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
The other day, someone generously sent me an audiobook of The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff, which is an introduction to Taoism using the characters of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories. Tao literally means “way” and Taoism emphasises simplicity, compassion, moderation, humility and spontaneity. This book describes the virtues of Taoism with wit and ease.
Once I finished the book, I put my iTunes into shuffle mode. Curiously, one chapter of The Tao of Pooh came on a number of times. I listened with interest as the narrator spoke about “inner nature” and how we try to put square pegs into round holes by trying to be something we are not.
How often we try to fit in with what our society dictates to us, with what we are told is desirable and what we feel is expected of us by parents, teachers and politicians. How we do do do, rush, worry and stress instead of simply being. We are all different. We each have different interests and talents. We should not all attempt to fit into the same “perfect” mould of what we think is appropriate. We worry that others will not approve of us if we veer off the well-trodden path. But isn’t that boring? And unrealistic? We could always find our own way. A way of really living. A way of seeing the beauty of life instead of the monotony of what’s deemed to be “normal”. A way of not always trying so hard. Because if we honour our true inner nature, living becomes effortless.
I recall a college student telling me: “Growing up is horrible. I used to wish I was older. But there’s so much stress and responsibility. I hate college. Why does it have to be like this? I wish I could just run away.” Is this how our youth should feel about life and their future? This young adult was already deadening her spirit in order to “survive”. But as it says on this blog’s tagline, “life is about more than just surviving”.
In society today, during their most creative and energetic years, children are locked into schools where they are force-fed material in order to pass the exams that will enable them to spend most of the rest of their lives in jobs that they probably won’t enjoy. And the “underclass” of society on welfare have to wait in demeaning queues for handouts and are made to feel that they are a drain on the country’s wealth.
I’m currently reading Gerard Leahy’s Towards a Jobless Society. This book really peaked my interest as it got me thinking about society in a way that I never even dreamed possible. While it’s tempting to tell you every single thing Leahy suggests, I’ll try to summarise his views succinctly.
Leahy believes that the job-oriented society we are living in is depressing and unsustainable. With the advances in technology, a lot of jobs have become redundant. We have the means to produce goods extremely cost-effectively. However, governments are insistent on giving grants and subsidies to keep other companies in business to compete with the companies that are offering cheaper products. Despite these technological advancements, the economy is not any wealthier because consumers have to pay increased taxation to artificially sustain the levels of employment. Governments are also spending money on unnecessary administration and on “job creation”, forcing the unemployed into training for jobs that do not exist. Creating jobs is not the same as creating wealth, which is where the focus should really be.
We are human beings born onto this planet so we all deserve a place here and our basic needs should be met. Using an “island model” approach to get his point across, Leahy proposes that all people over 16 years of age receive a basic income. Nobody will “have” to work in order to survive. Without this pressure, people will be able to express their individuality and creative genius. Some will offer their services such as teaching, counselling, policing and healing on a voluntary basis or for a small fee. Others will write, sculpt, act and meditate. People will have time to spend with family and on personal development.
Leahy also suggests that all products and services be subject to a taxation of 50 per cent, which will be divided equally amongst the population. So those who wish to work will have incentive to do so. And those who don’t want to will not feel pressurised.
Imagine a world where the pressure is off, where we can be ourselves, where we have the opportunity to explore our creativity and talents, and time to work on our personal and spiritual development. Where it is okay to simply be. Where we have the license to share our unique selves with one another. This way of simplicity, spontaneity, compassion, moderation and humility is the way of this wonderful world. It certainly sounds good to me.
After writing this post, someone showed me the following video narrated by the great Alan Watts…
Posted in Modern Society
Tagged alan watts, approval, benjamin hoff, career, children, college, depression, enjoyment, exams, family, frustration, gerard leahy, government, grants, individuality, island model, job creation, jobs, life, money, parents, politicians, politics, pressure, quality, school, society, survival, taoism, taxation, teachers, the tao of pooh, towards a jobless society, underclass, unemployed, university, wealth, welfare, work
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
As babies, we know what we want and we aren’t afraid to ask for it. People around us care for us and love us unconditionally. As toddlers, we don’t worry about yesterday or tomorrow. We are completely present as we absorb ourselves in play, touch and laughter. We believe that the universe revolves around us. As children, we understand our perfection. We give love and affection freely and know that we deserve nothing less in return. Nature is our playground. Life is simple and to be enjoyed.
What happened? We were born with all the secrets we need for happiness. We just misplaced them or buried them along the way. Now, we have to find, polish and treasure them forever. How about, this weekend, we spend some quality time with our inner children? Talk to them, be gentle with them, love them, and let them out to play. Have fun!
Posted in Modern Society, Personal development
Tagged affection, carefree, children, fun, future, inner child, laughter, love, nature, past, perfection, play, present, secret to happiness, self-worth, unconditional love, worry
I just watched the season finale of Love/Hate, a hard-hitting Irish drama. I couldn’t believe my reaction when the credits began to roll. I admit that it had been difficult to watch at times but it was such an honest and thought-provoking portrayal of Dublin criminals that it had gripped me right around the jugular. This programme got me thinking in a way I’d never thought possible.
Throughout the series, the viewers got to know, and like, the characters. We watched them progress from naive young adults to violent gang members, desperate drug addicts, prostitutes and murderers.
We all hear the news about massive drug seizures and gang shootings. And it doesn’t have much of an impact on us. We’re just grateful that we’re not involved. We condemn these “low-lives” for choosing such a depraved existence. But what we fail to consider, and what this brilliant drama has demonstrated, is that life is never simply black or white.
The pretty girl, with so much potential, is putting herself in danger to work as a prostitute because she would do anything to get the drugs she’s so dependent upon. The corrupt policeman, who’s being paid by the fearsome gang leader, is too terrified to put a stop to it because his children have been threatened. The young man, who’s already taken the lives of two human beings, cannot look at himself in the mirror. He thinks that if he does this one last job, he’ll be left alone. They all dream of one day walking away from this hideous way of living.
Most of these people would never have willingly chosen to do the things they are now doing. As children, they too had hoped for love and success and happiness. But circumstances have forced them into this. Of course, I don’t condone their behaviour. The taking of a life is especially difficult to comprehend or forgive. But now I understand that we are all just trying to survive this challenging world we live in. And everyone, everyone, has their reasons.
Posted in Modern Society
Tagged 9 crimes, children, choice, circumstances, condemnation, crime, criminals, damien rice, drama, dreams, drug addiction, drug seizures, dublin, fear, forgiveness, gang, happiness, hope, ireland, leader, life, love, love/hate, murder, police, prostitution, shootings, success, terror, tv series, understanding, violence
A few days ago, I came across a new blog. It looked professional and well laid out. But I didn’t persist past the first page as it was just too perfect. The writer advised his readers to keep fit, eat superfoods, and avoid caffeine, alcohol, sugar, oxygen (okay, I’m exaggerating but it was pretty over-the-top).
As children, the adults we trust to be infallible give us a message that is extremely difficult to shake in later life – that we need to be perfect. Our parents try to make sure that we always look and do our best. Our teachers return our copy books, covered in the red pen that highlights all our mistakes. Could do better. Everything we do is graded and marked out of ten.
They honestly think they’re doing us a favour. But it leads us to believe that anything that falls short of perfect is simply not good enough. No wonder we shy away from fulfilling our true potential when we’ve set such impossible standards.
All my life, I’ve strived for perfection. Even writing this, I’m wondering if the past participle of “strive” is “striven” and if I could possibly publish the post without checking. But to prove my point, I’m going to.
I’ve always put myself under an inordinate amount of pressure. Eventually, and understandably, I cracked beneath the weight of it all. From someone who’s been there, I am telling you that it simply isn’t worth it. I’d rather have energy and enjoyment, than pushing and perfection. I won’t lie – it’s still a battle, as the childhood message is so deeply ingrained, but I am gradually letting go.
We all try to do (and be) our best. We boast about our goals and achievements to anyone who’ll listen. Because we’re all looking for some reason to feel superior (or at least equal) to everybody else. We present the most attractive version of ourselves to the outside world, then live in fear at the possibility of someone peeking beneath our carefully constructed masks. The reason we keep up this universal facade is because everyone’s doing it. And even though we know we’re bullshitting, we fail to realise that everybody else is too.
It’s normal to feel lousy on occasion; to prefer to stay indoors in the winter instead of jogging in the rain; to switch off after a hard day by switching on crap TV; to enjoy a pint or an espresso or a banana split.
Nobody looks for a best friend or partner who refuses to eat carbs or set foot inside a pub, who wakes before dawn to hit the gym, and can list all the reasons why one shouldn’t drink coffee or stay in bed past 7 am. Such a “perfect” human being might look good and appear healthy. But they’re hard to relate to and they make us feel bad about ourselves.
If I don’t want a perfect partner or flawless friend, and I can’t even stand to read a meticulous blog, then why the hell do I want to be perfect?
So, why don’t we stick it to society and rejoice in our imperfections? Let’s admit to our flaws and laugh about our mistakes.
Now, how about a little experiment? Do something today that proves that you’re not perfect. How does it feel? Liberating? Thought so.
Posted in Health, Modern Society, Personal development
Tagged blog, children, comparisons, facade, failure, fear, flaws, freedom, friendship, grammar, health, imperfections, liberation, lies, mask, mistakes, parenting, partner, past participle, perfection, pressure, salvadore dali, school, society, strive, teachers, truth
I spotted the first spitting of snow this morning. I know most of us complained about last year’s white spell because it lasted so long. Dates were cancelled, flights were grounded, people were stranded, women couldn’t wear high heels.. However, here are a few reasons why I can’t help feeling excited when I see snowflakes…
No matter who or where you are, you simply have to yell at somebody, anybody, to make sure they can see that IT’S SNOWING!
Everybody could do with a snow day off work / school.
Everything. slows. down.
It’s just so pretty. A blanket of snow can transform the ugliest of settings into a winter wonderland.
It’s the perfect excuse for all things hot… Hot bath, hot stew, hot chocolate, hot port…
I’ll never be too old to delight in being the first to crunch across virgin snow.
Childlike, creative qualities are key – think snowballs, snow angels, snowmen… Last winter, my sister’s boyfriend built a slide and an igloo and drove around on a quad. I know who I’ll be hanging out with this year…
Last December, I met a friend for one hot toddy. We ended up in Swifts, the local (shit) night club, tearing up the dance floor in our hiking boots and wellies. Best night ever!
Hollywood has convinced us that it ain’t really Christmas ’til it snows… Merry Christmas!
Posted in Random
Tagged bath, boyfriend, childlike, children, christmas, creativity, dancing, dates, december, delight, excitement, flights, flights grounded, hiking boots, hollywood, hot chocolate, hot port, hot toddy, igloo, magic, night club, night life, quad, school, sister, snow, snow angels, snow day, snowballs, snowmen, stew, swifts, wellies, winter, winter wonderland, work
Let me tell you about my new crush. I’ve known him for years but never thought of him that way. Until I saw him again on Sunday night. He’s such a nice guy. He’s cute and tall and wears cool clothes. He’s down-to-earth, funny and super-talented. He’s quite skilled on a unicycle and even manages to look good in an elephant suit….
Okay, so he’s an incredibly famous rock star. But you know I encourage dreaming big. If he wasn’t married with kids, I’d totally go for it. Alas, I have principles.
* On a side note, can’t you just picture this song playing at a summer festival? The crowd sings along in unison to the chorus as the delectable Mr Martin pounds away on the piano… TURN IT UP LOUD! *
Featured Image: http://urbanext.illinois.edu/fruit/apples.cfm?section=tree
Posted in Love, Random
Tagged alternative rock, attraction, audience, children, chris martin, coldplay, compatibility, crowd, crush, dreams, fantasy, festival, love, lust, married man, piano, principles, rock star, summer, unrequited love
Some of you will delight in me writing this. Others will be too indignant or alarmed to read on… Some will presume I’m having it off with Jim Corr and switch off. And then there are others, who will breathe a sigh of relief that, finally, somebody normal is speaking out about their thoughts and fears regarding what’s going on in the world. Someone without a background in economics or activism, politics or finance; somebody regular who’d never even heard of a default or a foreclosure or an NWO up until a year ago.
We can pretend like nothing’s changed. We have offices and kitchens and children to attend to. Christmas is fast approaching. And The X Factor final is on this weekend. But we cannot ignore the growing dole queues, the increasing break-ins, the persistence of the Occupy movement, and the unfair Budget cuts. Our children are growing up in an unprecedented era. Forget about the Púca - it’s the IMF that’s got everyone really scared.
Dole Queue in Cork
There is talk in certain circles that the economy is on the brink of total collapse (no surprise there). Some people are forecasting (and gleefully anticipating) the breakdown of all of society’s major institutions, which are finally losing their grip on the power they’ve wielded over the obedient public for far too long. Even prime time television is warning that we might have to revert to the punt. And if that happens, what little money we have left will be almost worthless.
If this actually occurs, so much will have to change. We won’t be able to afford oil or petrol, thus limiting trade and transport. We won’t have the option of buying new clothes or technology. We’ll have to return to self-sufficiency, which would be no bad thing.
These difficult circumstances would force us to come together as communities. We’d have to rely on agriculture and fishing. The long-suffering Irish farmers would be granted a new-found respect. Our lawyers and accountants and PR executives would have to be taught how to sow seeds and cut trees. Our scientists would be able to dedicate their time and genius to work on tapping into alternative sources of energy.
Fishing in Connemara
When I hear these outlandish but strangely plausible predictions, I try to imagine such a future. I guess we’d have to ration our food and our firewood. We’d only be able to afford enough petrol for one vehicle per village. We’d work in the daylight, and sleep beside one another in large fire-warmed living rooms. We’d have to darn our socks and put patches on worn sweater elbows. We’d drink fresh milk and eat lots of stew. We’d go back to natural remedies and energetic healing. We’d have time to sit with each other, to knit and play games and tell stories.
Is such a world even conceivable? And what about technology? Would our phones suddenly stop working? Would electricity fail? Without the companies that connect us, would the internet perish?
Oh, I’m all for getting rid of money-hungry, ethically challenged governments, multinationals and pharmaceuticals. And I look forward to the day when the food we eat isn’t laced with hormones, pesticides and preservatives. I would gladly embrace a time when we are content to live off the land. When we inhabit a world that refuses to be dominated by mass-produced fear. When we take the time, effort and courage to inform ourselves and think outside the government-constructed box. When we recognise real health and call a halt to the pumping of too-trusting populations with vaccines and medication and other hidden chemicals. I long for a land of free thinkers, where open minds and creativity are a valued commodity.
Despite my idealistic hopes, I also have doubts. I worry that, if things really do go belly up, not everyone will react favourably. Many will be shocked and scared, angry and incredulous. Parents will fight for their food and children will steal. The streets will see violence and riots and looting. Some will go hungry. Others will go mad.
Dublin City © Gearoid Muldowney
And I can’t help hypothetically grieving all the materialistic luxuries I currently enjoy. How would I cope without my car and my holidays abroad? What would I do without the ability to discover new music at the click of a mouse? How would I feel about the loss of lipstick and mascara? Could I welcome a world without the internet and blogging? And if money disappears and I can no longer pay rent, will I have to move home? Or would my landlord accept payment in poems and potatoes?
Then again, this may never happen and you’ll laugh when you remember the crazy blogger who once ranted about the possible links between sudden poverty and freedom. But if the alternative news reports do prove to be correct, at least I’ll have given you a heads up. To encourage you to spend some of the money that’s lying in fear in your bank account. To get yourself some practical essentials. To give you time to install a stove and stock up on rice and tins of tuna. To buy good winter boots and some quality clothes that’ll last longer than your usual purchases from Penneys. Better silly and safe than stubborn and sorry.
Whether or not this apocalypse-like scenario manifests, we cannot ignore the fact that change is in the air. Perhaps this upset and turmoil is a necessary step in our evolution. Masses of people are awakening and there is a definite shift in consciousness. This could be the New Earth that Eckhart Tolle wrote about. And a new way of thinking and living and being will emerge from the redundant ashes of the old world, like a phoenix, ready to take flight…
Images: http://www.allthingswhisky.com/?p=499; http://www.indymedia.ie/article/92133; http://www.ballynahinch-castle.com/fishing-connemara; http://www.flickr.com/photos/gearoid/page10/; http://pinterest.com/pin/418493398/
Posted in Modern Society, Random
Tagged a new earth, accountants, activism, alternative health, anger, apocalypse, banks, breakdown, budget, challenges, change, cheese, cheese-making, chemicals, children, christmas, cold, collapse, commodities, community, confusion, crick, crock, damp, default, doctors, dole, Eckhart Tolle, economy, electricity, energy sources, ethics, exports, farming, fear, finance, firewood, fishing, flat, food, foreclosure, free-thinkers, genius, government, hospitals, household chores, imf, imports, internet, jim corr, landlord, laptop, lawyers, looting, multinationals, neck, new world order, nwo, obedience, oil, open mind, pain, penneys, petrol, pharmaceuticals, phoenix, phones, policemen, politics, poverty, power, predictions, responsibility, riots, robberies, scientists, self-sufficeincy, self-sufficient, sharing, society, starving, stealing, stove, technology, the x factor, transport, unemployment, vaccines, value, vehicles, violence, writing
I wander downtown to buy Christmas cards, in the hope that it will assuage my guilt at not yet having begun shopping for presents. There is no escaping the swift approach of Yuletide on this brisk December day.
Fairy lights wind their way up tree trunks, like magic ivy. A middle-aged couple carries plastic bags and an air of exasperation. A Norway Spruce leans up against a wall, naked but on the brink of fulfilling its life purpose.
I pop in my iPod buds and drown out the world with the sounds of Video Games and Villagers. A teenager rushes out of a pound shop, her face full of freckles and anticipation. I enter. A mother slaps her children’s hands away from sweets and toys. A man in dirty work clothes holds a basket brimming with tinsel.
I buy two packets of sparkly Santa cards and continue down the main street. A young boy bolts into the library. I follow. As I enquire after a Heather O’Neill novel, which is currently MIA, an elderly woman breezes up to the desk.
“It’s getting cold out there, Mrs O’Brien,” the male librarian tries.
“We’re all ageing,” the woman retorts.
He changes the subject.
“What do you think of the Budget?”
The woman doesn’t respond.
“WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE BUDGET?” the librarian bellows. Children look up in disbelief.
“I heard you the first time,” the old lady announces. “I just don’t bother with all that shite!”
I leave without a book, but not without a story.
I take a detour home along the Liffey. The river is full and fast. The moon clings to the cobwebs of the morning sky. Drizzle settles on nettles. A reluctant dog is pulled toward the nonchalant swans. Ducks fly close to the water, their necks straining forwards.
Reeds clump together and float to the surface, like dead bodies. A leafless tree bends over the water, like a nude diver frozen in time. A woman jogs by, barely lifting her legs. A man in a track suit practises Tai Chi in the wet grass. I wonder if he’s crazy and try not to stare.
As I huddle on a park bench, ignoring the cold and blowing on a Biro, I decide that I am a writer and that there is nothing I’d rather be.
“It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment?” Vita Sackville-West
And for all you budding writers out there, click here.
Images: http://gallery.hd.org/_c/art/_more2004/_more12/baubles-glass-and-wire-shiny-tinsel-blue-and-silver-star-for-top-of-tree-decorations-ornaments-JR.jpg.html; http://weheartit.com/entry/18871955;
Posted in Modern Society, Random
Tagged beauty, biro, budget, children, christmas, christmas cards, christmas tree, cold weather, crazy, creativity, december, dog, ducks, fairy lights, guilt, heather o'neill, library, magic, music, nature, norway spruce, pound shop, river liffey, santa, swans, sweets, tai chi, toys, video games, villagers, vita sackville-west, writer