Step 1: Give up false Self Identity
Step 2: Give up being perfect
Step 3: Give up being right
Simplicity is one of the most attractive qualities in life!
In this fast-paced ego-driven world, we often forget about who we are and attach ourselves to false self-identities. False self-identities create confusion, anxiety and depression. It’s like wearing clothes that don’t fit, yet pretending that you like it. Eventually you lose touch with who you truly are. You strive for perfection. You believe that who you are is based on the things you own, how you look, and your position on the social ladder.
Here is a story about how a false self-identity can destroy a human being. When I was 7 years old, my father had a very prestigious job in Taiwan. After working decades for the government, he was about to be promoted as the head of the aviation administration for all of Taiwan.
My father was known for his brutal honesty and upright personality. At that time, many government officials were taking bribes. He wasn’t good with the political games and was disgusted with all of the corruption and bribery in the system. Eventually and ironically, he was framed and accused of bribery.
The lawsuit lasted for 10 years. In Taiwan a person could be tried repeatedly for the same crime until a guilty verdict was reached. Even though there were 3 verdicts of not guilty, the 4th verdict was guilty. My father ended up having to serve 6 months in prison. He went from being a brilliant charismatic strong man to an unemployed sad broken man. My father was completely destroyed because his entire self-identity was based on his career.
It is common for people to hold on to false self-identities. You can misidentify many things as your self-identity, such as what you do, how you look, your thoughts and feelings, who you are associated with, or your social status and possessions. In reality, you are much more than all of these!
So how do you train yourself to recognize that you are holding on a false self-identity?
#1: If you feel awful about yourself, that is an indication that you might be holding on something that doesn’t reflect who you truly are.
#2: If you feel like you are better than everyone else, then you might be holding on a false sense of security.
Make a commitment today to identify and give up all of your false self-identities. Your true self-identity is pure love, pure peace, and pure joy. When you have clarity about who you truly are, letting go becomes much easier. This is the first step of simplifying your life!
Life really is simple. Just be your true self! Allow yourself to be the flowing energy that is full of love, peace and joy. After all, life is like a box of chocolates… let yourself enjoy every piece of it!
“What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway. In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.” ~ Mother Teresa
Week 1: Be Forgiving
Week 2: Be Present
Week 3: Be Connected
Be Connected to LOVE.
Do you know that a newborn baby would die without being shown affection from its caregiver? This was proven by an experiment done in 1944 in the United States. Every human being needs to feel loved, or we will find it very difficult to survive. Currently, suicide rates for young adults and teenagers are rising. According to CDC records, suicide is the SECOND leading cause of death for ages 10-24 in this country.
The good news is that you are loved. Mother Earth loves you no matter how many mistakes you have made! Mother Earth holds you with gravity just like how she holds everyone else. Imagine if mother earth were to say to you, “Hey, you’ve been a bad boy, you got drunk again last night. I’m fed up with you and I’m not going to hold you anymore…” Poof! There you go. You are thrown into outer space, screaming, “Ahhh”…and floating without gravity, feeling totally out of control...
In fact, not only Mother Earth loves you. You also have an inner guide that has your best interests in mind and tells you the truth whether you like it or not. Many people recognize this part of self as the Conscience. I call this part of you, your Inner Twin. Your Inner Twin knows your every little dark secret, yet your Inner Twin will never judge you and always love you unconditionally.
Many of us develop a habit of living in fear. When we focus on fear, we don’t feel love. The first step in recovery is to remember that your Inner Twin is available to you 24/7! You are not alone on this journey. Whenever you feel fear or loneliness, all you need to do is to reach out to your Inner Twin. The closer your connection with your Inner Twin, the more love you will feel. Indeed, love is the most powerful cure for healing!
In November 2013, one afternoon I came home from work and found my husband Gordon having a very hard time breathing. I thought he was having an asthma attack. I gave him breathing treatments with his inhaler, but his condition got worse. He was pale, sweaty, and not able to speak. His entire body was struggling to get oxygen. I immediately called 911. The ambulance came and rushed him to the ER. There were about 15 people in the room, and half of them were interns. The attending doctor was teaching the interns, “Let’s try this medication, if this doesn’t work, let’s try that…” Meanwhile, Gordon was fighting off the oxygen mask, he begged, “Please help me, I can’t breathe…” I couldn’t help but move closer, trying to be by his side. After two hours of trying various medications, nothing worked. As they were about to give him tracheotomy, the medical team screamed at me, “Ma’am, Ma’am, get out of the way! Get out of the way!” They were about to put a straitjacket on me and send me to the mental hospital.
I was standing in the corner of the ER, watching Gordon die in front of my eyes. My knees were shaking uncontrollably. I felt so helpless and powerless. It was at that moment, that I reached out to my Inner Twin. My Inner Twin reminded me to practice “Surrender”. This is a situation completely out of my control. To surrender means to say good-bye to Gordon. So, I did. In my head, I said to Gordon, “This has been the most amazing 11 months of my life and I treasured every moment of it. If this is the time that you need to go, I am ok with it. I would feel very sad about it. But I just don’t want you to suffer anymore.” Simultaneous and miraculously, the attending doctor figured out maybe Gordon had anaphylaxic shock. He gave Gordon a shot of epinephrine, within just minutes Gordon was able to breathe normally again.
This experience not only brought Gordon and I closer. More importantly, it showed me that no matter what happens, I will always have someone internally who loves me, especially when no one is available to comfort me.
Being connected to LOVE means being connected to your Inner Twin. Once you are connected to your Inner Twin, it’s like your power cord is plugged in. You are not here to suffer, you are here to celebrate! Celebrate the fact that you are powerful beyond measure!
“Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” – Carl Jung
Week 1: Be Forgiving
Week 2: Be Present
Week 3: Be Connected
The best present that your life can offer you is “The Present”! This is why every second of here and now is called the “Present” moment! Unfortunately, we often spend the present moment stuck in the past or the future, and our lives are slipping away right in front of our eyes without even being noticed.
In the winter of 1992, I was driving in a very bad snow storm on the US highway 23. It was about midnight, and I was afraid that I would get into a crash because I couldn’t see the road, which was covered by snow. To avoid switching lanes unknowingly, I came up with a brilliant idea to keep myself safe: Just follow the white line and stay on the far right side of the highway. Everything was ok, until about an hour later, when all of a sudden I had no choice but to stop. There was a huge airplane parked in front of my car. I was speechless. “Holy shit, where am I?” I panicked, and I stepped out of my car, the snow was deep, up to my knees. In the far distance, I saw a building. There was a man in the building who saw me walking around in the snow. He screamed at me, “You are trespassing, this is a domestic airport! What the hell are you doing here at one o’clock in the morning?” I was scared, confused, and frozen to death. All I wanted was to be able to get home safely.
This life experience taught me a precious lesson: Being present is the ultimate key to keeping myself safe, especially when I am freaking out. My brilliant idea was narrow-minded wishful thinking. By following the white line, I did not pay any attention to the exit signs on the highway. I was not being present and aware of my surroundings. That was how I ended up running into that huge airplane!
Most recently, I saw a TIME magazine cover titled: “Mindfulness - The new science of health and happiness”. It seemed odd to me that they called it the “New Science”, since the practice of mindfulness has been around for thousands of years. One of the most important qualities of mindfulness is the ability to be present. The benefits of being present include: better concentration and self-control, higher productivity, less stress, and increased self-compassion and acceptance. Thankfully, mindfulness is now becoming a mainstream practice in the western world.
Here is a very simple tool to help you be present. I called it “3 Boxes”. Imagine there are three boxes in front of you, on the left the box represents the Past; on the right the box represents the Future, and the box in the middle represents the Present.
Now, if you want to experience shame and guilt, which box do you focus on? The Past! If you want to experience fear, which box do you focus on? The Future! If you want to experience love, peace and joy, which box do you focus on? Yes, the answer is the Present! Just that simple!
In reality, the past is done, you can’t go back to fix it no matter how remorseful you are. The future is not here, but you can scare yourself to death by thinking about the worst-case scenario and all kinds of what ifs. You will end up being paralyzed by this kind of neurotic fear.
If you use this moment and focus on your past and/or your future, you are creating a life that is absolutely delusional! The definition of Zen is that there is no reality outside of here and now. So, why would you create a life that is delusional? Why would you choose to spend time being paralyzed? Do you have power to choose to be present? Yes! Absolutely yes!
The untrained mind will constantly take you to the past and the future. That is why it is very difficult for you to stay present. Here is a simple exercise you can do to stay present: Identify everything in your surroundings in a very quick fashion. You will notice that your anxiety goes down, simply because in the moment no one is attacking you, your house is not on fire, you are ok exactly where you are!
If you are depressed you are living in the past; if you are anxious you are living in the future; if you are at peace you are living in the present. – Lao Tzu
We are happy to announce our new 3 week Mental Detox series. This week we are discussing forgiveness.
Week 1: Be Forgiving
Week 2: Be Present
Week 3: Be Connected
To forgive is to set a prisoner free! No one wants to be a prisoner. The reality is that many of us are living our lives just like a prisoner serving a life sentence. We are trapped in the past, dwelling on the mistakes we have made, or the abuse others have done to us.
Do you recall the mental movie you have played over and over in your head? It only makes you feel bad, yet you just don’t seem to be able stop it. So why do we torture ourselves like this? How do we set ourselves free once and for all?
Ready for the answer? Forgiveness.
People have told me that they can’t forgive because somehow it makes what happened to them acceptable. Forgiveness does not mean what happened to you was ok, nor to forget about it. Indeed, not only do you remember what happened, you also have the courage to process the feelings and body sensations that are associated with it. As a result of that, you are no longer a victim who is bonded with the perpetrator. “When you forgive, you in no way change the past, but you sure do change the future.”**
For those of you who can’t stop beating yourself up for your mistakes, practicing forgiveness will serve you as a reset button, and allow you to learn a lesson from them! Everyone makes mistakes, big and small. Yet ALL of us deserve to be forgiven, including yourself! The beauty of being human beings is that we have unlimited ability to improve ourselves! Without forgiveness, we will continue to get stuck at square one.
When you choose not to forgive, the anger and resentment becomes like a venom, circulating in your body, day in and day out eating you up. Eventually you will get very sick physically, mentally or spiritually. Forgiveness is the first step for your mental detox.
For me, the most difficult thing to forgive was the sexual abuse that happened when I was a little girl. It took me many years to finally admit and process what had happened. I chose to forgive my perpetrators, not for them, but for me. What I realized is that forgiveness in fact comes with an amazing sense of inner peace.
Do you want to live a life that is light and free? Forgiveness is the key. “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was me!” **
** “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you!” ~ Lewis B Smedes
** “When you forgive, you in no way change the past, but you sure do change the future.” ~ Bernard Meltzer
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“My name is Wen, I am a recovering Worryholic!” I used to be a 24/7 worrier. If I had nothing to worry about, I would invent something to worry about. If you can relate to me, this blog is for you!
In 1992, I got my first job in America working in a group home in Whitmore Lake, Michigan. One day, at about 2am, I was asked to go to the market to get $300 worth of groceries. After I reviewed the grocery list, I started to have a panic attack. Sitting alone in a huge empty van, my palms were sweaty, my heart was pounding and my knees were shaky. I had no clue what “Q-tips”, “Jell-O” and “Kleenex” were. I looked them up in my Chinese-English dictionary. Nothing showed up. All I remember was that horrible sinking feeling in my stomach, “I am going to be fired…” “I won’t be able to pay my rent, my gas, and my food…” “I will be homeless…”
After 15 minutes of panicking, I decided to face my fear. I turned on the engine and took off. As I arrived at the grocery store, I was greeted by three very friendly staff. I let them know that I was a foreign student, and I had no clue what the things on the grocery list were. The staff was extremely helpful and within 20 minutes they brought me three full carts of groceries. They even loaded the things into the van for me. Mission completed without fail. This experience taught me to put my worry aside, focus on what IS under my control, and let the Universe take care of the rest.
The law of attraction means that whatever we focus on, we attract more of it into our lives. The more worrying we do, the more fear we will experience. If success means more love and abundance, failure means more fear and losses, and who in the world wants to fail and attract more fear into their lives?
We are creatures of habit. Unfortunately, many of us have developed a very bad habit called worrying. A lot of times, we zoom in and worry about things that have not even happened. We are paralyzed by worrying. It eventually becomes anxiety, depression and all kinds of addictive behaviors.
Here is an example: As I was driving on a highway, I saw a car broke down on the side of the road. I immediately started to think, “what if my car breaks down...bla, bla, bla…” Instead of living in the present and doing something about the funky noise my car was making, I was consumed by my worry that my car would break down. Sure enough, in just a couple of days, my car broke down! What happened was a picture of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Worrying is a waste of time and energy. The question is, how do we turn off the WORRY switch? When you are worrying, you are trying to control what is going to happen in the future. Since the future is not here, how can you control something that does not exist? If every second that you got stuck in the future box, it cost you $1,000 how much money could you afford to lose? In reality, your life is more valuable than $1,000 a second. No amount of money can buy the time you have lost worrying.
As a human being, you are wired to win! You can manifest anything you want in your life. All you need to do is to turn off the WORRY switch! The definition of Zen is: “There is no reality outside of here and now.” When you decide NOT to live in the future box, you are turning off the WORRY switch! When that happens, you open up a world of possibilities. You are creating an opportunity to live a life that is full of love, peace and joy!
“You have wings. Learn to use them and fly!” ~ Rumi
Let go! It’s easier said than done, we all know that.
On my way home today, while driving by the intersection of two main streets, I saw someone abruptly pull her car in front of another driver. Instead of letting it go, the other driver was screaming at the top of his lungs, cussing at her with foul language and gestures. To protest this injustice, he intentionally parked his car at 120 degrees occupying two lanes at the traffic light.
Our default is automatically set for reaction. Most of time it is compulsive reaction vs calm response. The consequence of not being able to let go is to continue to be trapped in endless pain and suffering.
Letting go is the only way for us to march forward! In other words, letting go is the spirit of surrender.
A lot of people have difficulty understanding what “Surrender” really means! I will use a story about the boxing champion Muhammad Ali to illustrate what surrender really means.
Ali invented a very famous technique called “Rope-a-dope”. In the beginning of the fight, he would cover his head up in a defensive position and let his opponent punch him over and over. He would stay very close to the rope, and then bounce back from the rope, once his opponent punched him for a while and used up his energy, then Ali would wait until just the right moment, and give his opponent “Bang” a big punch in his face!
This is the power of surrender, winning by letting go! Does surrender mean to “Turn a blind eye to it?" No! Does surrender mean to “Wave the little white flag and admit that I am defeated?” No!
Surrender means to temporarily let go of the current situation, focus on the right timing and take action that is 100% under your control! For example, maybe you don’t like the fact that your job sucks. Instead of complaining about it, you continue to show up for work, tolerate the current situation, be the best employee you can be. Meanwhile you are taking action and applying other jobs that are better suited for you! You are creating a win-win situation!
This is why practicing “Surrender” is the quickest way to get to wherever you want to be! You will never be stuck or become a victim of your current situation!
Be like Ali, my friend! You can let go and march forward, because YOU are the champion!
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After suffering from severe anxiety, depression, trauma and addiction for 30 years of my life, just a few years ago I figured out the secret of happiness!
I’ve read thousands of books, and I’ve done 17 years of professional work as a psychotherapist. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for… to share the secret of happiness with you! Are you ready to hear about it?
Everything in this world falls into two categories: Things under my control and things not under my control. Do you agree?
There are five things that are out of our control! What are they? Other people’s thoughts, other people’s feelings, other people’s behaviors, the past, and the future. For example, maybe someone puts you down, someone gets upset with you, someone does something that hurts you, and you unconsciously get stuck in the things that happened in the past or the things you imagine that might happen in the future…
Now, look back at the last 12 months. How much time and energy have you spent trying to control those 5 things that are absolutely out of your control? Now, take a look… How much time do you have left to control the things that are absolutely under your control? I bet not much!
The truth is that you have the power to choose! You can choose to focus on things under your control or not under your control. No one can point a gun at you and say that you have to focus on the things that are absolutely out of your control. Even a prisoner gets to choose to focus on the things that are under his/her control and live a happy life!
So, the question is, why are we trying to control the things that are absolutely out of our control? It might be because we do it out of unconscious habit. The consequence is that we are going to be frustrated, angry, and feeling completely powerless all the time!
Make a commitment today: Don’t waste your time and energy focusing on the things that are out of your control! You might ask, “What do I do when I recognize something that bothers me that is one of those 5 things? My answer is “Let go”.
How do we let go? Here are two pieces of advice for you...
1. Live your life like water:
Why water? Water is the strongest and softest substance in the world, you can never use a knife and cut the liquid form of water in half, you will never see water going upstream by itself, yet water always finds its way out! Water will never have a head on collision with someone. Water is humble, gentle and wise. Let me ask you, what are you made of? Yes! Water! 73% of the body weight of an infant is water. Live your life like water, accept the reality, and love what is. It’s a guarantee that you will live a life that is happy and peaceful.
2. Be present:
The definition of Zen is that “There is no reality outside of here and now.” When you spend the current moment stuck in the past or the future, your life is slipping away right in front of you. I remember in 1988, when I saw my mom lying on a hospital bed, paralyzed from a stroke. I realized that there was not much difference between my mom and me. Physically she was paralyzed from head to toe and all she could do was blink her eyes. Emotionally and spiritually I was paralyzed, because I couldn’t help but keep going to the past and the future, and the consequence of that was feeling completely helpless and powerless. This eye-opening experience inspired me to create this tool to help you be present. I call it “3 boxes”.
Imagine there are three boxes in front of you. On the left the box represents the past, on the right the box represents the future, and the box in the middle represents here and now.
If you want to experience shame and guilt, which box do you focus on? The past! If you want to experience fear, which box do you focus on? The future! If you want to experience love, peace and joy, which box do you focus on? Yes, the answer is Here and Now! Just that simple!
In reality, the past is done, you can’t go back to fix it no matter how remorseful you are. The future is not here, but you can scare yourself to death by thinking about the worst scenario and all kinds of “what ifs”. You will end up being paralyzed by this kind of neurotic fear. This neurotic FEAR stands for “False Evidence Appearing Real”!
If you use this moment and focus on your past and/or your future, you are creating a life that is absolutely delusional because, “There is no reality outside of here and now.” So, why would you create a life that is delusional? Why would you choose to spend time being paralyzed? Do you have power to choose to be present? Yes! Absolutely yes!
The untrained mind will constantly take you to the past and the future. That is why it is very difficult for you to stay present. Here is a simple exercise you can do to stay present: Identify everything in your surroundings in a very quick fashion. You will notice that your anxiety goes down, simply because in the moment no one is attacking you, your house is not on fire, you are OK exactly where you are!
Over the years, I have searched for the secret of happiness and I have discovered: the secret of happiness is actually linked to living a meaningful life. With everything I have learned in my life, my conclusion for the meaning of life is: All of us are here on the earth to learn the following three things: love, forgive and create. We are here to learn how to love ourselves and others, forgive ourselves and others, and take full responsibility to create a life just the way we want it!
Now that we have chosen not to waste our time focusing on the things that are out of our control, we get to focus on the things that are absolutely under our control. What are the things that will bring us happiness? Love, forgive, and create the life just the way we want it!
In closing, I would like to share with you my favorite quote: “Love is that I am everything, wisdom is that I am nothing, between the two, my life moves…”
Blessings to you!
Wen Chi Chien, M.A. LPC
CEO, Founder of Zen Institute
From EMDR to meditation, I did so much and was able to finally let go of many things that not only haunted me, but kept me in a prison which was only constructed by me. When anxiety attacks happened, I had an array of techniques you (Wen Chi) taught me to use which helped tremendously!" ~Trevor S.~
What is DBT?
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a therapy designed to help people change patterns of behavior that are not helpful, such as self-harm, suicidal thinking, and substance abuse. This approach works towards helping people increase their emotional and cognitive regulation by learning about the triggers that lead to reactive states and helping to assess which coping skills to apply in the sequence of events, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to help avoid undesired reactions. DBT assumes that people are doing the best they can but are either lacking the skills or are influenced by positive or negative reinforcement that interferes with their ability to function appropriately.
DBT combines standard cognitive behavioral techniques for emotion regulation and reality-testing with concepts of distress tolerance, acceptance, and mindful awareness largely derived from Buddhist meditative practice.*
Who can benefit from DBT?
Although DBT was originally created for individuals with borderline-personality disorder, it has significantly evolved, proving valuable for a much wider range of people struggling with a variety of mental health and relationship concerns. DBT is often used with individuals who suffer from depression, anxiety, codependency, and alcohol/drug abuse, to name a few.
If you are still unsure if you could benefit from DBT, perhaps ask yourself this question – Do I have behaviors or ways of thinking that are potentially becoming harmful to my wellbeing?
If you answered yes, or even maybe, then incorporating DBT skills could absolutely be a great approach to providing some relief. Essentially, if you want to improve your quality of life and connections with others, you are a good fit for DBT group!
What will I learn about in DBT group at Zen Institute?
Learning DBT is like learning a new language. Yet, Zen Institute has created a DBT group that is focused on simplicity and effectiveness. The groups are small, to promote safety, trust, and open discussion. Participants are taught one skill at a time. Each skill is coordinated with a worksheet to reinforce the material. Participants are encouraged to share life experiences and learn from each other.
The group is divided into the four major modules of DBT:
Mindfulness will challenge you to accept negative thoughts, feelings, or situations as they are, rather than concentrating on how you might want them to be. Mindfulness is a great tool to help you stay in the present and be non-judgmental toward yourself and others.
2. Emotion Regulation
Emotion regulation will help you identify and understand the functions of your emotions, and provide you with tools to process overwhelming emotions and channel them into positive action.
3. Distress Tolerance
Distress tolerance provides you with tools for self soothing and coping with crisis situations in a positive way.
4. Interpersonal Effectiveness
The interpersonal effectiveness module will teach you how to get what you want in your relationships. You will learn to speak up your truth, set healthy boundaries, and create loving relationships.
DBT is a unique style of group therapy. The tools learned in DBT group can serve you for a lifetime.
This post was contributed by:
Jenna Jarrold, MS, LAC, NCC
Staff Therapist, Zen Institute
*Source: Wikipedia contributors. "Dialectical behavior therapy." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 25 May. 2015. Web. 18 Jun. 2015.
Wen Chi Chien, M.A. LPC