Feelings and States

“How do you feel” is a question you’ve probably heard of a fair bit. I would be willing to bet that “How are you being,” on the other hand,  is a question you’ve never heard asked.

I think we waste too much time thinking about our feelings. Feelings are transitory. In the grand scheme of things, I’d argue that they hardly matter. Our mental states, however, can make or break this life experience.

Let’s begin by understanding the difference between the two. The mental state sets the overall mood. If we are in a depressive state, we might have the occasional happy feeling when a friend cracks a really funny joke. But, over the course of the week, we’ll spend large amounts of time in the dumps. If we are in a happy state, on the other hand, we might experience sadness during the course of a week but we’ll still not lose perspective. A happy state looks different from that transitory feeling of happiness. The high isn’t that high when you “are” a happy person – it is normal service after all.

To “be” happy requires you to do two things at once – to match your actions to what drives you in a manner consistent with an approach that suits you – i.e., to align your why, how, and what – and to keep perspective while experiencing the inevitable ups and downs. A happy state is like a healthy ECG – the highs are not too high and the lows are not too low. There’s just a lot of small fluctuation around that state.

Barney Stinson touches on states in his now iconic dialog “When I’m sad, I stop being sad and be awesome instead.”  He’s probably right – if you focus on “being” happy, you’ll figure a way around negative feelings. If you’re caught up around feelings, it can be a vicious cycle that drags you down. When we “are” (again – are, not feel) happy, we’re simply better versions of ourselves.

A focus on the state matters. I’d go as far as to say – it is probably among the few things that does.

Confidence is..

Confidence is not knowing that you’ll sail through with no difficulties. It is knowing that when difficulty inevitably arises, you will be able to deal with it.

Confidence, hence, is a state of being. Yes, you can “feel” confident – invincible, even.  But, it is in being confident where happiness lies.

(I am in a place with intermittent connection this week. So, please forgive me if I miss a day. It won’t be for lack of content. :))

Experiencing Zen

I have been fascinated by the concept of Zen for a while. Urban dictionary shows us one way to think about Zen – ‘a total state of focus that incorporates a total togetherness of body and mind. Zen is a way of being. It also is a state of mind. Zen involves dropping illusion and seeing things without distortion created by your own thoughts.’

I am, by nature, anything but Zen. I am generally fidgety, easily distracted, and have been prone to manic highs and accompanying lows. So, it’s been quite an effort over the past few years to tone that down and attempt to experience Zen. It started with an attempt at focusing my attention. In 2012, my laptop wall papers read –  ‘”Doing one thing at a time ” is how one Zen Master defined the essence of Zen.’  While that didn’t mean I actually did it, it certainly raised my level of awareness about my focus levels.

However, in the past 2 months, I feel like I have been frequently experiencing a Zen-like state. I could point to a few reasons for this, but, I think the truth lies in the fact that I’ve wanted to experience this for a while and I just wasn’t ready for it. My limited understanding of Zen is that it requires a relentless focus on process and an absolute disregard for the destination. It is impossible to focus totally on something if you are worried about the results. Focusing on the process (and the process alone) has been a difficult life lesson and I feel like I’m finally getting the hang of it after 5 years of failed attempts.

And, that’s been a feature of the last couple of months – a firm focus on the process. In my case, it has been the process of wrapping up professional life and then getting prepared for a cross-continent relocation and graduate student life. There’s been a lot to be excited about. I have been, sure. But, it’s been a state of excitement rather than a feeling – ‘be’ vs. ‘feel’. As a result, there’s been no manic high or low. There’s just been organization and effort. There have been many mistakes and challenges (they never stop – Zen or not) but I’ve found it easier to deal with them because, at some sub conscious level, I’ve expected them. A focus on the present seems to come with a healthy measure of realism as well.

It’s an exciting evolution. I am experiencing “being” a lot more than “feeling” and that brings with it a great amount of stability. Stability, in turn, helps with many good things, most of which lead to getting sh*t done and being happy.

There’s many things I still need to learn – for instance, I still don’t do “attention” well. I think that’s an important part of the Zen state too. One day at a time, hopefully. Every day we do get better…