Writing Prompt: What is a mistake I’ve made, and how has it lead to my own discoveries?

When I read this writing prompt, there was one particular incident that came to mind, which happened earlier in the summer. The mistake that I made was fueling a negative thought pattern until it got out of control, something I hadn’t done in a long time.

That day, I was working from 6:00 am to 2:00 pm so in order to arrive at the office on time, I had to begin my commute by catching my first bus around 4:40 am. This would mean I’d arrive at Bloor-Yonge for around 5:00 am, where I’d take a second bus up to work. Ideally, I would arrive with at least enough time to comfortably buy a coffee and get settled at my desk before 6:00 hits. This is why I chose to start my commute so early: so that I didn’t have to rush to work.

That morning, I arrived at my stop for 4:35 and waited patiently for the bus to come in a few minutes. And just like what my TTC app said, I saw the blue lights climb over the hill meaning the bus was approaching. But as it came closer, it didn’t slow down the way it normally did and instead barreled by, the sign above the windshield reading “Out of Service”. I shrugged it off, and didn’t let it bother me. I figured another bus would come by soon enough. Because I chose to leave early in the mornings, I had a window of time to accommodate for delays while still allowing me to arrive at work on time.

I was right. The next scheduled bus appeared at the horizon, so I took my Metropass out of my pocket and kept it at the ready, but to my surprise it also rolled past, the same “Out of Service” message being broadcast.

I and the other man at the stop looked at each other, dumbfounded. What was going on in the transit system? This was a crucial moment, one where I could choose my reaction to the situation, which is what was under my control, rather than the transit issue. Unfortunately, on that morning I was feeling particularly low energy, and this had been happening for a few days. During that time, I was choosing to dwell on negative thoughts out of stubbornness, even though I knew how that would affect me. This instance was no different. I could have chosen to accept what was happening, as resisting the situation would not change it: it would simply ruin my mood. Instead, I began to dwell on negative thoughts: “I should already be at Bloor/Yonge by now but I’m not. The next bus is only in another 10 minutes. I hope I get to work on time. I can’t believe the TTC, how can they have two buses in a row out of service?”

On and on this went. The more negative thoughts I focused on, the more came up, until I was basking in an energetic bubble of frustration and self-entitlement. Looking back at this now, it was almost comical how personally I was taking this. I say ‘almost’ because of what ended up happening.

Because I was choosing negative thoughts, I became too focused on them and lost my ability to watch these thoughts happen without getting involved in them. I was right in the middle of their storm, and I wasn’t mindful as a result. When the third bus finally arrived, thankfully operational, I was so deep in those frustrated thoughts and emotions that they did what they do when you don’t watch them: they acted out through me.

I stepped onto the bus, and I sternly asked the driver: “What has been going on? There are two buses that went by out of service.” I didn’t raise my voice, but since my energy is so strong, I saw him flinch as if I had hit him. Just as I noticed that, he responded in the same frustrated manner as myself, and I felt he was hurt: “I don’t know what’s happening with the other buses, I just drive this one. If you have a complaint, you can send the TTC head office a message, otherwise you’ll make me have to put this bus out of service.” That’s when I realized this whole thing was entirely my fault. I didn’t watch my thoughts and emotions, and the reaction they caused involved someone else in that negativity. Poor guy just wanted to drive his bus. I immediately apologized and took responsibility for losing my temper, but I could tell he wasn’t convinced I meant it. Embarrassed I went to sit at the back, and I felt guilty throughout the entire ride.

I almost convinced myself to simply slip out the back door, but that would have been the less courageous choice. Instead, at my destination, I went back to the front and on my way out I said: “I just wanted to say that I’m sorry again for my reaction. Thank you for what you do, and have a nice day.” That’s when I saw a genuine smile on his face as he said it’s okay, and wished me the same. I sincerely hope that I repaired some of the damage I did, though words can only be forgiven and not forgotten.

One thing I am happy about is that as soon as I realized what happened, I took responsibility for the way I acted and did my best to patch things up with the driver. I didn’t want to leave him with that energy all day, and from what I felt it seems my last comment to him helped clear at least some of that negative energy I had created. The lesson I learned here is to always return to mindfulness as soon as I realize that I’m not being mindful, as otherwise thoughts and emotions can get out of control. It was a humbling experience, a reminder that though I’ve developed my ability to mindful over the years, I am not immune to bouts of mindlessness!

My First Skydiving Experience

Today, I’m going to tell the story of my first skydiving experience, a dream that had been a long time in the making. As far back as I could remember, I wanted to go skydiving because to me it was one of the wildest and most liberating experiences I could achieve. For the longest time, I kept telling myself that I wanted to go skydiving – but a small part of me was worried that I may never actually have the courage to act on it. So when a local skydiving organization offered a New Year’s discount of over $100 off the price of a jump, I knew it was now or never. And luckily, my close friend Marianne was crazy enough to want to skydive with me.

The day of the jump, we had plenty of time to mull over what was going to happen later, as countless fields and small towns passed outside the bus window. Our destination was a town called Churchill, about two hours outside of Toronto. Once there we waited at the bus stop, merely a crooked sign jutting out of a dusty road, for the shuttle to the drop zone. We sat on the side of the road, the sun beating down on us and the sleepy town quiet except for the traffic that hurried through towards bigger destinations. Skydive Toronto had mentioned on their website to bring your own snacks, and I understood why – there were no corner stores or restaurants in this tiny place. After a longer wait than anticipated, a burgundy van came driving down a side road towards us, and we hopped in. When we arrived at the drop zone, it was clear as to why there was a delay in picking us up, as we watched a flurry of activity on site, from the jumpers in suits and the airplanes taking off and landing.

The first step in the process was for Mari and I to watch a safety video, before we could even think of jumping. We were seated in a small room that contained a few chairs and an old TV on top of a rolling stand – it was purely functional. The woman who brought us there pressed “Play” on the VCR, assuring us that the video has all the information that we need despite its age. She wasn’t kidding, as the first scene in it showed a man seated comfortably in an armchair, professional in his tone as he sported the most magnificent mullet. The video continued, showing jumpers at the plane door’s threshold, and explaining how to safely position your body in order to exit the plane and jump. This was the point where my heart began to beat very quickly, as the reality of what I was about to do sank in.

The paperwork out of the way, we still had some hands-on training to do before we could jump. We were taught how to position our bodies, the way the video showed, and got the chance to practice. Once the trainer was satisfied that we could do the maneuver correctly, we geared up with a jumpsuit, cap, and goggles. Mari had purchased a video along with her photos, and her cameraman took some action shots of us as we waited for our jump time slot.

Finally, it was our turn. The cameraman followed us as we walked determinedly towards the idling aircraft, giving a thumbs up as we entered the plane. We were joined by about 6 other people and their instructors, and we all huddled together in the tight space. The plane may have been small, but the rumbling engines covered all noise except for shouting. It jostled a few times before picking up speed down the runway, and it one swift moment we were suddenly up in the air.

At this point in my life, I had never been in a plane before and I wondered if I would end up being afraid of the heights once I was in the air. But no, I couldn’t be – I was absolutely taken with the beauty of the view I was experiencing, massive objects miniaturizing and smaller ones disappearing altogether. We soared higher and higher. I remember asking my instructor if we were almost at our target height, given I had no point of reference. He pointed at my altimeter and grinned – we were barely a quarter of the way up. At peak height, the door was opened and the roar of the wind joined that of the engines, adding to the intensity of the moment. At the threshold, I paused and looked down, thinking “This is it.” My instructor leaned outwards: “ONE!” Then backwards: “TWO!” And as he screamed “THREE!” we hurled ourselves out of the aircraft.

The wind hit me like a wall and rushed past me so fast, it was difficult to breathe. Reaching terminal velocity, I felt like I was hovering more than I felt like I was falling. The sensations were so intense that I was much more preoccupied with that, than attempting to admire the view around me at 12 000 feet, everything happening faster than my limited system of perception could take it in. We fell for a little less than a minute before my instructor pulled the ripcord, which caused a great jerk in the flow of our fall. The parachute opened wide behind us, the rushing sound of the wind slowing to a soft hush as we began comfortably drifting through the air.

The majestic view finally unfolded before me and it genuinely took my breath away. I had no time to be afraid of the fact that I was thousands of feet in the air because it was just so stunning to see the world from that height, and I was filled with gratitude at being able to have that opportunity. It was a cloudless October day, the warm kind in which the dusk is bathed in golden light, not a cloud in a sky so blue it almost felt too vivid for my eyes to truly comprehend it. It’s the type of day where summer decides to show its magnificence one more time before winter finally arrives. We continued to drift lazily downwards, in wide circles, and I admired how different objects seemed from above. Fields that seemed so massively endless as you drove by them looked like a patchwork quilt across southern Ontario. Buildings looked like miniature squares, and you couldn’t see the cars driving down the road unless you really looked closely – it was like watching small ants on the ground at your feet when you’re standing up.

The descent took about five minutes, and I spent every moment of that in appreciative wonder, doing my absolute best to sink as deeply as I could in the present so that I could absorb as much of the experience as I could. When we landed I was still in awe, and as Mari and I happily hugged each other, high on endorphin, we both agreed that if we could we would go back up and jump again in a heartbeat. This was absolutely one of the most magical experiences of my life.

Experiencing The Wonderland Xtreme Skyflyer

I stood in line at Canada’s Wonderland, waiting for my turn to experience the Xtreme Skyflyer. My heart was beating fast from the terrified excitement coursing through my veins. “This is crazy,” I thought, “I’m actually doing this.” My friends stood off to the side, giving me smiles and thumbs-up of approval, but unwilling to brave the 153 foot drop. I could hardly blame them, as we watched three people lying on their stomachs on a platform, getting strapped into the ride. Once they were ready to go, this platform would lower, leaving the group suspended. The occupants would then be raised into the air, 153 feet high, at which point they would stop. There would be a momentary suspension before the ride was released, sending the screaming riders down in a pendulum swing. Up to three riders at a time could participate in the ride and most people were in full groups, if not partnered with at least one other person. I was alone, given that no one wanted to join me, but I wasn’t willing to pass on this opportunity just because everyone else would. Finally, it was my turn. I walked over to the platform and laid on my stomach, atop what seemed to be a canvas cocoon. The operator strapped me in securely, and during this time I lay there, contemplating what I was about to experience.

Then, the operator takes a step back and signals to the controller that I’m ready to go. The platform begins to lower, leaving me suspended, but I suddenly realize that I’m also being pulled up. I start to rise at an almost leisurely pace that contrasts sharply with the adrenaline pumping through my body. As I’m rising, everything is getting smaller. “Oh wow,” I think, “this is really getting high.” Still I continue to rise, the food stands looking like little playhouses and soon I can barely see the expressions on the faces of my friends. I even had several moments where I thought, “Okay, this is so high, it has to be it,” but still I’d continue ascending. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, the ride jerks to a stop at the top of the tower and there is a pause. I’m swaying slightly in the wind, pondering the sheer height at which I was suspended. Let me tell you that when you decide to embark on this ride, you think you understand that 153 feet is high. But you really have no idea until you’re actually up there, and after this point I’d always had a whole new appreciation for how high that is. At the same time that it’s scary, it’s also incredible beautiful. I can see so much of the theme park from up here, the attractions looking more like toys than the mighty feats of engineering that they are. I can see hundreds of people scattered everywhere, the park bustling with activity. I truly had to pause in appreciation at getting the opportunity to see such a view, even though the vast part of me was still focused on being excitedly terrified at being so high. A booming voice comes onto the loudspeakers: “TOWER NUMBER ONE, ARE YOU READY?” My hand was shaking as it reached to grab the rip cord. This is it. “THREE, TWO, ONE, FLY!”

At the word “fly”, I pulled the rip cord fast, like a band aid, because I didn’t want to hesitate and make the fear even worse. Nothing could prepare me for the sudden feeling of weightlessness. Time seemed to slow down, leaving me suspended in the air for a fraction of a second before I plummeted three to four seconds in free fall and continued on in a smooth, wide swing. As soon as the free fall stopped, the terror turned to pure joy as I felt myself soaring through the air in a magnificent swoop, the wind roaring in my ears. Going past the apex of the ride, I began to fly upwards, high above the heads of my friends. I slowed down and started to go backwards, and on this went for about ten long swings. This was such an incredibly relaxing part of the ride, just letting myself drift through the air. As someone who has always loved swings, it was a dream come true to experience such a massive one. By the time I was lowered onto the ground again, my eyes were sparkling in pure joy and I was grinning from ear to ear. This was one of the most fun steps taken outside of my comfort zone by that point in my life!

An Example of the Power of Intuition

One of the most beneficial side effects of learning to quiet my mind is that I am now able to hear the voice of my heart more clearly. I believe that intuition is a powerful force that can pick up on things long before the mind can, and the feedback it provides can be invaluable.

There’s an especially good example I have of how my intuition protected me against possible harm, and I’ve never been able to explain what exactly happened that night. It was a week night, around 8:00 pm, and I was headed back home after an evening out with my best friend. My spirits were high, and I boarded the subway at Warden station.

Normally when I am commuting, I’ll indulge in some sort of activity, whether it’s immersing myself in music, reading a book, or putting a flow of thoughts down onto paper. But I remember very clearly that night: I took a seat, and as my hand reached into my bag, I had a feeling that told me I shouldn’t take anything out of it. My mind was attempting to talk me out of it, to convince me that I was being silly – didn’t I want to groove to some Above & Beyond songs right now, it was saying, riding the momentum of my high energy? Why not? There was nothing happening in the subway car. Thankfully, I ignored the voice of the mind. I normally pay attention to my intuition and in this case, it was sending me particularly strong signals.

My intuition was proved right a few minutes later, as a very unkept man came walking down the aisle. Matted hair, stained clothes, dirty skin – the poor fellow seemed as if he hadn’t had a shower in weeks. When I first saw him, my immediate reaction was one of compassion. But the closer he got, the more I felt a unusually negative energy coming from him. He spotted me, and stared at me as he took a seat about 10 feet away from me. Everything about him seemed to say: “I sat here so I could watch you.” I turned my gaze to the subway window, everything beyond it a dark tunnel but it proving useful so I could keep a cautious eye on the man without looking directly at him. He made me uneasy, but I reminded myself that he had done nothing wrong up to this point so I shouldn’t jump to conclusions too quickly, that I could simply remain cautious.

But then, just as I finished that thought, a smell hit me and I realized that the stench was coming from him. It was strong enough to make my stomach turn a little, as I held my breath for a few moments, and I am not someone who is easily disgusted. That’s when I decided that at the next stop, I would switch over to the adjacent subway car because I could. There was nothing wrong with that, and it was my choice to do so after all. When we arrived at Victoria Park station, I simply exited as if this was my stop, and managed to get to the next car before the subway departed again.

Looking back at that evening, I am grateful that I’m someone who is quick of movement, so that going to the next subway car before the doors would close up again was an option. That’s because when I navigated to the next car, I took a seat as I normally would and I was shocked to look up and come face-to-face with that same man, who had now taken a seat across from me. “So this is how it’s going to be,” I thought. I realized that he was attempting to intimidate me, and make me afraid, but I wasn’t about to give him that satisfaction. I stayed perfectly calm and focused my gaze at a point between his feet in indifference, even though my heart was racing and my whole being was in survival mode. I knew it was crucial that I not only appear relaxed to him, but actually stay relaxed as much as possible – that would give me the advantage. I was sitting straight, feet on the ground, arms resting comfortably in my lap; I chose a posture that communicated an alert confidence. Even the people around us could sense something was wrong, as they were nervously glancing at us.

My strategy to escape him was simple. I waited until we arrived at the next subway stop and remained seated, because I knew that if I left right away he would follow me again. I waited until the chimes rang, announcing the imminent closing of the doors, before I darted out at the last moment in one swift movement. The doors closed behind me, never giving him the chance to pursue. I got lucky. When I look back, it amazes me that long before the man came into sight, my intuition knew something was wrong. It was a warning that came from my body, not my mind. And I believe that gave me the upper hand to face the situation, especially given that I was entirely focused on what was happening rather than being distracted.

One of the lessons I’ve had to learn in life is to always, always listen to my intuition because it knows things that my intellectual mind cannot. Every time in the past that I ignored my intuition and went with my mind’s voice, I ended up regretting it. Now I know better. I’ll be sharing more of these types of stories as time goes on, as I am developing my ability to feel my intuition more strongly and using it to help guide my path through life. It’s something we’re all able to do, so I hope that by sharing my experiences I can help others develop their own intuition. Feel free to leave comments, or ask questions – I’d love to answer them to the best of my abilities. Thanks for reading!

Taking My Writing Into High Gear: I’m Back!

It’s been months since I last updated my blog. I remember when I first created it: I had grand visions of regular updates, building a following, and developing my voice. I told myself that if I started a blog, then surely the habit of writing regularly would follow – that was one of the main reasons I created it in the first place. I posted a few entries at the beginning, but the regularity with which I did so became more sporadic over time until I stopped updating entirely. The intention to write was there, I really wanted to – but that was the issue. I wanted to, but never followed through. I would wait for motivation to strike: “Tonight, I will write! I’m feeling it!” Then I would get home, and find reasons as to why right now was not a good time; maybe tomorrow, I thought. During bursts of inspiration, I felt confident that this was it, I was going to start writing! But when days went by without me writing a single word, sometimes weeks or even months, I began to lose trust in myself every time I said I would. The blog, though it was intended for it to motivate me, instead became a sort of pressure: whenever I sat down to write, it felt like whatever I wrote had to be worthy of publishing online. In that way, I would stem the flow of inspiration before the tap even opened. For months, I continued to tell myself that soon I would begin to write regularly, living in the future and squandering the present.

Then, there was a combination of things that came together. First, there were a couple of paradigm shifts. One involved some lyrics in a Macklemore song, “Ten Thousand Hours”, that really resonated with me. They go: “The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint. The greats were great because they paint a lot.” This is something that often crossed my mind: if I want to become a better writer, I need to write. There’s no other way for me to improve my writing skills. Listening to the voice in my head, it complicated things so much. On the one hand, it would continuously use excuses to justify why I was not writing, and on the other, I would placate it by imagining how much writing I would do in the future. But amidst all of the mental noise, the voice of my intuition would ring in loud and clear: “Just write. The more you write, the better you will get at it, and the more you will want to write, causing a wonderful feedback loop of growth.”

Another paradigm shift was something I read on the Internet. Don’t ask me where now, because I couldn’t tell you – what’s important is that it stuck with me. Whoever wrote this was saying that it is better to strive for discipline than motivation. Motivation is a fleeting feeling, one that gives me the reward without necessarily doing the work. It also takes the control out of my hands regarding my goals. If I wait for motivation to strike before I do something, I could wait a long time, as experience showed me. Whereas discipline involves taking action regardless of whether I’m feeling like it or not. I’ve mistakenly believed in the past that motivation precedes action, but I had it all wrong: it’s action that precedes motivation. The more I act on my goals, the more I am motivated to pursue them. It’s the same positive feedback loop I mentioned earlier.

I mulled over these ideas for a while, but I understood them more on a theoretical level than a practical one. The final piece of the puzzle, what truly made these sink in, was when I found some old chat logs on my computer dating back from a couple of years ago. I read through them, and at first I was merely amused with the trip down memory lane I was taking. But that feeling went away, the more I kept reading, because even back then I was so confident that I would accomplish what I set out to do. And years later, here I was and I hadn’t really made any progress. And it dawned on me that unless I took action on my dreams, they would simply remain as they are: dreams. I realized that if I wasn’t careful I could become someone whose life had accidentally passed them by with noticing because I focused on my imaginary future efforts, rather than my current lack of them.

This weighed heavy on me, so I decided to take action with a very small step: I went on Google and I did a search for “develop a daily writing habit”. Within a few pages, I found a link to a website called 750words.com, which I highly recommend. It’s a clean interface: a blank page that keeps track of how many words you write and how many days in a row that you’ve written 750 words. Its strength is in its simplicity, which really appealed to me. When I found that site, I realized another reason I had failed at creating a consistent writing habit is because I didn’t have a S.M.A.R.T goal. For those of you who don’t know, to maximize your chances of success, goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. In this case, my goal is to write 750 words a day, every day. It’s simple: either I’ve written those 750 words, or I haven’t, so it made it very easy to track

I had no idea what an impact having a S.M.A.R.T goal would have for me, nor did I realize just how much I would want to keep that streak going at all costs. I began my goal on July 1st, and as of today I have written over 43,000 words and my streak is 36 days long now. I’ve even had days where, lacking access to a computer, I typed my words on my smartphone. I look back now and realize, I did it! I have finally created a consistent writing habit. It took a lot of effort to get there, but I got there so much faster when I focused those efforts into a goal I could aim for, and just kept taking action, no matter how small of an action it would be. Now I have complete confidence that I will be able to update my blog once a week. And from there, who knows where my writing skills will take me?

I hope that this blog post serves as inspiration for the pursuit of your own goals!

The Power of a Simple Gesture

After work, I arrived home and climbed to the top of the stairs of the subway station, where I noticed two people talking near the entrance: a man and a woman. There was no yelling and no physical aggression, but I sensed strong tension in the air and their postures were defensive.

Though the man wasn’t acting threatening as far as I could see, the woman was huddled in the corner. My first instinct actually was to keep walking, that this was none of my business. But then I thought: “What if this woman needs help, and every passerby does just that – keeps on walking?” So I stopped and asked her: “Are you okay?” She nodded and replied that everything was okay. In the way she said it it did seem that yes, the situation wasn’t pleasant to deal with, whatever was happening, but that it didn’t require outside intervention.

The man turned suddenly to face me: “I’m not okay!” He looked at me and repeated to my surprise: “I’m not okay. I need a hug.” He paused, then took a step towards me.

At that moment, I had to decide very quickly how I would react. I did not want to make assumptions, and had very few objective facts to base my decision on. I had to consider that I had no context whatsoever about the situation. I had no idea who was in the wrong, and it was possible that both had some responsibility in whatever was happening – to assume one person was more in the wrong than the other would be purely jumping to conclusions.

I also took into consideration his body language. While his comments had a slight challenging tone, there was a certain hurt I thought I saw in his eyes that I hadn’t asked him if he was okay. In retrospect, a better question for me to have asked would have been, “Is everything okay?” That way, I am not implying that he is in the wrong, as that wasn’t my conscious intention. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt as much as I can.

While I felt I had to be careful, there were no red flags in this situation going off for me of serious threat, and my instincts are usually right. In the end, maybe this was just a really difficult situation that they were going through and he really did need a hug – what proof did I have otherwise? So I chose the route of compassion.

I eyed him cautiously but as he got closer, I think to his surprise, I opened my arms and gave him a hug. He squeezed tightly for a moment, gave me two pats on the back, and pulled away. He smiled and said, “God bless you, sister.” I smiled back, and when I looked at the woman, her posture had relaxed and she was smiling too. Even the energy in the air had changed, and as I walked out we all wished each other a good evening.

It amazed me to watch the influence of such a simple gesture at work. I feel that we sometimes forget just how powerful love and compassion can be. The kindness in that hug instantly defused the situation, and I sincerely hope that it made a positive impact on how it would have otherwise played out.

Join me…

Come spend time with me. I’ll open up a space for us, where time slows down and gently brings the present moment into focus. You’ll be able to feel the total acceptance that surrounds you in this place, where you can breathe a great big sigh of relief and let your armour come crashing down.

Let’s go far away by staying right here, just by sinking deeper into reality as it is, opening up our senses to the vast amount of input we’re capable of perceiving. Forget thinking, let’s practice together the disappearing art of being. Imagine your thoughts drifting away, as if you are letting hundreds of helium balloons float into the sky, their colours glittering against the sun’s rays and their strings trailing gently behind them. When your mind hands you another balloon, just smile, open your hand, and watch it go. If you don’t, thoughts become heavy; but in this space, I want you to feel light. Let me hold you in my heart, and surround you with energies of love and compassion. Allow me to reflect your own beauty and potential back to you, so that you can hopefully learn to view the world with the same lenses.

You can say whatever you need to say, and I will listen non-judgementally, because I know that by talking you’re releasing. Don’t worry, and let that process happen. I promise that you’re safe with me. I love you just for existing, you beautiful miracle of nature, full of complexities and imperfections. Regardless of what you’re going through, you are alive right now – isn’t that amazing? Do you ever stop to consider that? It is so easy to take for granted.

Welcome to my space. I hope it changes you.

How I Got Rid of Eczema (After All the Miracle Treatments Failed)

UPDATE: This is the final, improved version that appeared on TheRealUs.com

A few years ago, for every waking moment, I felt like a warrior fighting a battle that could never be won. It was me versus my skin.

When I moved from my hometown to a much bigger city, I knew it wouldn’t be easy. I anticipated the challenges that came with leaving the nest. I was not, however, prepared for eczema to flare up and spread to almost every part of my body .

I always prided myself on being able to handle anything thrown my way. At least, I thought I could. In reality, I wasn’t handling anything at all. Throughout my entire life, I had been bottling my emotions, thinking that this was how you dealt with them. I never learned to release the negative ones in a healthy way.

With all of the stressful change that came with the move, it was only a matter of time before I learned I couldn’t keep bottling my emotions forever. They all had to come out in some way, and they did so physically.

I wasn’t too concerned when I first saw the small patches of dry skin appear here and there on my arms or on my hands. I figured it would simply go away over time. But it didn’t.

I felt ashamed about the way my skin looked. To release this stress, I would pick and scratch at the eczema, causing it to worsen, which only exacerbated my anxiety. The vicious cycle had begun. The small patches on my arms became an expanse that almost covered my entire body, including my face.

I sought help from different doctors but it took weeks, sometimes months, between appointments. My skin got progressively worse. They each gave me different diagnoses and nothing they prescribed seemed to help. I spent a fortune on product after product that claimed to be the miracle I was looking for, and while each one helped for a bit, the relief was always temporary.

My skin became very dry, thin, and brittle. Movements were painful as they caused my skin to split open in some areas and weep. I walked around in public wearing bandages, aware of the concerned stares of the people around me. It felt like I was being constantly judged and examined, making me wish I could sink into the background. They would look at me with the same morbid curiosity that people have when driving by the scene of a car accident.

I was always searching for the next possible cure to try, the next miracle treatment, as if the solution to all of this was just one product away. The worse my skin got, the more desperate I became to find something that would heal it. Little did I know, I was looking for an external solution to an internal issue.

Finally, one of the doctors I was seeing said, “I am giving you the strongest treatment I can, but it’s not helping. You need to go to a hospital.”

And that’s where I went. I remember waiting for three hours to see a doctor, anticipating that someone would finally be able to tell me what was wrong. Once my turn finally came, he simply told me: “You’re going to have to make an appointment with the dermatology department.” My heart sank when I realized I would have to wait again before I might get an answer.

I won’t ever forget what happened next.

By the time I stepped out of the hospital, my emotions had reached a breaking point. For months and months, I had tried to control as much of the situation as I could, which was wasted effort considering most of it was outside my control anyways. All of the pain, the frustration, the anxiety, the uncertainty, everything I had struggled with came bursting forth from the depths of my psyche, smashing through the walls I had subconsciously created to keep it all buried.

The weight of everything I had been holding on my shoulders finally became much too heavy for me to bear, and in a moment, I let everything go. It was intuitive, in the same way that if someone puts a piping hot object in your hand, you don’t need to be told how to let it go – you just do.

I finally accepted that there was no magic, miracle cure and that I might struggle with this for the rest of my life. I surrendered to that possibility, and for the first time, I chose to accept what was happening, rather than resist it.

Was it an ideal situation? Of course not. Would it be challenging to continue living with severe eczema? Absolutely. But I realized that my resistance was obviously not healing my skin, so why continue to fight what was happening? It’s not as if I had any more strength to do so, and I was constantly drained from trying to fix the situation. Why not just accept it, handle it to the best of my abilities, and let go of everything else I couldn’t control?

After that decision, I felt more peace than I ever imagined I would feel agaiHow I Got Rid of Eczema (After All the Miracle Treatments Failed)n. My patience was rewarded soon after, when I received a call saying I had been accepted into the short-term cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) program at Mount Sinai Hospital (for which I had been on the waitlist for some time).

I scheduled my appointment with the hospital dermatology department. The doctor who saw me was shocked at how bad my skin had gotten, but he was optimistic in being able to treat me.

To help with the skin infection that had set in, I was prescribed antibiotics, two different types of anti-itch pills, special bath oil, and two large tubs of steroid creams each for different areas of the body. At least twice a day, I had to soak in a lukewarm bath, then dry off and apply all of the creams to my skin, covering my whole body with a layer of Vaseline.

It was laborious, but for the first time I noticed real improvements. However, without the second component of my treatment, the therapy, these pills and creams would have just been another temporary solution. In the CBT program, I discovered the emotional patterns that made my eczema so much worse.

For example, I never realized before that my thoughts create the emotions that I feel, which in turn influence my actions. I also began to recognize my negative thought patterns, so I could learn to choose thoughts that are more beneficial to me and help transform my mindset into a more positive one. Until these therapy sessions, I had no idea that the vast majority of all suffering in my life was self-created, and thus avoidable.

Between the therapy, the medicinal help, and the ongoing pursuit of healthy habits, the healing that followed over the next few months was nothing short of remarkable. The large patches of eczema continued to shrink until they disappeared.

Today, my skin is mostly healed, and it is with profound gratitude that I realize just how often I thought this would never happen. I still get small patches of eczema sometimes, but only when my body is trying to communicate with me that perhaps I need to release some negative emotions, or watch my thoughts more closely, or even just reduce my coffee intake.

This experience truly helped me understand that, while it is true that I have no control over a great deal of what happens to me, I always have a choice in how I react. I could have let this challenge defeat me, but I persevered until I overcame it. Today, I’m actually thankful I’ve gone through this because of the person I’ve become as a result.

When I reacted with resistance and denial at my situation, I was miserable. Life felt like an uphill battle. When I practiced acceptance instead, it was like floating down a river, and suddenly life began to work with me rather than against me. Or, is it simply that I had been working against myself all along?

Take Time To Rest And Enjoy Life

In today’s hectic world, more and more importance seems to be placed on how much you get done. On the flipside, we spend less time on self-care. In fact, a lot of people often consider their health to be a lower priority, which in turn has a negative effect on every other aspect of their life.

In the same way that batteries cannot last forever, and must be recharged regularly in order to function, the human body is the same way. Often, people will spend all of their time swinging from one task to another, like a monkey through the jungle, never taking time to land on the ground and rest.

The problem with this is that the longer you go without resting properly, the more rest you will need in order to recover and get back to balance. Also, you run the risk of a burn out. But for good health and happiness it’s crucial to take time to recharge.

Some people will tell me that they cannot rest because there’s always something to do. Technically, that is true, especially if you keep giving yourself something to do. The way I see it, a to-do list is like a treadmill – unless you choose to step off the treadmill for a while to rest or do something that you enjoy doing, you’ll just keep running all the time. And no one can run forever – eventually you’ll fall off the treadmill, and you will have to face the health consequences then.

To take time in your day to rest, even for a short while, is a form of self-love. It means you care enough about your health and well-being to breathe and just be. After all, we are human beings and not human doings. The quality of your life should be measured in moments that you enjoy rather than the amount of things you do.

Some people believe they need to push themselves to keep working, even when they are exhausted. But the thing is, if you take a short amount of time to rest, you’ll end up completing the same tasks more quickly. I know that when I’m tired I can’t focus well, if at all, and it takes me double the time to get things done as I’m easily distracted and tend to go around in circles.

Despite my best intentions though, sometimes life really does get so busy that I am not able to rest as much as I would like to. I can still maintain balance by keeping a positive attitude. Whatever it is I’m doing, I’ll put my heart and soul into it, and add a whole lot of gratitude. For example, if you’re unhappy about having to do the dishes – imagine how many people in the world do not have access to running water, or how many people don’t even have food to put on dishes in the first place. Suddenly with a shift in perspective, it can become a pleasure to do the dishes. You have to do the dishes no matter what, and now you get to enjoy doing so.

The way I see it, you’ll always have things to do in life, things you’ll have to do no matter what – whether you enjoy doing them or not will depend on your attitude. And really, life is too short not to enjoy it as much as you can, in small moments just like the bigger ones.

Thoughts To Help Through Challenging Times…

I believe that life is a series of cycles. No matter how much you may be happy (or unhappy) with the way things are at a given moment, the circumstances are temporary, as the very nature of life is change. I can tell when I am due for change from the way I feel inside – I feel more anxious than usual, my thoughts tend to get caught in loops, and there is a constant tightness around my heart and in my stomach. Right now there are many different situations that bring up these sensations, ranging from a lack of direction in life, to family matters, among other things.

A person’s natural instinct is usually to gravitate towards that which feels good, and to avoid what brings pain. When something causes pain, the reflex for most people is to do whatever it takes as quickly as possible in order to minimize it or avoid it entirely. Personally, I notice a pattern in which I stop taking care of myself, almost as a way to act out, especially given that pain attracts more pain. Usually subconscious, but sometimes deliberate, I will make choices in my life which I know will not benefit me. Choices like staying up too late, even though I know I’ll only feel sleep-deprived the next day. Or drinking more coffee than is healthy, knowing I’ll end up dehydrated and jittery.

Ironically enough, such actions only create more pain and serve to throw my life further out of balance. Then I need to spend even more energy to bring everything back into balance. I’ve begun to recognize this negative pattern more and more, and it’s time I bring as much awareness into it as I possibly can.

When I feel pain I must remember it is the perfect opportunity for growth, if I can remain present with it and just let it be, rather than attempt to avoid it. I can then learn from it. By watching the pain and observing how it feels within me, it is brought out into my awareness rather than buried in my psyche, where it will fester and eventually resurface in a much more toxic way. Emotions actually have a shorter life-span than most people realize, but if you feed them with your thoughts, they will stay around for much longer. That’s why it’s so important to choose your thoughts carefully so that they will benefit you, rather than being harmful.

During more challenging times, it’s also important for me to remember that happiness is not something that will come in the future, once everything is “fixed”. Rather, happiness comes from the ability to make the best of your current life circumstances, no matter how trying they might be. There is always something to be grateful for, if you actively look for it. You can’t always change your life circumstances, but you can always change your thoughts.

So find joy in anything you can, no matter how small, because that will be the life preserver to hold on to as you make your way through murky waters. Remember that it could always be worse, and suddenly current circumstances don’t seem so bad. While it’s important to acknowledge pain, it’s also important not to dwell in it because that won’t serve you. The goal here isn’t to pretend like everything’s okay, but rather to get yourself in as positive of a mindset as can be, so you can draw strength from this and get through the harder times. Don’t worry about making it through the next year, the next month, or even the next week. Just focus on making it through one moment at a time, to the best of your abilities, and remember to breathe – it’s going to be okay.