“Letting go gives us freedom and freedom is the only condition for happiness.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
We all search for happiness. However sometimes we look for it and try to grasp it from everywhere but the place it is found.
We often look for happiness outside of ourselves. We create our lives and fill them full of pretty, expensive and sentimental things believing that they will add a layer of depth to our self-worth and in return, provide us with happiness.
Something that eludes many of us is that happiness does not depend on anything that is around us.
Regardless of who is around us, how much money we have, what car we drive or the value or beauty of our material possessions—none of these things will bring us true and lasting inner happiness.
Having attachments to people or material things pins us down emotionally and also physically.
The trouble with attachments is that they also come with a fear of loss.
Buddhism teaches that attachment is the root of all of our suffering.
Often we believe that we need certain things to keep our own inner happiness stable. Whilst having certain physical or emotional connections around us can lift our spirits and bring joy and pleasure to our lives, they are not responsible for providing us with happiness or a deep sense of internal peace.
In fact, the attachments we place on things are a direct link to our suffering, not a link to happiness.
We hold on to things that feel familiar whether it be relationships or material possessions and we find comfort in them. We place a great deal of pressure on things outside of our self to create our own happiness, instead of taking responsibility for creating the happiness within.
Often, we depend on relationships, friends or family members to create our happiness. We put a great deal of pressure on people so that they are responsible for the way we feel.
We do not need to depend on anyone or anything to feel okay. We have all the power within ourselves to create our own happiness, we just need to know how to tap into it and release the things that are preventing us from experiencing the full pleasure in each and every moment.
Letting go is the most effective way to destroy attachments that aren’t necessary so that we have an abundance of space for happiness to settle. We build mental walls and barriers and block our flow of energy which causes unnecessary grief and discomfort when we cling to things that we believe make us happy—when ironically the very things we believe make us happy cause us the most suffering.
These are a few of the things I regularly remind myself to let go of:
Negative thinking. Every thought we have has a direct link to our emotions. The more we dwell on anything, the greater the emotional response becomes. As our emotions develop, they then create physical reactions. Therefore our negative thoughts can very quickly result in a negative physical reaction within our bodies. It is extremely unhealthy for the body and the mind to think negatively and it also sends out a toxic wave of energy that vibrates around us.
The past. The past has passed—we have absolutely no control over it. It doesn’t matter how much we stress and overthink or obsess; we cannot change anything. All we can do is accept it. Forgive ourselves for everything, forgive others, and then our worries or cares will be carried along with the wind.
Bad memories. Without thinking about it we can repeat past memories over and over in our minds. They have no place in our lives today. We have already suffered and lived through the trauma; we do not need to keep replaying the guilt, errors or sadness that remind us of troubles and difficulties that no longer exist. When we relive past memories we also relive the emotions that were connected to them, so we will constantly be dragging up emotions that will cause us distress every time we reignite certain thoughts. We can choose at any time to change the channel in our minds so we have space for new memories.
People who are bad for us. It can be difficult to let go of certain people, especially if someone has been a long-term friend or if they are a relation. What we can do though is let go of any effect that these people have on us. We can place people at a safe distance and loosen our connection so that we can still have people around us, but at an arms length so that their negative energy does not have a direct impact on us. As we remove people who are insincere, pessimistic or who do not have our best interests at heart, we also remove any of the negativity that these connections cause. We also create room for new friendships that are good for us, and that are nourishing and healthy.
Putting ourselves down. Self-criticism and self-doubt can cripple us and become a very bad habit that is limiting and debilitating. When we have low self-worth we attract things that reflect how we feel inside. Other people become an affirmation for our innermost thoughts. If we feel bad about who we are, we will connect with those who tell us these things or who subliminally send us messages that confirm how we feel. It is imperative to our own sense of well-being and happiness that we accept ourselves exactly as we are, which includes our darkness and our light.
Taking things personally. We often wrongly believe we are the centre of our social universe, workplace or family and that how other people are behaving must be a direct reflection of who we are or what we are putting out. We can forget that everyone has their own life going on and however similar they may seem to us, each person is a unique make up of culture, education, nurture, nature, experience and teachings. Sometimes we think that the way someone else is behaving is a projection of who we are instead of being a projection of who they are or what they are going through. We take so many things personally, when we should always remove ourselves from the equation when someone lashes out at us with the intention to ruffle us.
How someone behaves will always say far more about who they are than it ever will about us. We should also remember not to be paranoid and not to overthink situations as we can convince ourselves that other people’s words or actions are connected to us in some way, when often they have nothing to do with us.
As we let go of many things that do us no good, we can have the space and energy to replace those things with things that revitalize, nourish and re-energize us.
Non-attachment and letting go does not necessarily mean detachment. It just means creating healthy boundaries and not placing value on anything that could be taken away or change at any moment. We can still love with full hearts and cherish all that is around us. It is learning the balance between not clinging and grasping onto things and allowing things to just exist without placing expectation on them.
Life is a precious gift and so is everyone that is around us; we should celebrate each and every thing that happens to us and allow it to exist in its own right without placing ownership or conditions on it. We simply need to allow everything and everyone to exist separately in their own entirety. Everything should be a bonus in our lives, not an additive that is required to create the formula for happiness.
Happiness is not “found” and then remains constantly with us. It is something that we need to consciously be aware of moment-to-moment. We just very simply need to live in the present moment, not dwell on the past or cast our minds to the future and appreciate the pure joy, pleasure and happiness that is found by just existing and inhaling and exhaling life, the good and the bad. Life does not need expectations; it will deliver us a series of experiences and we have the complete power to choose to alter our perception in each moment.
Every moment passes. We do not need to cling to any emotion or to harbor or wallow in any feelings that are presented to us. We can simply let the thoughts and feelings come, acknowledge them briefly, and then peacefully and calmly allow them to pass.
Nothing stays the same, everything changes; so when we continuously practice letting go, we can alter and adapt to accept the beauty, magic and excitement in each moment.
Article Adapted from : Elephant Journal
Author : Alex Myles
We’re not here to perfect the vehicle in which we arrived.
A consistent theme around attachment to the body has surfaced from my clients, family and friends. Although this isn’t a new struggle, it has been the top concern as I’ve sought feedback in creating my most recent programs and retreats.
It seems we’re all wrapped up in worrying about the body that we often-times feel “stuck” with. Having fought this same battle myself, here I share what I’ve personally discovered and experienced as truth and a way out:
Consider: You are not your body.
In reality, the body is a vehicle from which we are to live out our purpose and heal the gaps between us and pure love.
Looking at this, we can begin to tease out the greatest hurdle we impose upon the true purpose of the body:
When we don’t love the body, how can we effectively utilize this body to merge into the unity of love?
This question reveals within itself the start of our journey.
We must love ourselves first. This is cliche, I know. And it’s truth. If you squeeze an orange, you get orange juice. If I squeeze you, what will I get? I’ll get whatever you’re full of. And most of our species is full of self-loathing. And, being that the physical body is a convenient and easy target, we begin our self-sabotage there.
It’s unnecessary here to go into the myriad ways we destroy our sense of worth by abusing the body, as I’m confident that with a little introspection and observation, you are able to observe these behaviors within yourself and others. I will, however, bring awareness to the source of these belief systems that position the body in a rigged game.
Our body standards are set by our culture. Our culture annihilates our sense of worth and any identification with reality through our conditioning to live in a constant state of guilt. This conditioned behavior has created our experiences, which now color our projections of the future, since we have no other frames-of-reference from which to construct something different.
The difficulty in this is that we have chosen unfortunate standards from which we have conditioned our minds and the minds of the generations preceding and following us.
The joy and celebration in this is that we can change it.
In order to change anything, we must be able to see clearly that which we wish to change, and to find the source of misperception.
The misperception here is that the body is who we are.
True perception—found in all scriptural/ancient truths— reveals the body as a vehicle for liberation.
We are brought into this existence with the exact curriculum we need to get past our sh*t and realign with love (God). That is it. That’s what we’re here to do. And, we’re given a body in which to do it. But our culture and species have taken this body hostage and have told us what it should and shouldn’t be. We don’t hold other manifestations of nature to this standard, but we utilize this method to annihilate ourselves (insane behavior, by the way).
And for what?
The problem with being caught in this illusion— that we are the body and that the body is supposed to be any way other than exactly as it is— is that it distracts us from our work. We often get so caught up in our imagined shortcomings that we cannot show up for the authentic connection and service that we are here to engage in. We dump immense amounts of energy into self-loathing. Then, we not only make ourselves unavailable for life, we may actually seek to make everyone around us as unhappy as we are (misery loves company).
Ultimately, we’re reversing the intention of our existence.
So, consider the importance of the message I’m sharing here.
I understand body issues. I venture to say everyone does. This is our normal. When we begin to get it that everyone has this feeling, we can start to question the systems that create this sense of lack within us. Why are we continuing to blindly beat ourselves up over a standard we had no say in, rather than dismantling the source of the standard?
I could go on about the source of these standards (media, idolizing empty celebrity life, fear-based control, etc,), but here, I’m simply asking you to question why we have allowed ourselves to become slaves to this phantom system. And to consider what could be an alternative.
The body is to be honored. Not worshipped. And, although it seems counter-intuitive, obsessing over flaws is a form of worship. It’s selfish. And it’s essential that we get the f*ck over it and get on with our purpose.
The body is a gift we’ve been given in this existence. Learn to appreciate every curve, every dimple, every so-called shortcoming, every handicap, every scar, everything.
And, understand that it—the body with the curves, dimples, shortcomings, handicaps and scars—is not an indication of your worth. In any capacity.
If there are behaviors to reign in for the health of the body, do so. But don’t do it as punishment. Do it as love. And immediately move into a space of gratitude for the opportunity we have to be on this ride of existence, in the body given, in the first place.
We must move into awareness and stop wasting this moment wishing for a different seat on the ride.
Article Adapted from: Elephant Journal
Author: Mikela Rae
The concern surrounding the welfare of elephants in captivity is nothing new. The more we learn about these self-aware animals, the harder it becomes to justify keeping them in captivity. While many “new” zoos have come a long way in comparison to the zoos we knew years ago, the animals in their care still suffer tremendously both physically and psychologically.
Elephants in captivity are frequently observed displaying stereotypic behaviors, indicative of stress and anxiety, in fact a recent study found that a startling two-thirds of all elephants in captive environments exhibit these behaviors. Weaving, as it’s commonly referred to, is when an elephant is seen exhibiting one of many unnatural movements including head bobbing, swaying and neck twisting.
Stress in captivity for elephants can originate from a variety of sources including (but certainly not limited to): a lack of stimulation, inactivity, or the inability to have physical contact with a fellow elephant due to restraints.
In the past few years, we’ve seen how greatly the public’s perception of captivity has changed. One of the biggest changes, and potentially most influential, came from an announcement by Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus. For over a century the exploitation of elephants has played a crucial role in their acts but in March of this year, the circus announced it would be eliminating all elephant acts by 2018.
While there has been some positive progress for captive elephants in recent years, there is still a long way to go. When we examine how life in captivity compares to life in the wild, we can truly see how devastating captivity is for these magnificent animals.
Here are just a few of many things that captive elephants will never experience.
1. Family Relationships
Elephant Nature Park
In the wild, elephants live in herds. Herd groups are extremely complex and the elephant relationships closely resemble that of a human family.
The oldest living female, or the matriarch, is typically the leader of the group and she guides her family with great wisdom. Studies suggest that elephant herds with older matriarchs have more reproductive success. This is attributed to the amount of experience the elder has accumulated through the years and the number of family members she has passed her knowledge on to. The matriarch makes decisions for the herd, including when the family will eat, and where and for how long they’ll spend time in a specific area.
A female dominated society, elephant herds are incredibly tight-knit. Female elephants embrace motherhood in a way comparable to humans. After 20-22 months of gestation, an elephant calf is entirely dependent on their mother for the first 3-4 years of their life.
As they grow, males will often depart from the herd around the age of 12 and live solitary lives, coming together only to mate. Female calves, on the other hand, will almost always remain with the herd for life. That is, a female elephant will never go a day without her mother until she passes away.
Like humans, elephants develop deep emotional connections with their families, they have been known to demonstrate deep love for one another and hold mourning rituals when one passes away. Elephants in captivity rarely get to experience this sort of deep familial bonding.
Elephants that have been captured from the wild and forced into captivity often lead solitary existences. For those that are captured and brought to a facility with more than one elephant, their companions are merely strangers in comparison to the family they once knew. In some cases, the elephants aren’t compatible, creating stress for all animals involved.
Standards requiring a facility to house more than one elephant are, without a doubt, an improvement; but because Association of Zoological and Aquarium (AZA) standards do not apply to non-accredited facilities, many roadside zoos and backyard menageries are able to get away with keeping just one elephant in an exhibit.
Interestingly, studies have also shown that the experience of losing a calf when they are taken and sold into captivity creates an extreme amount of stress for the wild herd, proving that captivity is a traumatizing experience for more than just the individual animal itself.
In the wild elephants travel in response to changes in their environment, primarily to seek out alternative food and water sources. They’ve been known to cover 50 miles daily.
While elephants face many dangers living in the wild, including poachers, the alternative of living in captivity has been nothing short of a failure. Despite their best efforts, zoos lack the space and funding necessary to recreate a remotely natural environment for elephants. Many elephants in captivity are overweight, due in large part to their lack of movement in such confined spaces. This, along with many exhibits housing the elephants on hard surfaces, leads to arthritis and foot disease.
3. Natural Behaviors
Elephants have evolved over the course of thousands of years to be able to thrive within their natural habitats. As a result, they have developed a number of instinctual natural behaviors to help them thrive. Some of these behaviors include dust bathing, rubbing bark off trees with their tusks, and foraging for natural vegetation. While these might seem like trivial activities, they are very important to an elephant’s physical and mental well-being. Dust bathing helps to coat and protect the elephant’s skin from the harsh sun and lock in much-needed moisture. Foraging for food and rubbing the bark off trees is not only beneficial to the elephant, but it also helps to keep the elephant’s environment in check; elephant’s are known as the architects of the savannah because their eating habits literally help to shape the local plants and ecosystem.
In captivity, elephants are fed a diet that is not always akin to the one they would eat in the wild, further they need not forage when it is delivered on a routine schedule every day. Theclimate of the zoo or circus where elephants are held vary depending on the location, making the need to dust bath obsolete in cold climates – although this is hardly the only concern associated with housing elephants in these regions. Captive facilities may attempt to replicate the elephant’s natural environment, but nothing can compare to the wild.
It is thought that the inability to perform these natural behaviors in a captive setting adds to an elephant’s stress levels and adds to stereotypic behaviors. These little things might appear menial, but they help to make an elephant, well an elephant. If you were deprived of the ability to do the basic things you love, you’d be pretty frustrated too!
What Can You Do?
Many AZA-accredited institutions have made great strides to improve their animal exhibits and for that we’re grateful, but elephants simply don’t fare well in captivity. Since 1991, almost two dozen zoos have closed their elephant exhibits, with the remaining living animals transferred to facilities capable of providing them with a healthier environment to improve both their physical and psychological well-being.
If a zoo (accredited or not) is not capable of expanding their exhibit to provide a number of elephants a natural and stimulating environment, urge them to consider relinquishing their elephants to a sanctuary.
The bottom line, however, is that life in captivity will never be able to compare to life in the wild for an elephant. If you are truly concerned about the well-being of these magnificent animals, the best thing to do is to refuse to support their sufferings. Avoid zoos and other animal attractions that house wild elephants and share what you’ve learned with others!
Lead image source: Benh LIEU SONG/Flickr
Article Adapted from : One Green Planet
Author : Corrine Henn