Another week has passed. It now belongs to the past. (And this is not a grammar lesson!)
“Isn’t the past kind? It’s always over” said Byron Katie, author, speaker and best known for her self-enquiry process called The Work.
Would you agree?
Or do you feel that your personal lot in life sits at the cruellest and most painful end of the fairness yardstick? Are you still reeling from it, or railing against what happened to you?
Kind? What can be kind about loss? The loss of a loved one, divorce, loss of health, financial loss, loss of a job, opportunity and so on – surely the impact of the loss is still felt now whether the cause or event happened last week or month or long before?
And what about when we have experienced the wrath of others or been the victim of an attack, either physically or to our identity? Do the embers of hurt or hatred not simmer in the bowels of our emotions?
When life really sucks, it can be extremely difficult to access the state of acceptance and then to continue with a yes to life. But, for the most part, our actual misery comes from our thinking, from clinging on to the thoughts attached to past events.
I’ve written before about my morning pages where I do my best at emptying my mind of troubling as well as querying thoughts on to the page before me. Often, I punctuate my writing with the words, LET GO. And yes in capitals, for that extra bit of in your face emphasis. I find this reminder habit particularly helpful, especially when I’m stuck in a wrestling match with a stressful thought or find myself spiralling down into a pit of anger or drowning in a sea of tears.
I do this to avoid long-term fixation because the continuation of that sort of worrying or obsessing essentially is of no benefit. What it does do is erode my inner equilibrium, physically, mentally and emotionally, all the while ensuring the longevity of my painful thinking i.e. suffering, around that event.
There’s another side to this and that is the conditioning in which we are submerged from the very time that we are aware of being human!
It becomes second nature to behave and react in a certain way because we are fed those scripts by our culture, religion, family, peers, education, the media outlets and society. This prescribed way of interpreting events tends to replace the natural evolvement of our individual feelings with the collective, automated ones.
Feelings come from thinking but when we automatically behave according to conditioning, we are not giving original thinking and questioning a chance.
This further perpetuates our attachment to the pain of the bad and/or sad past. And unfortunately it is the bad/sad events of the past that gain prominence over the good ones.
As Edith Eger, a holocaust survivor, says in her book The Choice,
“It is too easy to make a prison out of our pain, out of the past.”
Inevitably the conditioned reaction goes hand-in-hand with drama, and as we re-act it out, an addictive pattern can develop. Rather fertilise the thought seed that the same old repetitive drama is boring, and allow yourself to give it up without the intrusion of guilt over not behaving according to expectations.
There are many ways in which we can ease our release from the ‘prison of the past’ but perhaps our focus should begin with resistance.
Resistance to what was, to reality, keeps us in the prison – you know you are in resistance to what was, when you say things such as: Why me?, It should not have been…., If only…, Why didn’t…., and so on.
And the way to melt that resistance is to surrender and become comfortable with the acceptance of what was. (This doesn’t mean that you condone it or that you are a doormat.) Only then are you free to focus on the present, to gradually open your awareness to opportunities that you have now, and move forward. The past will not change, but reframing your thoughts about it can change how you feel about it.
Spend some quiet time with painful memories and ask what that past experience came to share with you. What insight have you gained into the pain of the perpetrators of ‘bad’, or into yourself, and how have you changed, how have you grown.
Do this as often as you feel the need to do it, until you sense a gradual shift in your thinking to new thought formations – those which possibly make you feel just that little bit freer from the treadmill of suffering.
Of course the process of grieving is important and beneficial, or talking to someone when bitterness over the past is choking the life out of you. There is no one size fits all when dealing with painful memories, but there is an inner wisdom in each of us that holds the answers aligned with our truth.
We can be kind to the past by allowing it to rest in peace so that we can live in peace. Then, we are no longer victims of it.
As Edith Eger (who also lost both of her parents in the holocaust when she was a mere 16 years old) says in her exquisite book The Choice,
“Our painful experiences aren’t a liability – they’re a gift. They give us perspective and meaning, an opportunity to find our unique purpose and our strength.”
And from Byron Katie:
“The world is here to grow me. Thank you for doing your job.”
“Life happens for you.”
Do you know how to access your realm of enchantment?
I may sound as if I’m on a unicorn riding into the Utopian sunset. But, when you do experience that realm of enchantment, the feeling more closely resembles that of Phoenix (your spirit) rising from the ashes (all that was) with renewed youth (raw vibrant energy).
Forgive me if I’m waxing too poetic, but I feel strongly about this, and delving into imagery can make the meaning more immediate – heard about a picture painting a thousand words?
There’s a raw energy in life which I hesitate to call passion because the word (along with ‘awesome’!) has suffered from the plight of over-use which in turn robs it of its full impact. Here, I’m talking about a fun-type of passion, not necessarily the type that holds the key to your purpose in life.
A few of the definitions of passion give you an indication of the gradation of this force:
eager interest in; enthusiastic enjoyment; strong attraction;
excitement; and barely controllable emotion
And now for enchantment:
a feeling of pleasure and delight or being under a spell
We often see this word in children’s stories, where the intrigue of magic enthrals young minds, where in the absence of seriousness, possibilities are limitless.
They are closely intertwined, but the one thrives in the other.
Children show us how natural it is to be in the realm of enchantment, where riding the waves of rapture is inherent in their beings. They are not taught to do this.
[My mental funny bone has just been struck by the notion of a classroom of children being taught ‘how to be rapturous’!]
But funnies aside, the point is that raw vibrant energy resides within you – a force that, when allowed, fuels momentum to create, unhindered by doubt, lack of self-confidence or society’s limiting conditioning.
It’s the essence of living
And the place that encourages you to tap into and unleash this energy is your realm of enchantment.
I say ‘encourages’ as it is always within you, for you to draw out – but, as with the germination of any seed, a conducive and fertile environment helps it to flourish.
I cannot tell you where your realm is or what your fun is, other than to say it’s an activity or place where you feel unbounded by limits. And at the risk of ‘waxing’ again, it’s when and where you feel your spirit is soaring and unstoppable. It may be in the heart of a forest, or skiing, singing, baking, surfing, dancing, listening to your favourite song or music, or when absorbed in interesting conversation and so on.
The more you do this activity, the more you stoke the fire within you. How does this happen? When you experience a degree of elation, you melt those areas of rigidity and tension – self-conscious areas that are frozen by fear-fuelled thoughts which make progress and success, often dependent on risk-taking, very difficult if not impossible.
The elation or fire derived from well-liked fun makes uncertainty and risks feel doable.
In this space your worries don’t carry the same gravity, as negativity fails to gain traction in the lightness of fun.
Fun, enchantment and passion are necessary prerequisites to the longevity of your productivity, enabling you to reach beyond the self with meaningful contribution to the bigger picture.
So, as the saying goes, what lights your fire?
Where’s the fun in your life and how often do you indulge in it? The importance and necessity of unleashing and exercising your fun muscle may not be as obvious or as touted as much as exercising your physical muscles or brain, but that shouldn’t underplay its value – especially now where developmental trends in many sectors of life do little more than mire attention in the swamps of seriousness.
If you’re not sure what your fun is, try to recall those times when you felt exceedingly carefree, or where smiling and laughter were irrepressible, where time flew….
As author Will Thomas says, “There’s no fear when you’re having fun.”
Combine that thought with the following: all your feelings are derived from either love or fear. We live in a polarised world, as in day and night; heavy and light etc. And so too do our feelings fall into the two polarised camps of Love or Fear, as for example anxiety (fear) vs appreciation (love). Opposites are necessary for contrast but of course it’s not always pleasant.
And to end, I’ll leave you with a few pearls of wisdom from stem cell biologist and author of The Biology of Belief, Bruce Lipton Ph.D.
“How do you share your love?
Interestingly, when “love” comes into one’s life, be it love of a person, an animal, art form, gardening or even baking a pie, the experience engages a state of mindfulness.
People stop playing their subconscious programs and start manifesting their conscious mind’s wishes and desires. They begin to experience life as Heaven-on-Earth.
Remember Our Connection to Earth and Spirit…as well as the Power of Love.”
So to help favour the love side of the poles, go and DO FUN – it’s a doing thing!
This Chat letter is dedicated to someone for whom I have immense admiration, Charles Eisenstein – author, philosopher and speaker. I have done a couple of his courses and repeatedly been in awe of his insight, intelligence and integrity. Having studied the unusual combination of mathematics and philosophy at Yale University, what drove his life thereafter, for 15 to 20 years, was the question: “What is the origin of the wrongness in the world?” This is someone who definitely does not deliver the well-worn narratives.
So what’s this about?
From the course literature:
“Charles has a new course coming out next month called Political Hope, featured on the One Commune platform. Political Hope is a 10-day course that confronts our greatest fears and also offers an inspiring vision for how each of us can play a role in bringing about a much deeper political revolution than mere victory.
It’s become pretty obvious today, no matter what country you live in, that politics is frozen, that the left and the right, the Democrats and the Republicans or whatever it is in your country, that they’re stuck in a holding pattern incapable of doing anything but perpetuate an increasingly degraded version of the status quo and that this holding pattern is maintained through intense polarized positions on almost every issue.
This course is for the politically engaged who sense that nothing they do is actually making any difference, or they worry that their methods are part of maintaining the status quo.
And this course is also for the politically disengaged who can no longer stomach the endless divide between sides.
Bring your questions to this course. Start to ask: What has to change beyond winning? How do we heal the polarization that pits human against human and makes it impossible for us ever to alter the momentum of our society?
This course is your invitation to step into politics in a new way, in a way that might not even seem political—but rather is vastly more personal.
In this course, you’ll learn:
- Why nothing in politics ever seems to change or the change never lasts
- How we can escape our war, side-versus-side mentality and end the polarization
- The root source of our political anger and disagreement
- Why the social and political change must rest on a new story of ourselves
- How to align your activism with healing
- How to bring spirituality into politics
- What neither side of the political spectrum is talking about
- What role you can play in creating a world that works for everyone
Our healing lies in the territory beyond what we’ve accepted as real and possible. We must bring new ideas to the table. Ideas that neither side is talking about. Most revolutions have been the changing of the guard. This course will offer hope for the much deeper revolution our hearts know is possible.
We can only do this together.” ~ taken from Political Hope course literature
Please click on this link https://www.onecommune.com/a/30719/kmbFpoTK for more background information and to sign up for the course which begins on the 3 August 2020
If you sign up now there is a 50% discount on offer for the course!
We are half way through the year 2020, a year synonymous with pandemic and lockdown, a year that, to many, represents loss in time, life and income while overladen with so many unanswered questions.
The accumulative effect of this is not always that overt. People valiantly try to keep it together maintaining a positive front, while all the while belying the inner truth of an insidious anxiety coupled with a very human need for connection.
Is this the under toad, as Walt, the son of Garp in John Irving’s novel “The World According to Garp”, called the undertow – he misheard the word in warnings announced at the beach. Under toad sounds far more descriptive and apt to describe a dangerous threat.
Images come to mind of a big toad lurking beneath the surface of the sea (“everyday life”),
waiting for you to enter its powerful grip and carry you away from the shore (“peace” or “your normal”).
Warning and precaution can be life saving, but constant warnings can generate other problems – sowing the seeds of worry can grow into anxiety and panic which in turn can cause serious health problems. To put it briefly, the path of continual worrying puts a physical process into motion preparing you to face the threat, as in fight or flight. Your brain does not distinguish between a physical threat or otherwise, and obviously in this situation, you do not actually fight the proverbial sabre-toothed tiger, nor do you flee.
But the strain of constantly preparing to fight or flee can result in serious health conditions.
How much more vigilant can one be than adhering to the prescribed precautions? And unless you are actively involved in the pandemic as in, for example, research or health care, the situation is out of your control. So what is the benefit of constant worrying? There isn’t one, but as a result many hours of your day are deprived of peace and even enjoyment?
You may feel, though, that the worry is inescapable or congealed into your subconscious.
So what can you do?
First of all stop watching the news. With the dictum of ‘bad news sells’, the death rate will never be counterbalanced by the recovery rate.
And so the under toad grows.
There are a couple of processes that are simple yet effective in helping to release you from the worry snare.
Deep diaphragmatic breathing with a longer and slower exhalation is an excellent start. The reason for this lies in the vagus nerve – a wandering nerve with two thick stems rooted in the cerebellum and brain stem, and that wanders to the lowest reaches of the abdomen touching major organs along the way.
There is a feedback loop between this nerve and the brain, whereby the state of the internal organs is relayed back to the brain. Without going into the whole process, suffice it to say that a longer exhalation is tantamount to putting the brakes on rising anxiety. Think about what happens when you do feel anxious or panicky, your breathing becomes shallow and rapid. So consciously doing the opposite, as in slow, deep breathing with longer exhalations sends a message of calm back to the brain.
Shifting the focus of your thinking is another process to practise. Become aware of your internal narrative as your thoughts generate feelings. Acknowledge the feeling and the reason for it, coupled with the realisation that it is about matters beyond your control.
Then shift the focus of your thoughts on to other things that are pleasant – something that genuinely pleases you. In fact draw up a list of things that you love. It can include anything from
good coffee to your partner or spouse, your children, your pets, a movie that you loved, a book, poem, piece of music or song,
a very happy event in your life, a holiday you had or are going to have, your garden,
your hobby, the sea, the forest, mountains and so on.
These are your “go to’s” for every time your mind wanders off into dark and anxiety-riddled subjects. Immerse your senses in each of the items on your list. Stay there until an inner smile infuses your being. Keep at this process until the power of panic that was, feels seriously diluted and too weak to enslave your mental time.
Brother David Steindl-Rast, author, scholar and Benedictine monk is known for a saying which he regards as the foundation of everything and, the only thing you can say:
“Trust in life”
If you look back on your life, he believes, even the worst things that happened, turned out to be life giving.
It may be difficult to recognise the saplings of opportunity and potential now, but a silver lining or two may be glimpsed, and certainly for the earth.
The under toad cannot win.
The sea will always return you to the shore.
This morning I sat down to write my morning pages, a practice that I picked up many years ago from Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. If you have never read this book I highly recommend it, no matter whether your aspirations are that of an artist, builder, tooth fairy or just someone who prizes fulfilment in life as your raison d’être.
Writing morning pages serves as a kind of mental laxative, purging you of all the muddling questions and worries that tend to swirl around in the mind. By writing with pen and paper – yes it’s a lot slower than bashing it out on a keyboard, but it allows you to process the thoughts, gaining clarity in the breathing spaces – your pen serves as a lasso tethering your worries and doubts to an anchor for observation and enquiry. It feels like you are emptying your head onto the paper in front of you, putting distance between you and your thoughts, making it easier to clear the fog in the light of day.
There may not be any obvious or dominant thoughts in your mind calling for the spotlight and that’s okay.
Then you begin with a gentle and frivolous meandering over the page about simply anything, such as what you did the day before, or how your knee feels or how the morning light appears. The point is not to force any focus but rather to just allow whatever is there to bubble up and emerge. What you’ll discover is that the ‘meandering’ tends to take on a direction of its own and before you know it, you’ll be on a journey to an unknown destination. Inevitably that destination holds a solution or an interesting suggestion or prompt.
I use spiral bound cheap A4 notebooks. Spiral bound because I don’t want to have to hold the book flat while I write, and cheap because the ones with fancy binding and covers seem to set a tone implying that the contents must live up to some standard or quality! That feels like pressure that would frown upon having really bad ‘off days’ where my writing may suggest that merely stringing three words together is a feat.
Not that the purpose of this exercise is to write beautifully in any way – it’s a purging of mental litter that could otherwise obscure your vision for the day ahead. And efficient purging requires practicality before beauty!
So, back to this morning….
The notebook brand that I am currently using has platitudes splashed across the cover in bold, bright colours. So though I see (read) them every morning, this morning, weirdly enough, I actually uttered a response! I could blame the long lockdown for the fact that I am now talking to notebook covers (instead of trees.)
The words on the current cover are:
“You will never have this day again so make it count.”
The words I blurted out were:
“I intend to!”
Although surprised at my outburst, I did feel pleased, yet I had no idea how I was going to make the day count. So I proceeded to write about it because as Joan Didion said, “I write to find out what I’m thinking…”
As I call my monthly sprinkle of words a Chat (not an essay) I am going to skip the thought/writing process that unfolded and jump to the discovery of my intention.
It was that of peace. I desired peace.
That may sound rather vague. Peace? Where? How? Martha Beck says, peace is our natural home and from where we are our most powerful and efficient. And I have experienced this, many times, but the gem of my intention which I excavated from the fog with my pen, was for peace to become more natural for me in the long term, so that I spend more of my waking hours in that zone rather than outside of it.
So now for the how.
Naturally it has to start from within me. Having peaceful scenes around me would be of no use if angst-inducing thoughts were running amok in my mind thereby distorting my perception of reality. And there’s the rub – the thoughts! While we cannot control what happens in life, we can control how we think about it.
Key to this process is the removal of resistance to what is.
Resistance keeps your focus either fixated on the past where you either wallow or rail about what has already happened, or, on the future where your hope (often laced with anxiety) is that something will or will not happen.
Here’s a lovely saying that I find brings swift release from these fixations, dissolving the tension caused from dissension:
“Everything is as it should be.”
Say it out aloud and see how you feel.
In the absence of resistance you are accepting, accepting of what is. This does not mean that you morph into a passive blob allowing unexecuted choices to wash over you. It means that in the present moment you totally accept it as it is, without peppering your internal narrative with words such as shouldn’t, should have, could have, if only … and so on.
As Byron Katie says, if you argue with reality you will lose 100% of the time.
Radical acceptance leaves you open and free to make a choice in moving forward – make a change if you can or substitute, walk away, or accept.
A good question to help with realigning your thoughts is:
Where am I?
Are you in the present? And, are you in your own business?
These questions strengthen mindfulness which is the precursor to peace.
That is how my peace-increasing process has begun, and I couldn’t think of a better way to make my day count.
As John Lennon sang:
“Give peace a chance.”
For some of you, anxiety over Covid 19 is all you can think about.
It’s a time of uncertainty, confusion and fear
with added stress over this new way of life.
Being human and battling with these new levels of stress, many of you just want to talk out your feelings with someone.
That is where I come in, by allocating a portion of my time for online or telephonic half hourly sessions.
I am a certified Life Coach helping remotely, a necessity at this time, to assist you managing your current issues.
I am offering my services and require only that you pay an amount that reflects your feelings of value and gratitude for the session.
Should you be unable to pay anything, you are still welcome to email me to book your time.
Please email me at email@example.com stating whether you prefer Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon. You will receive an email with a couple of questions to answer in preparation for your session. We will then discuss time and format for our remote chat.
Let me help you manage your anxiety and stress.
“We are here to help each other to get through this thing, whatever it is.” ~ Kurt Vonnegut
My last Chat Letter not only prompted such warm feedback, for which I am most appreciative, but also a topic request for this one:
to expand on the relationships and mutual respect aspects.
For those who missed it (click here) I explored a parallel between my experience on a sailing trip with that of the current lockdown situation.
Yes, I did say that relationships just had to work on board the yacht otherwise it would have been a very looong trip – six weeks in a 55ft (16,764m) space.
Key to that success I put down to respect and humour
But there’s a big difference that makes drawing a parallel between that context and our current lockdown scenario a little unfair for the purpose of showcasing working relationships – and that is the scale of familiarity. The degree of familiarity, friendship or closeness among the six people on board varied greatly, with one person not knowing anyone before applying for a place.
Polite courtesy is usually at the forefront of interactions with those who don’t rank high on the familiarity stakes and it’s a matter of time before formal melts into informal.
That being said, the aspect of our confinement did overtake the role that time normally plays in bringing us together and by the end of the six weeks we felt as if we had all emerged from the same womb! But it was a process that grew from a precedent of formal politeness.
Lockdown at home with family members, however, could indeed provide fertile soil for the sentiment of ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ to flourish. With familiarity at full tilt, home is usually where we feel stripped down to our most real selves, but, in lockdown, without the modulations of external influences.
Let’s draw insights from another analogy –
that of watching acting on the big screen and that of the stage.
In both formats the actors will give it their all.
But with the stage performance your audience eye can roam around the stage, look at the various actors and not always see the finer nuances in portrayal.
Whereas on the big screen your focus of attention is locked into the angles or shots that the director has selected for you. For greater impact, close up shots will have you zooming into a face noticing, for example, the slightest contraction of a muscle in the right cheek causing the faintest hint of an upturned right corner of the mouth.
You will see it because that is what the director wants you to see.
But the movie carries you along a story-line which only lasts for a couple of hours.
Now to lockdown at home
Without the experiences of outings, visitors and perhaps work, to flavour the conversation and interactions at home, your confinement could feel similar to that of a movie goer where your focus is locked into close up – close up of all the little habits, routines and foibles, mainly of your partner, but other members too, even down to how they choose to occupy their time during this pandemic.
Without the balmifying blend of external distractions, those ‘little ways’ of our nearest and dearest can transform into the most irritating, ridiculous, ‘I want to scream’ inducing triggers. Well that’s how it may appear to be.
The good news is that in all likelihood your partner has not morphed into a ‘I’m here to torment you’ monster. And the other bit of good news is that there is no external director calling the shots; you are the director (and the audience and actor)! So the choice of what to zoom into, is also yours.
If your choice of close ups is pressing your buttons, then it’s time to lovingly attend to those buttons of yours before a ripple effect threatens to erode your perception in general.
As Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Carl Jung said:
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
Jung believed that those character traits in others that irritate us are the very traits that we have suppressed in our shadow self because our ego considers them to be inferior or bad. It’s called projection. And you can find verification of this point in the fact that we are not all triggered by the same issues. What raises a reaction from me, may not even be noticed by you.
So, when your irritation flares, take a closer look and appreciate that your ‘near and dear’ is being instrumental in bringing these issues into your awareness. Awareness is always the first step in addressing any issue. This eases the follow-on –
to take responsibility for ‘your stuff’,
thereby shifting yourself back into the power seat of your life.
These are scary times
People have different ways of coping with scary times – some like to zone out through activities that allow for reflection and musing, while others prefer to launch full-pitch into a to-do list. Acceptance of differences is key here unless the to-do list grows into a lonely burden. Nip that one in the bud by asking for help, and if the request has to be repeated, then repeat it without nursing or rehearsing resentment tunes which only make you suffer.
In this lockdown situation, in addition to the respect and humour which I considered to be key to our harmony on board the yacht, I would add the most crucial of all values, and that is kindness. Kindness to others as well as yourself. It’s also an important contributor to physical and mental health – isn’t that what we are trying to maintain now?
We are all doing our best to navigate these murky waters of uncertainty, so let’s focus on those attributes that keep our spirits buoyant and light,
while not forgetting to laugh,often.
Many, many years ago I embarked upon a sailing trip across the Indian Ocean in a 55ft (16,764m) yacht, from Durban, South Africa to Fremantle/Perth Australia. The estimated duration for the trip was six weeks. There were six of us on board.
Other than a ‘temperamental’ radio system for calling the nearest port in case of an emergency (at 38 ½ degrees latitude, optimism at its best!), there were no cell phones or means of contact with loved ones and naturally no guarantee of a safe arrival (or arrival at all) at our destination.
Once we had lost sight of shore we became the centre of a blue-ish circle with a surface that ranged from flat to, shall we say, undulating. That, I could have said, sums up the extent of the variation of day-to-day life on board during those six weeks, other than the odd adrenaline rush when, for example, undulations driven by wind and rain caused sails to rip in the middle of the night. But such incidents were the exception.
So why am I giving you a snippet of my history?
There’s a parallel that has become apparent to me between the lockdown situation now and that time of somewhere-at-sea, allowing me to draw on what I discovered during the trip as well as retrospectively, what helped me, my sanity and my soul.
Yes, I chose to go sailing, but once out at sea the only choice I had was ‘to walk the plank’ or to persevere at trying to find out where the hell my sea legs were supposed to be while constantly trying to find some sort of balance, both literally and metaphorically.
Pre-trip anxiety was somewhat dumbed down by a combination of ignorance and not unleashing my imagination – it’s true, the what if thinking honestly did not gain permanent residency in my mind, and I cannot give an explanation for that. I wasn’t ‘coachified’ then so who knows! Perhaps one reason could be that I believed the two experienced co-owners of the yacht knew what they were doing.
But an important take-away here is that the territory of ‘what if’ is really of no benefit to us.
Instead it causes suffering which infiltrates our intercellular messaging highways, ultimately affecting our health. When you feel anxiety rising, and who hasn’t during this pandemic crisis, observe the anxiety with compassion and then gently refocus your thinking onto something else.
There’s an upside to ignorance
Too much news grows the anxiety muscle with its insidious knack of eroding our every thought. Had there been all the news outlets, not to mention social media, back in the day, I may well have been reduced to a quivering mound of flesh incapable of setting one foot on a yacht, thereby missing out on an amazing experience. Rather give the news a miss or if the compulsion becomes too strong, occasionally check in on a reliable source.
As Eckhart Tolle outlines anxiety, and I’m paraphrasing:
We worry about what could happen. It hasn’t happened yet, but we nonetheless still choose to worry about it now.
With the power of presence you can face anything, but when it is in your imagination, there is nothing you can do, hence your suffering.
Free yourself by becoming aware of this. Without awareness you have no free will.
The control we have is over our attitude
If your situation of isolation is freaking you out, filter your perception through appreciation. In other words, start appreciating all that you have, such as a chair to sit on, internet or the beautiful cloud patterns in the sky and so on. By stopping to smell the roses you’ll notice how more and more emerges that is not only worthy of appreciation but beautiful too.
Variety on board the yacht was introduced through the little things. Perhaps little when you live in the fast lane, but appreciation fertiliser when you are carving your way through the blue. Gazing into the water became mesmerising, peace-inducing. Birds floated or flew by, odd fish shapes passed by in the water. The night sky was beyond special, infusing me with a sense of awe during my shift at the wheel.
And then there was time
Having the time to read is considered by many as a luxury – and oh did we read. Some of us did extensive journaling while one person wrote entertaining ditties about our life on the yacht. Expansion through the written word dissolves perceptions of confinement.
And despite the physical limitations of space, it was still possible to have time out, aided by the respect from others.
If you are in isolation with family members, give each other either time out or your full presence, whichever is required. And if others don’t get it, gently communicate how you are feeling. On the yacht, relationships just had to work otherwise it would have been a very loooong trip. I think key to our success was humour and respect, valuable qualities in any situation.
And for one last point about time. Draw up a schedule of all that you would like to achieve during this period of extra time, to prevent your hours from disappearing down the rabbit hole of social media and other such outlets. That can happen easily with a mind-set of “there’s loads of time”. A sense of accomplishment can buoy the spirit and avert that feeling of stagnation.
Hands on the wheel no matter what!
That’s how we crossed the Indian Ocean, by steering, whether through doldrums or difficult, heavy swells. We weren’t hapless victims being tossed around by the sea. We had a course to follow and depending on wind direction, sails were adjusted. Strong winds could be scary, but they also signified progress. Life isn’t a continuum of only smooth sailing, it’s a journey of peaks and valleys.
Our mind is our wheel, and our attitude our sails – both in our control
This month I am beginning this chat with two real life incidents which will serve to illustrate the crux of this post.
So here goes.
About six months ago, I went to the pharmacy to pick up the second repeat of two medicines that I had been prescribed. During the developments of the previous month I had lost the off-switch to my appetite which meant that everything in my path was in danger of being eaten, with the result that I had to endure popping buttons, bursting seams and a mind bemused by my new swell identity.
As the meds had been the only new introduction to my life, I asked the pharmacist to identify the culprit. “Oh it must be that one,” she said. I subsequently discovered that her answer was incorrect.
Fortunately that health saga came to an end except for the battle of the bulge which has a tenacity that defies the laws of normal, which is:
the rediscovery of your appetite’s off-switch equals a drastic reduction of food intake, (I got that one right!),
which in turn equals reduction in body size – now that’s where my body holds up the finger!
Fast forward to this week where once again I visited the pharmacy. (No, I don’t live at the pharmacy, in fact I revert to the natural route wherever possible, but once you enter the third tri-cycle of life, odd little things seem to pop up from time to time which draw a blank from me.) This time I asked the pharmacist (a different one) exactly what the prescribed medicine does and how it works. She immediately looked it up, right there in front of me. My respect for her instantly grew.
No one can be expected to know everything even if the information falls within your professional field. And being open and transparent about it, does wonders for your credibility.
Consider two prominent figures from the past. (This is an example I draw upon often in coaching.) President Clinton boldly and emphatically denied ever having had sexual relations with ‘that woman’. The late Princess Diana openly confessed that she was bulimic. Which one had credibility? Which one did you feel was trustworthy?
it’s here to stay.
• Asking for what we need
• Being ourselves
• Being kind to others who are trying to
• Learning how to be brave and afraid at the
exact same time.”
So, there is nothing wrong with the answer: “I don’t know.” There is nothing wrong with disclosing your ignorance about something. Give yourself the assurance that it’s okay when you don’t know what’s going on. Then you are free to be transparent about finding out what you need to know.
We are all humans, and as such perfect individualized embodiments of spectacular imperfection.
Let me begin in the customary fashion by wishing you a Happy New Year. Despite it being a greeting that is more habitual than mindful, I do sincerely mean it.
How do I know this?
Because I simply could not dredge up even a smidgen of sincerity to motivate an alternative. Although I’m not evolved enough to sustain unconditional love for everyone, (well not yet!), I also cannot conceive of wishing anyone unhappiness. What benefit would there be in that for anyone including me?
And the third option lies in not wishing anyone at all because one could argue that a wish belongs to fairy tales, not reality, so what’s the point?
In its defence, though, taking the time to send out wishes, even electronically, does serve to rekindle connections with friends and family, and anything that lends weight to connections, even if only slightly alleviating a sense of loneliness, is a good thing.
To change customised ritual and the repetition of utterances from mindless to mindful we need to put heart behind them and bring the fullness of mind to the present moment. What are you saying and why are you saying it? Being in the here and now switches off your autopilot which otherwise takes control when your conscious mind is either in the past or the future.
And it’s not only greetings such as Happy Whatever or How are you? that could benefit from a good dose of mindfulness, but also single words, especially in the descriptive field. Adjectives and adverbs can become flavour of the era and because they are spewed out mindlessly, suffer the kind of repetition that threatens to curdle the last remnants of my word-savvy sanity.
Heard or read the word awesome lately???
Whether it’s a biscuit, a wedding, a day at work, an athlete’s performance… awesome pops out of mouths, screens, and pages.
Those who use profanities get accused of a limited vocabulary, yet old awesome sails into phrase after phrase unimpeded by aversion or criticisms, well not many, and glibly gets adopted by more and more people.
There are so many other delightful and expansive words gathering dust on the shelves of lexicons, words that burst with colour and interest, waiting to reintroduce meaningfulness and mindfulness into communication.
You don’t have to be a lover of words to realise that variation holds or re-awakens the listener’s or reader’s attention. And if you are going to speak or write, is that not what you want?
So as we wish upon a star,
let your search go wide and far,
leave the awe
at yesteryear’s door,
and shake off the dust
of your lexicon’s lust.
I said my sanity was curdled….
Unless you have sought refuge in a cave, your awareness by now will have been tinselled into acceptance that the holiday season is upon us. And with it comes the onslaught of obligations such as festooning the home with more tinsel, attending end-of-year events, buying presents and preparing for family gatherings.
It’s loosely labelled as ‘getting into the festive spirit.’
But it’s not for everyone.
Some baulk at the very notion of festive, arguing that
obligation robs the time of any sincerity
undue pressure to be merry shrouds the time in fake frivolity
money-making is the true driver behind the festive engine with obligations of reciprocity plunging the credit card into shame.
For the naysayers it appears that obligation is the culprit responsible for their disenchantment.
So let’s put it on the stand and take a closer look.
Obligation does carry expectations and in turn pits predictability against spontaneity. And with that at play one is at risk of morphing into a robotic merry-maker from tinselling to sending out over-rehearsed wishes to the contact list on your mobile phone, many of whom have slipped into cranial nooks of amnesia.
And while one can glibly say, “Well, do not bow to obligation, just don’t do it,” whatever the ‘it’ may be, at the end of the year your energy reserves may not be charged enough to withstand ‘the slings and arrows of outrageous’ relatives who don’t appreciate your not towing the festive line.
So what can be done for our beleaguered naysayers?
While I would never advocate compromising yourself in favour of obligation, I would offer originality as an option worth exploring – in fact, not only for the naysayers but for everyone who favours a move away from the stereotypical or robotic festive mode.
Loosen up, oil the imaginative cogs, de-tinsel your mind and create a time that has your signature stamp on it, something that pleases you. Or gather input from each family member and weave together an eclectic mix of fun. Make stuff; instead of an end-of-year event that ends in a blur, go on a safari or nature outing or a spa morning; think of alternatives to presents.
As long as you are still breathing and have a mind, you have the power of choice and that includes of attitude.
Choose your merry!
P.S. And for those who are sticking with present giving, we can help you tick a few recipients off your list, with our very affordable online courses. meaningful retirement www.udemy.com/meaningful-retirement for anyone heading into the 3rd Tri-cycle of life; and mindscapes in childplay www.udemy.com/mindscapes-in-childplay for anyone who spends time with young children (6 months to 6 years old).
Also look out for our latest course, gain self-confidence by defeating self-consciousness which will be out in time to slip into a Christmas stocking (aaargh did I just lapse into a tinsel phrase?!)
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