Act Don’t React

This morning, I sit in meditation for 10 minutes before turning my phone on. This is the norm for me but today I feel a pang of nervous anticipation at what my phone will do once I flick it back to life.

As I sit on the floor, it hits me. My phone is still off. I am yet to experience what it is I’m dreading/excited about but I am already feeling the anxiety.

I understand now that the crux of this issue is not what happens or doesn’t happen. What I’m actually afraid of is how I’ll feel after the event. It really has nothing to do with outside circumstances or other people. It’s all about me.

If all I’m scared of are my own feelings, well then I can manage that. I can choose to react in a way that is in my highest interest. I can tell myself many stories but that would just be fantasy.

Once I’m strong and centred in myself, what happens outside of me is not that important. The struggle always occurs within.

A person can curse and insult you. It’s what you believe about yourself that counts. Someone can ignore or reject you. You love and accept yourself no matter what. Somebody else can praise and adore you. If you’re insecure, you won’t even notice. And if a loved one snatches back their approval, you can crumble in despair or you can move forward with confidence.

Instead of waiting to see what happens, which will determine how I’m going to react, I can choose to simply be. I finish my mediation then swipe my phone into action. And I move forward with confidence.

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Life is an Adventure

I am lying on a plinth, receiving an energy treatment from a friend. I close my tired eyes and sink beneath the blanket, enjoying this time and space for rest.

A lot has been going on over the past few weeks. Sometimes I still find myself being sucked into the drama. Then I’m left with a bad feeling that I need to know isn’t mine.

Thoughts flit across my mind, like an overplayed showreel. Things that have happened and imagined scenarios that have not and may never play out.

As my friend works on me, I clear the energy that these thoughts have created. Instead of berating myself for thinking, I recall a piece of advice I heard on Hay House Radio and I say: “You are adorable.” 

This lightens the mood and brings myself love and compassion. I accept the thoughts without attaching to them and they continue to flicker faintly in the background.

I’m soothed by the sound of my friend’s dog sleeping in the corner. I can feel the energy moving. The heat of my busy head is lifted out and away. And in come the insights…

I realise that I want everyone to be well and happy, which is lovely and all, but it’s a heavy burden to put upon myself. If I need everyone to be well and happy then I must be responsible for helping them and fixing their problems. And if I don’t do that, I’m not being a good friend/daughter/niece/therapist.

But it really is none of my business. I have a feeling now that everything is grand. Everyone is on their own journey. I don’t need to dwell on their stuff. I am responsible for me. I can be there for them and still be me and own only what belongs to me.

I am enjoying life. I’m not going to let my thinking about other people stop me from being present and having fun.

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Photo taken by Deirdre Groves

The next insight is about love. I remember an affirmation from Louise Hay and David Kessler’s wonderful book You Can Heal Your Heart: “I don’t have to convince anyone to love me.”

If I’m feeling a lack of love, the only way to remedy that is to give myself that love. So I do.

A question that arises now is around excitement. Should I be feeling this excitement? Or should I dampen it down in an attempt to avoid inevitable disappointment? I know I shouldn’t have expectations but it is nice to enjoy this feeling.

It all comes back to being present, doesn’t it? Of course I can enjoy the feeling. I’m human. I don’t want to shut off emotion completely. I just don’t want it to consume me either, like a wildfire, ravaging everything with its seductive but destructive vermilion tongues.

The energy rises and tingles and swirls. A song builds up in me. My hips start to sway. “Life is an adventure,” the lyrics go. “Life is an adventure. La la la la, woo! La la la la.”

When I get home, I open my diary and see these words by Danielle LaPorte:

“Happiness is power. Happiness is carbonated consciousness. It wants to spill out and radiate and be articulated. And every time we downplay our joy, we confuse our synapses. Happiness-muffling numbs our senses. If you keep it under the surface too long, it just might stay there . . . a light under a bushel. Admit to your contentment so it can grow.”

I asked the question and got the answer within minutes! I embrace happiness. I don’t have to feel guilty for having it in case other people aren’t feeling it too. And I don’t have to be wary of it in case I get hurt. I am living. Life is an adventure. La la la la, woo!

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Let It All In

Remember those noisy neighbours? Well tonight, I pop in a pair of earplugs and will myself to sleep. My body is tense from the anticipation of the noise that I wish would disappear from my life completely.

This time however, instead of trying desperately to block out the noise, I decide to really go into the feeling that it brings up in me. It feels like the noise gets right into me. I want to withdraw from it but I can’t. I believe that this shouldn’t be happening and that is what fills me with rage. I wish I could wrap myself in a safe little bubble where nothing can get in but I just can’t seem to protect myself from it.

Once I’ve felt all there is to feel, I access a memory of childhood summers snorkelling in Greece. I’d spend hours submerged in this underwater haven where all I could hear was the sound of my own breathing. There was another world down there, full of peace and colour and surprises. I long for that peace right now.

Suddenly, I have an awareness. I am insisting on shutting out a part of life. I’m not allowing certain things in. And if I’m closing myself off to the noise, what else am I resisting?

I lie in bed and tentatively begin to let it all in. I am open. I am open to the good and bad, the noise and silence, the love and despair, the fear and joy. I am open to the anger and happiness, sadness and inspiration, the beauty and simplicity, the light and the darkness. Life in all its forms. Once I start allowing the noise in, who knows what other wonderful things will appear?

I also realise that the noise isn’t an outside invader, robbing me of my calm. The struggle is within me. I am reacting to this perceived injustice. I can choose how this affects me.

Rather than viewing these things as outside of me, I accept that all aspects of life are a part of me. In my withdrawal from the noise, what noise of my own am I suppressing? I am the noise but I am also the peace. And I am the love that once seemed so external and conditional.

So tonight, I let it all in. Because it’s already there. And on that conundrum, I promptly fall asleep.

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Living in the Question

The other day, I went on an adventure to Howth. As my friend and I bathed our feet at the water’s edge, she asked me: “If you had all the money in the world, what would you do all day?”

I looked out at the horizon and the blobs of white cloud, and I smiled as it dawned on me. “I would be doing pretty much what I’m already doing. I’d go on lots of adventures, I’d travel and I’d swim in the ocean. I’d still hang out with friends, read books and watch movies. The one thing I’d be doing differently is that I’d be writing.” My friend turned to me and said, “So you need to start writing.”

We agreed that we’re fortunate to be living lives that we’re so content with. I recalled how another friend asked me recently what I’m grateful for. My answer had been similar. It really is the simple things: work, adventure, friends and laughter.

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Later that day, as we explored this beautiful seaside village, my wise friend stated: “The only thing getting in the way of what we really want is ourselves.” We contemplated this. Should we be trying to make things happen or does that attract more trying? Alternatively, is it better to do the things we love and to be in the flow, and that way wonderful things will come to us?

As we stepped down a stony cliff trail, my friend had a great idea for something we could set up together. I exclaimed: “You see! When we’re here, doing something we enjoy, inspiration arises. Out of one thing, another thing emerges.” I didn’t know if I was making any sense. Sometimes, words just don’t cut it. But my friend got it.

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We climbed the hill back to the car and I confessed: “Often, I see something I really like, and instead of enjoying it and being grateful for its presence, I get a feeling of longing, of wanting more, of wishing things were different but believing that they never will be. I know, in those instances, that I have moved out of the moment and into a feeling of lack. So I just need to change my beliefs. Expect that good things will happen. They are happening.”

My friend paused and added: “That’s it! All we have to do is be in the now. Enjoy what’s right in front of us. How does it get any better than that?”

Since that unexpected outing to Howth, when I lie in bed, when I work, when I sip on a cup of coffee, when I laugh with friends, when I make eye contact with a guy I fancy, when I get into the car that will take me wherever I want to go, when I cycle past cornfields and feel the strength and ability of my body, I give thanks, I appreciate the moment, and I say: How does it get any better than this? 

I’m living in the question and I’m not limiting myself by coming up with the answer. And it just gets better and better. I’m going on adventures, I’m visiting new places, and I’m spending time with friends and family. I’m reading, watching movies and listening to live music.

This week, I attended an excellent yoga class, witnessed a meteor shower and saw wild seals. And right now, I’m writing. How does it get any better than this?

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Images: Author’s own

Judge Not

The neighbours who wake you at 7am on a Sunday after a drink-fuelled Saturday night. The friend/family member/love interest who hasn’t replied to your message. The person who’s pissed you off or who’s pissed off with you. Social media’s knack for igniting envy as you scroll through everyone else’s world trips, dream jobs, perfect relationships, new homes and other Instagrammed milestones and achievements, while you spend the entire day in your dressing gown, watching movies and grazing on junk food instead of working on that assignment, working out, or even just working on being a social, functioning member of the human race.

If only everyone and everything would just cooperate. Then you could finally be okay.

You believe that the source of your peace, happiness, love and success is outside of you. You hold out hope that there’s one special person who will complete you. That contract will give you security. The money will bestow upon you peace of mind. As soon as you move house, you’ll achieve serenity. The job promotion will make you feel successful and worthy of approval.

All you yearn for is happiness. Peace. Love. You judge everything outside of you for its ability to give or rob you of these commodities. And you judge every feeling inside of you as lack or confirmation of these things. But it is these judgements and labels that cause you to swing from joy to suffering. And it can be scary how quickly and easily this can happen.

When you judge how you’re feeling, you begin to battle against or struggle to hold on to the feeling, or what you perceive to be the cause of that feeling. And it is this clutching and resistance that heightens the suffering and keeps you in its stronghold.

It is in accepting the thought, the feeling or the situation that unhooks the attachment. And giving yourself love and compassion allows you to be present with whatever arises. You don’t need to get rid of the emotion in order to feel better. Allow it to surface. Notice it. Let it go. And love yourself throughout.

Peace and love come from within you. Nothing anyone else does or doesn’t do can make you feel these things. Nor can they take them away. You are responsible and you have nobody to blame, including yourself. Bring awareness to what is, accept it, give yourself love and compassion. And with grace and gratitude, keep breathing…

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The Dancer

As part of the Life Coaching course I’m doing, I have to attend a professional Life Coach. In my most recent session, I was telling the coach about how I sometimes think unkind thoughts about myself.

He asked me to describe how I feel when I do this. I told him it was overwhelming. I moved my hands frantically in an attempt to explain. It was difficult to put into words.

He asked me where I feel it and if it has a shape. I told him that it’s in my chest, it has sharp edges and it wants to get out. He asked if it has a voice. “Yes,” I replied. “It’s saying, Let me out!”

I realised in that powerful moment that the feeling I believed to be negative is actually a part of me trying to give myself a message. It is an energy, so big and fizzing that just wants to be expressed. For as long as I can remember, I have been trying to suppress it, to abolish it. It feels so constrictive when all I want is to be free.

I sat there, full of excitement. I wanted to scream and roar and rage and beat my fists against something. I had had enough. I was like a child having been admonished by a strict parent. And this child just wanted to say Fuck off and go outside and play and sprint and front crawl through the ocean.

A recent experience came to mind. A few weekends ago, I took part in a dance workshop. As part of the day, we had to form triads. One of us took on the role of the dancer, one was the witness, while the other was the writer.

I was elected to be the dancer. The music began to play as I self-consciously walked into the centre of the room. I stood and faced my group. Then I started to move slowly. When I closed my eyes, I was able to get into the music. I could hear violins and African beats. I twirled and swayed and stamped my feet. Strong emotions moved through me and, for the first time, I understood what it was to express myself through dance.

Every so often, I’d remember that I was being watched but I was determined not to spoil my experience. I took a deep breath and gave myself the space to own this moment. I deserved it. I haven’t enjoyed something so much for a very long time.

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camihlira.tumblr.com

As I relayed this story to my coach, I likened it to the times when I’ve had a few drinks. When my inhibitions relax, and I feel that lively, fun-loving spark. And right now, I was feeling a similar urgency to let go, to be free, and to embark on a wonderful new adventure.

This “bad” feeling I’ve been trying to get rid of is actually presenting me with an opportunity to transform into who I really am. It is showing me what I’m no longer willing to put up with. The feeling that once seemed anxious and overwhelming is, in fact, a taste of the magnificent burst of energy that I have been reining in with my self-criticism. This energy is full of creativity and strength and passion. And it’s there for me whenever I choose to access it.

As we finished the session, the coach suggested that the next time I think a mean thought about myself, I should tell it to “fuck off” just like the child in the image I had mentioned. I laughed and thanked him for what he had done. He told me that I had done the work, he had just been the witness. I sang the whole way home.

i-knew-youd-never-fly.tumblr.com

i-knew-youd-never-fly.tumblr.com

Eat Pray Love?

I am hesitant about spending three days on my own in a mostly closed-down seaside village in March but I know I want to get away and I also know that I have to do it alone.

I have had a bit of a rough time of it in the last while and I need respite from the storm. As I drive from east to west Ireland, I head straight from a metaphorical storm into a real one.

I expect to feel lonely but I am quite content in my own company. Upon my arrival, I go out to the beach. I walk against high winds and watch the crashing waves. In the evening, I take my laptop to a hotel and peek out at the ocean as I sip on a glass of Guinness. That night, I nibble on chocolate as I watch a movie from beneath a mound of blankets. And I have the most wonderful sleep.

On the second day, I complete a college assignment and jog down a quiet country road. I make a “chillax” playlist, light incense and candles, and get drunk in the bath on a glass of red wine as I delightedly tuck into Elizabeth Gilbert’s endearing memoir Eat Pray Love.

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That night, the wind shakes the rafters and the rain pelts down. And it isn’t the kind of rain that appears on many a relaxation CD; it’s the kind that makes you worry for the house (and for yourself).

On the third day, the loneliness descends. I feel too depressed to make food or leave the house so I give myself permission to close the curtains, put on a movie and eat chocolate. The sun shines annoyingly from behind the blinds. I feel guilty.

Earlier in the day, I had finished Eat Pray Love. Elizabeth Gilbert had found pleasure, peace, God and love, and I am happy for her, but now I really am alone. Even the nice, fun self who got drunk with me in the bath has left and been replaced with a demanding, insatiable self who reprimands me with all the fervour and righteousness of a school-teaching nun. I haven’t signed up for this. I’m on holidays. I can do what I want.

Halfway through the movie, I decide that I’d actually quite like to spend some time in the company of the sun and the ocean so I drag myself out of bed and embark upon a cliff walk.

The wind whips me in several directions. The ocean is beautiful but frightening as its waves roar and rise higher and higher, its spray landing on my face. I wonder if it’s safe to walk so high up, to be so close to such fierce unpredictability. There is nobody around. Am I alone in my insanity?

At one point, the wind grows so strong that I have to hold on to a railing. Then, there is no more railing. I could turn back but I’ve come so far. I just have to get to the peak and turn the corner. I’m stubborn in my insanity too.

Suddenly, a stone hits me in the face. I march to the top and turn the corner. Only then do I raise my hand to my cheek. I quite enjoy the sting of it. Tears spring to my eyes. Am I a masochist? Do I think I deserve to be hurt? No. It is simply because I can understand physical pain. Physical pain allows me to lift a gentle hand to my cheek to check if I’m okay.

As I move onto safer terrain, I ask myself why I’d been scared. In case I died? With a jolt, I realise that it isn’t death I’m afraid of; it’s more suffering. If you’re so afraid of suffering, a voice from within asks, why do you keep creating more and more of it? Why not put an end to all the guilt, the shoulds and shouldn’t haves, the only ifs and whens? Why not stop the exhausting drive for perfection?

If I’m serious about ending the needless suffering, I need to peel off the “good” and “bad” labels I put on everything. I have to stop the judgements. I also have to stop being so dependent on outside events, on other people and their opinions, and on my own thoughts and feelings.

I’ve been so dependent on a variety of people, things and invisible forces that I’m like a small child perched on one end of a see-saw, always waiting to see who’ll sit on the other side, before I can know how high or low they’ll take me.

How I long to connect with that inner stillness I’ve been reading so much about. That pure, perfect, beautiful, unconditional love that’s apparently a part of me. If only I could know, really know, that the essence of who I am is like the clear blue sky, then I wouldn’t be so disturbed and even altered by the lightning and the storm clouds.

All I have to do is accept myself exactly as I am. And accept others for who they are. And accept situations and feelings just as they are too. All I have to do is accept graciously and love unconditionally. But how do I get there?

I guess the first step of all this acceptance stuff is to accept that I don’t have all the answers and that I’m just not there yet.

And so I start to run. The wind settles, the sun beams down from a clear blue sky, and, I shit you not, I run right underneath a rainbow.

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