Aang

Zen & Self Acceptance

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Tenzin: I must stay focused. Remember who you are, Tenzin. You are the son of Avatar Aang. You are the hope for future generations of airbenders. The fate of the world rests on your shoulders. But what if I fail? Then your father’s hope for the future dies with you. I can’t fail!
Aang: Hello, my son.
Tenzin: Dad, I’ve failed you. I am no spiritual leader, and I’ve let the world down. I’ll never be the man you were.
Aang: You are right. You are trying to hold on to a false perception of yourself. You are not me, and you should not be me. You are Tenzin.
Tenzin: I am not a reflection of my father. I am Tenzin. I am Tenzin.

~*~

I’ve been stalling in writing the final post of the A to Z Challenge which was due on the 30th April. I put so much pressure on myself to write a brilliantly kick-ass wrap-up post that I just as brilliantly convinced myself that everything I composed was just plain ass. Of course, finding a title beginning with Z which was stimulating enough to inspire a post only served to exacerbate the issue. “Zis iz impozzible” crossed my mind many times. But here I am, more than two weeks late and determined to post tonight.

Zen is a way of being. It also is a state of mind. Zen involves dropping illusion and seeing things without distortion created by our own thoughts. It is about acceptance of self rather than perception of self. Heavy topic. But let’s see if I can explain where I am at. I am struggling and have been for a while. Quitting drinking and smoking a year ago changed the way I viewed many aspects of my life: my health, my social activities, my emotional, mental and spiritual habits, even the way I handled my finances. The aspects of my personality and character that are at the forefront of who I am now are different from those that were dominant a year ago.

While I am proud of what I’ve accomplished and pleased with the direction certain parts of my life are heading, I am wrestling with who I am. I am caught between who I expect I should be and who I think I am. I know much of it has to do with self criticism and judgment and I really am trying. I want to be more accepting of myself. I want to be comfortable with improving little by little or even just staying in one place for a little while. But I’m not. I know it is important to be patient and to understand that progress is a process, but honestly, sometimes I’m so tired of it all. I’m tired of thinking that I should be more.

In the scene quoted above, Tenzin’s realization that he had put tremendous pressure on himself by defining who he was as only one thing, Avatar Aang’s son, resonates with me. As I interpreted it, this scene was about self acceptance. Tenzin found clarity when he realized that he should not try to be anyone but himself. He accepted all of who he was, even the parts that he deemed “less” than worthy of the son of Avatar Aang. He was, in the end, more compassionate with himself.  This is how I endeavour to be: more compassionate and more accepting of myself.  I want to accept myself as I am. All of it. But even wanting to be more accepting of myself is thinking that “I should be more”. It’s a fine line to walk, I think.

While I have accepted the mistakes I made in the past, some time in the last year, I made it okay to hold my present self up to a very high standard. I give myself very little leeway for mistakes now, which, I think is wrong. I judge myself harshly for being “too sensitive” even when I know that my reactivity is not rooted in the present. I excuse unfair treatment by others because I tell myself to “rise above it.” I criticize myself for getting angry or shutting down when I need to set boundaries or retreat to a safe space, because I’m “supposed to be able to handle it.” I’ve been essentially setting myself up for failure and only hurting one person in the process: Me. Inadvertantly I’ve been eroding my self esteem by pushing too hard to be someone I think I should be.

From my research I’ve come to understand that although related, self acceptance is not the same as self esteem. Self esteem specifically refers to how valuable, or worthwhile  we see ourselves, and self acceptance alludes to a far more gobal affirmation of self. “When we’re self-accepting, we’re able to embrace all facets of ourselves — not just the positive, more ‘esteem-able’ parts. As such, self-acceptance is unconditional, free of any qualification. We can recognize our weaknesses, limitations, and foibles, but this awareness in no way interferes with our ability to fully accept ourselves.” ~ Dr. Leon F. Seltzer

“Zen involves dropping illusion and seeing things without distortion created by our own thoughts. It is about acceptance of self rather than perception of self.” Okay. So here goes:

I accept that I am torn between dedicating hours doing purposeful work I enjoy and work I don’t. I accept that it might be some time before I figure out how to balance it all and I accept that this does not mean that I don’t really have super-powers. (smile)

I accept that I am at a particularly difficult crossroads, spiritually, emotionally and mentally which is manifesting itself physically, with headaches, tension, weight gain, backaches and shoulder pain. I accept that in an effort to feel more in control in this area, I have a tendency to project that loss of control onto other areas in my life. Unfairly so at times.

I accept that I have a fiery temper fueled by my insecurities and that I get jealous easily and feel abandoned easily. I accept that I inevitably try to determine the root cause of those inseurities and how they play out in my life.

I accept that I will always want to learn more and better understand this world and my place in it, I accept that I will always be curious about why I want to learn and understand in the first place.

I accept that I have both light and dark in me and that at the same time I need and don’t need balance.

I accept.

~*~

This is Post X, in the A to Z Blogging Challenge 2015. My 26 posts are inspired by the quotes from Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, two Emmy award-winning animated television series created and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The setting for both series is an Asian-influenced world of martial arts and elemental manipulation. The shows drew on elements from East Asian, South Asian, and Western culture, and (aside from the kick-ass story lines, beautifully developed characters and exceptional storyboards) are where I found a wealth of inspiration and perspective on my own life.

The rest of my A to Z 2015 posts can be found here.

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Until I Dance Again

Katara Dancing
Aang: Listen, guys… dancing isn’t something you think about.
It’s a form of self-expression that no one can ever take away from you.

I was dancing. It was midnight and I was in the middle of the dance floor with my eyes closed and a smile on my face. The music pulsed all around me, thumping its way from the speakers across the room, along the floor and up my body. With all limbs in motion, I rocked to the beat as the strobe lights lit up the nightclub in flashes. I opened my eyes to find my best friend looking at me with a gentle smile. He walked over, wrapped me in his arms and whispered, “You are magnetic when you’re happy.”

I miss dancing. I loved going dancing with the girls and haven’t done so in over a year. I love music that moves me and I didn’t care too much back then for form or routine, and my “style” was a mixture of everything I’d learned in my lifetime. Mostly I just went with it, moving however I felt like moving, adding shimmies and hip hits that summer I learned how to belly dance. And then of course, when I drank most inhibitions went out the window and I didn’t care what anyone thought of my “groove”.

Since I quit drinking, the need to “be on my best behaviour / be sober” when I’m out in public has me more self-conscious than usual. Nowadays my public dancing is limited to head-bobbing in my car on the way to work. At home, in private, I dance up a storm to Lana Del Ray, Lady Gaga, Shakira, Nelly, Tove Lo, Sean Paul and Gwen in front of my mirror, creating Phoenix dance moves while I get dressed for work. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that with time and acceptance of self, I will feel comfortable in my sober skin, free enough to be myself, and dance to my own beat in front the whole world again. In the meantime, my bedroom rug is the stage upon which I’ll never stop dancing.

Love and light,
Phoenix

~*~

This is Post U, in the A to Z Blogging Challenge 2015. My 26 posts are inspired by the quotes from Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, two Emmy award-winning animated television series created and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The setting for both series is in an Asian-influenced world of martial arts and elemental manipulation. The shows drew on elements from East Asian, South Asian, and Western culture, and (aside from the kick-ass story lines, beautifully developed characters and exceptional storyboards) are where I found a wealth of inspiration and perspective on my own life.

The rest of my A to Z 2015 posts can be found here.

Patience

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Tenzin: There is no shame in taking the time you need to make a full recovery. I know you want to help. But trust me, everyone has this under control. I just think you need to …
Korra: [Angry.] If you say, “be patient”, I swear I’m gonna water-smack you in the mouth!
Tenzin: Nooo … I was going to say, you need to … [Searching for replacement advice] not worry about the future. Be grateful for where you are now and the progress you’ve made.

Last night a business associate took me out for dinner in the city’s art district. The restaurant was a cross between an art gallery, a bar and a restaurant. I loved the decor which set my mind’s cogs turning as I was finally feeling inspired enough to resume planning my pieces for an upcoming exhibition. The exhibition dates have been set for over a year and as usual, mired by doubt, I was procrastinating. Then of course, frustrated with my lack of progress, I’d berate myself for my creative block. I understand that the block is caused by a fear of failure. I want my pieces to be perfect and if I fall short, I’ll feel like a failure.

I do this to myself in other ways too. Like frowning at myself for being ashamed that I could not tell my business associate that I don’t drink at all. I shrugged off my decision to order a club soda and lemon, with an “Oh, I just don’t feel like drinking today.” Yet I gave myself a stern talking to before bed: “You have to get over this. You’ve been sober for over a year. Own your sobriety. Be proud of it and stop thinking that something is wrong with you. You should be further along in your acceptance of yourself.”

I might be right, but I can’t help feeling jealous when I read about others who totally own their sobriety, are open about it and never feel ashamed that they had to stop drinking. Me? I still worry that others will think less of me. Yes, I know I shouldn’t put so much stock in what others think and I am working on it. Times like this I have to be patient with myself and focus on how far I’ve come, instead of how far I have left to go.  I can notice and acknowledge the inner growth that is happening. I am a work in progress after all and I know I am in a better place than I was. I’m grateful for that.

Back to my upcoming exhibition. I know the best thing to do is to just focus on the work and enjoy the process. I have to trust that once I am true to myself, happy with what I create, and brave enough to put myself out there, that’s an accomplishment in itself. In the end that’s all that really matters. 

Tunnel Better Place Aang Iroh

Uncle Iroh: Sometimes life is like this dark tunnel. You can’t always see the light at the end of the tunnel, but if you just keep moving… You will come to a better place.

~*~

This is Post P, in the A to Z Blogging Challenge 2015. My 26 posts are inspired by the quotes from Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, two Emmy award-winning animated television series created and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The setting for both series is in an Asian-influenced world of martial arts and elemental manipulation. The shows drew on elements from East Asian, South Asian, and Western culture, and (aside from the kick-ass story lines, beautifully developed characters and exceptional storyboards) are where I found a wealth of inspiration and perspective on my own life.

The rest of my A to Z 2015 posts can be found here.

Negotiating

Sokka meat and sarcasm guy

Sokka: Okay Karma person or thing – whoever’s in charge of this stuff, if I can just get out of this situation alive, I will give up meat and sarcasm. Okay? That’s all I got. It’s pretty much my whole identity, Sokka the meat and sarcasm guy, but I’m willing to be Sokka the veggies and straight talk fellow. Deal?

How many times, in the grip of a terrible hangover, have you declared, “God, if you can just get me through this day, I’ll never drink again!” Or while driving home inebriated said, “If I can just make it home safely, I’ll never get drunk again.” Negotiating and bargaining are familiar tools I remember wielding, with no effective use really other than attempting to convince myself that I was in control of the situation.

Around 1am one morning three years ago I was sobbing to a man in a white coat in a hospital ER. He left to attend to my best friend in the cubicle next to me. The curtains were drawn and she was crying out in pain as I prayed to God, making all sorts of deals with him if he’d just make sure that my best friend was okay. We should not have been out so late. We had promised each other that we’d be safe at home by 11:30pm. But 11:30 came and went with “one more round for the road” as is a common saying in my country. I was “sober enough to drive” and the accident was deemed not my fault as the driver of the other car had also been drinking and was drunk enough to break his red light, slam into my car and send it into a tailspin. He was not wearing his seatbelt and had bodyslammed his dashboard and windscreen. Two ambulances and one firetruck later we were in that ER calling out to each other through a flimsy blue curtain.

At 4am, after we were released from the hospital, I made all sorts of deals with God, The Universe, Queen Karma and anyone else I thought might be in charge as my best friend’s boyfriend drove us home, and cried for an hour sitting on the shower floor when I got home. I went to bed at dawn a very penitent girl with prayers and promises on my lips as I fell asleep.

But, of course, six weeks later my injuries had healed and I’d forgotten all about those promises. It would take another two years and two near misses for me to honour the deals I negotiated in that cold hospital emergency room.

~*~

This is Post N, in the A to Z Blogging Challenge 2015. My 26 posts are inspired by the quotes from Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, two Emmy award-winning animated television series created and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The setting for both series is in an Asian-influenced world of martial arts and elemental manipulation. The shows drew on elements from East Asian, South Asian, and Western culture, and (aside from the kick-ass story lines, beautifully developed characters and exceptional storyboards) are where I found a wealth of inspiration and perspective on my own life.

The rest of my A to Z 2015 posts can be found here.

The Lowest Point

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Aang: When we hit our lowest point we are open to the greatest change. 

I’ve found that on our soberversaries it’s customary for us to talk about “The night that changed it all”. My first soberversary was on February 3rd of this year but I wasn’t ready to talk about the night that was a turning point for me. I’m still not but I can talk about what was my lowest point. I was a binge drinker. Which means that I didn’t drink every day, or got drunk every time I drank, but I had problems with limits. Oh and most importantly, I used alcohol as a means of escape instead of dealing with life. Long story short, all binge drinkers can and will become alcoholics at some point. By the time I reached my low point I was drinking at least three times for the week and getting drunk about four times for the month. Once or twice a year I’d get drunk enough to have to rely on loved ones to drive me home. The last night was one of those nights. I’m not ready to talk about the details but I will say that my sister was there that night.

The next day when I called her to “find out what happened” the night before, she was calm, collected, and did not mince words. She is a highly practical and straightforward person and there was no emotion expressed as she narrated the events of the night before. Her tone of voice was one of resignation and acceptance. She said that she was not angry with me, but had decided that she would be better off if she removed herself from my life. THAT hit me very hard.

I know I did not quit drinking for my sister but her actions that day forced me to look at the kind of person I was. Who I knew myself to be deep down inside was not the person on the outside. The Me on the outside was drowning in alcohol related side effects and becoming someone who had no understanding of herself and honestly did not like herself very much. I ran from my issues, numbed them with alcohol, squashed any chance of healing or growing, and lashed out at loved ones, especially those closest to me. Like my sister. The fact that I could hurt her so much that she would consider removing herself from my life shook me to my core. It was my worst day.

And, in the end, it was also my best day. It was the day I changed my life.

Love and light, Phoenix.

~*~

This is Post L, in the A to Z Blogging Challenge 2015. My 26 posts are inspired by the quotes from Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, two Emmy award-winning animated television series created and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The setting for both series is in an Asian-influenced world of martial arts and elemental manipulation. The shows drew on elements from East Asian, South Asian, and Western culture, and (aside from the kick-ass story lines, beautifully developed characters and exceptional storyboards) are where I found a wealth of inspiration and perspective on my own life.

The rest of my A to Z 2015 posts can be found here.

Bad Habit Build-Up

ATLA Energy Flow

Guru Pathik: The water flows through this creek much like the energy flows through your body. If nothing else were around, this creek would flow pure and clear. However, life is messy, and things tend to fall in the creek, and then what happens?

Aang: The creek can’t flow?

Guru Pathik: Yes. But if we open the paths between the pools...[clears some moss clogging the water with his stick. The water pours quickly into the next pool, and soon all of them are running clean and clear.]

Aang: The energy flows!

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Life is like that isn’t it? When we allow bad habits to develop as means of dealing with difficult life experiences we create blocks to our emotional, mental, spiritual and physical development and well being. When I quit drinking I quickly found out that I had let alcohol become a habitual way to deal with so many emotions: anger, hurt, loneliness, frustration, fear. Of course, I wasn’t really dealing with any emotion. I was in the “efficient” habit of numbing what I felt. In actuality, the numbing and “escaping” only served to push the difficult emotions deep down into my psyche, where they prevented any real growth on my part.

Alcohol never made anything better. Sure, the first couple of drinks felt good because all the pleasure centers in my brain were tickled, tricking me into believing that this high meant I was happy. But the warning bells would already be going off by the end of glass two. I would choose to ignore them and the switch would be flipped. Now that the alcohol induced fog is no more and I’m allowing myself time to see, recognize and sit with the difficult emotions, slowly but surely I am creating new ways of dealing with them. Bit by bit I am forming new habits. Instead of paying attention to the “I am feeling (insert difficult emotion here), so I want / need / deserve a drink” thoughts, I shifted my focus because I know drinking never really made anything better.

For many of us, self-criticism and self-judgment are also habits we develop, which do us tremendous harm. Learning to love and be gentle with ourselves is the hardest thing we will have to learn and that’s understandable actually. Because it means reversing years and years of habitually telling ourselves we’re not worth it. Even the way we have become accustomed to perceiving and talking about our past stories can change. I know I’ve accumulated many blocks over the years and I’m working on clearing away the moss and weeds and emotional buildup, so my true self can shine through.

Yes, sometimes I don’t want to sit with my feelings. Yes, sometimes I get tired of the over-thinking, and the mantras, and the pep talks to myself. But you know what? I’ll take being ‘frustrated with myself for brooding too much’ over ‘frustrated with myself for drinking’ any day. I know the brooding won’t last. I know that it’s all part of the process. I know it’s part of developing new habits, which instead of harming me, are actually helping me this time.

~*~

This is Post B, in the A to Z Blogging Challenge 2015. My 26 posts are inspired by the quotes from Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, two Emmy award-winning animated television series created and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The setting for both series is in an Asian-influenced world of martial arts and elemental manipulation. The shows drew on elements from East Asian, South Asian, and Western culture, and (aside from the beautifully developed characters and kick-ass story lines) are where I found a wealth of inspiration and perspective on my own life.

The rest of my A to Z 2015 posts can be found here.