How Do We Reconcile Change with Remaining Authentic

I suppose it’s the modern day, Self-Help paradox: to change or to remain¬†authentic? There seem to be certain platitudes bandied about amongst self-help aficionados.

“Be yourself!”

“Growth is change, and change is life!”

“Be AUTHENTIC!”

Details aside, how do we reconcile this seemingly antagonistic pair? The very phrase, “Be yourself!” implies that there is one “self” to be. And if that is so, how can we know if we are being authentic to this self, or growing?

People spend an enormous amount of time thinking about who they are, and more often than not, who other people think they are. Yet, this leads us down a self-destructing path. It is doubtful that it can be said that there is even one self. In¬†Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman brings up the idea of the memory self, and the experiencing self. What is more true, the self who remembers, or the self experiencing the now? How we remember things is often more true to us than what we actually experienced‚ÄĒeven Kahneman thinks of himself as a man made up of memories. Therefore, even when we look to how our mind operates, there are multiple selves.

So is it much of a stretch to say that throughout the passage of time, we have multiple selves? Looking back on their lives, most people would say that they’ve changed in unimaginable ways, whether it be from outlook, personality, interests, or goals. This does not mean a departure from the authentic self occurred, but it does mean that there was growth.

Perhaps the saving grace for reconciling these two is to drop the idea of the “self.” Ideas of the self lead to stunting the growth of the self, for in order to grow, one must change. If someone thinks that they are funny, they will be encouraged to act funny. Soon, something that was a complement given from another, becomes the prison of expectation from which one acts. To put a label on the self is to limit the self, taking away the one thing that will always be a part of the self: Change.

To be authentic, without limits, is to act in the Tao‚ÄĒeach moment calling to action that is the most natural. It is the constant awareness and mindfulness of the self that allows one to observe changes, while inhabiting the self of the moment.

How I Tamed My Frizz

Again with the hair issues! What’s a girl gotta do to get a good hair day around here, amiriiight?!?

Yes, I also face the battle against frizz. And I’m not talking about the two or three floating hairs that people complain about. I’m talking Hagrid-hair, no exaggeration. So Hagrid-hair is cool and all, so I tried owning it for a while, but really just preferred it to be smoother. My mother kept telling me to “comb my hair” which I would respond “that’s not how it works” with a litany of reasons. Anyway, let’s get into it:

This is my hair type: Thin and lightweight, looks brittle, frequent washing from exercise, flatter on top and poofs at bottom in a triangular formation somewhat, also baby hairs that poof at hairline, slightly wavy curls/waves and loose curls. Did I say thin???

I found a routine that gets my hair looking smooth, with a little more volume, and pretty much straight with some body.¬†I COULDN’T BELIEVE IT!!! THIS HAS BEEN A FORMULA 8 YEARS IN THE MAKING Y’ALL.

Here it is, you’re welcome:

  1. Once a week, apply VO5 Hot Oil Therapy. It’s pretty cheap, and I can see the difference. Apply on wet hair.
  2. Wash my hair with Alba Botanica’s Hawaiian Shampoo So Smooth Gardenia and Conditioner.
  3. Use my little microfiber hair turban thing. It soaks up the moisture in your hair and prevents the humidity that causes frizz. It also preps for drying your hair.
  4. Apply the “Light” Moroccan Oil–1.5-2 pumps.
  5. Use Tresemme Heat Protectant spray. Any heat-protectant is probably fine, this is just the one that I kept seeing recommended everywhere that was a drugstore item.
  6. Dry hair with a good blowdryer until bone dry. I never really get there, but I basically do, nearly. As much as I can without roasting the tiny baby hairs off my head and making me even more bald.
  7. Lightly coat hair with some sort of serum or hair spray to hold in place.

That’s basically it! This doesn’t make hair perfect like I just stepped out of a salon or something, but the difference is so significant and it barely calls for a little more effort! So good luck and smooth sailing!

How To: Not Regret Regret

“No Regerts,” reads a famous tattoo that is a favorite of mine. I never get board of irony (or puns, for that matter). It’s natural when looking over the past to feel regret, or thinking that you might have done something differently. This feeling in itself is not productive at all!

However, ¬†I believe that there is a use for every emotion. Often, emotions can reveal our inner thoughts and how we live our lives. For example, one should experience grief when it strikes. However, it is not healthy to wallow in this after a certain point. It’s not as though you keep feeling it until you’ve used it all up and it goes away–in this case, you emotions are controlling you, rather than you being a master of your emotions. Once you have given yourself time to grieve, for example, you can start to ask yourself why you feel these things and what they mean in the grander scheme of things. Perhaps besides the obvious loss of a presence in your life, it also shows how humans all to often are resistant to change, although we know it comes.

So when we feel regret, what does it mean? It means that we felt we had unfulfilled potential. We feel as though we wanted something, not gotten it, and it is no longer in our grasp because it is in the past.

Regret is one of those emotions that you really don’t need to spend time on, though, because once you know what it indicates, the best course of action is simply to change your current behavior to reduce the likelihood of experiencing that particular regret again the in the future.

To constructively deal with regret, here are a few simple steps:

  1. Name the regret. Name the specific actions, or events that you regret. Only then can you put them into similar, more general groups. This makes it much more accurate.
  2. Why did you regret that? Did you feel like you didn’t live up to your potential, did an action have a detrimental effect, did you do something, or not do something? Write that down.
  3. Distill a lesson out of this. I personally think that it’s useful to have a little snippet of what you learned that is catchy, just so that it’s easy to remember and on the forefront of your mind. Changing behaviors is not easy, and in the beginning, it will take more effort than is probably comfortable for you to change a behavior that led to the regret. This can be made easier by an easy to digest sentence or phrase.
  4. Think of something concrete that you can change right this second. Yes, right this second! And then do it‚ÄĒright now! This will ‘break the seal’ so to speak and get you over that hump of procrastination of change, and catapult you into a whole series of actions you can subsequently take to alter your behavior.

You see, regret is not something that is just a feeling that you need to get rid of. It’s one of the most useful emotions in telling us where we need to make changes in our lives to continue growing into the people that we are!

Good luck, and hoping that you embody “No Regerts!”

Combatting Hair Loss for Women

I’ve had a running joke with my friends about Maude. Occasionally she will pop up in photos and I’ll tag her. Some days she is extra visible. Yes. Maude is my bald spot.

Okay, it’s not a bald spot per se, but the hair by that part of my hairline is definitely thinner and sparser than the rest of my head. This leads to photos where my face and head ends up looking oddly shaped. It’s just not cute.

I’ve been searching for SO MANY methods to solve this. Then, I watched this¬†YouTube of AlexandrasGirlyTalk on her postpartum hair loss. The comments were flooded with advice. I realized that I wasn’t the only one who was struggling with this!

There are SO MANY different methods for hair growth that I want to try out, but here are a few tips I’ve tried or am about to try that you can give a try! Say that three times fast haha.

  1. Don’t put so much strain on your hair.

This means don’t put it up in tight up-dos like buns and ponytails. I have, oddly, worn my hair up everyday for basically more than the last 12 years of my life. My hair is also thin. When so much strain is put on the strands, it causes breakage and receding.

What you can do to combat this is to wear your hair down. Another option, if you must wear your hair up, is to wear it lower, or in looser hairstyles. You can do this by transferring the strain to other thicker parts of your hair, and utilizing bobby pins and clips.

2. Biotin and Hair, Skin, and Nails Supplements. 

Making sure you get the proper nutrition you need is extremely important because your hair is an indicator as to how healthy you are sometimes. If you eat healthier, your hair will be healthier and more will grow. If you aren’t getting the nutrients you need, then your hair and nails may grow less, or be thinner.

However, we’ll just go over the shortcut of taking these supplements.

Biotin (aka Vitamin B7 or H) supplements are readily available. You might have seen the SugarBearHair or Nature’s Bounty vitamins recently. Most dosages targeted to hair growth will have 5,000 mcg, but some like the Nature’s Bounty “Biotin” supplements are 10,000 mcg. The adequate intake is 30 mcg/day for an adult, by the way (!!!).

It has to be said that there is no real evidence that this would help most people, because most people do not have Biotin deficiencies. Our body needs very little Biotin, and enough is usually found in our diets. Doctors may prescribe this to people with conditions like Alopecia (for example)–but this is rare.

There are no known negative side-effects for taking too much Biotin, as there is no “too-much” that has been specified. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, check with a doctor.

I use Nature’s Bounty Hair, Skin, and Nails supplement and I do feel like my hair has been growing faster, as I looked at my leg hair growth, which was more measurable. Also, I don’t like to eat gummies (I like the pill form instead) because there really is no reason to ingest all that extra sugar and food coloring. However, I think that you can also just eat more foods naturally containing biotin.

Also, this is water-soluble, and I suggest you drink more water with it. People have claimed that they started to break out after taking biotin, so it’s recommending to drink more water, or discontinue use if the breakouts are too intense.

3. JASON Thin-to-Thick Hair Elixer

The jury is still out on this one, but this is a serum you apply to the balding spot and it gets good reviews. It smells good, but the instructions are to leave it on at night and rinse it out in the morning, which is not always convenient.

There are lots of DIY home methods for applying things to the scalp, so I would suggest digging around the internet and YouTube for people’s methods they believe in.

 

What To Do While Waiting For Hair to Become Luscious 

  1. Get a ‘Hair Powder’

In the YouTube video, Alexandra mentioned dabbing in a powder that matched her hair color into the parts of her scalp that were showing. The effect was great, but you can level up!

I read about how celebrity hairstylists and makeup artists fill in the hairlines of celebrities for the red carpet (they also don’t have perfect hairlines, people!). There are powders specifically for hairlines. One of the brands recommended is Toppik. They come in many shades. Another product that is great is by Kristofer Buckle. He had a makeup line that sold out, but the idea was a brow enhancer, that was a pomade then a powder to set.

2. Find a hairstyle that works.

This is a really underestimated tool. I was not expecting it to make a huge difference, but I got a blowout one time, then I got my hair cut and styled, and WOW. You could barely see my bald spot, Maude, or at the very least were not focused on it at all.

I just didn’t pay much attention to how I was pushing Maude front and center when I wore my hair in a bun, or I parted it a certain way.

I bought a heat-protectant spray and started to blow dry the hairs framing my face down (instead of randomly and ending up looking like Hagrid), and Maude was much easier to cover up, or at least appear more demure.

 

So there you go! At the end of the day, hair loss or thinning is natural and nothing to be ashamed about. These are all easy ways to feel better and more confident, but you are beautiful with or without a Maude!

Curated: A List of the Most Influential Books in Overcoming My Social Anxiety

Overcoming social anxiety was not an easy road for me. It took years for me to be able to go out into public or be in close proximity with people and not have my hands sweat or heart race. Anyone who has had some experience with this knows how challenging it can be. It was excruciating having a personality that craved social interaction and validation, and yet was paralyzed in fear when around people.

During that time, I spent a lot of time looking for resources that would help me to get out of this so-called personal hell that I had created for myself. I mean, it’s not like I was spending that time with human beings, so I had a lot of time to myself.

As I’ve found, it’s not so much what book you read, but reading the right book at the right time. Here’s a list I’ve compiled of the books that made the most impact on me and helped me to change my physical reality:

  1. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

 

My father always talked about how taking a Dale Carnegie Sales Training Course changed his life. I believe I have multiple copies of this book now–you could say it’s a staple in our home.

This book is chock-full of advice from an expert in people. It covers topics for basically every area in life. And most importantly: it’s simple. A key in the book is, “Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain.” Become interested in people. It’s simple, and it works.

More importantly, this gave me faith that I could one day be successful at communicating with people. It gave me hope that people could like me one day. The tools and techniques, I think, are mainly to bolster your confidence in your interactions with others. I felt like I had more control, and so I had more confidence. It made something that was frightening to me into something formulaic. Something that you didn’t have to naturally understand to implement and see results.

This is a classic, so you can get it at any library. You can look at quotes on Goodreads here, and check out the Table of Contents here.

 

2. The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Joseph Murphy.

Image result for the power of your subconscious mind

I highlighted and underlined this book like no other. I’d say this was Carnegie’s predecessor for me. I don’t know when I started believing that our mind has the most weight in how much we enjoy our lives, but this book was a big contributor to it. Not all of our problems can be solved by our mind, but a lot more physical changes can occur than you would expect.

Belief is a powerful tool, and the fact is (that I will not go into detail on here) that there are all kinds of “placebo effects” in us and around us that have shown us how powerful our minds are.

This book helped me to believe that I could do a lot just in my mind. Which was great, because I didn’t want to be around people. Haha. But eventually, my mindset became my physical reality and I got there.

A big part of this book is autosuggestion–getting your subconscious to work through to solutions. You have the power to change your thoughts and your life–and this ISN’T woo-woo stuff. This is real and it can change your life.

This gave me a formula for HOW to utilize my subconscious so that it was working for me, not against me. It showed me simple tools to program my subconscious like repeating statements that I wanted to be true etc.

It took me from knowing that I could change, to REAL and IMPLEMENTABLE as to how to do so. Easily, the most transformative of the bunch.

For Amazon, click here. For Goodreads quotes, click here.

3. Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu.

There are a lot of “life lessons” in here, but there was really only one point that for some reason got burned into my brain that made the most impact on me out of anything (for some reason).

That was: Be Natural.

Yes, that is it. I was just so tired of thinking about every move I made, even every breath I took around people. That takes up a lot of energy! I was just sick of it and felt,¬†you know what–literally anything would be better than this. People can think I’m weird and reject me and talk about me and all that wouldn’t even be bad if I had a few friends and could just stop putting so much energy into caring.

I decided I would reprogram myself to notice whenever I had an inclination to do something–maybe it was touching a leaf, saying hello, something else simple like that–and I would do it. I had been so controlling over every little movement and action (it was really pretty neurotic) that I consciously would have to do this.

So basically, I went crazy and weird and things turned out great. Other things prepared me mentally, but this single thing is what drove the actions and behaviors that changed my life. Not into being a perfect person, but in just being able to live again.

Note: this picture is the book I read and recommend, simply because it’s easy to read and seems more accessible.

Check out the Table of Contents on Amazon here. Read quotes on Goodreads here .

These books are far from all the books that have helped me, but they are the most pivotal. They’re classics that you have to check out if you’re looking to improve your mindset and your life.

How To: Make the Best Decisions

From all of my posts, we know that I’m a pretty indecisive person. The questions move from: What is the best choice? to How can I make the best choice?¬†and then to¬†What do I mean by the best choice?

The best choice, after some thought, I think is the choice that I would be the most satisfied with. We try to weigh different factors so that we can lower negative effects, and increase possible positive outcomes. Many times, we make the false assumption that this means that there is a “right” choice and a “wrong” choice–one choice that is objectively better than the other. We think that by our attempts at prediction, we will come to be the most satisfied.

However, I propose that this is not the whole picture. First of all, we are terrible at predicting what will bring us the most happiness. Study after study in psychology and economics shows us this. We obviously can’t predict the future, and if we can’t even predict what we actually want, it seems that we are paddling up sh*t creek (so to speak).

What do we do in this case? We have to reorient the premise of this question and turn it on its head. What if there is no objectively “better” choice? What if the choices within themselves were arbitrary? This is not a premise so far off the mark, given the factors mentioned.

Therefore, it seems as though the choice that will bring the most satisfaction is the choice that we find the most satisfaction with–and not necessarily the outcome.¬†

Of course, this is restricted to more personal options where cost benefit analysis makes no sense–What should I major in? What career should I pursue? Should I get married? Should I take that trip? Write this book? These are all questions where we could attempt to make some kind of pro-con list, but we know this doesn’t work at bringing us closer to an answer usually. The only situation in these cases when it would, would be if it gave the decision-maker more peace of mind.

Being content with our decision may just have to do with being content with our decision, no matter what it is.

The happiness that we get from our decisions are not from the choice we make, but by choosing our choices–fully embracing them and letting the rest fall to the wayside.¬†

 

Should You Plan Your Backpacking Route?

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When you are planning your backpacking trip, you might find it hard to decide whether to plan your route, or to freeball it and go where the wind takes you. Both are great methods of travel, and you won’t really know which you prefer until you do it! Here are some pros and cons to each decision, and some questions to help you make your decision:

I’M A PLANNER!

+Go and stay everywhere you want to go

+Certainty

+You can focus on where you are, instead of planning where you are going next

+Cheap flights, rooms, deals and discounts

-You might meet people you want to travel with, but can’t

-You might learn about different things to do and places to see you didn’t know about, but may have to miss out because of your schedule

I WANNA FREEBALL IT!

+Serendipitous events happen more frequently

+You can join whoever you want traveling anywhere

+You can shift your priorities and do what you want to do!

+You can plan the rest of your trip with information you gather on location with possibly local people, rather than from a limited scope of a computer screen.

-Might be forced to miss out on a hostel or opportunity you wanted or discovered because its too busy, maybe pay more for flights you may have to take.

-In busy season and depending where you are, you may not even be able to get a place to stay for how much you have! Don’t let it get to this point, but it is possible.

-Having to worry about planning while visiting a city, which may be only for a few days

*Note: when looking at this list, the number of pros and cons don’t really matter, it’s about how much weight you put to each one, or whatever weight you put on your own reasons!

WHAT DO I NEED TO CONSIDER, MUGGLE STUDENT???

Q: Who the hell am I????

A: We don’t need to get too existential, but if you know you are someone who can’t deal with too much uncertainty, if you’re someone who needs to know, if you’re someone who changes your mind often…all things that you know about yourself that would rule out one option.

Q: What do I want from this trip?

A: Do you want to see specific things? Do you want to go through an experience of being a “traveler” and seeing where the wind takes you? What is your main objective? And which option will help you get there or stifle you?

Q: Am I traveling with someone or yourself?

A: If you are traveling with someone, you might have to make some concessions. If they are more comfortable with a plan, you may have to go along with it–not all the time, but more than you might want to. Likewise, you may have to bend more and be more flexible if your partner wants some unpredictability.

Q: How much money do I have?

A: Sometimes you can get discounts and deals last minute, but not all the time. Sometimes you can get really cheap deals if you buy tickets in advance through Ryanair etc., usually this is the case.

Q: Do I have a strong back?

A: Haha silly question to a real concern–if you don’t plan in advance, you will probably be walking around with your backpack a lot, sometimes for hours, not knowing where you are going, in the middle of the night. If you are a heavy packer or can honestly say that you are weak, planning to get from place to place with the lease amount of effort and time is probably the best bet for you.

Q: Do I have access to wifi or a data plan?

A: Having a data plan is extremely helpful in finding your way around, booking hostels, booking flights, booking busses, etc. If you are going somewhere with limited wifi, or even if you just don’t have a data plan and are not sure of when you will have access to the internet, of course it is better to plan in advance, because you may not even be able to make plans on the fly.

Q: Where are you going?

A: Although it is technically possible for you to just freeball wherever since I guess people do it, but let’s be real–some places are not the safest and you may not want to put yourself in a situation where you have even less control than you already do. Does this place have the resources for you to make plans on the go, or will you be stuck out in the street in the middle of the night? You may not want to chance that.

Q: Do you have a Eurail (Euro Pass, Eurorail Pass) or an equivalent?

A: If you do, it will probably make it a bit easier to go wherever (pretty much) you want to go on a whim.

Q: Is this the first time you are going backpacking, are alone backpacking, or the first time for both you and your partner?

A: Going alone or without experience may mean that you may be more comfortable planning things out in advance. Having a good planned out experience this time may encourage you to go out and do an unplanned trip in the future.

Q: Are you flexible?

A: You need to be for both. When going unplanned, you definitely need to be flexible. But even if you plan your trip, you need to be flexible enough to say that I may have to put that ticket and room booking to waste because I found something better to pursue–because that will be what makes your trip.

THE VERDICT

In the end, what is most important is that you do what you are most comfortable with. Both are great methods to try out. And let’s be real, if you are out and about traveling the world, can it really be ruined by what method of preparation you choose? No.

For me, planning weeks or even months in advance was not my thing, and I change my mind pretty often, so I set off on my backpacking trip not knowing where I would be in between landing in Edinburgh and getting reading to return home from London. Sometimes, it was exhausting to have to plan where I was going to go next at the end of a long day and scrounge around for a ticket or a room and sometimes ending up in places I didn’t really want to be, but it was all worth it for me because the best parts of my trip were things that I could never have planned!

Good luck on your journey!

 

Reverse Engineering “The Meaning of Life” Question

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At some point, most people today have been confronted with the elusive question of the meaning of life. Recently, this has been bothering more so because I couldn’t understand the meaning of my life–or rather what to do with my life–and wanted some sense of direction that I couldn’t seem to find. So when I was browsing around my local bookstore and spotted Terry Eagleton’s¬†The Meaning of Life: A Very Short Introduction, I snapped it up despite the tiny size that didn’t seem to justify the $11.95 price tag. But this is the secret to the universe here, people, so I relented.

Well now I’m done with it, and surprisingly I wasn’t bestowed with the secret knowledge of time and the cosmos. However, I was presented with the next best thing: a different way of thinking about it.¬†Eagleton compiled information from so many great thinkers on this subject throughout history in a neat little package. What I talk about here is just what I found the most interesting, and my thoughts on that. I highly suggest this book to anyone who has struggled with “the meaning of life.”

Before anything, it is useful to provide the context surrounding this entire inquiry: the meaning of life is not some sort of question that has plagued all peoples in all societies for all of time. For example, most ancient Hebrews would not ask this question because the answer is given through their religious beliefs, and the matter of meaning is woven into the society just as much as the religion is. Now that most of us live in a world where one religion is not a given, even those who do follow a certain faith are not immune to feeling adrift when it comes to meaning. The idea that we ourselves can determine the meaning of our lives can at once be empowering, but also lessen that very same sense of meaning. I also know that even my parents, who are only one generation ahead of me, are not harassed by this question as much as my peers are. They give little thought to it if any, as even asking this question seems foreign to them. Although there are always people who have this question in whatever time, the finding meaning or finding your “passion” are like epidemics nowadays, where once there was barely a whisper of it. One might think of the question presently more as a litmus test for the society that we live in today, rather than something that can objectively be “solved”.

The problem with trying to find an answer to the meaning of life is that there is no answer. At least, not one that we can possibly know of. Someone once said (as vague as this all is) that if you can’t find the solution to a problem, change the question. On one level, this seems like a blatant avoidance of the question and moving on to something else more easily solved. However, in many cases, the problem is not the problem–the real problem is a poorly framed question!

When people ask the meaning of life, they are rarely asking the same thing. Sometimes you could be asking about what is the meaning or direction of your life, other times you could be asking if the progression of the universe is moving towards something, and other times you are asking about the meaning of the suffering in your life if there is one at all. What are you really wondering about when you ponder about the meaning of life? Simply rewording the question could lead to an answer.

Beyond that, the question of the meaning of life could be a question of semantics. Eagleton sources many, most prominent to me Ludwig Wittgenstein, that ask what is actually meant by “meaning” and “life” and comes to various conclusions. When it comes to meaning, it could mean (ha) intention, significance, and “the act of intending to signify something” (35). Even these categories are not mutually exclusive and the edges of their definition are blurry. So then comes the question of if life is in a sense predestined and moving towards something and that is the “meaning”, or if it’s all accidental, but there can still be “meaning” attached to that.

Then we have the nebulous word, “life”. This may lead to questions like, “What is the good life?” But even then,¬†the good life may not be¬†a good life, objectively. What is the meaning attached to the actions we take? Is there an overall narrative to our lives that “makes sense”? Many people like me would tell you, no, our lives are just a series of unfortunate events. I’m just kidding. Sort of.

This only begins to scratch the surface. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but in this case one word is worth ten thousand words and then some. Eagleton covers far more than this and I would venture to say that there is no superfluous words in his 101 page book. Each page packs new ideas and findings into every free space. 

The question of life must be juxtaposed against the fact of death, something which we all face. The fact that our time in this life that we know of is limited, yet all we know of is this, urges us to find the significance of anything. The question of the meaning of life would not exist if we were one of the immortals and had a cycle of events continuing on for all of eternity. Our limits are what cause this question to become pressing or of any interest. It could be said that this question is just asking what our lives are adding up to. Of course, another nebulous statement.

With proper framing “The Meaning of Life” question however, the necessity for some sort of one answer fades away, as Terry Eagleton is able to do. To me, I don’t want to spend my time turning over ideas in my mind that I know will lead to nothing. Therefore, the most important thought I can take away from this conversation to bring to action in my life, as the act of living life is arguably closer to the meaning of life than thinking of the meaning of life, is that any sense of meaning (or whatever it is that allows us to live our lives with a sense of contentment or fulfillment) lives in between people. The meaning of our lives are not singular to us, it cannot exist only within ourselves. Rather, the meaning we can take from life is from the relationships that we have, and how we impact those around us and how they impact us. It is about the collective efforts of people and finding your place in society.

When you look at nature, everything has a purpose or a reason. However, it could also be said that they do not exist to move something towards something else. It is all happening in time, in this moment. There is a reason a mountain looks purple from a distance or stars twinkle at night. However, they are not doing this to fulfill some sort of role. They are doing that because that is just what they do. You do not question if it is necessary, it is just something that you enjoy.The trees have their role to fulfill in the ecosystem, but they are not doing it for any reason, they just grow. The reason trees are what they are is because of time and the surrounding ecosystem, but also the surrounding ecosystem is there because of the trees. That’s why I think children rarely ask themselves the “meaning of life,” or rather the meaning of their own life–because they are having too much fun! And they don’t question it too much because they are too busy enjoying it.

Therefore, although it seems trite, it seems to be that the best thing to do is to live a life in which you don’t reach for answers from some outside meaning. Rather, in living a life with and for others, the feeling of meaninglessness disappears. And the best way to live a life with and for others is to delight in the world around you and what others bring to it, while using the best parts of yourself to contribute to that delight.

Transmuting Negative Energy Into Love

I know that from this title you are probably thinking, “Wow, this must be some hippy post.” And I would say, “Yes, you are right about that.” Because sometimes, you have to get a little bit hippy if you want to survive in this world.

We’ve all faced moments where we have felt attacked from some source of negative energy. This could be coming from a person or some even happening in your life. I don’t have to explain to you that this does not feel good. It debases you–makes you feel like you are now unsafe in this world of what, at is core, is order, harmony, and love. How do you get back to this calm place of inner strength?

The first thing to do is to look inward–this is where the discord is coming from. Without a pre-existing source of internal discord, a negative emotional response could not have been triggered from the external source. Because we have less control over the people and conditions around us than we do over ourselves, the best thing to do is go straight to the source, and look within.

In the intense emotion of the moment, I find it comforting to think of universal order personified. This may be through a God, or an energy–whatever works for you. It’s that feeling of nurturing; that everything is safe and going to be okay. From that assurance of protection, a sense of calmness floods you. You can imagine a safe place in your mind that you can go to for a short meditation of sorts. It will be different and deeply personal for everyone. It could be a forest that you have imagined, it could be your grandparent’s living room you were always at when younger, it could even be some random cave in the middle of the Himalayas. None of it matters. But this is your sacred place: your place of peace. Sit here for a while, feeling the universal energy pulse around you like a river and remember–we are all connected.

In these moments, I have found inspiration hit me as if coming from nowhere. I have found solace, and divine energy. A renewed faith in the universe and life. Every moment is an opportunity for us to move from anger, bitterness, and confusion to a state of love and compassion. You wouldn’t expect it, but our open wounds can be the most fruitful ways to open our hearts.

Perhaps our eyes need to be washed by our tears once in a while, so that we can see Life with a clearer view again.”

–Alex Tan

Have faith that every moment happens for your benefit, and go forward with renewed strength.

The Law of Self-Assurance

Recently, I was working my university’s commencement ceremony as a gate-keeper. A few others and myself would stand at certain points in a location to ensure that attendees of the ceremony would not get through. Basic crowd-control. This was my most recent brush-up with what I like to call “The Law of Self-Assurance.”

Let me explain. The people who were power-walking and looked like they knew where they were going were usually able to bypass us and our screening speech (What are you looking for, how can I help? i.e. Whatever it is is not important and you shouldn’t be here). They would do this without a badge or graduation robe. Half of the time we didn’t go after them because it would be too much trouble, and the other half because it actually seemed like they knew what they were doing and therefore should be there. The people who were lolly-gagging, looking around, or talking with others were unable to pass us. Here, we can see the Law of Self-Assurance in effect.

The Law basically states that if you act with self-assurance in what you are doing, people will let you do it with little to no questioning. The reasons for this simple rule are as follows:

1) Very few people have full information on anything, so if you look like you know what is going on, they will assume that you do know what is going on. In our case, we did not know all of the different components of how the event worked and who else was involved. Therefore, the people passing with an air of purpose might know more than we do, and so it is easier to let them do it. The key is to activate the Law of Self-Assurance amongst people who do not know any better (most people).

2) Effort. Humans will want to expend the least amount of effort in many situations. By looking self-assured and filled with purpose, you have laid down the groundwork for what people should expect from you. Questioning that image would be going against the grain for an on-looker, forcing them into a situation in which they expend the most effort–highly unwanted. Each day, many of the decisions we make are decisions we have made before and make continually out of habit, or are those that others have made for us. This is because it is the path of least resistance and effort for our brain to take so that we can expend energy on something that we have not encountered before. Naturally, if someone has done the work of deciding for us of who they are and what their role is in the situation, we are more likely to allow that assumption to perpetuate that question it.

3) Most people dislike confrontation, either because of possible expended effort or a fear of rejection or disapproval. Although you don’t want to get into an altercation with the poor gate-keepers, they do not know that. There is an innate fear in people with rejection and confrontation, which is why people have a natural response to predict and scan for situations in which these altercations might occur so that it can be avoided. By looking self-assured, they already know that you are less likely to agree with what they might say because what you are doing is counter to their plea. Consciously or not, they attempt to avoid this and therefore let you do what you want.

Above are some points as to how the Law of Self-Assurance operates. There are certain conditions to the law, as well as exceptions depending on the situation. However, these points generally remain true. What is more important than how it works is to know that it does work. Between you and I, we know that you actually have no place being where you are, and hence cannot actually believe that you genuinely belong there unless you are deluded. The confidence and belief in the Law is what takes the place of that, and allows you to carry on getting where and what you want with panache and flair.

So the next time you want to do something or go somewhere that you are not technically invited to do, try out this Law of Self-Assurance and see what happens!