Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Another Personal Letter to the Almighty

Dear Almighty,

It has been various years since I last communicated an open letter to you, which means that either things have been going so well and smoothly that I have not had the will, need, desire, or time to ask you for a favor or that they have been going so badly that I have not had the will, strength, and desire to write to you. But, in fact, it is more a case of a bit of both.

After I last communicated with my expression of gratitude, things began going up and down in a somewhat reasonable manner. There was a specific time of deep low though, and it put me on a slightly different quest, namely one in which I learned to manage and cope with my stress and anxiety. It was triggered by an unfortunate outside event, which ended up making and causing mighty waves with immense repercussions on the inside.

In fact, it made me realize something: We are all walking time bombs of some sort. We absorb and accumulate certain amounts of stress, pain, aggression, and suffering and often with very little awareness and acknowledgment of this happing and developing deep inside of us. And then, something happens that switches it all on, flares it up and puts it on overdrive. Suddenly, we feel overwhelmed, and we tend to call and label it burnout.

But the fire had started long before the stress-inducing event and may or may not be directly related to the incident. Up to that decisive moment, I was not aware that I had been living under chronic stress for various years. I had been distracting myself with matters that did not matter and was afraid to face my proverbial inner demons.  

They came in all shapes, forms, and sizes, but their common denominator was negativity in all its varyingly toxic emanations and expressions, such as worry, fear, anger, doubt, distraction, escape, and what-have-you. Back then, I was not familiar with the world of hamsters, but it was like always running on the wheel with apparently never enough time for anything. It was Sisyphus not knowing or not wanting to realize that he was condemned to roll the rock up the hill. It was all work and no play with me never stopping to inhale a mouthful of fresh and vibrant air, let alone to stop and smell the roses.

And yet, I noticed something was amiss and started taking concrete action towards fixing and repairing my malaise. I was never truly unhappy but was also never fully happy nor satisfied but I knew I did not want to continue that path. As a result, I made plans and intentions to rectify this mild to moderate depression of sorts. So, on New Year’s Eve of 2019 (and without access to 20/20 hindsight), all dressed up with a few achievable goals in mind, and goodwill and hope aplenty, I clicked my glass of sparkling wine with my wife and told her and my son with an enthusiastic and excited voice that 2020 would be a good year for all of us and a year of substantial and significant change!

And then, everything changed. Everything was abruptly put on hold while various plans dissolved into thin air. But the seed had been planted, and more than ever, I was inspired to get well and better. As I managed to face and calm those inner demons driving me and to appreciate and value the slings of misfortunes I had encountered along the way, as I was able to stop and see things as they truly are, bathed in beautiful warm light, I felt like I had walked out of Plato’s Cave. I filled my lungs with the fresh, invigorating, and life-giving air; I basked in the sun and was mesmerized by the flowers and wildlife, and then, I decided to go back to the cave and let everyone know that there is not merely a light at the end of the tunnel but a completely different world outside of the cave! Just step out and see for yourself, folks!

You know much better than me how difficult it is to change people’s fixed and set views, let alone their hearts. It is often quite a frustrating process as their minds are set and made up and seemingly immovable, but I have put myself on the path towards helping others to literally see the light and flourish in their unique and authentic ways and manners. But once again, I need your help to get started here.

It is true that it is mainly in times of need and despair that we most turn to you, and my case is not all that different. Although it is liberating to start off on a clean slate, it is also scary and terrifying. Faith is certainly helpful but most of us, myself included, find it at times so hard to reconcile it with the reality principle. And the reality is that I am back to square one or ground zero, essentially the same place I was about ten years ago when I first wrote to you, that is, without a steady income or tangible prospects in view.

Although teaching is still my passion, my vocation now is to teach and guide people to their happiness. So please help me with the ebbs and flows of my current circumstances. Now, with my latest detour, shift, and career change and with me advancing in age, I would like to ask you for more than moderate success in my endeavors, more so spiritually but also financially. This time I would like to ask you not just for that home of my own where my wife and son can have the space they need for their own pleasure and the dog that my son has always wished for but I would also like to have a small garden that we could cultivate as a visible reminder for continuous growth and greener pastures ahead and an optional but desired swimming pool.  

I would also like to continue working from home, a new habit that I enjoy but I am more than willing to consider a hybrid form with at least some person-to-person contact in a physical environment. Moreover, I would like to be invited to give lectures here and there and occasionally travel to places across the world. Fame would be great of course, but a good and solid respect, renown, and reputation in certain circles would certainly be a wonderful starting point.    

In fact, I would like to make waves on a global scale. I am dreaming big but more than ever, I would like to make those big dreams merge with reality. I have found inner peace and happiness but in somewhat cramped and limiting circumstances. It would be awesome to be able to expand these circles to do good for others but also to have them reflected back to me on this ever-turning karmic wheel. As you already know, I have been working incessantly both inwardly and outwardly and have not always received the recognition that I deserve, at least up to this point of my life.

My health has steadily improved over the past few years, and I would appreciate for it to continue and improve as such as much as possible. I would also wish to ensure that my loved ones are healthy and thriving and will do my utmost on my part to ensure that it does. My letter is more ambitious and demanding than previous versions, that is certainly true, but it also comes on the hot heels of suffering and perspiration. I am aware that it will take time and that there are many other unseen factors involved but, at the same time, I also know about and personally believe in asking to receive. And I am asking you from the bottom of my heart.

 

Your most humble servant,

Friday, April 8, 2022

Arash’s World Now Available for Health and Wellness Coaching and Counselling Services

Arash's World Logo
More than a dozen years ago when I started this blog, my intention was two-fold: On one hand, I wanted to document my thoughts, readings, experiences, and reflections as a type of open personal journal, while on the other hand, I wanted to share this personal journey with others so that they can connect and engage with me and in the hope that it will add knowledge and be food for thought for them as well.

Through my continuous upkeep, maintenance, and dedication over the years, I have not only accumulated a respectable following and exposure – with more than half a million visits and counting – but I was also rewarded with dozens and dozens of book review requests, and I obliged whenever possible (if you are still waiting for a review, rest assured that it is upcoming as I am continuously working through my backlog of books).

Then with the onset of the pandemic, I had the opportunity to engage in more personal interaction with renowned authors, experts, and leaders across the world through my various Podcast Interviews. In these interviews, debates, and conversations, I had wonderful opportunities to double-check and verify, refine, and expand upon my own theories about positive mental health and optimal personal growth while also openly sharing my own thoughts and experiences.

The podcast is, not unlike my blog, an eclectic list of a wide range of fields and domains with the main accent on Mental Health and Personal and Spiritual Growth, and my guests have been educators, filmmakers, global thought and happiness leaders, business and leadership experts and consultants, clinical psychologists, nutritionists, physicians, spine surgeons, physiotherapists, psychiatrists, neuroscientists, psychotherapists, psychoanalysts to pastors, Buddhist monks, rabbis, and other spiritual leaders. I have not only had the privilege to learn from and cover and feature a wealth of knowledge and wisdom on my blog and podcast, but I have also made some wonderful contacts, connections, and beautiful friendships along the way. I am deeply grateful, privileged, and indebted to each and every one of them!

My personal journey of recovery, growth, and healing can best be pinpointed to the moment I read filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky’s book on psychomagic. Although I have been fascinated with and immersed in philosophy, introspection, and spirituality since I was a teenager by following and exploring various trains of thought and practices, in particular, Christianity, Buddhism, and mysticism, it was Jodorowsky’s book that put me firmly and steadfastly on the path of healing, and it was the moment I fully and wholeheartedly engaged in psychoanalysis.

To say that this changed my life would not be an understatement. It connected me with my own core self not only on an intellectual but also on a deeply and profoundly emotional and spiritual level. I can at best compare it with people who claim they have seen the light or those who have had an epiphany or a transcendental experience. It helped me accept, embrace, and appreciate myself the way I am and engage on the path that truly resonated with me. It led me to live authentically with a long-lasting and deep sense of joy, gratitude, happiness, and inner peace.

It is difficult to describe and demonstrate this in words except that it resulted in an overall improvement in my physical and mental health. Most of my physical ailments had been due to emotional and psychological distress, and although I was never truly unhappy, sad, or desperate, I was not fully happy either and had a looming malaise dangling before me and accompanying me wherever I went. It was an ominous and vague feeling of dread that I tried to evade and avoid at any given moment.

Notwithstanding, I was constantly preoccupied with myself and worried about my work, my family, and daily living. My work-life balance was out of whack, and my stress was not only chromic but had reached an extreme and unbearably high level. I experienced serious health issues, including high blood pressure, sleep apnea, frequent migraines, obesity, and diabetes.

And yet, I have managed to recover from most, if not all, of those adverse health effects. My blood pressure is now under control to the astonishment and surprise of my family physician, especially as it was achieved without the use and involvement of medications that she wanted to prescribe; my sleep apnea is under control and I do not need to breathe through my machine to sleep well at night; my migraines are pretty much nonexistent, and my weight, although not ideal – I continue working on it through Intermittent Fasting, healthy nutrition, and relatively regular exercise – it is certainly acceptable: I have managed to lose close to 50 pounds without succumbing to and suffering from traditional dieting or rigid exercise regimens.

My own symptoms were, at least to a large extent, psychosomatic – and the excellent book by Suzanne O’Sullivan showed me the way and guided me towards this discovery - and by finding and fine-tuning the right and most effective approach, I was able to relieve a lot of my own trauma, which then lead me towards healing. And now, as living proof and example of transformational change, I am offering my services as your coach and guide.

Thankfully, people across the world are now acknowledging the importance and relevance of mental health and realize that it is and should be a top priority. As a result, there are many coaches and counselors out there. Some of them are excellent at what they are doing and are effective, while some of them only preach but do not live and embody authenticity, and they cannot truly help to deal with and eliminate the nagging and obtrusive feelings of fear and anxiety.  

This is, at least in certain cases, through no fault of their own but rather their reliance on tools and methods that are not perfectly suited to the issues at hand, and, as a result, they can only superficially treat the underlying psychological pain and wounds. My approach, however, is based on my own personal experiences, they have been tried and tested and are true and will reach and target the root issues and problems. My unique and holistic method is based on psychology, psychoanalysis and existential analysis, neuroscience, and mindfulness with a little bit of magic and spirituality thrown in. But if you are uncomfortable with the latter terms, we can easily refer to them as quantum physics.

I am currently still working on a book to showcase my discoveries and to further outline my theories, but I myself am the living and walking proof of the transformational change I am talking about. And I am here to help you and your loved ones in different ways and manners. I will gladly work with you to overcome shyness, gain more confidence in yourself, and try to find inner peace and happiness. I will use and apply evidence-based and trauma-informed methods and disciplines to help you discover and unearth your authentic self beyond the myriad expectations that you have of yourself and that others may have of you and past the negative and persistent voice of the inner critic deep inside of you.

I can assure you that my unique, innovative, pragmatic, and result-oriented method will help you on this personal journey as it brought wonderful changes to my own life. As mentioned earlier, I have tried and tested it on myself first – I am the proverbial guinea pig - and it has been the most beautiful, liberating, and spiritual experience I have ever had, which I can now modify and tailor to your own personal needs, situations, and circumstances.

In fact, I used to be a shy and hesitant person who lacked faith in himself and others, who was filled with constant self-doubt and worries, was constantly preoccupied with the opinion of others, and who, as a result, had difficulties with setting boundaries and finding a healthy work-life balance. But now I know much better and can indeed help you not only become stronger, more resilient, happier, and healthier in your life but also get to understand and know yourself much better in the process. What distinguishes me from many other mental health experts is the personal connection and experiences I have had alongside all the positive and long-lasting results that I have gained over the years. 

It will take work and effort, like anything in life, and you will have to invest in yourself, but you will just love the results and will not only develop significantly on a personal level, but it will also positively affect your professional and romantic relationships. If you are curious or just want to know more, please send me an email or book your first free session via my personal Calendly link to see how I can be of help and guidance to you. Please note that I speak five languages so I could assist you, your friends, and loved ones in the following languages as well: German, Farsi, French, and Spanish. Look forward to connecting with you!

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Pet Joy and Grief: A Hamster Story

Picture of a long-haired white hamster with piece of pastry
In February 2020, we got our first hamster at the behest and insistence of my son. I had no reason not to oblige as he was well-behaved and was doing relatively well at school. He had always wanted a dog but that was - and is still - not possible at this point and stage, so we ended up choosing the "lesser evil" in the guise of a rodent. We went to the nearest pet store to look at the options available and a small albino Syrian long-haired hamster caught our immediate eye and attention.

Both my wife and my son quickly claimed him, but there was a brief tense moment: we had “seen” him first, and a few children came afterward with some curious glances steered in the direction of this same hamster. In my nonchalance and observant state of slight detachment, I found the situation rather amusing; at that instant and instance, it did not matter which hamster was chosen as long we returned home with one in the bag, figuratively speaking, of course, and rest assured, it was actually a box.

Shortly thereafter, I filled out all the paperwork, something I found both essential and amusing because it represented a contract and a promise to take care of this small furry animal, which we, in our minds and our deeds, contract notwithstanding, had solemnly pledged to fulfill anyhow. In my life, pet care and joys had been narrowed and limited to the feline sort, so it all came as a new experience and a potential challenge as well; this realization took hold of me as we walked out of the door with a small box that contained a living, breathing, moving, and occasionally scratching little thing inside.

Then, the many adventures began. Anxious parents anxious pet owners make! I was beginning to understand how and why some childless people tended to treat their pets as delicately and gingerly as if they were indeed their offspring, their flesh and blood. There was a natural inclination to take care of these endlessly cute, sweet, and at times hopelessly fragile-seeming little beings, and where I might have been slightly critical and on bad days even somewhat cynical towards these overzealous pet owners, after my own hamster pet experience, I understood and appreciated the whole dynamic a little bit better.

Our hamster was named Mr. Floofles, and he became a bit of a YouTube celebrity! My son had named him so and started documenting his pet, and, in a certain sense, his own growth, experiences, and adventures with his iPad. Mr. Floofles soon enough became our pride and joy. We would present him to friends and family members as one of our own, and this special hamster would even take short trips in my wife’s pocket, including a couple of visits to my son’s elementary school where both hamster and his respective owner became a sensation and the talk of the town.

Although Mr. Floofles was feisty at first, soon enough he became docile and, at least, for the most part, he enjoyed the attention, the caresses, but most of all, the many delicious foods and treats that he encountered in our home. He also got various upgrades in his home, which transformed from a simple single-story cage to a multi-story luxury home that was only lacking a swimming pool. Our beloved hamster had no reason to complain.

Then the pandemic hit. Everything went topsy-turvy literally overnight, while most of our lives came to a halt and was put on hold. Our weekend trips and frequent restaurant visits got canceled indefinitely during the lockdown, while my work and my son’s school went online. In addition to teaching remotely, I was also essentially homeschooling my son. But our main solace as well as hope and comfort was this furry little guy who would always be there for us. Our bond tightened and we ended up spending much more time with him; he would nap by our side and sleep on the couch, while we were watching movies. It is not an understatement to call him an actual and active member of our household and family because he simply was, and it felt like he had always been.

As much as he adapted to us, we did the same regarding him. We discovered, paid attention to, and tuned in with his likes and dislikes, his wishes, and desires. If there was a Zoom chat or meeting, he was never too far off, and he would sniff the camera up-close to figure out the other person talking to him via the screen. Apart from his YouTube videos and social media, he also showed up at other spots and places, including the UBC psychology website! Our life was fully enmeshed with him, and he made the arduous pandemic somewhat more endurable.

One night as I went to the washroom, I noted a small white balloon slowly and mysteriously floating towards me on the ground. I looked more closely and realized it was not a balloon, but it was him, Mr. Floofles coming to say hi. How in the world did he get out of his cage is still a mystery to me, but he had always been an escape artist! Once he had managed to escape one morning, and we were very saddened, especially my son. We thought he would not return but then late in the evening he came back and was heading in the direction of his cage as if nothing had happened; my son grabbed him, held him tight, showered him with many kisses, and cried tears of joy.

After those instances, we knew that if he wanted to escape at night, he could, and indeed he would. Instead, we decided to make it easier and safer for him. We created his own open pathway from which he could freely descend and ascend any time he wanted. Incidentally, he would roam about almost every night after that. Most of the time, he would replace his hamster wheel with a hearty and prolonged run in the kitchen area. He would run counter-clockwise various times. If I saw him, he would briefly greet and sniff at me and continue his obsessive-like exercise.

Then, he got into visiting us in our bedroom at night. There would be no use in shutting the door as he would be able to crawl from underneath the door space. Soon enough, he would find a way to crawl up our bed. It would take him sometimes many attempts, but he would make it eventually. This hamster taught me so much about resiliency, to keep trying, and never giving up. On various nights, I would open my eyes with him just patiently staring at me. It was surprising but never creepy; despite the wee hours, I never bothered or minded and heartily welcomed his nightly gaze and presence.

The most amazing thing of those nights was that he would never scratch nor bite us, not even accidentally. He would also do his necessities in a specific small corner of the bathroom. And every single morning, he would go back to his luxury home where we would find him cuddled up and sleeping the next morning. This went on for many nights, and it was such a joy to have such a responsible hamster in our home.

Sadly enough, he got sick. He had an acute infection, and it limited his mobility. In a matter of hours, his cheek and tongue became swollen, and he passed away in our arms. His demise affected us very deeply, deep to the core, and my son was especially devastated. It was his first significant loss and sense of grief in his young life, and even I was thoroughly saddened and shaken by this. It all happened suddenly and unexpectedly, but he had been with us for about two years and had essentially reached the end of his expected and designated life span. Although we were aware that he would die and we would lose him one day, it was still a very painful experience.

And I feel that pet grief is not sufficiently talked about nor addressed, whether in conversation, in programs, or on social media. We had previously lost a goldfish, but this was a very different experience altogether, especially considering the close bond and the immense love we had for our little fellow. May he rest in peace, and we still think of him months after and shall never forget him as he shall always be in our minds and hearts. It took me a while to write this, and we have just recently acquired a new hamster, but Mr. Floofles will always be and live on in our memory and this post is dedicated to him with love and affection!