Who Am I? Part 7 by David Volick

The following continues from Part 6.

4. Realize that you can have control over your fear. How, by facing it.

For example, I have learned that if I have a feeling that I should do something but begin to waffle (thinking, “Ah, why bother, it is not important anyway”), then I must do that thing. Why, because I have to be 100% sure that my desire to avoid that situation is not due to a fear, but because it really was not important for me to experience. By continually doing this, I have learned to differentiate between my “fear” of doing something and not doing something because it really does not matter to me.

A good example this that at least some of us can relate to is a belt test. How many times have you told yourself, as time to test gets closer, “I don’t think I’ll bother. I don’t care if I get the next belt. I’ll just keep going to classes and learn the next level stuff anyway”. Then, after the test is over and you have achieved the next belt level, you realize that it was important for you to test after all. Not only did you succeed, but you faced and conquered your fear.

Some fears can seem like mountains, they can seem completely overwhelming. In that case, gradually tackle them one step at a time. For example, if you are afraid of water, begin by putting your feet into the water, then after you feel comfortable doing that, go in a bit deeper. Continue to do this until finally you are up to your neck in the water.

However, if even putting your feet in water is too overwhelming to you, you can try this technique. First, make a list of your fear of water from the least anxiety-provoking situation (might be standing on the shore fifty feet from the edge of the water) to the most (standing in the water up to your neck).

Next, get yourself as relaxed as possible. You could use one of several self-relaxing techniques that I outlined in Part 5, or find another method that suits you best. Relaxation and anxiety are mutually exclusive — you cannot experience both at the same time.

Once you are relaxed, imaging yourself in the lowest anxiety-provoking position on your list. Once you feel comfortable there, go to the next least-anxiety provoking position (it may be standing at the edge of the water). If, when you do this, you begin to feel anxious, then imagine yourself going back towards your initial position. Keep repeating these steps up your hierarchy of positions until you are comfortable imagining yourself up to your neck in the water.

Now, you will be ready to use the identical technique in real life. You can use this technique when conquering any fear.

I remember a quote from a wise man (Montaigne): “He who fears he will suffer, already suffers because of his fear”.

I am going to stop here and begin another topic on “personal growth” in Part 8.

Who Am I? Part 6 by David Volick

In part 5, I discussed a couple a ways that will help you “live in the now”. Remember, in the present there rarely are any negative experiences such as fears (unless you’re suddenly confronted with a real danger), doubts; or negative emotions, thoughts, or memories. Chronic stress results from re-living negative events from you past or fearing possible negative events looming in your future. I can tell you that of all the many, many, many things I have worried about in my life, 99% never happened – what a waste of effort, time, energy; and as I point out below, what a toll it took on my mind and body.

 

In that light, Mark Twain (1835-1910) put it, “I have lived a long life and had many troubles, many of which never happened”.

 

Thus, you can see how living in the present can eliminate, or at least alleviate, your experiencing a ton of stress. This reduction of stress in your life is very important as stress has been shown over and over again to have some serious negative mental and physical effects, some of which I mention below.

 

Physical effects:

 

1. A compromised immune system. This can lead to an increased susceptibility to a variety of physical illnesses , ranging from not overly severe ones (such as colds, flu, mild viral infections) to very severe and sometimes fatal disorders (such as ulcers, exacerbation of arthritis, cardiovascular problems, and cancer), to name but a few.

 

2. Destruction of neural interconnections and neurons themselves, and inhibiting the growth of new neurons in a part of your brain known as the hippocampus. This area, for example, is one of the first parts of the brain affected in Alzheimer’s. It is crucial for a good functioning memory.

 

Mental effects:

 

Chronic stress can make worse, if not cause, a number of mental disorders such a depression & anxiety.

 

There are more negative effects due to chronic stress, but I hope that the above will give you sufficient inspiration to reduce the amount of this type of stress in your life.

 

As I mentioned in Part 5, living in the now will be a tremendous aid in chronic stress reduction.

 

There are several other things you can do to reduce your negativity, and thus alleviate stress in your life.

 

1. Acknowledge your negative feelings such as fears – do not hide from them and try to avoid them. Instead, work through them, pay attention to them. You’ll find that they are but shadows, often left over from past bad experiences that can no longer affect you.

 

2. Keep your sense of humor at all times.

 

3. Do not give in to feeling ashamed or guilty. If you do something you think was wrong, do what you can to correct it and move on – remember, the only mistake is doing something wrong over and over because you never learned from that experience. Learn from that situation and can no longer be called a mistake, but is transformed into a learning experience.

 

I will continue these thoughts in Part 7

Who Am I? Part 5 by David Volick

In Part 4, I discussed how important it is to “live in the now”. You will need to find a method that suits you in order to develop this ability – it certainly will never happen on its own. Also in Part 4, I provided one example of what you can do to help achieve this.

 

Another way is to purposely seek out activities that basically force you to “live in the now”. I have found Aikido to be one such activity. In order to improve over time in my techniques, I have had to really focus on what is occurring during each second that I am performing a move; in other words, to really be “in that moment”.

 

I have discovered that my learning to be in the moment when practicing Aikido has enabled me to transfer this now-learned ability into other aspects of my life. For example, I hold myself straighter; move lighter on my feet; am crisper in my movements; and am more aware of my total environment , including other people’s reactions towards me.

 

Meditation is another excellent technique that will help you focus on the here and now. There are a myriad of different ways to meditate, so I will only mention a few.

 

You can sit on a chair and focus on tightening and relaxing muscle groups in order. So, first tighten your calf muscles, take a deep breath then exhale while slowly relaxing those muscles. Then, do the same with your thighs, then your abs, working your way to your face muscles.

 

Another meditative method involves listening to a CD of soft music or nature sounds (the wind, waterfalls, etc.). As you can readily see, meditation will help you keep your focus on what is happening around and within you each moment that passes.

 

Mindfulness meditation has become popular lately.

 

I has provided several sites if you are interested

 

http://meditationscience.weebly.com/what-is-mindfulness-meditation.html

http://mindfulness-meditation.meetup.com/cities/ca/on/london/

http://stressrelease.ca/mindfulness-meditation-for-beginners.html

 

If you wish more information on meditation and/or CDs to help you meditate, the Mandala Books at 190 Central Ave. would be a place you’d want to visit.

 

Not only will the above techniques help you learn to focus on the now, they will also help you to reduce the experience of stress that you likely are feeling to some degree or another. There is ample research that demonstrates the stress-reduction ability of meditation, and how stress can negatively impact on both your mental and physical health.

 

In my next article, I will discuss just how stress does harm both your physical and mental health.

Who am I? Part 4 by David Volick

On part 3, I described two ways of defeating a fear: LIVE IN THE NOW and GO FOR WHATEVER YOU ARE AFRAID OF DOING.

The last way is the clearest and possibly the easiest. For instance, you fear accepting a new position with a new company in a new city, even though this position is something that you really want to do – JUST DO IT!

The first way is much more difficult. Go ahead, try and live entirely in the now for a whole day – see what I mean. So, how do you learn to live in the now? What does it feel like? Are you not suppose to plan ahead, anticipate possible problems that might arise, and find solutions before they do arise; would that be “not living in the now”?

Living in the now, to me, entails experiencing whatever is happening now to its fullest; not hanging onto negative emotions from the past and not worrying and obsessing about something that might happen in the future.

Small children when playing represent a great example of what I mean by “living in the now”. Have you ever watched small children play? They are so concentrated on what they’re doing that they rarely are aware of any stimuli outside of their focus — they are emotionally and cognitively into whatever it is they are doing; experiencing it to the fullest.

Small children do not focus in the past. A child can have a fight with another child and professes to hate that child and to never want to play with him again. However, the next day you can see the two playing and having a great time, yesterday completely forgotten.

So, let’s define “living in the now” as fully experiencing, with all you senses and focus, what is happening with you at the moment, regardless if this experience is brand new or something that occurs every day. It is experiencing your immediate surroundings with all your being. This does not preclude remembering pleasant events and people from you past or considering all aspects of some difficult situation that will happen in the near future in order to make certain all will go well. What is does preclude is not dwelling with most of your awareness on either the past or future such that you miss the moment that will never occur again.

Okay, how does one develop this ability of being in the now? One method of practising to be in the now is to emulate small children (as I mentioned above they seem to mostly be in the now). So, regardless of where I am or what I am doing, I attempt to enjoy myself to my fullest. For example, if I am driving my car and find myself in a traffic jam and not moving, instead of becoming frustrated and angry, I watch the scene around me. I will observe other drivers, trees, birds, buildings, etc. While doing this, I focus on developing a “total experience”, without being distracted by negative aspects of the situation. For example, I will try to appreciate the beauty of the trees. Doing this helps me to avoid being sucked into the negative and impatient emotions that many other drivers around me experience. We all are going to move slowly until the traffic jam eases, so why not bask in pleasant, positive feelings instead of the opposite.

In my next article I will continue discussing ways of living in the moment.

Who Am I? Part 3 by David Volick

In this part, I want to spend some time describing specifically how to overcome this fear of becoming your true-self. Remember, anytime something in your environment will force you to become more of your true-self (taking on more responsibility, becoming more public, etc.) you will experience this fear. One of the ways we have learned to avoid feeling this fear is to focus on some aspect of the upcoming situation in an illogical fashion. For example, let’s say that you are going to be promoted because the person, whom you barely knew, who held that position is moving to another company. You may find that you are constantly worrying over the fact that this individual is moving and you likely will never see him again (an illogical reaction). This is what Freud termed “neurotic anxiety” – focusing on some external situation to avoid feeling the fear that accompanies any unacceptable, unconscious material that threatens to emerge into our awareness.

Another example concerns our involvement in Aikido. I also have faced and gone through several of my own personal fears by continuing to take lessons. It is particularly important to go to classes when you feel tired for no logical reason. Here, as in the case above dealing with a promotion, your illogical feelings may reflect your attempt to avoid your next step in your personal growth.

Such illogical over-reactions should clue you in that what you are experiencing is really an avoidance reaction to the now unacceptable, excitable part of you that is threatening to emerge into your conscious awareness, and not really the response you have been obsessed by.

So, once you accept that your reaction is an illogical over-reaction, as opposed to a logical one (one that makes sense), how do you deal with it? You will probably discover that even if you are convinced that what you are feeling is truly illogical, you will be unable to stop fussing over it

My solution? Live in the now! Right now there is nothing to be afraid of. So, in the case of the promotion, place all your energies and attention on being excited, right now, about this new opportunity. Focus on the positive aspects of this challenge. AND GO FOR IT! In the case of not wanting to go to Aikido classes for no apparent, logical reason, GO.

Aikido has helped me to learn to be focused in the now. I found that to do well on the mats I have no choice but to be concentrated in the now.

In the two instances mentioned previously, going for the goal/challenge regardless of how negative I may feel about it I call “doing one’s doing”. All we can do is just “do our doings” impeccably. Many times, it is the only way we can face and get rid of our fears. It has always worked for me.

I will continue this topic in the next news letter.

David

Who Am I ? Part 2: by David Volick

Hi again.

Last month I discussed how we all, to some degree, develop personalities (which I will call our personas) that are in conflict with our true-selves (which I essentially defined as genetic predispositions).  Recall that I mentioned that we develop personas because the behaviours of our true-selves elicit negative reactions from significant others, and our personas satisfy our desire to be liked and give us various forms of approval. And, the greater the degree that your persona differs from your true-self, the more intense will be your feelings of insecurity, emptiness, uncertainty,  anxiety, depression, etc.

Okay, that sounds logical. So, how do you change such that your persona gradually disappears and your true-self emerges? Unfortunately, you just cannot will it to be so. This path of self-development will take a lot of hard work and perseverance, and you will encounter many obstacles along the way.

One obstacle will be the significant people currently in your life. They will try to stop you because they are used to, and like you, the way you are. Thus, if you begin to grow, how will they relate to you if they are not also on that path? They could feel threatened, afraid that they will lose you; they may be frightened of growing, etc.

Another source that will sway us from becoming who we really are is our society in which we live, and its powerful tool, the mass media. The values and attitudes constantly hammered at us by our peers and the media reinforce our personas but rarely our true-selves (indeed, as mentioned above, these sources were the reason that we repressed our true-selves and created out personas).

It may or may not come as a surprise to you that actually the biggest enemy of your self-growth will be yourself. Remember, you likely have become somewhat comfortable being your persona. You fit in well with society, perhaps have been very financially successful, have friends and family, and experience a relatively stable and enjoyable life-style. To begin on the path to self-growth could mean a change, or even an end, to this life to which you have been accustomed.

Let’s now discuss how to begin your journey of self-awareness. You first must accept that you are, to some degree, unhappy and empty (recall I mentioned last month that if you are reasonably happy with yourself and your life, then there may be no compelling reason for you to change). Once you have accepted your true emotional state, then you will see that to some degree you live in fear and therefore make many if not most of your decisions out of that fear: Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of rejection, fear of not belonging – all derived from the fear of being yourself (after all that is the reason for your persona).

So, how do you combat this fear? I know of only two ways. First, I believe that there are only two basic emotions, this fear and love. Whenever we experience another negative emotion, such as anger, it only serves to cover up the fact that we are afraid. Additionally, fear and love are mutually exclusive; that is when you are in the moment of loving, you experience no fear. So, the first way to stop fearing is to start loving: Loving nature, pets, other individuals, and most important of all, your true-self (again, remember that you repressed your true-self because you grew to dislike and mistrust it because of the negativity it drew to you).

The second way to conquer fear is to live in the now. As a general rule, there rarely is anything to fear “right now”, at this instant. Typically we fear the results of what we have done in the past or what may happen to us in the future. I can honestly state without exaggeration that about only 99% of the things that I have worried about in the past never came about – what a waste of time and energy that could have been spent in a more positive way,

Next month I will continue to talk about how to change your life into a more positive and satisfying one – how to become your true-self and thereby begin to feel happier, more content, and stronger.

David

Who Am I ? Part 1: by David Volick

Hi all.

This is the first of a series of monthly articles that will appear in the Aikido Network News Letter. These articles will focus on self-growth, your self-growth.

If you have found your passion and you believe that you are being who you think you were meant to be; that you’re on your life’s path to self-fulfillment, then these articles will probably hold little for you. However, if the answers are “yes” to many of the following questions then you may find them of interest.

Do you often wonder who you really are? Do you experience an emptiness deep inside that has never been fulfilled? Do you believe that you have a purpose in life but have been unable to discover it? Do you feel that you are not being who you are meant to be; that you became someone other than your “true-self”? Do you not know where to start to discover who your “true-self” really is? Have you never found the one thing about which you could become passionate?

First, we need to begin by briefly defining a concept that I will call your “true-self”, a term that I use to describe or represent the individual whom you are striving to become. You could view the beginnings of your true-self as genetic predispositions or temperaments that are present at birth. If these are valued and reinforced by the significant others in your young life, then they will develop naturally over time into your true-self. However, if these basic temperaments are responded to in a negative fashion, then you will grow to believe that they are bad and you will repress them in favor of behavior, attitudes, values, etc. that draw respect and a feeling of belonging from important others in your environment.

I think we’ve all experienced this. For instance, you might have been acting free, just “being yourself” and others make fun of you in one manner or another. The result likely will be that you feel humiliated and may berate yourself for behaving that way and you promise yourself that you’ll never do that again. Or, you were super excited about something you found outside and in your excitement you run inside to share with a parent, and for whatever reason, that parent hollers at you not to slam the door and to be quiet. You can see that from that time on, you might suppress that carefree part of you and thus lose that wonderful magical spontaneous way of reacting. In other words, you have in some way just stopped being your true-self.

Now, if you take that principle back to very early childhood, you can imagine how this would result in you not just suppressing a part of you, but virtually the “whole you”. Let’s use a simplified example. Suppose you have parents who are sensitive to others’ reaction to them, who are what one could call “people people”. They would value positive interactions with others over and above all else. Now, let’s further suppose that they have a very young male child whose temperament is just the opposite. This child is a doer. He does not need nor want a lot of hugging and attention. He is most satisfied playing by himself. Now the people-oriented parents obviously want much more interactions with their child that the child initiates. So, when they pick him up and disturb him, he may arch his back and scream until they put him down. This negative interaction could easily result in the parents becoming angry with the child and even in punishing him for his “tantrums”. As time goes by, the child, because of the extremely negative reaction from his parents, becomes more like them to please them and receive a more pleasant reaction from his parents. Such a scenario demands that the child suppresses a lot, if not all, of his true-self.

I offer three examples of individuals whom I believe have found their true-selves would help to further clarify this concept. The first person is Einstein, one of the greatest, if not the greatest, scientist that ever lived. He expanded out knowledge of space-time. His theories are responsible for many of our modern conveniences, such as automatic door openers and TV remotes. Once, when waiting for a train (I believe), he was approached by another to-be passenger. This person told Einstein who much she admired him and how amazed at how much he knew about his field. Einstein replied, something like, “If you thought about a topic 15 hours a day, seven days a week, you too would become an expert on that topic”. Einstein did indeed eat, breath, and live, physics.

The second individual I present to you is Jacque Payet, Shihan. Any of you who watched and worked with this amazing man would have clearly seen one who has found his path, who is truly being his true-self. He did not pretend to be an expert in the practice of Aikido, he WAS one.

The third person I will mention as one who is being his true-self is our own Sensei Derek Binder. I have come to know him over the past 7 years. He is another who eats, breathes, and lives his passion, which for him is Aikido.

So, in essence, if you are not passionate (that is think about it most of your waking hours and really get tremendous satisfaction) about what you are doing, then you probably are not being your true-self but rather being someone programmed to act from a place of fear. I hope that helps to clarify the notion of one’s true-self, and how you might not be truly even close to being yourself, as defined above.

That’s all for this month – to be continued next month. If you have any questions or would like to chat about your self-growth, please do not hesitate to contact me at: dvollick61@rogers.com.