this realization makes things simpler for me.

Lesson of the day for me: Helping others can come in different forms, and paying attention too much to the ego can cloud what my true intentions are.

Thank you, Self-Awareness. I Love you!

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Jason Lee, Author of Living with the Cat, the 9 Biggest Reasons Why Your Life Sucks!