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 appreciation, attitude, beauty, brainwashing, communication, compassion, death, drop, energy, family, friends, future, generosity, gift, gratitude, grief, heart, heartbreak, help, holidays, human beings, humanity, impermanence, inspiration, instagram, letting go, life, living, love, loveability, loved ones, material, mitch albom, morrie schwartz, nature, ocean, past, peace, people, photos, physical, present, robert holden, rumi, sadness, sharing, shift, silence, smartphone, society, spain, spiritual, spirituality, stillness, tears, thinking, thoughts, time, togetherness, truth, tuesdays with morrie, understanding, universe, values, vulnerability, waves, whole
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 forced myself out for a walk yesterday even though the weather was being particularly indecisive. It went from sunny blue skies to windy dark grey to pelting rain in mere minutes. As I headed up the street, raindrops began to appear, slowly at first like the initial deliberate bursts of popcorn, then hard and fast and loud. No, I muttered silently. Please don’t. Then I realised that my resistance, my pleading and cursing, wasn’t going to stop the rain from falling. It was just going to make me feel miserable.
Desiring something to be different from the way it is brings us out of alignment with reality, which naturally creates unhappiness and frustration. So I looked up and said, Do what you have to do. I shrugged off thoughts of Everything’s going to get so wet, dumped them on the ground beside me and walked away, eyes scrunched and hair matted against my face.
I felt a strange sense of elation. A Fuck you world mixed with Bring it. I wanted to punch the air and sprint past sheep and shriek along to Ellie Goulding’s Halcyon.
You know that point when you understand that you are powerless? That life will continue to roll no matter what reservations you might have. That moment when you simply give up. And in that instant, you feel oddly powerful. Free. Like you’re riding the waves instead of swimming against them. It’s exhilarating.
My lower back is still stiff and painful but now, instead of struggling against it, I’m leaning into it. I’ve stopped the hard-core gym sessions and started doing gentler exercises at home. I discovered a Pilates studio in Newbridge and attended it for the first time this morning. A man approached me about a new yoga class he’s setting up next week. And I’m getting out in the fresh air and daylight for invigorating walks in the Irish weather.
As I neared home, the sky cleared. I gazed at enormous tree trunks, orange berries and smiling daffodils, and I nodded: Yes, all is well.
Check out this lady making the most of her time waiting for a bus. It brings to mind the following poem:
“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.”
Posted in Health, Positive Thinking
Tagged acceptance, alignment, anger, back pain, beauty, contentment, dance like there's nobody watching, dancing queen at the bus stop, desire, ellie goulding, exercise, exhilaration, fate, freedom, frustration, gym, halcyon, happiness, health, healthy-living, injury, ireland, joy, mental-health, misery, nature, newbridge, outdoors, pilates, power, powerless, serenity, surrender, trust, unhappiness, walking, weather, yoga
“I have an idea for a blog post for you,” someone told me this morning. “I was walking and, because it was raining, all the worms were out. I hate worms! Then, I realised that I always walk with my head down.”
I interjected: “That mustn’t be very enjoyable.”
“No it’s not,” she agreed.
“It’s great when you get these insights,” I commented. She nodded. “So, what’s the deeper meaning? The analogy for life,” I asked.
“Well,” she mused, “isn’t there some saying that goes like: ‘When you look down, all you see is the muck and the worms. When you look up, you can see the stars.’ Or something?”
Em, I’ve never heard that one before but I love the message that this woman has taken from it. When we’re plodding along in life, we’re focusing on the ugly and the mundane. All we can see is what’s wrong in our lives and what we’re afraid of. But when we have the confidence to hold our heads high, we catch a glimpse of the miraculous beauty and abundance that surrounds us.
Insight can visit us in the strangest of ways. Keep your head up and your eyes open and you’ll be amazed at what’s staring you right in the face. This morning, the rain-inspired worms helped open one lady’s eyes to the possibilities that lay just one chin-tilt away…
Posted in Random
Tagged abundance, awakening, beauty, boring, fear, insight, inspiration, life, mundane, nature, wisdom
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
Here’s one of my poems that my aunt read at the coffee morning yesterday…
in the hard concrete elbow
that joins kerbside and road
pink cherry blossoms
their once striking complexions
tainted with grey.
Maybe in minutes
a light summer breeze
will entice them to
rise in unison
with the sigh of the wind
like the hollow blow of a flute.
They’ll shake off their ashes
and revive all their passion
as they fly between sunbeams
these light fuchsia angels.
My aunt was asked to read a poem at a coffee morning this Monday so she phoned me looking for a few of mine to choose from. As I transcribed some of my words, I remembered the utter joy of poetry. Here’s one I wrote a few years ago…
Give her beauty and passion
and she sparks into flight
like a butterfly on acid
throwing light with her wings.
Oh how she casts rainbows
in the tears that spill
and plucks golden harps
of melodious laughter.
Her fires blaze in the hot eyes
of a fervent lover
while pleasure drops in sweat
She lurks amongst the Autumn leaves
gurgles in a virgin stream and
leaps off purple mountain peaks.
I see her fall with the whispering mists
and rise on the coin of sunshine.
Dizzily spinning beside moon and stars,
her silhouette rides angry clouds
that rage against the tranquil skies.
She swoops through many foreign lands
stealing romance and sweet aromas
then feeds me words not yet understood.
Forever roaming the ocean
glancing at corners
urgently probing for
just one sliver of poetry
to cover the silence
of this naked page
and awaken the butterflies
so I don’t plunge
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
I am lying in bed when Johann Pachelbel’s Canon starts playing. Tears spring to my eyes at the sheer happiness that emanates from this orchestra. In these five beautiful minutes, I marvel at how music must have been discovered. At how a violin is carved out of wood. And how someone decided to add strings and a bow and a chin rest. I marvel at the hours of practice, passion and dedication of the musicians. At how they all come together to play this magnificent piece of music. And how they must be feeling to be part of this wonderful creation. I marvel at how one man in 17th century Germany was inspired to compose such a masterpiece. And finally, I marvel at how all the violins and bows and musicians and passion and discovery and inspiration all sum up to this…