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How I Overcame My Anger Issues

When I was a small boy I was always considered to be a little bit irritable. I was particular and meticulous and very detailed orientated. Maybe this played a part in the tendency toward annoyance or lack of tolerance towards things not working out.

As I grew older I was more interested in books and small toys than soccer or being outside. It’s funny now, though I still love to read and I still love toys I live for the outdoors. The outdoors changed me.

I’m not sure when my bad temper developed, maybe it was always there but it grew more intense. I was never unhappy child, nothing in my life contributed towards it, I think that some people need to work on their reactions more than others.

I have never been in a fist fight in my entire life, I am not a violent man but there is a destructive nature inside me. As I write this I try to remember when I first noticed it or when it first became a problem. The earliest I can remember breaking something through anger was probably when I was in my twenties.

I am sure that an immature disrespect for other peoples property played a part also but it followed through my twenties and into my mid thirties until I finally realized I had to do something about it.

The anger I felt never interfered with my life or my relationships but I know now through research the effect that intense anger has on both the body and the brain.

The emotions I felt were not simply anger or irritation but rage. A rage which would build up to an uncontrollable level where I could not hold my reaction. It was blind and uncontrollable, like a drug in my veins.

It took a long trail of little broken items before I realized it was effecting my mental health through the stress it laid on me.

It is difficult to describe the hold the rage took on me. From my perspective I went from zero to ten (on an anger scale) immediately with no warning. In all reality it was building and I was too distracted to see it. The pressure built until it could no longer be contained and I reacted physically by breaking something.

There is a misled idea out there that it is macho to lose ones temper and that someone who smashes things is someone you don’t mess with. If you met me you would realize this is not the case but on a serious note, we cannot associate losing control with strength. It is a weakness, in fact it is probably one of the weakest acts one can commit.

In my angry outbursts I put my fist through several windows, doors, laptop screens, smart phones, I once cracked a car windshield. I mention these because I want to be honest. It will seem funny to some people and pathetic to others but the simple fact is that losing control is and act of weakness brought on by lack of awareness and mismanagement of my emotions.

It wasn’t just the outburst or having to buy a new phone or laptop screen or door or whatever it happened to be this time, it was the low I would feel afterwards. What comes up must come down. The low was every bit as extreme as the high of the intense rage. A great sadness that would swallow me up.

It was maybe four or five years ago when I went to see a professional about my anger issues. It wasn’t a particularly difficult step for me and to be honest I don’t think I took it seriously, but never the less I went through my own choice without suggestion or coercion.

The funny thing is that, for me the answer was so much simpler. The professional I spoke to encouraged me to make the visits a part of my ongoing lifestyle but I did not keep it up.

I believe every situation is unique and I am writing about my own experience only. My opinions on my own therapy sessions do not bear any weight on the experience in general or the importance of seeking help.

In my own particular case I eventually realized that the solution was there all along, within my grasp, ready for me to take hold of. I just couldn’t see it.

I do not remember exactly where and when I put the following practises in place, I believe it was a gradual process but the simple practises I will talk about changed my mindset and in doing so changed my life.

Journalling and reflection:

For some years I have been keeping a diary, inspired by my father I think who religiously writes about his day in his spidery writing, documenting his days.

I like to document my day and read back through it sometimes, but it is also important to offload everything onto paper, your thoughts, your dreams, your worries, your feelings.

Now, I understand again the macho attitude that writing in journals is not how a man deals with things. This is the bullshit attitute we need to make a thing of the past. Times are changing and, we as a race are waking up to what we need.

If I did not incorporate these measures I would be out of shape, stressed out, unhappy and unhealthy.

Exercise:

Movement is so important. I sit at a desk for most of the day, but even if you have a reasonably active job the important thing here is to get the heart rate up.

Vigorous exercise produces brain chemicals which are proven to make us happier.

Cut out negative people:

Life is too short to deal with negative attitudes. Negative talk effects our brains. How can you remain positive if you are not receiving positive vibes and energy.

This sounds callous, but to be honest, so what? We are not users who hang around with people just to gain something, but conversely, we do not have to tolerate people in our lives who offer nothing positive and negatively effect us.

Get away from a negative environment:

My work environment was stressful. It was only in hindsight that I realized I did not enjoy my job and that it was chipping away at me bit by bit every day. It is hard to make a change when you do not realize the change needs to be made, but deep down I knew and eventually it surfaced, and I became receptive to moving on.

It was when I opened up to the possibility that the opportunity presented itself.

Gratitude:

I listened to a TedTALK where a Fransiscan monk spoke about the merits of gratitude and that it is the path to hapiness.

This may seem unrealistic. If you think so just try it out for a week. Write down three things you are grateful for everyday and see how it feels.

Smile:

Again, this may seem like it can’t make a real overall difference but it does. Smile, even if you don’t feel like it, just fake it. The happy chemicals will come flooding straight in like a whole bunch of happy drugs.

Have a read of my blog on the effects of smiling.

Eat healthy:

You are what you eat. Garbage in, garbage out. Be smart with your food choices. I ate crap for about 28 years of my life, actually it was when Theresa and I moved in together that my diet changed. I wonder why?

Yoga:

Yoga saved me. It was through yoga that I found so many other practises like meditation and really looking inwards to see myself. It also brings so much focus to the breath which I think is the most important aspect of our lives.

Fresh air:

There is no better medicine than clean fresh air. I have not been sick in years, but I remember heading up into the fresh winter air of the north shore mountains in Vancouver and feeling all the symptoms immediately disappear once I got out into the crisp clean air.

It has the same effect on the mind, cleaning out any crap which is clogged up in there, whether it be thoughts, emotions or just general junk.

Be positive:

Negative self talk will literally kill you, eventually. You cannot change your self talk until you start to listen to it and for that you need space and silence which brings me onto my next topic.

Meditation:

In my opinion everybody needs to meditate. It should be thought in schools and encouraged in the work place. My daughter will be brought up with meditation being part of her life like brushing her teeth or washing her hands, a part of daily life.

I cannot stress the importance meditation enough. A friend of mine once told me he wasn’t a meditation kind of guy. I had suggested it when he spoke about his many stresses. It seemed better to remain stressed out rather than do something about it.

If the body is tired or stressed we rest it. The mind is no different. We need to create space and silence in the mind so that we can see ourselves and observe our state.

I could never change my course of action when I was to wound up because I couldn’t even see the issue. I just spiralled out of control

Breath:

The breath controls everyhing. Without the breath we cannot live, we cannot move. The breath creates space both in the body and mind. It also gives us the chance to pause.

How many times have you been told to take a deep breath?

It works. Take a slow, deep breath and you take the time to pause, take stock of the situation and come away from the shallow, quick (fight or flight) breathing to a more controlled state of mind.

If one deep breath has this effect, imagine what you can do with ten deep breaths.

I have given a lot of information here, to simplify it, if I were to pick the top three things that helped me overcome my anger issues I would say:

  1. Exercise (yoga and hiking)
  2. Fresh air
  3. Meditation

So after all that, where am I now? It is about four years since I have started to take yoga and meditation seriously.

Maybe I lie in the title when I say I overcame my anger issues. The anger surfaces from time to time, though far less often than it used to. It probably always will, but the difference is that now I can see where I am at.

I am aware of what is happening and I am aware of what I can do to take myself out of the situation or deal with it in a calm manner.

I think I am healthier (physically and mentally) now than I ever have been in my entire life.

It takes effort, it is something I will work on for the rest of my life but the only effort is in being consistent, it is in remembering to be kind to yourself and in knowing that you will slip up sometimes but that there is a way to calm the rough seas and let everything become still.

There is a way to slow down and stop you just have to give yourself the space to see that.

Peace,

George

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Who Do You Believe Is In Control Of Your Destiny?

What is your dream and how will you get there?

Do you dream big or do you settle for what you have?

You may already have everything you want but that doesn’t mean you don’t stop reaching. It doesn’t mean you stop searching.

If you have every step of your path laid out before you, then you know which direction to turn in your search when you are lost. Maybe you feel that you have already arrived at your destination. Ask yourself – have you? The journey doesn’t end so therefore the search doesn’t end.

Who do you believe is in charge of you and your destiny?

Is it the system?

Is it the beurocrats, the politicians, the government, your boss, your wages, your talents? No. These are all just aspects of your life.

I feel that the key word here is believe. Who do you BELIEVE is in charge or your destiny? It’s not society, it’s not the people who wronged you, forget them.

YOU ARE IN CHARGE, whether you believe that or not.

There’s that word again. That belief is what is important. That belief is what makes or breaks you. That belief defines you and shapes you into the person you will become.

If you don’t believe, then you will not change. Stand up, raise your chin, pull your shoulders back and declare to all in a strong voice “I am in charge of my own destiny.” Grab the bull the horns and get out there into the storm of a world we have to weather and take what is yours.

Take your destiny.

I speak metaphorically here, but the power is there, all you have to do is take charge. You have the power to get out of bed and go for a run before work. You have the power to spend one hour less watching Netflix and read a book from the library. You have the power to chose a salad or a pizza.

You are in charge of your destiny and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

Who do you think was in charge of Christopher Reeves destiny? Or Stephen Hawking? Or Viktor Frankl? Was it the horse that threw superman to the ground and broke his back? Motor neurone disease which slowed the world renowned physicist down to a physical stop but did it take charge of his life? The Nazis took everythign from Frankl but they did not best him.

Paralyzing injuries, debilitating sickness and an army of evil could not overpower these people.

They had the drive to keep going, to push through the hardest, life ending moments, to crawl through a river of shit and come out clean on the other side just like Andy Defresne in The Shawshank Redemption.

Forget about the privelaged folk who have everything, forget about the people you think you need to compare yourself to – they are not in charge of your destiny.

They do not care about your destiny. It is in your hands and you are in charge.

Take a pause and look around. Where are you? What are you going to do next? What did you eat today? Did you exercise? What did you learn? If you dont like the answer to any of these questions, remember that the rest of your life starts now and you are in control.

You have the power to change and shape your destiny as you chose. Not as someone else choses but as you chose.

Get up, look up, get out there and do what it is that makes you feel strong and powerful and keep on doing it. Keep on looking up.

You have the power to do what you want.

Peace,

George

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The Yamas – There Is More To Yoga Than Postures

There comes a point in everyones life when our brains are so full of thoughts, decisions and emotions that we come to a stop. Our joints dry up like the tin man in The Wizard of Oz and we slow down and stall.

I read a parable about two monks who were about to cross a river when they saw a woman who needed help to cross. One monk carried her and the other monk berated him after, “We are forbidden to touch women,” he said. “How could you do this?”

“I put the woman down on the other side of the river,” replied the other monk, “but you are still carrying her.”

I have carried thoughts and worries with me for a long time. I carried them like a great weight, my shoulders and back were constantly tense and I did not realize I could put it all to one side.

We pick up our problems and hold onto them for dear life like they are our precious possessions. So important are these problems that we carry them everywhere. We do not put them down.

After a time, I realized that three simple things would allow me to put down my burdens:

  1. Exercise
  2. Fresh air
  3. Meditation

For me, yoga is a door way to these paths, it is also a catalyst for consistency. Yoga is not just postures, it is not just meditation, these are important aspects of yoga but each is only one of eight parts.

The Eight Limb path of Yoga is laid out as follows:

  1. Yamas – Moral restraints
  2. Niyamas – Observances
  3. Asana – Postures
  4. Pranayama – Mindful Breathing
  5. Pratyahara – Turning Inward
  6. Dharana – Concentration
  7. Dhyana – Meditation
  8. Samadhi – Union with the object of meditation

I instruct yoga once a week at the Rob Lee YMCA on Burrard Street, guiding people through the asana (postures). I do my best to emphasize the importance of breath, though I find it difficult to get that across but in light of the above, I teach only a small part of yoga in my classes.

Over the next week I plan to explore one of the eight limbs of yoga in more detail – The Yamas.

The Yamas, to me, are a moral guide to how we should make our way through life. They are just as much a part of yoga as the postures we practise in class. The yamas are as follows:

  1. Ahimsa – Non-harming
  2. Satya – Truthfulness
  3. Asteya – Nonstealing
  4. Brahmacarya – Moderation
  5. Aparigraha – Nonhoarding

We can all practise an aspect of yoga without ever stepping on a mat.

Ahimsa

We can inflict violence on ourselves and others in many different ways. Physical violence plagues our planet, sometimes it may be hidden behind closed doors other times it is out in the open rearing its ugly head for all to see.

There is the violence of rage, which can be silent and contemplative, seething like a sickness, or loud and boisterous like an angry thunderstorm.

The violence of thoughts, when the anger rises in our minds and we think of lashing out.

It can be as simple as an unkind word or thoughts which, when we allow them will light a spark that can burn into an anger that sits with us, hidden in the background.

I have said before that a successful day starts the night before. My Sunday night consisted of staying up late working on the iPad. I found it hard to sleep after the screen time, the blue light firing my braincells up like a Christmas tree, my thoughts going back and forth like Forest Gump whacking a ping pong ball.

The result was that I stayed in bed later the next morning. It’s funny how much of a knock on effect that has. Instead of my regular 20 minute meditation session I gave it 5 minutes.

I set out with the intention of nonviolence but was not set up to carry that through.

I often talk about finding our true selves. I also wonder if we can lose our true selves. As I drove to work I met a lady who hesitated at a fourway stop. She looked at me like I was an idiot and I reacted in anger. That is where we lose our true selves, it is not the real me. Just like the monks at the river, I put that person down a long time ago, but he comes back sometimes. If we were face to face neither of us would have reacted like that.

Two more times I got frustrated on the way to work. A strong person would have noticed the impulse to react, felt it and let it settle and become still like a ripple in water. The person who meditated for twenty minutes that morning would have let it go also.

Meditation (Dharana), just like the Yamas is another part of yoga. They are all interdependent. One leads into the other. Yoga is a way of life, not just a physical practise. That was obvious to me on my first day to examine the Yamas.

Satya

Tuesday brought me to Satya (truthfulness). It is a difficult one to put into action. It can be interpreted in different ways. This evening I was coming to the end of a difficult yoga practice when bridge or wheel pose was offered by the teacher.

Sometimes I will attempt wheel for two or three breaths when my body is warmed up and I decided for my third round I would go for it. The offer from the teacher was either pose.

It was then I realized that I was doing this pose for my ego rather than because it was what my body needed. This was the truth of my yoga practise. I came to the matt open to honesty and ready to practise truthfully.

Satya refers to truth both in thought and action. It can be found in many places in our lives, we just need to open our eyes to it.

There are many forms of dishonesty but dishonesty with ones self is the most difficult to escape. It is invisible and sneaks into our lives like a dark ghost in the night. Only with constant practise and mindfulness of Satya can we ward off this spectre.

Asteya

Asteya (non stealing) can take many forms aside from the obvious, for example, when we do not give our full effort to those who have paid for our services, we retain some of the attention and effort which has been promised to others.

This is human nature, I take out my phone in work and see a notification which is more interesting than what I am working on and my fish mind takes the bait. We fly to the shiny object like a moth to a candle.

How many times through out the day is our time or attention stolen by those who it is not intended for. My attention is intended for those who have put their hard earned cash into paying for it, or for those who I love and who deserve my attention and those who are kind and have earned my respect through friendship or courtesy.

The mindless attention leaches on social media and plastered over unsightly billboards do not deserve our attention, yet they latch onto us and drag us down into the depths of cat videos or online shopping and literally steal hours a week from us.

Non stealing can be looked at either directly or indirectly but either way the most precious things we have, our time and attention can be stolen from us or else not directed towards those who deserve it. Our most precious gifts should be held tight to our chests and given to those who matter most or those to whom we owe a debt.

Brahmacarya

This means moderation. I am vegetarian but I am also a realist. The world will never turn vegetarian or vegan though, this change would have a huge impact on climate change and eliminate unethical treatment of animals.

Eating meat is natural in the animal kingdom but over consumption is not. We eat so much beef that cows farts are literally choking the planet to death.

Whether vegetarian or carnivorous, we all have a responsibility to the home we will pass onto our children. Eating ethically sourced meat mindfully, in moderation will have an impact on this planet of a magnitude many of us do not realize.

Brahmacarya can save us, for we have nowhere else to go.

Brahmacarya can also apply on the mat in relation to the extent of the physical practise. We are always encouraged to push our selves. According to David Goggins, when we think we are spent, we have only reached the 40% mark.

This is true, but we must keep in mind humility and moderation. Taking your body straight to handstand without the experience and practise is not pushing yourself to your limits, it is pushing yourself to certain injury. It will serve your ego rather than your development.

Aparigraha

Non-hoarding. We often, by our nature, accumulate items. We fill our lives with stuff which takes up space both in our homes and in our minds. There is nothing more freeing than letting go of items we don’t need.

A cluttered space is a cluttered mind. The things you own start to own you. More space and more things require more time and maintenance. In my opinion we should only spend our time on those things we really love. If we free ourselves from those things that do not add to our lives we liberate our minds.

Just like the monks who crossed the river, we are guilty of mental hoarding. We hold onto emotions even when the moment has long past and they do not serve us. Often times I find my mind wander back to some perceived wrong which I still carry like the monks at the river. I hoard it.

In conclusion I encourage you, if you are a yoga practitioner, to go deeper and explore how we can take the entire practise, not just the the postures and breath work, off the matt into our everyday lives. Practise yoga every day, not necessarily twisted like a pretzel or meditating on a mountain top, but by being aware of the eight limbs of yoga and putting them into practise as much as possible.

There is much to offer, dig deep and you will find it.

If you liked the blog you would pay me a huge compliment by sharing it.

Thanks for reading,

Peace.

George

Having Less: Why & How It Has Changed Us

The decision to live our lives with less gradually occurred over years. Realising that buying things only lead to buying more got exhausting, expensive and stressful. The constant need to keep up with friends & family, comparing what we had with others would make anyone feel inadequate.

Constantly going around the same loop of needing-wanting-getting-feeling bad, I came to a realisation that buying things was not making me happy but creating stress, worry, sadness and loneliness. I hate shopping malls and really didn’t like spending time in them. So why was I going there to buy stuff, it didn’t make sense.

Wakening up to the fact that buying things did not make me happy or having lots of clutter in our home did not make me happy. I decided to make a change. This decision came about from certain events but I think the one real eye opener was being around people who had so much money and things. Soon I realised they were no happier than we were. In fact, all their stuff caused them so much stress. People were even hired to take care of their stuff; houses, cars, animals, bags, jewelry. Stuff needs taking care of, maintenance, up keep, constant surveillance. Owing more than one home creates so much stress, especially when they are not lived in all the time leaks, electrical issues, surveillance, security alarms, all of these extra stresses which start to control the lives of the people.

I saw first-hand how people who seem to have it all, were controlled by it all. Spending months working on their houses, renovating, painting, adding on thinking it would all end in a few months but then the upkeep of the homes began to take over weekends. The time spent having to clean the house, do jobs around the house, or paying people to do all that just didn’t appeal to me.

Living in a rented 1-bedroom apartment might not seem like a lot to most people but what it is freedom. Freedom from upkeeping a massive house, freedom from huge mortgage bills, freedom from having to hire staff to clean, freedom to live more simply. Is this going to be reality for the rest of our lives, no, we want to live in our own small place on our own land someday but for now this is perfect.

Living in a small space doesn’t mean that we are living simply, you can over complicate life very easily with extreme shopping habits. This is what we wanted to change. We wanted to eradicate the need to want things, we wanted to sit and relax in our home and not want or need. Be happy with what we had because everything we had was chosen with care & love and thought.

We want to live in a home with less noise, more space and beauty. That meant going through every room, drawer, cupboard, box, shelf, basket and storage area to get rid of all the things that did not spark joy or happiness. Marie Kondo book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying” was the road map we used to help declutter our home. For me this process of getting rid of stuff is fun, I have no issue with giving unused, unwanted and no longer needed items away. In fact, when they find a great home it makes me feel so happy! We gave away and sold lots of stuff, no dumping required except we recycled a lot of bank statements, notes from courses we took, old notebooks and lots of other paper that was stored throughout the years. Now we just have 1 folder for our important paperwork and avoid bringing paperwork back to our home.

I like to look through each area of our place on a monthly basis to see if there are any other items we could donate or give away. We have come very close to a place now that we truly have just what we use & need.

I cannot explain how relaxing this is and how happy I am when I walk through our home door every evening after work and look around to a place where I want to relax, destress and be comfortable in. Not having a need to clean, improve or change anything. Its home. I swear I smile everything I come home, maybe because we worked so hard for it and spent a lot of time deciding how we want our place to look & feel. The constant need to buy is no longer there. We would rather spend time working on projects we want to complete, be out in nature & socializing with friends.

Having less is not easy in fact it is so much easier to have more, more stuff, more debt, more stress, more money, more drink, more credit cards, more cars, shoes……. it’s harder to limit, to say no and to realise that having more does not make you happy. Having been around people who have lots of money……. but still want more money & more stuff….it made me realise that the wanting never stops even when you become hugely successful.

Spending life taking care of your stuff is a horrid waste of time when you could be doing things that spark joy & happiness…don’t waste life accumulating things instead accumulate memoires, experiences, friends, love & relationships. Focus on what really matters, connection, community, health, wellbeing, friendships, family…. stuff will never make you happy…. It may make life easier sometimes but never happier.

Having less is the best decision we ever made. We Know having less is better for our environment, relationships, health and bank accounts. We choose having less clutter and more time to enjoy life. Yes, this lifestyle will not make sense to a lot of people but we are free to life exactly how we choose…. we choose less. Our possessions do not control our lives.

As always, we would love to hear your feedback and comments.

Have a great week,

Chat soon,

Theresa xx