Wednesday, January 04, 2017

"Make America Great Again"... and other illusions

A while back, I had this notion that I was going to write a meaningful post-election article about how to navigate a turbulent and uncertain world, especially if you're an HSP. It seemed like a good idea at the time... because many folks presented as deeply distressed and lost at the end of a very "noisy" Presidential election year here in the US.

As time passed, I started realizing that I felt "stuck," so the article progressed into becoming a "Thanksgiving Message," then a "Holiday Message" and ultimately a "New Year's Message." And still, I remained stuck. For some reason, I didn't really have any words-- let alone words of wisdom-- to share. 

A quick side note: I should hurry to add that this is not a political post... and it was never intended to be. It's a human post.

All other things aside, it was not until earlier today-- when a photo of Donald Trump from the campaigning days rolled across my Facebook feed-- that I understood why words had been failing me, and why so many people I know had been feeling strangely immobilized and unmotivated for the past few months.

"Make America Great Again!"

If you live in the US or follow the news, it's almost inevitable that you've seen this campaign slogan, regardless of which side of the political fence you sit on. 

"Make America Great... AGAIN!"

The words made me pause for a moment to remember how often I-- and many people-- tend to look backwards during periods where we feel under extreme duress, stress, disappointment and uncertainty. Sometimes this inclination arises as a result of loss-- a loved one dies, a relationship ends, we lose our job, our beloved pet passes, our core beliefs are rocked-- so we seek some kind of emotional "anchor" in the chaos we feel. At other times, we perceive our lives to be so uncertain that we focus on a solid memory simply because it is known, and the known affords us at least the illusion of control where we otherwise feel like we have none.

It's a natural thing we do. Regardless of whether we consider ourselves "forward looking" or prone to nostalgia, it is psychologically easier to recall feelings and events that have actually happened than to imagine feelings and events that are yet to be.. or maybe not to be. The tangible and recorded past outweighs the uncertain and ambiguous future. There's nothing wrong with that... it simply is.

But here's the rub: there is no recreating the past. This type of escape is merely an illusion. The cold reality is that the past only exists in our memories... because neither we, nor our environmental reality, exists today as it existed ten, twenty, fifty years ago. 

The "Good Old Days" are an abstraction. What's more, we tend to look back through a selective filter of positivity... we remember our favorite dog wagging his tail, not the three years where he peed on the floor twice a week.

Looking back may offer a moment of comfort, but it's not only fleeting, it's nothing more than a thin veil over a present reality that's not about to disappear.

I am originally from Europe and grew up there until moving to the US in 1981. That said, my parents lived in Phoenix, Arizona for many years, before going back "home" in 2002. 

Not long after they left the US, I went to visit them in the south of Spain where I spent my teen years. Having not been there in some 20 years, I went "time traveling," with the vague hope-- a longing-- of somehow "re-feeling" moments from my past. It was a difficult time in my life and I was perhaps trying to "run away." 

It was then I came to understand that "The Past" is not an actual thing, not a place, not a person, not an event... but simply a basket of feelings attached to a moment in time. I stood under the same trees in front of the house where we lived and looked at the same mountains across the same riverbed... and yet felt nothing. I sat in the bar where I had my first beer and drank the same kind of beer... and felt nothing. I stood on the beach where I sought solitude with my teenage angst... and felt nothing.

Well, not exactly "nothing.

What I felt was emptiness. Disappointment. The same feeling you have when your favorite coffee mug shatters and you realize you will never have it again, even if you replace it with an identical one. The past may look rosy, but we can never go back.

Something similar happened at a different time, years later, when my parents passed away. And at an earlier time when my beloved aunt-- who helped raise me-- passed away. Both times, I looked for points in my past where things seemed... simpler; less painful; less confusing.

In each case, the memories were intact, but the attempt to recreate something "that once was" felt flat and colorless... because the person originally having the experience in real time no longer existed

Bringing this back to current reality in the USA, I find myself feeling for all those people in down-and-out coal country who voted for Donald Trump with dreams of looking back to an easier time when jobs were plentiful and their lives did not eternally center on where their next meal will come from. I realize that their past time of relative comfort cannot exist again because neither the society nor the people they are now are who they were then.

We can't make things anything "again." We can't unlearn what we already know to be true.

Even when we make our late mother's apple pie exactly as she did, it will never be exactly the same because the original circumstances cannot exist outside our memories.

So, regardless of whether you're a liberal who longs be in in the days of Obama or Bill Clinton, or a conservative longing for the "good old days" of the 1950's... the past for which you wax nostalgic (and perhaps make your choices based on?) cannot and will not ever exist again.

All we have is now... this present moment... and the future we can co-create by stringing together the most meaningful series of "present moments" we can come up with. Sure, our choices can be informed by our past... but there is only now as far as actually living our lives go. 

So, if you feel stuck and spend  lot of time on "if only" thinking, it's time to let it go and find the strength to get up and create a new set of memories to look back on, from some future time... 

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 05, 2016

"... When the World Overwhelms You."

I realized, this morning, that it has been almost 20 years since I first came across Elaine Aron's book "The Highly Sensitive Person."

As I pulled out my ancient dog-eared copy, I also remembered that it was less the actual title than the byline "How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You" that I related deeply to.

"... When the World Overwhelms You."

Part of me wants to say that I have felt overwhelmed by the world since birth... but I don't know that, for sure. But I do remember that the sense of overwhelm was in full flow when I started first grade and every day felt... exhausting.

As of late, I have not been writing much, not contributing much to the HSP "dialogue" for the very simple reason that the world has been overwhelming me.

In fact, I'd submit that the world has been "overwhelming me" on a full-time basis for about 4-5 years, now. Before that, the overwhelm was more "sporadic and periodic."

Don't misunderstand me, here. I am not trying to start a "wah-wah pity party" here, I am merely observing reality as I am experiencing it, in a non-attached Buddhist sort of way.

Nonetheless, my current state of mind leaves me pondering the question "Have I changed... or has the world changed?"

They (whoever "they" may be...) say that our sensitivities heighten as we age. I am not sure I agree entirely with that. It seems more likely to me that as we age we become more self aware, and thus more capable of recognizing that we are experiencing an extension of our innate sensitivity, rather than attributing our turmoil (or whatever we're feeling) to something else.

So that leaves "the world."

Thanks in large part to technology, I have no doubt the world is eternally "speeding up." Stated a little differently, the volume of stimuli-- information, news, activities, entertainment, obligations and so on-- increases every year. Meanwhile, a great many people-- at least here in the USA-- are experiencing that they need to spend ever more time and effort to merely "swim in place," financially, socially, functionally, psychologically and so on.

When I sit with that and contemplate it, it feels like I have less and less time to process more and more stuff. I am simply like an hourglass-- I process a fairly constant volume of stimuli well, but if more and more sand gets poured in the top half, the narrow opening can never "clear" the inflow. As an HSP, that leaves me feeling overwhelmed.

Meanwhile, it also seems like there is a lot of pervasive "time thievery" going on, these days... and I have to admit that this time thievery contributes significantly to my current feeling of overwhelm. I'll try to explain, and maybe you can relate.

For example, it's one thing that there was a controversial election that seems to have polarized this country. It's also a thing that there's a standoff over a pipeline in North Dakota and there's naturally a flood of attendant news. I can deal with that.

But now the new "time thief" is this whole concept of "fake news." Not only are there endless news stories, but now I have to spend additional time trying to determine whether any given story really IS a news story, or just some sensationalist clickbait created by a couple of profiteering vagrants who find it amusing to watch other people fall into a chaotic frenzy. IF (and that's an important question, here in our modern world) I want to remain a truly informed citizen, a five minute news story has now become a 15-minute research project.

But my day didn't become 24 hours and 10 minutes long to accommodate the new paradigm.

And so, the world overwhelms me... which is also a somewhat long-winded explanation for the repeated question I often get as to why I don't write anymore.

Of course, well meaning folks tell me I should turn it off and simplify my life... but isn't the whole ignoring it and sticking our heads in the sand with the excuse that "we can't deal with it" precisely part the the problem that created this whole mess? And how can you hope to make the world a better place if you're tuning it out?

Aside from which, how do you simplify a life that has already-- out of functional necessity-- been trimmed to the bare bones? I'm sorry, but living in a tent in the woods is not going to reduce my overstimulation... I like indoor plumbing and a bed! Of COURse there are lots of people who are "far worse off" than I am, but comparing our situation to the lowest common denominator doesn't fix the problem, it merely creates a greater pool of discontent... a sort of "misery loves company" circle jerk. I'm sorry, but that's not the world I'm looking to live in.

So how do we "thrive" when the world overwhelms us?

As of this moment, I am not entirely clear on that, but it somehow will involve a reiteration of a process I last went through in my mid-30's, when I abandoned working in the mainstream and became self-employed... which wasn't just about changing how I worked, but about changing how I lived, removing the expectations and trappings of "corporate life."

With 20 years of "creative independence" under my belt another revision now seems due, as I sit with the reality that I am not exactly thriving... I am surviving and getting by. I may have more "psychic income and wealth" than ever before, but the supermarket and electric company does not accept that currency in consideration of groceries and power. Which ends up creating a sort of inner dissonance which is another contributing factor to the overwhelm... if I am spending 70 hours a week in the business of simply maintaining, there's little left over to pursue other interests.

What is clear to me is that Being A Highly Sensitive Person is merely a piece of information about who I am. Whereas it influences and affects how I experience and interact with the world around me, it's not "a thing," in and of itself. It doesn't "do" anything. It doesn't "entitle" me to anything, nor does it make me "special" in some cosmic way most people give a rat's ass about. I am still a Human Being who needs to negotiate life, just like everyone else. Go to work, make dinner, pet the cat, take out the garbage, pay the bills. I am primarily a Human Being... who happens to be a Highly Sensitive Person.

In closing, I am considering that this is perhaps the natural "end point" in the journey of understanding ourselves, as HSPs. We start as "confused humans" who then learn we are HSPs; there's relief. Nothing "wrong" with us. We learn. We take on the "label" and adjust. We become wise in the ways of our sensitivity. And then we go back to simply being human, with an additional body of helpful knowledge.

Stay tuned for more ramblings; as I wrote a while back, I have let a number of my web sites and blogs quietly pass on... as a result of which, this will now double as both an "HSP" and a "personal" blog space. But not to worry, I'll still post the more inflammatory political and social commentary elsewhere!

Feel free to leave a comment!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Endings: Point of Contemplation

Last week, I found myself saying goodbye to an assortment of web sites I own-- and have owned-- for a long time. A couple of them for close to twenty years, which is practically "the history of the world," in terms of the Internet.

In a purely practical sense, my reasoning was simple enough-- faced with a hosting and domain service bill for $329, I realized I simply couldn't afford-- nor justify-- to keep these things running anymore. My inner dialogue was centered around the core reality that "they cost money to keep and take my time, but don't help me pay my bills, so they have to go."

The whole process of dumping these sites that had been part of my life for many years-- as well as part of my efforts to familiarize the world with the concept "HSP"-- made me pause to consider this world we live in. And it made me pause to think about the numerous HS people I know who are eternally "living on the edge" of barely making it.

We want to make a difference, and we want to have fun, and we want to make the world a better place but find ourselves living a world that demands 110% of our energy, focus and bandwidth merely to stay alive.

I suppose I am a bit of an idealist and I am trying to swallow the (somewhat bitter?) pill that my inner sense of how an ideal world could be seems to be perpetually at odds with the reality around me.

Although I have never really been someone who's "motivated by money," I am-- to some degree-- motivated by the idea of reciprocity. Not in the "giving to get" sense, but in the sense that it's nice to see one's efforts rewarded to the extent that continuing them seems worthwhile; at least to the extent that "doing right" is minimally self-sustaining... not just an expense.

I realize it's not just about me. It's about the world. The lady who has the shop next to our art gallery gets organic farm fresh eggs from her auntie. They cost $5 a dozen. I know as well as the next person that supporting local organic farmers is the "right thing" to do. I also have a coupon from the local supermarket for eggs at 79 cents per dozen. $5.00 vs. 79 cents. In so many cases, our choices are made for us, because we only (metaphorically speaking) have two dollars to spend.

As I pondered-- with a bit of sadness-- the demise of my long-time projects, my mind drifted back to earlier times when I was writing and trying to get articles published. And how often I was met with statements like "We'd love to include your article, but we're not able to pay contributors at this time... but it'll look great on your resumé!"

I used to believe that something good would come from persevering, anyway... so I did. These days I am more cynical, knowing that the supermarket doesn't accept "great looking resumés," they accept money. And I like to eat... at least occasionally.

Back when Sarah still had her radio program (another attempt at "doing right" that cost money, rather than made money), one of the things said by one of her guests on the program was "It's hard to change the world when you're always broke." As I thought about that, I realize that most people wanting to change the world are broke... because when you're doing well, odds are you're interested in keeping the system that led to your success.

In a strange turn of events, I was looking for a (re-) starting point for HSP Notes... and it became this story about endings. Funny, how that sometimes works out.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Random Musings on HSPs, Marketing, Social Media and Overstimulation

Sometimes it's the "little things" that bother us and can lead to HSP overstimulation. But what exactly ARE "little" things?

This morning, as I was wading through the daily deluge of email, there was an update from an HSP group I belong to on Google+ (It's a nice group, if you want to look at it). I expect many of us get these "so-and-so posted a new message to such-and-such a group" updates.

Anyway, because I am actually interested in HSP-related stuff, I clicked on the link... and got a "the content you are looking for is not available" message, and realized that the original post had been removed.

OK. Had it been spam? That didn't entirely make sense to me as the "so-and-so" person who'd shared the original post was somewhat known to me and is definitely not a spammer.

So I decided to poke around a bit to see if I could figure out what was going on.

Then I understood (I think). The original post had been an announcement of this person's new web site. Nothing wrong with that-- it was definitely "on topic" and relevant to HSPs and might be both useful and informative to those learning about our trait.

The real problem? The post had been an announcement of a web site that wasn't actually built or running yet, just "in the works." The splash page at the end of the link did nothing more than announce that "exciting content coming soon!" and then offered a popup form to ask for email addresses to "be notified of exciting new features."

Whether it's an "HSP cautiousness" thing or not, I now understood why the group owner had deleted the post. I, too, find it annoying to be be asked to support something that "isn't there." And if I am going to give someone my email address... I want to SEE what I am actually agreeing to, not just be offered some promise of future benefits.

As always, I had a lot of items in my email this morning. Whereas I had just experienced a "tiny incident," it made me consider how much time, energy and bandwidth we often waste on "empty information," especially in these days of every more complex social media.

Of course, it's easy to just take an all-or-nothing approach and shut ourselves off by saying "I'm just going block EVERYthing in order to keep my sanity!"

But is locking out all the noise of life really the best solution?

When I look at all the email I wade through, it is frequently overwhelming, and I sometimes wish we were back in simpler times with less information. On the other hand, I have to confess that there's lots of marvelous stuff I would never have learned about or experienced if I'd just applied a wholesale "nothing for me" approach.

For the Highly Sensitive Person, what really matters is finding balance, not shutting yourself off to all forms of external noise. And that means we do have to take the time to decide what is really meaningful and allowing those things in.

I still meet HSPs who fiercely state that they "don't do Facebook" with fiery determination... but ALL of Facebook isn't evil, per se. Like most things, there are good bits and bad bits. "Not doing social media" may eliminate that aspect of stimulation from your life, but is that necessarily ideal?

To that end, I am reminded of one of my Teachers of many moons ago-- I was attending a workshop, and the discussion somehow ended up on our social lives and connecting with people. A number of people commented that they felt like recluses and that "nothing ever happened" in their lives. The teacher then asked what they were doing to create a better social life. There was generally silence. In the end, he made the point that in life-- be it 3D social, or with managing social media, or with general experiences and adventures-- we can't expect much of anything if we are not willing to put ourselves "in harm's way," metaphorically speaking.

And so, in the end, I may complain a lot about information overload but ultimately I feel more informed, educated and balanced as a result of allowing my own version of "filtered noise" to reach me... because some of it really does turn out to be "gold nuggets."

How do YOU handle social media? And the endless stream of information we're subjected to? Have you found a good balance? Have you created "filters" that allows the useful, and lets the useless go? 

Monday, March 21, 2016

HSP Notes "Renovation," Updates and... a Change of Voice

A Day of Sidetracks

Sometimes, we just get sidetracked... today was such a day, for me.

If you haven't been by "HSP Notes" recently, you might notice that things look a little different around here. Even though it wasn't planned, I found myself spending most of today undertaking a much needed "modernization" of this web site.

These days, technology changes so fast I can barely keep up, and HSP Notes-- now in its 15th year-- was starting to look a little bit "dated." That... and I'd received a few messages that the site didn't present itself well on mobile devices.

So now we have a new look, and there's even a mobile friendly version of the site.

What's New?

Aside from a more modern appearance, quite a bit of site content has been updated-- and there's a lot more to come, in the upcoming weeks.

Meanwhile, I also want to draw your attention to the HSP Notes Bookstore which has been greatly expanded.

The bookstore attached to this site is a lot more than just "your average collection of amazon links from a web site." Instead, it is a large collection of handpicked books that are either in my personal library, or I have read, or have been recommended to me by people I know and trust... no "fillers," no "fluff."

There are hundreds of titles either directly about high sensitivity... or about topics that are near and dear to many HSPs. I hope you'll check it out!

Yes, I do earn "a few cents" from having it... but trust me, it's a few cents; If I'm lucky, enough to pay my annual web hosting fees. I mention this because some HSPs are put off by any and all forms of sales/marketing. I also mention this because-- absent those few cents-- I probably wouldn't be able to justify spending as much time as I do, doing this. So this site wouldn't even exist.

A Change of Voice

Last, but not least, what I publish here is going to change a bit. Well... the type of content won't change, but the way I write will. Here's the deal:

I started HSP Notes in 2002 as a mostly personal journal and place to share some ideas and experiences resulting from learning about this thing called "Being A Highly Sensitive Person." Back then, there wasn't a whole lot of information about our trait out there.

To be honest, I didn't really expect to get "a readership," but was certainly thrilled (and felt very validated) when others started reading these pages and shared that they could relate to my experiences.

HSP Notes was a very "personal thing" back then.

Somewhere along the way (perhaps inspired by "wisdom" from the greater blogosphere that blogs should fit niches and have a tight focus?), it seems that my posts became more and more academic and "third person."

As I was updating the site and looked over old posts, I became aware that I have increasingly "written myself out of the picture."

I won't comment on whether that is "good" or "bad," but I realize now that the increasing time interval between new posts could be attributed to the fact that the blog was no longer serving me-- as a cathartic journal-- and so I was less interested in writing.

Who do we do things for?

This made me consider the age-old question many creatives and artists have asked themselves: "WHO am I doing this for?"

Sure, I write in a public space because I hold an idealistic belief that maybe my words will resonate with and help someone, but ultimately I write because clarifying my thoughts in writing helps me solve problems and answer my own questions.

So not only will HSP Notes return to its more personal roots, I am planning to "free" some of the more "personal insight" posts I have written but kept private in the course of the past couple of years.

Of course, I still want HSP Notes to remain useful-- to which end I will be adding more book reviews and more web resources, as time goes by.

In the meantime, thanks for being part of this journey!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

And Now for Something Completely Different: Self-Promotion and HSPs on the Radio!


Many HSPs-- whether self-employed or otherwise-- struggle with the concept of promoting themselves. For a large number of reasons, we find the idea of "tooting our own horns" distasteful, in some ways.

Elaine Aron and Barrie Jaeger, both, allude to this in their books on HSPs when it comes to our work life... many of us end up "underemployed" because we don't stand up and sell ourselves to get a well-deserved promotion, or even to let people know about our talents and capabilities.

Many HSPs work in creative fields-- as artists, musicians, performers, writers and more. I'm one of those... and like many of my peers, I have struggled with "promoting myself."

"Promotion" sounds so... pushy... to me. Brings to mind insurance salesmen and used car dealers who scream at me from their home made advertisements on TV.

Of course, that's really just unfair stereotyping. And the fact remains that if you have a talent, or service, or art, or something else creative... unless you're willing to let people KNOW what you have, and allow yourself to be SEEN, nobody's going to even know that your marvelous creative "thing" even exists. The point being, nobody's going to magically show up at your front door, just because you "made something."

In my almost 20 years of studying the HSP trait, it's a common source of suffering for many self-employed highly sensitive persons that "nobody sees us," so we end up working hard for little reward. In doing so, we overlook the basic fact that we are partially to blame because we are almost afraid to "sell ourselves."

A couple of days ago, my wife (also an HSP) and I were having a discussion about this very thing... and remarked on the way many HSPs almost UN-sell themselves by downplaying the value of what they have to offer ("Oh, it's nothing... just something I play with now and then..."), rather than openly sharing it.

I am not excluding myself here... in fact, both my wife and I suffer from some degree of "unselling ourselves" in our various ventures-- she with her counseling and life coaching, radio show and healing organization... me with my writing, with my art and with my collectibles business.

Perhaps the first thing to keep in mind is that the "ugly" part of self-promotion (those loud car dealers, mattress shops and insurance salesmen) are not representative of authentic self-promoting with integrity. There's really nothing distasteful about letting people know that "I'm an artist, and this is my work" or "I'm a writer, and this is what I do."

This means we have to be willing to "be seen," and that means stepping outside our comfort zones.

Part of this post is about me stepping outside my comfort zone: I am going to do something that is FAR from my normal approach to things: I am going to be on the radio!

Now, granted, this is "baby steps."

My wife Sarah (yes, she IS an HSP, but more of the "HSS" variety) has a bi-weekly radio show, and she's doing "HSP month" and talked me into being on the show, since I have been studying the trait for a long time.

Yes, it's fairly "safe" because it's an interview done my someone I know and love, BUT it's still me allowing myself to "be heard" by a worldwide audience of thousands of people. Not only that, part of the show is going to be about "my creativity" (my art-- the hand painted mandala stones in the photo) not just about "the HSP trait." And that's the scary part... I'm not just on the air as a sort of "expert witness," but to talk about something creative that is near and dear to my heart.

That's where we HSPs-- especially the ones in creative and artistic fields-- must find the courage to stand up and "be seen" and "be counted" and get over our concerns that what we have to offer doesn't have value to the world-- it DOES.

So, I'd like to invite everyone to listen in (the show first aired on November 12th at 7:00pm US Eastern time/4:00pm US Pacific time)... to a couple of HSPs chatting on the radio! Don't worry if you missed it, or couldn't listen at that time-- the show archives instantly after it ends.

You can hear the archived version by clicking the ► below:


Talk back! How do YOU-- as an HSP-- deal with "self-promotion?" Have you missed opportunities in your life because you failed to "speak up" when you had something to offer? Do you wrestle with idea that your work isn't "good enough," even when it is clearly the best? Are you in a creative field, but struggle to promote your writing, art or other talents? Help start a conversation! Please leave a comment!

Sharing is Love. If you enjoyed this post, or found it useful, or interesting... please consider sharing with others, using these handy social media buttons, below! The more people become familiar with the HSP trait, the better off we ALL are. Thank you! 
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Friday, October 30, 2015

HSPs, the "Consciousness" business and Living a Meaningful Life

Recently, I have been spending a lot of time considering the whole "Consciousness" issue.

No, I don't mean "consciousness" as in what happens in the morning when you wake up after a night of heavy drinking... I mean consciousness in the context typically defined by the self-development and "New Age" industries. Some might call it "awareness;" others might call it "mindfulness" or "Being Present."

I expect this is not a "foreign country" for most HSPs, as our natural tendency towards introspection and self-improvement leads many of us down a path of discovery, driven by a desire to find-- and explore the nature of-- our "True Selves," "The Meaning of Life" and our "Life Purpose."

In the course of  living within the HSP Community for almost two decades, it would be tempting to latch on to the idea that being a Highly Sensitive Person somehow makes someone "more conscious" than the rest of the world... but my experience tells me otherwise. At best, I would feel more inclined to think of HSPs as "differently conscious" from the rest of the world.

I can already hear a few voices rise in protest, saying "How can you SAY such a thing?!?! Being Highly Sensitive automatically makes people more tuned into others, and more empathic, and so more conscious!"

Therein lies the rub, however...

By nature, our ability to "Live Consciously" tends to flow towards those areas of life that matter most to us... and not so much towards those that don't.

"True" consciousness also requires us to navigate-- with equal consciousness-- those areas that are not important to us. And that's where we (HSPs) don't do as well, because we tend to stay within our comfort zones and avoid those things that make us feel uncomfortable and overstimulated.

Let me offer a metaphor, to illustrate:

We may feel like we're doing the right thing by choosing to drive a Toyota Prius because it's environmentally friendly and gets 50 miles to the gallon (highly conscious choice), but are we being truly conscious if we're unaware that that anxieties that cause us to never go faster than 35 mph is actually endangering other travelers when we do so in a 55 mph zone and everyone around us is "doing crazy shit" to try to pass us because we're holding up traffic?

My point here is that "Consciousness" is more than just an esoteric abstract; it is a set of life choices, and many of them highly functional, as they exist in our daily choices. Like that other popular term "enlightenment," consciousness is not a thing; not something we can "have," but rather an ongoing practice; a perpetual sequence of choices that support the highest and best outcome for all-- ourselves included.

For HSPs, if there is one Achilles heel we have, it's our tendency to eternally "stay in our heads" as a means to-- in essence-- avoid interfacing with "real life" around us. And don't get me wrong... I am guilty of doing the same thing. However, it doesn't really help, in terms of becoming well-rounded, fully integrated people who can be of service to the world.

Think about this, for a second:

You are highly sensitive and have learned that the energy of crowds overwhelm you, and that's why you've never done well at festivals and concerts, even though some part of you really like them. Now, you can take that information and either translate it into "avoid crowds" and thereby withdraw from a part of life... OR you can observe yourself in a crowd, determine your "trigger points" and decide that the knowledge "crowds overstimulate me" means you can go and enjoy an event, be self aware, and then make a conscious choice to stay for TWO HOURS instead of "all day."

From my vantage point, the latter is definitely a more conscious choice.

Then I think about the many times I have attended HSP Workshops and Gatherings, and have found a great sense of community and connection, as well as a sense of "direction" in my life... only to end up at the inevitable question (posed by myself, and other attendees): "How do we take this home and continue to experience it outside the protected setting of a retreat?"

Good question!

Often, we know what "The Good Life" (or our version thereof) looks like-- in theory-- but the application is difficult. Or seems complicated. Or an invitation to becoming overwhelmed.

As regular visitors to these pages know, it's fairly rare that I recommend or "endorse" products or books... I think I have done so maybe five times in the 13 years I have been writing here.

Today, I am going to make one of those rare exceptions, because I am working with something I truly feel is of value.

Recently, I have been reading one of the best (and most "functional") books about Consciousness I have ever encountered:

Coffee for Consciousness: The Application of Perspective to Reality by Vito Mucci (opens to description on Amazon, in a new tab)

What I love about this is that it's not yet another fluffy feel-good self-help book overflowing with flowery motivational quotes that sound good without actually helping us-- instead it looks in depth at living consciously at the level  "where the rubber meets the road." In some ways, it reads far more like a "manual for life" or text book than your typical self-help book... and its 550-ish pages filled with no nonsense information underscores that.

In his book, Mucci focuses on the heart of consciousness, mindfulness and self-awareness... and instead of the eternal "rainbow soup" of cute sayings and quotes that sound good but leave us wondering what to actually do next-- this marvelous book is all about what these things actually mean, and how we apply them to our lives.

Of course, that also makes Coffee for Consciousness a challenging read, in its own right... because it asks us to-- or demands-- that we look beyond the pretty window dressing of the so-called self-awareness movement and graduate to making actual changes in our lives, rather than just talking about changes in our lives. So if you prefer "light and fluffy" over getting to the root of issues, this book is not for you.

Although this is in no way "a book for HSPs," I'm impressed enough to feel compelled to recommend it here on these pages-- something I rarely do. Yes, I know it's not cheap... but this is one of the rare occasions where I will counter with "Yes, but it's well worth it!" Whether Vito Mucci is an HSP I do not know, but the insights he shares definitely are meaningful for HSPs.

Now why do I care enough to write this? Well, because there is more to being an HSP than just eternally focusing on "being an HSP." We need to also become the best Humans we can be... and this is one of the few resources I have found that has the potential to truly help, in that respect. And the underlying ideas of the book seem to me to be very in step with the worldview and core values of many HSPs I have known. My wife Sarah-- who's also a Highly Sensitive Person-- has read it and now refers back to concepts learned with surprising regularity... and she's a 30-year "veteran" of the self-development trade.

If you're not quite sure what I am talking about, or you want to get more in-depth with the idea, I would like to recommend that you listen to Sarah's recent radio show where she interviews author Vito Mucci on Radio Nahmaste. As I mentioned, she's a fellow HSP and shares my high regard for this book as an amazing and helpful tool for life and for living consciously. And yes, HSPs do make good talk radio hosts!

Just click on the ► below to listen!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Ambition, High Sensitivity, Too Many Interests and Having "Enough"

I've been spending a few days recently trying to get my work life organized.

I work from home. I run three "micro businesses" from the house, and help out with two more. When people ask what it is I "do," I usually tell them-- only half-facetiously-- that "I play with my hobbies for a living." How that came to be is a long story I'll write about some other time. Anyway...

On paper, that probably all sounds rather lovely and bucolic. In practice? Not so much.

Aside from the fact that I am an adult HSP living with ADHD, I tend to not get nearly as much done as I would like to, or as I need to. After all, there are "bills and things" to be taken care of!

Part of the problem (or "challenge") is that I am genuinely interested in a lot of different things, and I have always struggled with prioritizing appropriately. It's not so much because I am "scatterbrained" as it is because I see the potential of many different things, and what they could become... if developed properly. And even though I am often able to develop these things, the ongoing grind of running and tending to them soon wears me down.

Some people struggle to get "from idea to reality," but that's not me. I struggle more with "ongoing" reality. I've always attributed this to a self-perception that I am inherently lazy. I have never been a very "active" person, nor what I (or other people) would consider a "hard worker." And I have certainly never felt "driven."

As such, one of my greaest problems with being self-employed (as well as one of the "answers" to my laziness life dilemma?) is that I lack ambition. I have previously written about the issue of ambition and achievement as an HSP... and it's a topic I continue to struggle with in a world that often feels like it operates on a "work hard, or perish" value set.

What I mean by that is that I will do exactly "enough" to get by and no more. I am not lazy in the sense that I will not do my very best work, because I believe that's just "right action." I am also not lazy in the sense that I believe I should be "served" or that I deserve "money for nothing," nor that the world "owes me" anything.

However, I have no inherent ambition to "strive" and "be greater," beyond my basic ambition to just "be enough." And it's a very old feeling, for me. I remember being at University and thinking about what I was going to do and be, after graduation. At 20-something, everyone around me seemed like they wanted to "take over the world" and become the next industrial magnate, or whatever.

I looked ahead and I just wanted to be able to afford a house, a car and food-- without having to work too damn hard for it.

In years gone by, my perceived "laziness dilemma" always seemed to get in my way when I worked "real" jobs. I was never "driven," so I struggled to do well in work situations that required me be to be highly competitive. I even lost jobs because I was not interested in the work load that came with a promotion to a higher level of responsibility. I expect that may be part of my HSP nature.

Bottom line, though, was that someone whose essential sense of self was around simply "being satisfied" did not seem to fit into a world eternally focused "more, bigger, taller, richer."

Upon reflection, I have come to realize that one of the potential downsides to living by a paradigm of "doing enough" is that I often have ideas for things that "might work out well," but I lack the inspiration and ambition to put them into action, especially when things are "going OK."  If the bills have been paid, I feel no particular desire to "get moving," however good an idea might be.

Yet, many of these ideas are definitely things I want to "do later." But by the time "later" rolls around, I often discover that someone else (aka "someone more ambitious") has already taken my idea and run with it, so I can't even USE the opportunity any more.

I don't say this to have some sort of personal pity party, but to point out one of the downsides... namely the frequency with which what seemed like a potential to get "enough" gets transmuted into "nothing at all."

Anyway, this post is a bit of a precursor to more writing on the ongoing topic of HSPs, work and ambition... and how to carve out our niches in life, without getting overwhelmed and stressed out in the process.

There is also a new book that has just been released, about HSPs and careers-- more about that in an upcoming post!

What do YOU think? Does it come naturally to you to "strive" for greatness? Or are you more of an "enough to get by" sort of person? Is work a challenge for you? Do share and leave a comment!

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