Before running fulfillment at Oats Overnight, Paul Antosh helped an entire community find fulfillment on a small patch of land in New Hampshire. It was here that Paul taught seminars on non-violent communication, which he says is a foundational element of self-compassion—our ability to treat ourselves with kindness in times of failure or suffering. Here’s his story and a few of his most powerful pointers on what it means to show ourselves compassion when we fall short.
The Intentional Living Community
In 2017, Paul Antosh was running two businesses in New Hampshire—a cafe and an ice cream parlor. After running them simultaneously for several years, he was ready to leave them behind for something new.
“I found myself on a 25-acre organic farm,” says Paul. “It was run by an old hippie in his 70’s who had studied under the likes of Timothy Leary and Ram Daas. He and I talked a lot about philosophy and meditation and about what to do with the land.” The man wanted to make the farm profitable—it wasn’t at the time—and establish a health and wellness center where people could work to improve their lives. Paul was all about it, so he sold his businesses and turned his attention to developing the farm.
Paul’s first order of business was making the organic farm profitable and establishing the wellness center. He succeeded at both, but he didn’t stop there. He soon added living areas, including two residential buildings, several yurts, campsites, a large plot of land for tiny homes, and other forms of housing. People began moving in, and an intentional living community was formed.
An Intentional Living Community is a planned residential community that requires a high degree of social cohesion and teamwork from its members. To help themselves thrive in this society they had created, Paul and other community members gave seminars on various topics in the wellness center. But something was missing, a central philosophy that could guide the members of the community toward a better, happier way of life. So Paul took the logical next step and helped create a bona fide monastery. Here, they could develop, teach, and practice a core philosophy rooted in understanding and strengthening consciousness, with the intention of leading a better, more fulfilling life.
Three Lessons On Self-Compassion
Around 15 years ago, Paul had a traumatic experience that motivated him to change his life. He delved into the works of psychotherapists and psychologists like Carl Jung and Carl Rogers in an effort to understand the nature of his own consciousness, and also explored several other world religions and philosophies, particularly Buddhism.
One of the tools he picked up along the way was self-compassion, which he describes as essential in helping him learn from and improve upon failure. Paul held seminars that focused on non-violent communication (NVC) and mindfulness, both of which he says are essential precursors to self-compassion. Here are some of his teachings.
1. Realize That You Are Human
“The first step of self-compassion is to really look at yourself and say, ’I’m human,’” says Paul. According to him, we need to look at ourselves when we mess up, and avoid saying things like, “I failed because I’m stupid,” or “I couldn’t do it because I’m not good enough.” Instead, we need to change our thinking to reflect the fact that we as humans often fall short. “Say: It’s fine! I’m this way for a reason! I didn’t fail because I’m stupid—I failed because I’m human.”
He explains that what you decide to do in the next moment is not determined by who you are this very instant, but by a lifetime of prior causes that led you to this point. “Most of your condition in life is the result of your past actions and your interactions with the environment and with others,” he says. Understanding this allows us to show greater understanding towards ourselves and others in times of failure and suffering. “Every single day as a human, just being alive is an incredible act of courage and victory.”
2. Non-Violent Communication
“The foundation of self-compassion is non-violent communication,” says Paul. From a young age, our culture instills in us a tendency to use “violent” language with ourselves whenever we fall short. “We’re bombarded by violent language because it’s quick and easy, but it’s ineffective.”
It’s easy to read that and think, “What? Violent language? I don’t speak violently to myself or to others.” But according to Paul, violent language can be as seemingly harmless as statements like “I should have” or “I need to.” For example: “I shouldn’t have been so stupid,” or even, “I need to stop procrastinating.”
Using this language causes us to view ourselves as the problem, which does little to remedy the actual causes of our failures. “We hate being diagnosed,” says Paul. “Whenever we’re judging or diagnosing ourselves, or diagnosing others, it just doesn’t work. There’s always a negative response to it.”
The alternative is to observe our failures without judgment and understand their source. “Instead of saying: ‘I should have done this,’ understand why you didn’t. And rather than saying, ‘I need to do this,’ understand why you’re avoiding it.”
3. Strengthening Mindfulness Can Help
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our strength and our Freedom.” That’s Paul quoting the Austrian neurologist and Philosopher Viktor Frankl. He explains further that when something happens to us—a stimulus—there’s a brief moment during which we can choose how to react. That stimulus can be an external event like an argument or an accident. Or it can be a thought: “I’m a terrible person.” “I’ll never be good enough.” “I’m such a fraud.”
“Mindfulness, or consciousness training, helps you understand and expand that space and help you react.” If we can observe our emotional reaction to a stimulus as it bubbles up in our minds, we can immediately loosen its power over our actions and have more control over how we respond.
Feeding Ourselves With Grace
At Oats Overnight, we invite you to come to the table just as you are with your own vision for who you’d like to become. We’re on the same journey, seeking to live mindfully and self-compassionately because we believe that’s the foundation for personal growth. We invite you to join our community of support, and we’d love to fuel your daily goals through a premium breakfast.
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