Lost in Thought

It’s after midnight so it is now the first of September. My self-determined challenges for this month are to stop biting my lip and fingers (something I’ve been doing since I was a child) and to be present (and whenever I discover that I’m not being present, I’ll gently bring myself back).

Tonight, I lie in bed, wide awake. I cry for my friend Michelle, who died suddenly. Since receiving the shocking and upsetting news, my emotions have become heightened.

I went for a long walk today and photographed the sun in the trees. I gazed delightedly at the yellow crescent moon perched low in the dusky sky. Music pulses through my body like blood.

I feel for Michelle and her parents. I remember the times we had together. I wonder how I’ll be at her funeral.

My mind flits from Michelle to a guy I’m interested in to an upcoming holiday to work and back to Michelle. I bite my lip.

I glance at the time. It’s twenty-five minutes past midnight. It’s September, I realise with a jolt and snatch my hand away from my mouth. I’m supposed to be present now.

I groan as I recognise that sometimes I actually enjoy being entertained by the drama of my mind. I quite like fantasising and reminiscing and anticipating. Mindfulness can be boring, right? Twenty-five minutes in and I’m already resisting the challenge.

The clock creeps past one am. I know that my mind is keeping me awake, like an enthusiastic relative back from their travels, telling me stories and bombarding me with pictures.

It’s late and I’m still wired. Not so entertaining now, is it? Maybe being present would be a good idea, I decide.

My breath deepens. I sink into my body and snuggle into the bed. My mind escapes again. And again. I patiently allow it to shuffle back. My shoulders drop. I stop holding on so tight. And I fall asleep.

Perhaps living in the past and potential future is just another bad habit like biting my lip and fingers. Apparently it takes 21 days to make or break a habit. Thirty days hath September. So let’s see if this month bestows me with boredom or liberation and peace…

How will you challenge yourself this month?

Safe journey, Michelle. Rest in peace xxx

Safe journey, Michelle. Rest in peace xxx

Image: Author’s Own.

Testing, testing

I’ve noticed that, when things are going well and I think I’ve learned so much, I get tested on it. As much as I’d rather the good times keep rolling, these tests do push me further along on my journey and make me appreciate the view all the more once I’ve achieved the arduous climb.

In the past few weeks, I’ve experienced some wonderful opportunities that have filled me with anxiety. Despite the temptation to remain tucked tight in my comfort zone, I’ve risen to these challenges with courage and I’ve been able to acknowledge my determination and skills.

Over the past while, I’ve also been faced with a number of not so pleasant challenges. These circumstances have demonstrated how swiftly I can be blown out of the present moment, how easily my enjoyment of life is snatched away, and how much power I hand over to other people and things.

On the upside, these challenges have highlighted how different I am now, how much more I value myself, how aware I am of my own reactions, how I refuse to be sucked into the drama, and how quickly I can bring myself back.

A Hay House Radio presenter suggests viewing a painful situation not as something to avoid and be frustrated about but as an opportunity for growth.

It may be difficult to see the positive in current tribulations so imagine that you can see into the future. In the big picture, this trialling time will probably work as a catalyst for change or it will be used as a stepping stone towards your highest good.

Are you facing any challenges right now? If you’re human, you very likely are. What is this challenge showing you? Is it presenting you with an opportunity for growth? If so, lean into it. Good luck!

Listen

As I climb into bed, various opinions and pieces of advice that people have given me over the years flash into my mind. I recall their musings on my life and on what I should and shouldn’t be doing.

After bulldozing in with their tuppence worth, these supposed do-gooders continued on with their lives without a second thought. Meanwhile, I attached more value to their throwaway comments than to my own lifetime experience of being me.

I’ve spent long enough caring about how others perceive me. I’ve winced at their judgements, flinched at their criticism, basked in their compliments, and hoped for their approval.

Before taking action, I presumed how other people would react. This ineffective technique of mind-reading actually influenced how I was feeling and the choices I made.

Now in my thirty-fifth year on this planet, I’m finally getting sense. I understand that anything anyone says is coming from their perspective. People dish out suggestions that are based on a minuscule snapshot of my life. And even that tiny glimpse is filtered through the lens of their own history and beliefs.

Last night, as I walked alongside my sister, I was tempted to ask for her thoughts on something I’d spoken about earlier. But I realised that I would be doing it out of habit. It didn’t really matter what she thought about this subject. Getting her to advise me would be a waste of her energy because I knew that I would go with my gut anyway. And I mightn’t even want to hear what she had to say.

Not many people enjoy being told what to do. Nobody likes feeling judged either. And how can anyone know with absolute certainty what’s right for another person?  By doling out our opinions and “friendly” advice, we run the risk of blocking the flow of communication.

All we have to do is be there for one another. We don’t have to stress about giving the right guidance. What a relief not to have to be responsible for coming up with the answers or fixing everyone else’s problems.

Instead of handing out answers, start asking questions. This will facilitate lateral thinking, which will enable the other person to open up to previously unexplored options.

Support your friends/family/partners/clients in whatever course of action they decide to take. Listen to them. And more importantly, really hear what they’re expressing.

All we really want is for someone to just be with us and really hear what it is we’re saying. Because when we are heard, we feel understood. And when we feel understood by another human being, that is the beauty of true connection.

quoteswave.com

quoteswave.com

Breaking out of the Comfort Zone

On the drive over to a riverside festival, my friend challenges me to do one thing that will take me out of my comfort zone.

We chat to the locals, admire paintings and jewellery, drink beer out of plastic cups, laugh at a raft race and a tug-of-war, and listen to live music. The day grows dark and I still haven’t completed my task.

After a mesmerising performance by a bodhrán player, I tap the man on the shoulder and say: “Hi, I’m Sharon. I want to tell you something but I’m saying it without expectation. I don’t want anything from you. But I just have to let you know you that you’re the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen. And you’re very talented.” He blinks incredulously, thanks me and moves away.

Later in a different pub, the sexy musician comes back to me and says: “I was so shocked earlier that I was speechless. But I want to thank you for the lovely compliment. I hope you have a great night.” And I do.

Now I challenge you, dear reader, to do one thing this week that will take you out of your comfort zone. Do let me know how you get on. Have fun!

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fishki.net

The Makeup of Self-Image

My friend and I are getting ready to go out. I am without a mirror as I sweep a mascara wand through my lashes. My hand slips and I know that I probably have black smudges on my cheek and eyelid.

I get up, about to rush to a mirror so I can correct the damage. My friend stops me and dares me not to change anything. “For how long,” I ask, a note of panic in my voice. “Ten minutes,” she decides.

As I sit there, I am amazed at the feelings and judgements that surface. Words like silly, stupid, ugly, imperfect and weird flash menacingly into my mind. I haven’t even left the house or come into contact with anyone besides this one friend. And it’s only makeup. I’m like my very own classroom bully.

My friend watches me with interest as a range of emotions pass through me.  I look her right in the eye and sigh, “I’m going to need more than ten minutes.”

Awake and Aware

In order to wind down for the evening, I stick on an episode of The Mentalist. After about five minutes, I switch it off. I sigh. There’s nothing happening on Facebook. Nobody’s texting me. I don’t feel like reading. I self-diagnose “boredom”.

I take out my iPod, turn off the light and lie there listening to a Sleepy Time playlist I compiled a few years ago. A recent conversation with a friend comes to mind. She spoke about feeling that she has to be doing all the time. When she’s doing nothing, she gets into a bad mood. “Why can’t I just be,” she asks rhetorically.

I become aware that, right now, there is a need in me for excitement. I’m not being present. I’m wishing and longing for action, for something more. With this realisation, comes a feeling of space and acceptance and gratitude for what I do have.

I notice the beauty of this moment. The darkness of the room. The feeling of the bed beneath me. The lamplight pooling underneath the curtains. The music with its keening harmonica and evocative expression of passion. And the energy that I feel coursing through my body.

I don’t have to wait for something big to happen so that I can relish the moment. Every single moment is an opportunity to be present to it, to welcome it, to expand into it, and to be all that I am.

If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat

The other day, my friend told me she’s reading a book called If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat. “What a great title,” I exclaimed.

My friend replied: “I know. It’s really good so far. It’s all about looking at what your boat represents and when you should and shouldn’t get out of it.” “Yeah,” I muse. “It’s so true. The boat is your comfort zone. You want to do amazing things but you have to challenge yourself in order to do them. It’s so easy to stay in the boat. It’s safe. But you could walk on water if you just got out!”

Last night, I was having a similar conversation with another friend. She spoke about how opportunities often come our way but we have to be open to receiving and accepting them. “That’s a good point,” I agreed. “We need to be open to receiving them and we have to have courage to accept the challenge.”

Right now, I’m feeling anxious about an upcoming event. I want to not be so nervous. I’ve done the preparation and I’m getting on with my day but my stomach still hosts a basket of butterflies.

Suddenly, the book title pops into my head and I realise that I’m lucky to have something like this to be nervous about. This is what it feels like to get out of my comfort zone. I’m open to opportunity. I’m saying yes and rising to the challenge. I should be proud of myself. And I know I’ll do well and I’ll be delighted that I’ve gone through with it.

From now on, I’m going to treasure that feeling I get when I step uncertainly out of the boat, unsure if I’ll get wet or make a fool of myself or even drown. Because this is what it feels like to be alive. This is what it means to say yes to life.