It Will Hurt...

The band aid may pull out a few hairs when you tear it off. 

There will be sleepless nights when you begin planning your exit strategy from that dead-end job. 

At times you will experience doubt and a sense of loneliness when you decide to end the relationships that bring you more misery and heartache than joy and safety. 

You will cry when you stop begging them to stay and finally watch them walk away. 

The anxiety you will feel when you have no choice but to ask for help will be real. 

You will feel abandoned by a few familiar faces when you finally begin living the life you were created to live and not the life someone told you was good enough. 

It will hurt.

So why do it?

Do it because you deserve it. Do it because after the sting, the sleepless nights, the doubt, the loneliness, the tears, the anxiety, and the abandonment, YOU WILL STILL BE ALIVE. 

Sitting In Silence & Listening

"When I remember to sit in absolute silence, I hear great things." -Dymir 

My first experience with meditation came in my senior year of high school. My principal, Mr. Palatucci, selected several students to be members of a leadership development program he ran and I was honored to be one of his pupils.

In the spirit of cultivating leadership, we studied a variety of executive skills such as planning and effective communication, but the most powerful lessons came in moments when we were forced to turn inward and think more critically about who we were in the world and what power we possessed both individually and collectively.

I remember being asked to close my eyes one day during class when Mr. P was discussing the power of meditation and reflection. My peers and I sat in a dimply lit classroom and under the direction of his carefully orchestrated words, we were transported into a world of calm energy; a state in which I felt at total peace.

It was as if I had discovered some hidden energy within myself that had always been there but from which I had always been distracted.Meditation is now a part of my daily rituals and it has served me well in some of the most challenging moments in my life.

What I love most about my practice now as an adult, is that I have grown into a sense of comfort with listening in silence. I sit in a comfortable wooden chair in my living room before the sun rises and I listen, with an open heart, to what the universe has to offer. Words and stories come to me  and I am made  aware of my role, my responsibility to share them with others, for they are not my own.

The moment when you realize that there is great power in silence is the moment when you realize how much time and effort you've wasted on distractions on your journey toward understanding who you are and what purpose you serve. It is the moment when you embrace the tremendous power that exists within you and you decide to become who you were always meant to be: a powerful source of energy, divinely created for a unique purpose.

Happy Listening,

Dymir

I Knew You When...

There are points of pain to which you must become accustomed if you desire to live with an open mind and an open heart. Despite these points, if you have the required faith in love, you will never forget the value of dreaming regardless of what nightmares may come and they will come, in many forms, like unrequited love, affection given without being earned, and sacrifices made for those who know not of sacrifice. Over the years I have left the door of my heart open or at least cracked and every so often, some damaged and discouraged creature of beauty has crept in searching for nourishment, searching for an opportunity to speak its truth without the fear of judgment.

At first I cared, perhaps too much, lavishing weakened muscles barely gripping bones, with affection and encouragement hoping that once restored and renewed, an unfamiliar guest would become a familiar fixture, transcending time, growing beside me as love propelled us forward outweighing fear enough for the trajectories of our desires to intersect like rivers flowing into one united waterfall until all distinctions became undetectable…

But I have learned that even the most broken creatures begin to dream of flying and running into the wild when they forget what it feels like to crawl and remember how to walk.

Too many nights had passed before I grew to see the patterns of my love like undiscovered constellations. Alone, partially by choice, in the most silent silence, I could feel time stop and suddenly I felt an unknown body beside me, a body of secrets forgotten; grievances untold; trespasses too readily forgiven. There I was face to face with the truth of my addiction to fixing other people. I had been wrapping myself in other people’s problems so that I would not have to see my own and when there was nothing there to distract me, I crashed into my own truth, unable to take another breath without opening my eyes to see my own pathology.

Now as I stand firm on a mountain of love for myself only second to the love and adoration, I have for my creator I can see the pain of my previous tribe, a nation of souls fixated on saving everyone but themselves. Those souls, fearful of seeing their beauty, their brilliance, churn around in a cycle of misfortune with glimpses of hope, until they fall to the bottom of an imaginary world where they can convince others to love them, where the broken bodies they find will grow to appreciate their nourishment, where they will be rewarded for accepting less than they deserve.

They will become bent to the point of almost breaking just before they too will realize that the narratives they have created enslave them to the point that being in the presence of anyone but themselves is more desirable than true emotional and spiritual freedom.

To those souls who are still fixed on loving others back to life, while they remain broken and are ultimately left to stand alone, my heart does pray for a much needed awakening… I too know what it is like to sing “I knew you when you needed me” again and again. Today I sing, I knew you when I was afraid to know myself.

Avoiding Negativity... Protecting Your Energy and Well-Being

As human beings we have a natural need for attaching ourselves to other people and that need to connect can lead to beautiful bonds. I know that the people I’ve allowed into my life seek to lift me up and to grow along with me. In my time, I’ve learned that healthy relationships are innately reciprocal and that does not mean that there is some disingenuous barter system at play, but rather a natural inclination to elevate one another. Recognizing the core of what healthy relationships should be gives us the insight needed to point out when a negative influence has infiltrated.

We all have stories of so called friends violating our trust, family members who are comfortable taking from us without consideration, and love interests who acted selfishly. Perhaps what is most disturbing are the stories of times we’ve reveled in our own self-defeating attitudes. These negative experiences are an unfortunate part of the path to self-discovery. However, there is a difference between understanding the negativity you’ve experienced and inviting that negativity into your life repeatedly. I have been guilty of keeping the company of people who were not looking after my best interests. There are those who seem to have an unending reserve of unsolicited criticism to offer with regard to every aspect of your life and they see themselves as kind enough to share it.

Emotional vampires, Debbie Downers, toxic friends, external negative influences go by many names and removing them is essential to your emotional and spiritual survival. People who have not opened themselves up to the possibilities of life are limited and they have a limited perspective, but they are still human and desire the same kinds of bonds.

The difficulty arises when a person bound by limitation attempts to bond with a free-spirit which can begin a cycle of parasitic negativity. To illustrate why this kind of relationship doesn’t work, imagine you can fly and have always known this to be true, but your new friend only believes in walking. This person berates you anytime you mention flying until either you no longer believe you can fly or you invite this person out of your life.

Negative emotions operate like a virus; they cannot coexist with a stable and whole spirit and must infect it to thrive otherwise the host (the person or influencer) must confront the limitations they have placed on themselves.

Of course there is the third option of the negative person coming to their senses and seeing the light, but that is not a burden recommended for anyone to take on. It’s important to recognize caring about people does not mean taking on their emotional baggage. You’ve got your own and it’s heavy.

Negativity isn’t something that is strictly external either; it can often be self-inflicted and self-sustaining. It would be fantastic if there were a cure for self-deprecation, but the best advice I ever received in terms of my own confidence issues was “fake it until it’s true.” Keeping this advice in context is crucial. I was not confident in my intelligence or my looks and that doubt carried over into how I treated myself and other people. I took my studies less seriously and allowed myself to be used by anyone who would have me, just because they would pay me a compliment and I was still no happier.

I silenced the internal critic in my head with a rebuttal for every negative thing he had to say about me, and eventually he went from a booming voice of self-pity to a whisper of uncertainty and eventually faded into the figment of my imagination that he’d always been.

Negativity takes many forms, it’s a dynamic creature that like a virus will fight tooth and nail to survive and take root within you. The hosts of negativity are never the same for anyone, but recognizing it and your own value will keep your emotional immunity up, like vitamin C for your aura.

Written By Taj Shareef,

Contributor and Thought-Partner

Balanced Thinking, A Much Needed Commodity

In the space of education reform (my primary area of professional experience) there are new solutions to the needs of our nation's children every year which are both endorsed and attacked with great passion. These policies and practices are very political and often times personal for the thousands of men and women who have dedicated their lives to serving children in our country's most disadvantaged communities. Debates are infused with strong language and often extreme positions are espoused in efforts create a sense of excitement and sometimes fear. I suppose in many ways, education reform is not drastically different from other complicated political issues with respect to the sorts of behaviors it drives leaders to demonstrate.

In watching the Republican National Convention (RNC) and Democratic National Convention (DNC), it is clear to me that economic and social issues are at the forefront of many of our nation's leaders. What doesn't always seem present though in the debates we hear in the political arena is a strong appreciation for balanced thinking.

While reading an article last week titled 15 Ways 20-Somethings Ruin Their Twenties  I was delighted to discover the author’s push for us to consider that being a "pessimistic, opinionated hater" likely means that we need to have a better pulse on reality. "Every movie out isn’t terrible, every song isn’t garbage.” Speaking to the kind of pessimistic character who is intent on taking extreme positions, the article suggests that “…this personality type is in for a reality check when eventually nobody wants anything to do with ‘em." Well it turns out that this kind of behavior isn’t exclusive to 20-somethings. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at American politics.

Meditating on the presence of the “pessimistic, opinionated hater” made me think of conversations I have had about my beliefs and opinions at ages twenty-two, twenty-three and now twenty-five. In reflecting on the shifts in my own views and the way I speak about what I observe, I found that I've learned to accept a higher level of ambiguity that is inherent in life while also finding a way to stand firm in my values and opinions without completely ignoring the reality that there's always a small chance I may be completely wrong. I’ve learned to see not just black and white but every color surrounding every issue I encounter.

Today I can fully admire the ability to look at an issue from multiple perspectives and to cite both affirming and dissenting evidence in forming an opinion. This does make sense, right? I mean what good is it for us to talk about our beliefs in a way that does not demonstrate our ability to fully assess a situation? Don’t we risk sounding authoritative and intellectually arrogant to the point that we neglect opportunities to see the forest for the trees? If balanced thinking makes sense (and I know it does) then why is there such a lack of it in the space of public affairs?

Now I will say my ability to think in multiple dimensions has been stretched to its limits over the past month in listening to the Republican Party discuss their views on abortion as well as a number of other key issues. These are views that often neglect the practice of balanced thinking and while I can sit through an interview with just about any conservative who fundamentally believes in dismissing a woman's right to bodily integrity in pursuit of defending the rights of an unborn child or fetus (may I remind you often not discriminating on the basis of how that living being comes about) I do reserve my right to call such beliefs close-minded and replete with unbalanced thought. Still, my strong beliefs won't stop me from listening to others and really thinking critically about what they're saying and attempting to understand not just their positions but how they in fact arrived to those positions in an effort to more fully shape and understand my own.

Balanced thinking involves a willingness to listen carefully, instead of running away from or attacking views that don't immediately fit into our own brains. It's a commodity that is needed in political, professional and personal realms of life. We must strive to avoid the easier path toward forming concrete opinions rooted in what social scientists refer to as cognitive distortion—seeing things in black and white.

Unless we are willing to balance our thinking, chances are we'll seldom see the whole picture and quite frankly life and all of the many important issues we must resolve in the interest of our nation are far too colorful for that.

For more information on common barriers to balanced thinking and cognitive distortions visit 10 Negative Thinking Patters to Avoid