I pick up a little book called Tuesdays with Morrie while on holidays in Spain. I saw it years ago but avoided it because the blurb on the back made me worry that it’d be a depressing read. It is about a dying professor (Morrie Schwartz) and his younger student (Mitch Albom). This time, I am ready. I devour it in two sittings. And I cry and cry and cry.
It isn’t that it’s unbearably sad. It’s just so touching, it moves me like nothing else has for a long time. I can feel Morrie’s energy with me as I finish the memoir. I love him. I can honestly say that he (and the endearingly honest Mitch) has changed my life. The gradual shift in Mitch’s attitude inspires me almost as much as Morrie’s wisdom.
Morrie allowed himself to let go, to be vulnerable, and to ask for help. He observed that, when you’re an infant, you need help from others and, when you grow old, you require their assistance also. However, what we fail to acknowledge is that we need other people in between times too.
Morrie told the tale of the little wave that witnessed other waves crashing against the shore. The wave wailed, fearfully: “Oh no, look! This is the fate that awaits us. How horrible!” Another wave reassured him: “Don’t fret, little one, for you are not a wave, you are part of the ocean.” As Rumi wrote: “You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean, in a drop.”
Morrie’s message has made me realise how closed off I’d become. I’d tell myself that “I like my own space”. I’d go home while co-workers would sit and have tea, a chat and a laugh. I’d stay alone in the flat watching episode after episode of The Good Wife. I’d spend weekends preparing classes instead of exploring the countryside with loved ones. I’d retire early rather than spend time with friends.
I still believe that there should be a balance between rest, work and play and between stillness, silence and moments of noise and interaction. But Morrie’s story has shown me that the most important thing in life is to love. To share what you have with others. To give another human being the gift of your time. Morrie said that he was always 100 per cent present with whomever he was speaking. When he was talking with Mitch, he thought only of Mitch. This resonates with me as I am often in the company of others when I’m not really there. I’m thinking of what needs to be done, or how I shouldn’t have eaten that or I might even be putting a photo through Instagram while somebody attempts to converse with me.
Morrie’s big, brave, generous heart has made me resolve to really live life, to connect with people, to appreciate nature, to question the values we’ve been brainwashed into adopting, to understand that love and peace are what’s true and priceless compared with ever-changing, unreliable material and physical possessions. One of my new goals is to do something that makes me feel alive every single day. I also promise to be present with people, as if each encounter were our last, and to ask, in the words of Robert Holden in his book Loveability: “How can I love you more?”
I have a couple of hours before I have to head for the airport. I could go for a last swim at what the locals call the “healing beach”. But it’s a bit of a walk, I mentally argue. And it’d mean packing a wet bikini. Then, I remember that I’m living life. So I set off in my flip-flops, carrying a pink towel. A line of ants and a yellow butterfly cross my path. A lone purple wildflower on this dry dirt track reduces me to tears. I offer an Hola and a smile to an old man sitting alone. He returns my smile, its corners clipped with surprise. An elderly couple stroll ahead, hand-in-hand. Yet again, my eyes mist. I beam as I spot a set of keys a stranger has carefully balanced atop a bollard.
My breasts bob and sway as my feet flap upon the sand. I feel like an ancient elephant striding across the desert. I inhale the scent of my sweat that has collected in cracks and creases. A homeless man sits on a wall behind the beach. I abandon my beach bag and strip. I don’t suck in my stomach. Not today. I duck my head into the ocean even though my hair was freshly washed this morning. I am alive.
Mitch and Morrie used to say, “We’re Tuesday people” because they usually met on Tuesdays. And I am writing this piece on a Tuesday, watching the waves surge and retreat, with tears in my eyes and a heart that’s breaking… wide open.
Image: Author’s own
Posted in Spirituality
Tagged stillness, peace, energy, nature, grief, love, death, heart, life, sadness, friends, spain, spirituality, inspiration, family, time, understanding, beauty, society, letting go, universe, thoughts, living, gratitude, sharing, impermanence, generosity, tears, heartbreak, silence, holidays, ocean, communication, truth, brainwashing, humanity, human beings, compassion, photos, gift, past, present, thinking, help, appreciation, vulnerability, future, loved ones, physical, attitude, togetherness, rumi, robert holden, people, tuesdays with morrie, mitch albom, instagram, smartphone, material, spiritual, values, loveability, drop, waves, whole, shift, morrie schwartz
I showed one of my Positive Living groups the following videos. For those who’ve already seen (or couldn’t be bothered watching) them, the first one is about how we perceive ourselves, how we hone in our flaws and imperfections, and how we don’t see the beauty that other people see in us.
The second is a spoof on the first and I cried actual tears, it was so funny.
Afterwards, we drew pictures of how our souls might look like. I instructed the class not to think too much, to just go with the feeling. Below is a picture of my soul, drawn my me.
Then, I told the class to draw a picture of how they feel the soul of the person sitting beside them might appear. I reminded them not to worry about it being a work of art, to simply allow it to flow. Because I was teaching, I was sitting at the top of the room so there was no way my partner could have seen the picture I had just drawn of my own soul. Five minutes later, I was presented with this.
We squealed in disbelief and hugged. We had drawn almost the same image of my soul, except she had made it bigger, more vibrant and even more beautiful. And it’s not unlike the Sacred Heart, which is regularly depicted in Christian art as a flaming heart shining with divine light. Maybe it’s not so unusual to imagine a glowing heart when connecting with one’s soul but nobody else in the class drew a heart for themselves or for anybody else.
This was a great exercise and I thoroughly enjoyed drawing like a little kid, totally absorbed in colour, connection and creation. Why don’t you try it with your children, partners or friends? You’ll be amazed at what manifests.
Posted in Random, Spirituality
Tagged art, beauty, body image, children, classes, coincidence, colour, comedy, connection, creativity, dove real beauty sketches, dove real beauty sketches - men, drawing, imperfections, inner child, laughter, positive living group, self-criticism, self-love, soul, spoof, synchronicity, teaching
I was about to leave my family home this morning when I spotted a daddy-long-legs (crane fly) moving on the spare bed in my childhood bedroom. I’d first seen it on Saturday night. Half of its legs lay a couple of inches away from its body. I’d presumed it dead. But it had been suffering there for at least two days. I agonised over what to do.
The humane option would be to kill it, I thought. But why should I have the power to decide to end its life? If I lost a leg, I’d still have the will to live. I’d still have hope for my survival. But there were no other daddy-long-legs rushing to its rescue and there were no daddy-long-leg hospitals that I knew of. It would be easier to simply leave it there but who knew how long it would remain in pain before it eventually died. It was all alone. I brought my face close and inspected it. Did it have a chance? “I’m sorry,” I whispered.
Lots of people don’t think twice about killing healthy insects. Mosquitoes, ants, even spiders. But I didn’t want to kill any living creature. Was that selfish of me? I would allow it to continue to writhe there because I didn’t want to feel bad. I was going to feel bad either way. If I believed in reincarnation, the daddy-long-legs wouldn’t die as such, it would simply move on to the next part of its journey. Maybe it would come back as something much better than a daddy-long-legs. Then again, who am I to judge what a good incarnation is? Oftentimes, being a human is so complicated that maybe living as a daddy-long-legs would be a relief.
I probably shouldn’t interfere with its fate, I pondered. Perhaps I could throw it out the window, let it back outdoors where it belonged. Although if I had just had my leg amputated, being thrown from a two-storey building would be my very last preference. If I squished it, would that be a sin? Surely not if I believed I was doing the right thing.
Eventually, I scooped it up in a piece of tissue and killed it. It was difficult but, once I decided to do it, I did it quick. I brought it to the bathroom, flushed it down the toilet, then sat on the edge of the bath and cried. I have no idea if I made the correct choice. I’m sorry, little guy. I really am.
Posted in Spirituality
Tagged afterlife, agony, animals, belief, choice, crane fly, daddy-long-legs, emotion, euthanasia, fate, forgiveness, guilt, heaven, humanity, killing, kindness, life, murder, pain, power, reincarnation, right and wrong, sadness, selfish, selfless, sin, spirituality, suffering
Today, I overheard a man ask a woman a rather unusual question: “What would you do if you had a big bag of feathers and the wind caught it and blew the feathers all over the place?” I couldn’t hear the woman’s response but she looked indignant. The man considered his companion’s answer before saying: “You should see it as a challenge. You should look at what kind of day it is and enjoy picking up each and every feather.”
I felt like I needed to hear this strange conversation. Just earlier, I had read an article that caught my attention because its title was “Having a Low Point is Actually a Good Thing”. And tonight, a friend was texting me about living in the present moment. Yet again, life was waving a giant banner in my line of sight until I could ignore it no longer.
I’ve written a lot about acceptance and being present yet I still struggle when I trip up. It was only a few days ago when I stumbled upon (excuse the pun) this quote:
“The difference between stumbling blocks and stepping-stones is how you use them.” Even though I believe that everything happens for a reason, I grow impatient every once in a while. I curse my “bad luck”. I wonder if I’ll ever have all the things I want to have. I try to control when things happen and what they’re going to look like. I know it’s foolish. And I know it’s impossible to forecast the outcome of every situation. Woody Allen once said: If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”
I realise that what I think would be best for me may in fact limit me in the long run. This is why, when people ask God or The Universe for something, they add: “This or something better.” I can’t tell what wonderful things are waiting for me in the wings. But I do know that worrying about the future or feeling lack instead of abundance is not helping me get where I want to get or, more importantly, enjoy where I am right now.
Tonight, as I flicked through Thich Nhat Hanh’s Anger, I came across a simple meditation. It involves silently saying these words: “Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out. In, out.” Now, that is taking life moment by moment. It may appear boring or tedious or frustrating but it is simple. And simple is exactly what I need. In, out. Here, now. Feather by beautiful feather.
Posted in Spirituality
Tagged abundance, acceptance, alissa finerman, anger, beauty, breath, challenge, control, destiny, fate, frustration, future, god, impatience, lack, life, limitations, luck, manifestation, meditation, patience, plans, positively positive, present moment, regret, struggle, the universe, thich nhat hanh, woody allen, worry
I came across an interesting quote in a book last week. It went something like this: “The purpose of all suffering is the development of compassion.” For the past few days, I’ve been suffering with a pain in my right hip. I’ve noticed that, because of this pain, I haven’t been in as good form or as present as I had been.
As I was crossing the street this morning, a car came towards me. I decided not to run as I was afraid my hip would crack out of place. I remembered those times that I felt angered by people who sauntered in front of me as I drove. I thought such pedestrians were cocky and the dark side of me had wanted to rev up and give them a fright. Today, I realised that perhaps some of those people were physically unable to speed up.
The other night, a friend was describing his travels in India. He had stayed with a number of Catholic families on his way. He couldn’t get over their unshakable faith. He said that, each morning as they rose, they gave gratitude that they were alive for one more day. They were utterly joyous. They even gave gratitude for the “negative” parts of their lives. In fact, it was the first thing they did upon hearing bad news. They believed that everything was unfolding exactly as it should.
My attitude regarding my hip was wrong. It certainly wasn’t serving me in any positive way. I was annoyed that it wasn’t disappearing immediately, I was frustrated that I wasn’t able to do as much in the gym, I didn’t want to look like a cripple as I walked, and I was afraid that it wouldn’t get better. I decided to shift my attitude to gratitude.
Perhaps I was given this pain to, quite literally, stop me in my tracks. Maybe I needed to rest more or look at or change something in my life. This pain was also lending me compassion and understanding for others. Each time I winced as I moved, I remembered my aunt who’s been suffering with chronic hip and back pain for many years. I thought of clients who’ve told me of their debilitating pains. I’d always wanted to help these people but now I actually understood how they were really feeling.
Recently, Denise Linn spoke on Hay House Radio about steps for releasing fear. One of the steps was to give it new meaning. She asked, “What could be really good about it?” One of the answers she gave was cultivating compassion for others. This step can be used with any unwanted emotion or circumstance. It also allows you to face, allow, accept and even embrace the situation.
I still have the pain and I’m still struggling with the resting part of the equation but I am aware of the extra understanding and compassion I’ve gained as a result of this. Simply bringing acceptance to it is a relief. It takes away the struggle, the resistance, the fight. This even helps me physically as I’m letting go of the emotions that are causing tightness and rigidity in my body. And when I add gratitude, I remember the Indian families my friend spoke about and I feel humbled.
“The purpose of all compassion is the development of compassion.” Alicia Lee (2010) Homeopathic Mind Maps: Remedies of the Animal Kingdom.
Posted in Health, Positive Thinking, Spirituality
Tagged acceptance, alicia lee, anger, attitudes, back pain, catholicism, chronic pain, compassion, dark side, denise linn, emotions, faith, fear, fight, frustration, god, gratitude, hay house radio, health, hip pain, homeopathic mind maps: remedies of the animal kingdom, humble, india, joy, letting go, negativity, pain, positive thinking, present, release, rigidity, struggle, suffering, understanding
Tonight I watched Kumaré, a documentary about a man who impersonates an Indian guru. Having become disillusioned with religion and faith, gurus and masters, Vikram Gandhi decides to fake it. He adopts an Indian accent, grows out his hair and beard, and sports orange robes and a comical staff.
Before long, Sri Kumaré has gathered a loyal following for his self-made teachings, pushing the boundaries as far as he can. It is amazing but not all that surprising to see how readily people believe and how willingly they devote themselves to him.
It is not Vikram’s intention to fool or humiliate these people. He simply wants to demonstrate that there is a guru within each and every one of us. That we already have all the answers. That we don’t need to give our power away by looking outside of ourselves for guidance. That we shouldn’t have to follow anyone else’s orders or advice. Sri Kumaré tells his devotees: “You are all great beings and you must stop pretending that you are not.”
Interestingly, Vikram realises that his new persona is the best version of himself. He is happier and more loving and connected than he ever was as Vikram Gandhi. But he must unveil the illusion in order to teach his lesson. By revealing who he really is, he hopes to reveal the guru inside each of his followers. And speaking of revealing, don’t worry, I’m not about to give away the ending.
In India, the greeting “Namaste” is frequently used. It means “I bow to you” and it is accompanied with a slight bow made with hands pressed together in front of the chest. The gesture represents the belief that there is a divine spark within each of us. I love the idea of saluting the divinity in every person I encounter. But it must start with oneself.
An old Zen koan attributed to Linji Yixuan goes like this: “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” This means that you should not worship any one person or value anyone else’s opinions over your own. Yes, it’s great to meet a wise person who shares their valuable teachings. But the smart thing to do is to take what they say and then allow it to sit with you. Is it right for you? What is your intuition or gut telling you? Give yourself time and space in silence to listen to yourself. As your own best guru, only you can lead your way. Namaste.
Posted in Modern Society, Spirituality
Tagged buddha, cult, divinity, god, guru, hindu, illusion, india, intuition, kumare, linji yixuan, master, namaste, religion, sanskrit, self-confidence, spirituality, trust, truth, unveiling, vikram gandhi, vulnerable, yogi, zen koan
In his movie The Shift, Dr Wayne W. Dyer speaks about the first nine months of our lives. He points out that, in utero, everything is taken care of for us. We don’t worry about how we’re going to look or what we’re going to do when we leave the womb. We simply are. We are in total surrender.
Dr Dyer then puts forward this theory: If everything is looked after for us while we are in our mothers’ bellies, who’s to say that the same doesn’t hold true throughout the rest of our lives? So, when you’re worried about money, your career, health, children or love life, take a step back and let go of control. Release your ego’s expectations of how you think things should happen. Everything is unfolding exactly as it should. This does not mean that you give up. It is the opposite of giving up. It is trusting that all is well.
I came across this quote recently by an unknown author: “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” And Florence Scovel Shinn wrote: “Replace fear with faith.” I remind myself regularly of these two quotes. Some people think that faith and surrender are too passive, even stupid, that we have free will and need to take action in order to survive. I believe that once we, as Florence Scovel Shinn put it, replace fear with faith, we become more aligned with our true potential and purpose. Grievances, hardships, mistakes and disappointments no longer have such a strong hold over us. We have faith that we are loved and that all is well. Thus, we are stronger and more confident in our quest to live life fully and to fulfil our destiny.
We were born as human beings onto this planet and we are an integral part of this magnificent universe. However, soon after our birth, we began to doubt our perfection. We started to question our self-worth by filling our minds with fears, worries and insecurities. We have removed ourselves from the present moment and insist on living out of the past and the future. We don’t believe that we will be okay, that we are okay. Yet, we trust that the animals, trees, plants and flowers are okay. They grow and feed and reproduce without worrying. They have all that they need when they need it. And when they lose their leaves or wilt or even die, we trust that it’s part of the natural process. New leaves and flowers appear. Saplings bounce out of the earth. Why should we doubt that this does not apply to us as humans?
We are a perfect creation of God. We were born out of pure love. We are pure love. What we call evil or sin is just a movement away from God, away from love. And God loves us regardless. It is this unconditional love that we need to accept. This trust that all is well. This surrender to the wisdom, beauty and omnipotence of the Universe. For once we surrender, we can truly appreciate and enjoy each and every moment.
Posted in Spirituality
Tagged acceptance, beauty, birth, career, children, confidence, death, destiny, doubt, dr wayne w dyer, earth, ego, faith, fear, florence scovel-shinn, god, health, humanity, insecurities, life, love, money, nature, omnipotence, perfection, potential, present moment, purpose, relationships, self-worth, surrender, the shift, trust, uncertainty, unconditional love, universe, wisdom, worry
There is no better spiritual practice than doing the things that make you happy. Happiness is your meditation, your mantra, your prayer. Laughter is your therapy, your medicine, your exercise. Self-love is the only diet you need, the best relationship you can have, and the greatest education you can undertake.
You don’t need rules, regulations and hardship to achieve happiness. Do what you love. Live your joy, your enthusiasm, your inspiration. Anita Moorjani tells us to be ourselves, recognise our magnificence, and live our lives fearlessly. There is no better message. It is so simple. If we understood this on a deep level and really believed it, we would never need another self-help book.
Robert Holden said: “You will never become happy. You can only be happy.” Stop striving for happiness. Be it. Don’t wait until you’re on holiday or in a relationship or earning enough money before you’ll allow yourself to feel happy. As the old adage goes, “There’s no time like the present.” I say, There’s no time but the present. So give yourself the gift of happiness right now.
Life doesn’t have to be as difficult as we make it out to be. If your raw food diet is making you miserable, the thought of meditating for an hour is bringing you out in a sweat, your stack of still-to-read self-help books is putting you under pressure, and the gym is about as alluring as a garlic-smothered crucifix would be to a vampire, give yourself a break.
Wander around the library and treat yourself to that novel everyone’s been raving about. Bake carrot cake muffins. Dance. Sing. Paint. Swim in the river and feast your eyes on the ocean. Travel to foreign cities and sample their culture, their language, their cafés. Give someone a hug. A real hug. Spend time with friends and be present with them. Laugh. Cry. Play with your children. Light a fire and watch a wonderful movie with a sweet mug of tea. Go hiking in the mountains. This is your life. Be yourself and do it your way. Love it. Live it. Do it now.
Posted in Spirituality, Uncategorized
Tagged anita moorjani, being present, diet, family, friends, fun, happiness, hardship, health, laughter, life, love, meditation, robert holden, self-help, self-love, spirituality