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The Opportunity in Adversity

By Eckhart Tolle

Life unfolds between the polarities of order and chaos. It is important at this time to recognize these two fundamental opposites, without which the world could not even be. Another word for disorder is “adversity.” When it becomes more extreme, we might call it “chaos.”

We would prefer, of course, to have order in our lives, which means to have things going well. We would like relative harmony in our lives. Yet, that very often is marred by the eruption of some form of disorder. And, usually, we resent that—we get angry, or despondent, or sad.

Disorder comes in many, many forms, big and small. When disorder comes it usually creates a kind of havoc in our lives, accompanied by strong underlying beliefs. “There’s something very wrong, this should not be happening, maybe God is against me,” and so on. Again, we need to understand that disorder, or adversity, is inevitable and is an essential part of a higher order.

 From a higher perspective, a higher level, the existence of order and disorder, or order and chaos, is a necessary part of the evolution of life.

 Many people have found that they experience a deepening, or a deeper sense of self or beingness, immediately after and as a result of having endured a period of disorder or chaos. This is sometimes called “the dark night of the soul,” a term from medieval Christianity used to describe the mental breakdown that many mystics experienced prior to awakening spiritually. There was an eruption of disorder, of destruction. Then, out of that, a deeper realization arose.

 And although that can be very painful, the strange thing is, it’s precisely there that many humans experience a transcendence. A strange fact is that it almost never happens that people awaken spiritually while they’re in their comfort zone. Or that they become deeper as human beings, which would be a partial awakening. It almost never happens. The place where the evolutionary shift happens, or the evolutionary leap, is usually the experience of disorder in a person’s life.

And so your life then moves between order and disorder. You have both, and they’re both necessary. There’s no guarantee that when disorder erupts this will bring about an awakening or a deepening, but there’s always the possibility. It is an opportunity, but often, it is missed.

 So here we are at this time, and our mission is the same: to align with the present moment, with whatever is happening here and now. The upheaval that we’re experiencing at the present time probably will not be the last upheaval that’s going to come on a collective level. However, it is an opportunity—because although this is a time for upheavals, it is also a time for awakening. The two go together. Just as in an individual life, you need adversity to awaken. It’s an opportunity but not a guarantee. And so what looks tragic and unpleasant on a conventional level is actually perfectly fine and as it should be on a higher level; it would not be happening otherwise. It’s all part of the awakening of human beings and of planetary awakening.

To learn more about Eckhart’s teachings on Conscious Manifestation, click here.

Join for free and receive upcoming articles, teachings, special announcements, and more.

The post The Opportunity in Adversity appeared first on Eckhart Tolle | Official Site – Spiritual Teachings and Tools For Personal Growth and Happiness.

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Stop Asking Couples When They Are Having Kids

“So, when are you having kids?” my aunt asked me soon after I got married. At that point, I had just been married for a few months. I didn’t even know *if* I wanted kids, much less *when* I was having them.

Caught off guard, I replied matter-of-factly, “I have not decided if I want to have kids.” Little did I realize that I would spend the next hour listening to stories of women who put off having children until it was too late, as well as women who had difficulty conceiving for various reasons, with the implicit message being that I was going to regret it if I didn’t hurry and work on producing babies.

This would be my life for the next few years, where I would receive constant questions around “When are you having kids?” from relatives and random people, followed by a routine, almost ritualistic pressurization to have kids.

Lest you think that it ends after having a child, it doesn’t. The people who previously tried to tell you to have “just one kid” when you were indifferent to the idea, will now tell you to have a second one, along with reasons why you should do so. It seems like this questioning process never ends.

The problem with asking people “When are you having kids?”

I understand why people like to ask this question. Find a partner, settle down, get married, and have kids. This is the life path that we’ve been taught to follow since young. This is the life script that we’ve been told is *the* way of life, that would bring us ultimate joy and happiness.

This is especially so in the Chinese culture, where having kids is seen as the ultimate goal in life. There are even sayings built around this notion, such as 生儿育女 (shēng ér yù nǚ), which means to birth sons and raise daughters, and 子孙满堂 (zǐ sūn mǎn táng), which means to be in a room filled with children and grandchildren, used to signify the epitome of happiness.

Multi-Generation Chinese Family at the Park

A multi-generation family, often used to depict a vision of happiness in the Chinese culture

So after you get married, people automatically assume that you should have kids. “When are you having kids?” they ask, somehow expecting you to give them a straight answer to what is really a personal question.

The problem with this question is that it’s rude. It’s presumptuous. It’s also insensitive.

1) There are many different paths to happiness

Firstly, everyone has their own path in life. Some people want kids, while some don’t. Some think that having kids is the greatest joy in life, while some see them as a burden. At the end of the day, having kids isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. There are significant ups and downs that come with having a kid, and for some people, the ups do not justify the downs. For these people, it may simply be better to remain childless, rather than having kids just to fit in or to fit societal expectations, and then set their lives up for unhappiness. To assume that everyone should have kids, just because you think that having kids is great and important, is rude and disregards that person’s own preferences in life.

For example, Oprah Winfrey is an inspiring woman and humanitarian who chose not to have kids, but has instead dedicated herself to her personal life purpose of serving the world. Oprah hosted her talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show for 25 years, founded a leadership academy for girls and became a mother figure to the girls in attendance, and started her own television network. These are things that most do not get to do in their lifetime. Through the years, she has inspired millions and become a champion for people worldwide. As she says,

“When people were pressuring me to get married and have children, I knew I was not going to be a person that ever regretted not having them, because I feel like I am a mother to the world’s children. Love knows no boundaries. It doesn’t matter if a child came from your womb or if you found that person at age two, 10, or 20. If the love is real, the caring is pure and it comes from a good space, it works.” — Oprah[1]

Is she not being a responsible or purposeful person or woman by choosing not to have kids? Definitely not. In fact, I dare say that she lives a much more purposeful life than many in the world, including some people who choose to have kids.

There are many famous celebrities who have chosen not to have kids as well.

  • Chelsea Handler is a talk show host who chose not to have kids. She has said honestly in interviews that she doesn’t have the time to raise a child, and she doesn’t want her kids to be raised by a nanny.[2][3]
  • Betty White is an actress and comedian who chose not to have kids because she’s passionate about her career and she prefers to focus on it.[4]
  • Ashley Judd is an actress and politican activist who chose not to have kids because she feels that there are already so many orphaned kids in this world. To her, her resources can be better used to help those who are already here, and I respect her for such a noble choice.[5]

And then there are others, such as Cameron Diaz, Chow Yun Fat, Marisa Tomei (the actress for Peter Parker’s aunt in Tom Holland’s Spider Man film series), Renée Zellweger, and Rachael Ray. These people choose not to have kids for different reasons, such as because they’re already pursuing paths deeply meaningful to them, because they do not wish to be tied down with a child, or because they just don’t feel a deep desire to have kids.

Not having kids has not prevented these people from being happy in life, and there’s no reason to assume why people must have kids in order to be happy. People need to stop painting this narrative that one must have children in order to be happy. There are plenty of people with kids who are unhappy, and plenty of people without kids who have found inner fulfillment in life through other ways. There is no one path to happiness, and people need to realize that.

2) You may well cause hurt and pain

Secondly, you never know what others are going through.

Some people may want kids, but maybe they are facing fertility struggles. For example,

  • Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan went through three miscarriages before having their firstborn.[6]
  • The Obamas had a miscarriage before they had their daughters via IVF.[7]
  • Friends star Courteney Cox had a total of seven miscarriages before having her daughter, as she has a MTHFR gene mutation which raises the risk of miscarriage-causing blood clots.[8]

About 10% of women have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant,[9] while 13.5% of known pregnancies end in miscarriages, with the figure rising as the maternal age rises.[10]

For some people, the journey to conceive is fraught with deep pain, struggle, and losses as they experience miscarriages, undergo round after round of invasive fertility treatments, and wait in hope of the double blue lines on their pregnancy kit each month.

And then there are people who cannot have their own biological children due to issues with their reproductive system, which could have been there since birth.

Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, and family

Barack and Michelle Obama had a miscarriage before they had their daughters via IVF

While you may be think that you’re being helpful or funny by asking people when they’re having kids, your question may well trigger hurt and pain. As Zuckerberg said,

“You feel so hopeful when you learn you’re going to have a child. You start imagining who they’ll become and dreaming of hopes for their future. You start making plans, and then they’re gone. It’s a lonely experience.”[6]

3) Not everyone is in a place to have kids

Thirdly, having kids is simply not a reality for some people due to their circumstances in life.

Some people may lack the financial resources to have kids, a reality in a place like Singapore.

Some people may be facing problems with their marriage, in which case their priority should be to work on their marriage, not to have kids.

Some people may be so burdened with caring for their dependents that they are unable to consider kids, at least not at the moment.

And then there are people facing chronic health issues, issues that you don’t know and can’t see, which make pregnancy difficult due to the toll it would take on their body.

4) Some couples could still be thinking

And then there are people who are neutral to the idea of having kids, like myself when I just got married. These people need time to think it through, because having kids is a permanent, lifelong decision with serious consequences. There’s no reason to assume that having a kid should be an automatic decision, because you’re bringing a whole new life into this world. This is a decision that will change your life forever, as well as the life of the child you’re bringing into the world.

For those yet to have kids, they need the space to figure out what they want, not have people breathe down their neck day in and out about having kids.

My experience

For the initial years after I got married, I just wasn’t thinking about kids. Firstly, having a child is a lifelong decision, and I wanted to enjoy married life with my husband before diving into a decision as serious as that. Secondly, both my husband and I were genuinely happy spending the rest of our lives with just each other — we didn’t feel the need to have kids at all, not in the way my culture obsesses about it. Thirdly, my husband was dealing with some personal problems, and I was fully focused on supporting him through these. These were issues that we needed to sort through before considering kids, if we were to want kids.

Yet I kept getting nudges to have kids, even though I never said anything about wanting them.

“So, when are you having kids?”

“This person’s baby is so cute, isn’t it? Why don’t you hurry up and birth a baby?”

It was as if I was some vehicle, some production machine to have kids, where my own views in the matter didn’t matter. The most frustrating thing was that I kept getting this question, while my husband would never get it (as a man), not even when we were in the same room together.

It was as if my sole reason for existence as a woman was to have kids, and until I had them, I was regarded as unworthy or incomplete.

The decision to have kids

Yet the decision to have children is a personal one. It is also a complex one. It is a decision that will permanently change the lives of the couple in question.

It is not a decision that one should be pressurized into making because their mom wants to carry grandchildren or their aunt wants to play with kids. It’s a decision that a couple should make because they genuinely want to nurture another life.

Because when a child is born, the people bugging others to have kids aren’t the ones who will be caring for the baby 24/7, whose lives will be set back by years (even decades) as they care for a new life, or who will be responsible for every decision concerning the child for the next 18-21 years.

It will be the couple.

And the people who aren’t ready, who were pressured into having kids because they were told that it was the best thing to do, may have to deal with regret as they are stuck with a decision they cannot undo. Because there are people who regret having kids, and we need to be honest about that. These people regret, not because of the child’s fault, but because they were simply not ready to have kids, be it financially, emotionally, or mentally. Unfortunately, the children are the ones who eventually suffer, from living in dysfunctional households to dealing with issues of violenceabuse, and anger.

We need to recognize these realities, and not make parenthood seem like it’s some magical band-aid that solves a lack of purpose or life’s pressures. Things don’t magically get better because people have kids; existing problems usually worsen as having a child puts a big strain on a couple’s lives. Digging into people’s plans to have kids, and pressurizing them into one of the biggest life decisions they can ever make, will only stress them out and perhaps push some into depression. As this redditor shared,

“I have a friend who went through 6 years of miscarriages and fertility treatments before the doctors figured out the problem and she had her son. The nosy ladies at her work and her in-laws questioned her constantly. The depression from that made it harder for her to conceive.”

Stop asking couples when they’re having kids

So, if you tend to ask others when they’re having kids, it’s time to stop that. It’s rude, insensitive, and it disregards people’s privacy. It’s also none of your business.

The reality is that if people want kids, they will work on having kids. They don’t need you to prod them about it.

If they don’t have kids, it’s either because

  1. they really don’t want kids,
  2. they are not in a position to consider kids right now, or
  3. they want kids but they are facing some struggles.

For people in group (c), they aren’t going to share such deeply personal experience over some afternoon coffee chat, and certainly not by you asking, “When are you having kids?”

The best thing you can do is to give people their personal space. Understand that having kids is a personal decision, and people don’t have to share or explain anything. Respect that others have their right to privacy. Respect that people are individuals on their own path, and this path may not involve having kids. And this doesn’t make them incomplete or lesser in any way.

Instead of asking women or couples, “When are you having kids?”, talk to them like how you would a normal person. There’s no reason why conversations should suddenly revolve around childbearing after marriage; it’s not like a person’s identity changes to revolve around having kids. A person still has their own passion, goals, and dreams. Talk to them about what they’ve been doing. Understand their interests. Know them as a real person, not some random being here to fulfill society’s checklist.

If you’re really interested in someone’s plan to have children, you can simply ask, “Are you and your partner planning to have kids?” If they wish to share more, they will do so. If they give a generic answer, then take the hint and move on.

Ultimately, having kids or not doesn’t change a person’s self-worth. A woman is complete with or without kids. A marriage doesn’t need kids to be deemed complete. Having kids should be a conscious choice, not a result of external pressure. Don’t judge people by whether they have kids or not. Some people will have kids, and some people will not have kids. Some will have kids early, while some will have them later in life. All of these are different paths and there’s nothing wrong with them.

For Me

For my husband and I, we eventually had a few discussions and decided to have a baby, and had our baby girl this year (2020). 😊 Yet other people’s comments and nudges to have children didn’t make me want to have children; it only annoyed me and made me want to avoid these people, because having a child is a personal decision between me and my husband, that has nothing to do with them. It was after we had the space to settle down and enjoy married life without kids, and took some time to actively pursue our goals and interests, that we finally felt ready to try for a kid last year.

In the meantime, I hope all of you are doing well. There are other things that I’m working on, other things that are happening that I look forward to sharing in time to come. Sending lots of love to you, and remember that whatever life challenge you’re facing, you have it in you to overcome it. I’ll talk to you guys soon! 🙂

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The Opportunity in Adversity

By Eckhart Tolle

Life unfolds between the polarities of order and chaos. It is important at this time to recognize these two fundamental opposites, without which the world could not even be. Another word for disorder is “adversity.” When it becomes more extreme, we might call it “chaos.”

We would prefer, of course, to have order in our lives, which means to have things going well. We would like relative harmony in our lives. Yet, that very often is marred by the eruption of some form of disorder. And, usually, we resent that—we get angry, or despondent, or sad.

Disorder comes in many, many forms, big and small. When disorder comes it usually creates a kind of havoc in our lives, accompanied by strong underlying beliefs. “There’s something very wrong, this should not be happening, maybe God is against me,” and so on. Again, we need to understand that disorder, or adversity, is inevitable and is an essential part of a higher order.

 From a higher perspective, a higher level, the existence of order and disorder, or order and chaos, is a necessary part of the evolution of life.

 Many people have found that they experience a deepening, or a deeper sense of self or beingness, immediately after and as a result of having endured a period of disorder or chaos. This is sometimes called “the dark night of the soul,” a term from medieval Christianity used to describe the mental breakdown that many mystics experienced prior to awakening spiritually. There was an eruption of disorder, of destruction. Then, out of that, a deeper realization arose.

 And although that can be very painful, the strange thing is, it’s precisely there that many humans experience a transcendence. A strange fact is that it almost never happens that people awaken spiritually while they’re in their comfort zone. Or that they become deeper as human beings, which would be a partial awakening. It almost never happens. The place where the evolutionary shift happens, or the evolutionary leap, is usually the experience of disorder in a person’s life.

And so your life then moves between order and disorder. You have both, and they’re both necessary. There’s no guarantee that when disorder erupts this will bring about an awakening or a deepening, but there’s always the possibility. It is an opportunity, but often, it is missed.

 So here we are at this time, and our mission is the same: to align with the present moment, with whatever is happening here and now. The upheaval that we’re experiencing at the present time probably will not be the last upheaval that’s going to come on a collective level. However, it is an opportunity—because although this is a time for upheavals, it is also a time for awakening. The two go together. Just as in an individual life, you need adversity to awaken. It’s an opportunity but not a guarantee. And so what looks tragic and unpleasant on a conventional level is actually perfectly fine and as it should be on a higher level; it would not be happening otherwise. It’s all part of the awakening of human beings and of planetary awakening.

To learn more about Eckhart’s teachings on Conscious Manifestation, click here.

Join for free and receive upcoming articles, teachings, special announcements, and more.

The post The Opportunity in Adversity appeared first on Eckhart Tolle | Official Site – Spiritual Teachings and Tools For Personal Growth and Happiness.

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Stop Asking Couples When They Are Having Kids

“So, when are you having kids?” my aunt asked me soon after I got married. At that point, I had just been married for a few months. I didn’t even know *if* I wanted kids, much less *when* I was having them.

Caught off guard, I replied matter-of-factly, “I have not decided if I want to have kids.” Little did I realize that I would spend the next hour listening to stories of women who put off having children until it was too late, as well as women who had difficulty conceiving for various reasons, with the implicit message being that I was going to regret it if I didn’t hurry and work on producing babies.

This would be my life for the next few years, where I would receive constant questions around “When are you having kids?” from relatives and random people, followed by a routine, almost ritualistic pressurization to have kids.

Lest you think that it ends after having a child, it doesn’t. The people who previously tried to tell you to have “just one kid” when you were indifferent to the idea, will now tell you to have a second one, along with reasons why you should do so. It seems like this questioning process never ends.

The problem with asking people “When are you having kids?”

I understand why people like to ask this question. Find a partner, settle down, get married, and have kids. This is the life path that we’ve been taught to follow since young. This is the life script that we’ve been told is *the* way of life, that would bring us ultimate joy and happiness.

This is especially so in the Chinese culture, where having kids is seen as the ultimate goal in life. There are even sayings built around this notion, such as 生儿育女 (shēng ér yù nǚ), which means to birth sons and raise daughters, and 子孙满堂 (zǐ sūn mǎn táng), which means to be in a room filled with children and grandchildren, used to signify the epitome of happiness.

Multi-Generation Chinese Family at the Park

A multi-generation family, often used to depict a vision of happiness in the Chinese culture

So after you get married, people automatically assume that you should have kids. “When are you having kids?” they ask, somehow expecting you to give them a straight answer to what is really a personal question.

The problem with this question is that it’s rude. It’s presumptuous. It’s also insensitive.

1) There are many different paths to happiness

Firstly, everyone has their own path in life. Some people want kids, while some don’t. Some think that having kids is the greatest joy in life, while some see them as a burden. At the end of the day, having kids isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. There are significant ups and downs that come with having a kid, and for some people, the ups do not justify the downs. For these people, it may simply be better to remain childless, rather than having kids just to fit in or to fit societal expectations, and then set their lives up for unhappiness. To assume that everyone should have kids, just because you think that having kids is great and important, is rude and disregards that person’s own preferences in life.

For example, Oprah Winfrey is an inspiring woman and humanitarian who chose not to have kids, but has instead dedicated herself to her personal life purpose of serving the world. Oprah hosted her talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show for 25 years, founded a leadership academy for girls and became a mother figure to the girls in attendance, and started her own television network. These are things that most do not get to do in their lifetime. Through the years, she has inspired millions and become a champion for people worldwide. As she says,

“When people were pressuring me to get married and have children, I knew I was not going to be a person that ever regretted not having them, because I feel like I am a mother to the world’s children. Love knows no boundaries. It doesn’t matter if a child came from your womb or if you found that person at age two, 10, or 20. If the love is real, the caring is pure and it comes from a good space, it works.” — Oprah[1]

Is she not being a responsible or purposeful person or woman by choosing not to have kids? Definitely not. In fact, I dare say that she lives a much more purposeful life than many in the world, including some people who choose to have kids.

There are many famous celebrities who have chosen not to have kids as well.

  • Chelsea Handler is a talk show host who chose not to have kids. She has said honestly in interviews that she doesn’t have the time to raise a child, and she doesn’t want her kids to be raised by a nanny.[2][3]
  • Betty White is an actress and comedian who chose not to have kids because she’s passionate about her career and she prefers to focus on it.[4]
  • Ashley Judd is an actress and politican activist who chose not to have kids because she feels that there are already so many orphaned kids in this world. To her, her resources can be better used to help those who are already here, and I respect her for such a noble choice.[5]

And then there are others, such as Cameron Diaz, Chow Yun Fat, Marisa Tomei (the actress for Peter Parker’s aunt in Tom Holland’s Spider Man film series), Renée Zellweger, and Rachael Ray. These people choose not to have kids for different reasons, such as because they’re already pursuing paths deeply meaningful to them, because they do not wish to be tied down with a child, or because they just don’t feel a deep desire to have kids.

Not having kids has not prevented these people from being happy in life, and there’s no reason to assume why people must have kids in order to be happy. People need to stop painting this narrative that one must have children in order to be happy. There are plenty of people with kids who are unhappy, and plenty of people without kids who have found inner fulfillment in life through other ways. There is no one path to happiness, and people need to realize that.

2) You may well cause hurt and pain

Secondly, you never know what others are going through.

Some people may want kids, but maybe they are facing fertility struggles. For example,

  • Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan went through three miscarriages before having their firstborn.[6]
  • The Obamas had a miscarriage before they had their daughters via IVF.[7]
  • Friends star Courteney Cox had a total of seven miscarriages before having her daughter, as she has a MTHFR gene mutation which raises the risk of miscarriage-causing blood clots.[8]

About 10% of women have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant,[9] while 13.5% of known pregnancies end in miscarriages, with the figure rising as the maternal age rises.[10]

For some people, the journey to conceive is fraught with deep pain, struggle, and losses as they experience miscarriages, undergo round after round of invasive fertility treatments, and wait in hope of the double blue lines on their pregnancy kit each month.

And then there are people who cannot have their own biological children due to issues with their reproductive system, which could have been there since birth.

Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, and family

Barack and Michelle Obama had a miscarriage before they had their daughters via IVF

While you may be think that you’re being helpful or funny by asking people when they’re having kids, your question may well trigger hurt and pain. As Zuckerberg said,

“You feel so hopeful when you learn you’re going to have a child. You start imagining who they’ll become and dreaming of hopes for their future. You start making plans, and then they’re gone. It’s a lonely experience.”[6]

3) Not everyone is in a place to have kids

Thirdly, having kids is simply not a reality for some people due to their circumstances in life.

Some people may lack the financial resources to have kids, a reality in a place like Singapore.

Some people may be facing problems with their marriage, in which case their priority should be to work on their marriage, not to have kids.

Some people may be so burdened with caring for their dependents that they are unable to consider kids, at least not at the moment.

And then there are people facing chronic health issues, issues that you don’t know and can’t see, which make pregnancy difficult due to the toll it would take on their body.

4) Some couples could still be thinking

And then there are people who are neutral to the idea of having kids, like myself when I just got married. These people need time to think it through, because having kids is a permanent, lifelong decision with serious consequences. There’s no reason to assume that having a kid should be an automatic decision, because you’re bringing a whole new life into this world. This is a decision that will change your life forever, as well as the life of the child you’re bringing into the world.

For those yet to have kids, they need the space to figure out what they want, not have people breathe down their neck day in and out about having kids.

My experience

For the initial years after I got married, I just wasn’t thinking about kids. Firstly, having a child is a lifelong decision, and I wanted to enjoy married life with my husband before diving into a decision as serious as that. Secondly, both my husband and I were genuinely happy spending the rest of our lives with just each other — we didn’t feel the need to have kids at all, not in the way my culture obsesses about it. Thirdly, my husband was dealing with some personal problems, and I was fully focused on supporting him through these. These were issues that we needed to sort through before considering kids, if we were to want kids.

Yet I kept getting nudges to have kids, even though I never said anything about wanting them.

“So, when are you having kids?”

“This person’s baby is so cute, isn’t it? Why don’t you hurry up and birth a baby?”

It was as if I was some vehicle, some production machine to have kids, where my own views in the matter didn’t matter. The most frustrating thing was that I kept getting this question, while my husband would never get it (as a man), not even when we were in the same room together.

It was as if my sole reason for existence as a woman was to have kids, and until I had them, I was regarded as unworthy or incomplete.

The decision to have kids

Yet the decision to have children is a personal one. It is also a complex one. It is a decision that will permanently change the lives of the couple in question.

It is not a decision that one should be pressurized into making because their mom wants to carry grandchildren or their aunt wants to play with kids. It’s a decision that a couple should make because they genuinely want to nurture another life.

Because when a child is born, the people bugging others to have kids aren’t the ones who will be caring for the baby 24/7, whose lives will be set back by years (even decades) as they care for a new life, or who will be responsible for every decision concerning the child for the next 18-21 years.

It will be the couple.

And the people who aren’t ready, who were pressured into having kids because they were told that it was the best thing to do, may have to deal with regret as they are stuck with a decision they cannot undo. Because there are people who regret having kids, and we need to be honest about that. These people regret, not because of the child’s fault, but because they were simply not ready to have kids, be it financially, emotionally, or mentally. Unfortunately, the children are the ones who eventually suffer, from living in dysfunctional households to dealing with issues of violenceabuse, and anger.

We need to recognize these realities, and not make parenthood seem like it’s some magical band-aid that solves a lack of purpose or life’s pressures. Things don’t magically get better because people have kids; existing problems usually worsen as having a child puts a big strain on a couple’s lives. Digging into people’s plans to have kids, and pressurizing them into one of the biggest life decisions they can ever make, will only stress them out and perhaps push some into depression. As this redditor shared,

“I have a friend who went through 6 years of miscarriages and fertility treatments before the doctors figured out the problem and she had her son. The nosy ladies at her work and her in-laws questioned her constantly. The depression from that made it harder for her to conceive.”

Stop asking couples when they’re having kids

So, if you tend to ask others when they’re having kids, it’s time to stop that. It’s rude, insensitive, and it disregards people’s privacy. It’s also none of your business.

The reality is that if people want kids, they will work on having kids. They don’t need you to prod them about it.

If they don’t have kids, it’s either because

  1. they really don’t want kids,
  2. they are not in a position to consider kids right now, or
  3. they want kids but they are facing some struggles.

For people in group (c), they aren’t going to share such deeply personal experience over some afternoon coffee chat, and certainly not by you asking, “When are you having kids?”

The best thing you can do is to give people their personal space. Understand that having kids is a personal decision, and people don’t have to share or explain anything. Respect that others have their right to privacy. Respect that people are individuals on their own path, and this path may not involve having kids. And this doesn’t make them incomplete or lesser in any way.

Instead of asking women or couples, “When are you having kids?”, talk to them like how you would a normal person. There’s no reason why conversations should suddenly revolve around childbearing after marriage; it’s not like a person’s identity changes to revolve around having kids. A person still has their own passion, goals, and dreams. Talk to them about what they’ve been doing. Understand their interests. Know them as a real person, not some random being here to fulfill society’s checklist.

If you’re really interested in someone’s plan to have children, you can simply ask, “Are you and your partner planning to have kids?” If they wish to share more, they will do so. If they give a generic answer, then take the hint and move on.

Ultimately, having kids or not doesn’t change a person’s self-worth. A woman is complete with or without kids. A marriage doesn’t need kids to be deemed complete. Having kids should be a conscious choice, not a result of external pressure. Don’t judge people by whether they have kids or not. Some people will have kids, and some people will not have kids. Some will have kids early, while some will have them later in life. All of these are different paths and there’s nothing wrong with them.

For Me

For my husband and I, we eventually had a few discussions and decided to have a baby, and had our baby girl this year (2020). 😊 Yet other people’s comments and nudges to have children didn’t make me want to have children; it only annoyed me and made me want to avoid these people, because having a child is a personal decision between me and my husband, that has nothing to do with them. It was after we had the space to settle down and enjoy married life without kids, and took some time to actively pursue our goals and interests, that we finally felt ready to try for a kid last year.

In the meantime, I hope all of you are doing well. There are other things that I’m working on, other things that are happening that I look forward to sharing in time to come. Sending lots of love to you, and remember that whatever life challenge you’re facing, you have it in you to overcome it. I’ll talk to you guys soon! 🙂

Stuff like this are why I like your page

When I was younger, I used to have this quiet, menacing voice inside me. I was starved for attention and affection, but every time I started to receive attention or affection from somebody, that voice would quietly urge me to get away. “You’ll be trapped,” it would say. “You’re going to lose your independence.” And suddenly, I’d begin to have irrational ideas about never being able to eat steak again because the girl I liked was vegetarian, or how moving in with some friends meant that I’d be forced to play Scrabble with them every night for the rest of my life.

As a result, I spent most of my twenties being a terribly unreliable (and often selfish) person. I was the guy who said he couldn’t wait to see you and then never showed up. I was the guy who went on three spectacular dates with a woman and then strangely found an endless litany of excuses to not go on a fourth. I was the guy who would just walk out in the middle of a concert, a movie, a party, with no explanation and go somewhere else.

It wasn’t that I didn’t like these people. Actually, it was the opposite—I did like these people—and that’s what terrified me. That’s what woke that inner voice saying, “Let’s get out of here. Let’s find something better. Don’t get stuck.”

It was like this inner demon constantly repelling me from anyone I felt intimate with or close to. But I wanted to feel intimate and close to people, so I just acted like a crazy person for about ten years, trying to get over myself.

Our Inner Demons

We all have demons—parts of ourselves that we don’t like to acknowledge but we see lurking inside us—parts of ourselves that cause us to do irrational and selfish things not out of love for ourselves, but out of fear for ourselves.

But no matter how hard we try to ignore our demons, they’re always there, bubbling up to the surface, seeping out from the lid we try to keep on them. And the harder we try to hold that lid down, the more fucked up our lives become. We get high or drunk to forget our demons. We distract ourselves from our demons with work or competition. We treat others like shit to distort our deep-seated fear that they will eventually treat us like shit.

Anything to keep the demons at bay…

You have probably done battle with your demons at some point—you’ve fought back the feelings of anger or guilt, you’ve hated yourself for your stupid behavior. You’ve promised yourself that you’ll stop listening to that little voice inside or that you’ll finally put the vodka away.

One of the demons I still struggle with is laziness. While we’re all lazy slobs at least some of the time, my struggle with my own “usefulness” in this world often spirals to a dark and lonely place if I’m not careful.

When I procrastinate, I tend to judge myself pretty harshly, telling myself I’m a no good, lazy sack of shit. My general assumption is that everyone is productive and kicking ass every day… except me. I realize now (after many years) how irrational this belief is. But still, that little voice inside whispers that no one else has a problem staying motivated, therefore I must be some sort of loser.

Demons start out as a self-judgment: you’re lazy, you’re dirty, you’re stupid, you’re unlovable, etc.

Then we try our hardest to avoid that judgment, to prove it wrong. We clean the garage six times. We work 11-hour days. We win a blue ribbon at the local skating rink. See! I told you I’m cool and likeable! See! Look at me!

But eventually, that avoidance becomes self-destructive. You clean the garage again instead of picking your kids up from school. You work so long that you fall asleep driving home. Your obsession with skating rink blue ribbons destroys your relationship with your partner, with them leaving and screaming, “You never wanted me! You just wanted someone to watch you skate!”

And worse, no matter how much you prove your demon wrong, it doesn’t go away. The laziness demon never stops making me feel lazy. The cleaning demon, one of my wife’s demons, never lets her feel like everything is clean or organized enough. No matter how hard you work, the demon is never satisfied. So the only alternative is to distract yourself from the demon, or worse, to give in.

For me, I spent many years distracting myself with partying. Sex and alcohol, mostly. But some drugs when I was younger. These days, I have a tendency to fall into a lull of playing video games for 3-4 days straight—all the while hating the fact that I’m doing it.

In this way, our demons morph into a kind of self-loathing. You feel powerless and trapped. You can’t win. No matter how much you succeed, you can’t prove the demon wrong. Yet, when you give up and fail, you just prove the demon right.

Suddenly, that vodka sounds pretty good…

…but there’s got to be a better way to overcome your demons.

Meet My Demon, Carl

In her book, Feeding Your Demons, Tsultrim Allione talks about an old Tibetan Buddhist meditation practice where you literally visualize whatever “demon” is haunting you, and then sit down and feed them, the same way you’d feed a guest or a friend at a dinner party. Allione argues that this has a healing effect—that it represents accepting the worst part of ourselves and developing compassion for ourselves.

Inspired by this idea, I decided to try something I had never really tried before: I would become friends with my demon, my tireless inner-critic. So I started by giving that critic a name: I called him Carl.1

Now, Carl is a total dickface. But that’s just Carl’s thing. Dicks. And faces. But mostly just cruelly judging me for even the faintest evidence of my own failures.

But you know what? I’m not going to hold that against Carl. Not anymore.

Like everyone, Carl needs love and compassion too. So, one night in bed, I closed my eyes and imagined sitting down to dinner with Carl.

“Carl,” I said, “you really make my life hell sometimes, you know that? I constantly feel like I’m not doing enough because you never leave me alone.”

To which Carl, whose voice sounded a lot like Morgan Freeman’s, said, “Mark, you’ve made a demon out of me when I’m really just the other side of your fiery ambition. The only reason I cast doubt on everything you do is because you want to do so much. I don’t make you sit down and play video games for twelve-hour stretches. I merely remind you of what you value when you do. And, if that hurts, so be it.”

“Goddamn, Carl. You sound just like Morgan Freeman.”

Carl looked at his claws and buffed them with his craggly hand, “I know, I know. I get that a lot.”

“So, what you’re saying is, you’re just here because you reflect the sacrifices of the things I desire?” I asked.

“You could say that,” replied Carl. “Or you could go even further and say that I’m not a reflection of you. I am you.”

I don’t remember much conversation after that. I fell asleep and dreamt that circus acrobats were performing in my college dorm room. But a couple of days later, the profundity started to sink in…

Angels and Demons

I’ve long argued that the best thing about people is often also the worst thing about them—that’s because our extraordinarily positive traits often produce extraordinarily negative side effects. A gift for empathy might make you overly emotional at times. A competitive streak that earns you high achievements might also make you kind of an asshole. A spontaneous creative spirit that gives you artistic talent might make you really, really bad at doing your taxes.2

So, in my case, my constant guilt around being lazy is just the flip side of having enormous energy and ambitions. My old demon about getting too close to people is also what made me incredibly independent and allowed me to take risks most people wouldn’t (start a business, move abroad, write a book with “Fuck” on the cover—and then another one.)

In this sense, every demon has its associated angel. And our demons are just the other side of our best qualities. To give up one would be to give up both.

As such, we cannot honor the best in ourselves without also honoring what we also fear to be worst about ourselves. Because what we tend to judge as our “worst” is merely the reflection of what we desire as our best.

The shadowy parts of our fucked up souls aren’t the problem—the problem is our drive to dissociate ourselves from our fucked up souls in the first place. And the stronger our drive is to dissociate from our demons, the larger our demons become.

Put another way, whatever you choose to value in your life, you are also choosing to experience the failure of that value. Read that shit again, motherfucker. Everything valuable and important in this world has a dark underbelly, a subtle shadow, an associated demon with it. And you can’t buy one without the other. It’s a 2-for-1 deal whether you like it or not.

When we don’t face that demon and befriend it, we complicate our ability to live up to our values. This sucks, because living up to our values is what allows us to develop a sense of identity and life purpose. It’s what keeps us happy and healthy and prevents us from falling into vice and addiction.

Demons and Addiction

Addicts have come to hate the unsavory parts of themselves so much that they go to extremes to avoid them. Their addictive substance or behavior of choice becomes not just a distraction from their demons, it’s how they escape from them entirely—assuming they can find the next high.

Addiction is a double-whammy of suckage, psychologically speaking, because not only are you avoiding the demon through addiction, but then you feel guilty and hate yourself for all of the damage and destruction that addiction causes.

Overcome Your Demons by Befriending Them

People often talk about fighting their demons, as if they were the boss of a video game that needed to be defeated to win the game.

But this isn’t a video game. This is real life. Fighting your demons won’t make them go away. Denying their existence, attempting to dissociate from them, only makes them stronger.

Your demons are a part of you, the shadow of all the things you like about yourself, the things that make you you. Picking a fight with or denying who you are is sure to lead you down a path to self-loathing and destruction, a.k.a. no bueno idea.

Instead, you must become friends with your demon.

This doesn’t mean naming it Carl and having late-night conversations as you drift off to Morgan Freeman’s dulcet tones,3 but it does mean recognizing its existence and embracing it as part of yourself.

Your drive for perfectionism that makes you a superstar at work also often makes you disappointed with yourself for not meeting your superhuman expectations. Instead of denying this facet of you, embrace it. Smile at the disappointment demon. Continue kicking ass knowing you will inevitably fail to meet your expectations at some point, and that it will feel a little shitty. And that’s fine.

This process will come more naturally to some than to others. Generally, the more self-aware we are, the easier it will be to find and befriend our demons.

If you’re having trouble, try and sit quietly with your thoughts for a while, maybe grab a piece of paper and jot down what you feel are the best and worst parts of yourself. Simply the act of observing your thoughts and writing down your feelings will give you more clarity.

If you’re feeling bold, ask those closest to you—your family, your friends—what your demons are. It will be painful, but it will be worth it. Keep an open mind. Let those you trust be the mirror that reflects back to you your blind spots. Often you’ll be surprised at how much better they know you than you do yourself.

It’s important to note though: befriending the demon isn’t necessarily agreeing with the demon. And it’s definitely not the same thing as indulging them. An alcoholic isn’t made better by drinking more—that just feeds their addiction. And if you hate yourself in some way, indulging that hate with self-destructive behaviors will only feed into your self-loathing.

No, you befriend your demon by treating them the same way you treat your crazy uncle who believes in conspiracy theories about crop circles: you respect them, even if you don’t agree with them.

“Yes, I’m being lazy today. But that’s okay. I’m allowed to have a couple of lazy days here and there. That doesn’t mean I’m a horrible person, but thanks for bringing it up.”

We all have a bundle of voices offering their perspectives in our heads all the time. A lot of our decisions are made as though they are made by committee. One part of you feels bad for your brother who got arrested for drunk driving and wants to go bail him out of jail. Another part of you is resentful and says “fuck him.” Another part wants to impress your parents. Another part says fuck your parents.

Your demons are just members of that same brain-committee. Let them have their seat. And then, when necessary, out-vote them.

Your Demons Aren’t Special

In The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, I spent much of the book talking about entitlement—the assumption that we deserve special treatment or better results than everyone else.

This drive to dissociate from our demons is a subtle form of entitlement—it’s an assumption or belief that we should be able to live without self-doubt or suffering. An off-shoot of that assumption is often the belief that our pain is special and unique to us, that no one understands what it’s like to be us or to have our problems.

But here’s the hard truth that we all need to hear: there’s nothing special about your demons. Carl doesn’t just visit me. He visits millions of people around the world every day. And while this might hurt my ego a little bit (damn you, Carl, I felt so special with you), that realization that I’m not as special as I thought is damn liberating. 

If everyone faces demons at some point, then it means we don’t have to be ashamed of them. It just means we’re human.

I can’t tell you how many emails I get from readers saying something like, “Hey Mark, I got a really messed up problem. You’ve probably never heard this one before…”

They then go on to mention a problem that 26 other people emailed me about just that week.

Like a shitty partner, our demons delude us into thinking that they’re ours, that our hearts are the only ones they have infiltrated when really, they’re screwing half the people on the block.

Damn you, demons.

Overcome your demons - watercolor painting of a woman

But despite the unsavory analogies, we must still befriend our demons. It’s the only way to prevent them from ruling over our lives.

The Shadow and the Light

None of this is new, of course.4 Aside from Buddhists encouraging you to be pen pals with the worst parts of your nature, the famous psychoanalyst Carl Jung wrote prolifically about what he called “the shadow.”5 For Jung, your shadow is all of the parts of yourself that you despise or loathe and therefore hide and avoid. Much like a shadow, it’s this dark image that follows you around, always behind you, always attached to you. It is impossible to run away or lose your shadow because ultimately, your shadow is a representation of you.

It is a beautiful metaphor, because no shadow can exist without a source of light. To rid yourself of your shadow would require you to rid yourself of the light in your life and thus, live in utter darkness.

Jung saw that denying our shadows and everything they contained—the good and the bad—was a source of a great deal of human suffering, and even argued that violence and full-on wars within and between societies were often the sad result of denying our collective shadow. As a culture, we avoid and deny the worst part of ourselves. We wage war on ourselves, threatening and killing our most desperate and vulnerable. We avoid and distract ourselves from our own problems by meddling in the problems of other cultures and societies. It’s all the same shit, just played out on a much grander scale.

Jung argued that we must integrate our shadow into ourselves by “turning toward” the darkness. That means embracing the dark parts of ourselves—our worst impulses, our worst shame, our worst fears—and owning them. Accept that they are there. But with that acceptance is a respectful disagreement.

Because you can’t have light without the dark. You can’t truly value something unless you also value the lack of that something. You can’t strive to achieve great success if you aren’t also paranoid about failure. You can’t desire wonderful relationships if you aren’t also terrified of those losses. You can’t have the light without the dark, the angel without the demon.

So be nice to your demons. And in time they will be nice to you.

Footnotes

  1. I named him Carl after Carl Jung, the famous psychologist of the early- to mid-20th century who thought a lot about this sort of thing. More from him later.
  2. It’s okay, as an artist you probably don’t make any money anyway.
  3. Though you can certainly do that if you want to.
  4. It never is.
  5. If you’re feeling bold and have a lot of time on your hands, you can read Jung’s work on the shadow in Volume 9 of this 20-volume collection of his work.

Important Info !

Have you ever thought about whether you have a strong inner foundation that helps to guide your life choices? When I say foundation, I mean the inner structure that helps you live your life with less stress and overwhelm.

Having a strong inner foundation is an important part of intentional living because it helps you make decisions that shape your future for the better. If your foundation isn’t solid, you might feel like life is constantly knocking you down just when things seem to be getting back on track.

Do you have a strong inner foundation to help you stay grounded? Here’s how to build a solid foundation that helps you stay strong when life gets tough.

Even if you already have a sturdy inner foundation, that doesn’t mean it can’t sway from side to side sometimes. Our strength is constantly tested by the pressures of the world, and it can take a lot of effort to stay upright.

With a strong inner foundation, you‘ll be better able to hand the winds of change. You can grow more when you’re in a secure space and rooted in what you need and want. In this post, I’m exploring the idea of creating an inner foundation so you can stay grounded and reduce the stress of daily life.

Foundation is what keeps you grounded


Do you have a strong inner foundation to help you stay grounded? Here’s how to build a solid foundation that helps you stay strong when life gets tough.

There’s a lot of pressure in our daily lives (put on us by others and ourselves), which means we need a sense of structure to help us stay strong. If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed and unable to make any real changes in your life, it may be that you need to work on building your inner foundation.

Your foundation is whatever you need it to be. Imagine your foundation at the very core of your being. Your foundation keeps you grounded and plants you where you are as you make tiny steps to nourish yourself and prioritize your own needs.

Without a solid foundation to build your life upon, it’s easy to bend and break under pressure. Sometimes it’s necessary to bend a little, but you don’t want to break.

Think of your inner foundation in terms of what supports you and gives you strength. You can build your inner foundation upon your:

  • Mindset: the quality of your thoughts
  • Values: what’s important to you
  • Habits: daily routines that keep you grounded
  • Strengths: the things you’re naturally good at
  • Relationships: people who make you feel secure and supported

If you’re constantly trying to make changes in your life but nothing seems to stick, consider first whether you have the foundation necessary to support you.

“Building your foundation isn’t a one-time event. Habits will slip and you will need to rebuild them periodically. Your goals may change, forcing you to change your foundation to suit them. But if you’ve spent the time investing in a foundation initially, these changes are maintenance, not a complete reconstruction.”

Scott H. Young

Building a solid foundation in life


Do you have a strong inner foundation to help you stay grounded? Here’s how to build a solid foundation that helps you stay strong when life gets tough.

Here are some things to think about when it comes to your own foundation in life:

Mindset

  • What thoughts do you need to believe about yourself to feel supported?
  • How can you be more mindful of your own feelings and behaviors?
  • How can you focus on the current moment more than the past/future?

Values

  • What do you value in friendships and relationships? (e.g. a sense of humor, empathy, willingness to challenge you when necessary)
  • What do you value in your work? (e.g. flexibility, reliable co-workers, independence)
  • What are the top 3 values you want to uphold in your own life? (think about how you want others to describe you)

Habits

  • What are your current daily habits?
  • Are your habits self-supporting or self-defeating?
  • What habits would help make your life feel more balanced? (here are some examples)

Strengths

  • What are your biggest strengths?
  • How do these strengths help support you in life?
  • How can you make better use of your strengths in your daily life?

Relationships

  • What makes you feel most supported in a relationship/friendship?
  • Who are the people in your life who make you feel grounded?
  • Are there any relationships you need to let go of to feel more stable?

Ultimately, a strong inner foundation is what keeps you balanced, stable, and secure. Come back to this concept whenever you notice yourself feeling unsteady.

Related Post: 5 Steps To A More Balanced Life


What could you achieve if you prioritized inner stability and security?

I hope this post has encouraged you to become mindful of your own foundation. Think of how you can use your thoughts, values, habits, strengths, and relationships to keep you grounded and reduce the pressure of daily life.

If you want to explore this topic further, check out this post about how to build a vision for your future.

The post How To Build A Strong Inner Foundation For Your Life appeared first on The Blissful Mind.