Tag Archives: freedom

Make Friends With Yourself

I’ve been pretty tired lately as I’ve been really busy and noisy neighbours have been robbing me of my precious sleep. I noticed that I’ve started feeling anxious, rushed, under pressure and annoyed.

Little things that wouldn’t usually bother me were playing on my mind. My thoughts were ceaseless and I found it difficult to wind down.

I longed for a holiday far away from it all, where I could enjoy a complete lack of work, deadlines, meetings and boisterous children next door. I would sleep and walk in nature and breathe…

However, right now, I can’t just take off. Well, I could if I really wanted to as I always have a choice. So right now, I’m saying yes to the assignments and visits, dates and appointments.

But I still need to take a moment in between. I need to create space for myself amongst all the busyness so that I can hear what’s going on for me.

But wasn’t that the last thing I wanted to do? I was fed up of hearing myself think. I slouched off into the dark bedroom and flung myself on the bed. I was full to the brim with my own thoughts.

Last night, I gave my Positive Living group the homework of recording their self-talk for one day. The purpose of this is to monitor how many negatives and positives you’re telling yourself and to see what negative issues are most common.

I decided to take on this task today and what a day it was to complete such an exercise. My self-talk was predominantly negative, full of doubt and criticism, perfectionism and irritation. And when I realised how negative I’d been, I felt even more negative. I really was sick of the sound of my inner critic.

So instead of trying to analyse or reason with myself, I wondered: What would a friend say if they overheard my self-talk?

Instantly, my inner voice became encouraging and supportive, gentle and complimentary. My inner-friend was understanding and compassionate and even offered some useful advice.

She told me to always listen to what I needed, to prioritise and to take enough time to rest and have fun. She insisted that my health and happiness were of utmost importance and whatever I needed to do to conserve both of those things was absolutely worth doing.

And you know what, she was right. I must listen to her more often.

What’s your inner friend telling you?

artsymphony.blogspot.gr

artsymphony.blogspot.gr

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Being Negative For A Change

All day, I’ve had an anxious feeling in my chest. I haven’t been able to take deep, satisfying breaths. I had a busy day so I just pushed on through, hoping it would pass.

Tonight, I was about to watch television and simply ignore how I was feeling. I realised that I didn’t want to do that. I’m an advocate of sitting with your emotions and listening to what they have to tell you. So I sat. I slumped into the armchair, feeling down, frustrated, angry and fearful all at once.

Then, like the good writer and avid list-maker that I am, I reached for a notepad and pen. I decided, rather than run from the things that were annoying me, I’d write them all down. I don’t usually give so much energy to the negatives but, this time, I felt it would be therapeutic to have a look at what had been festering.

As synchronicity would have it, I came across this quote by Jill Bolte Taylor today: “Just like children, emotions heal when they are heard and validated.”

And so I moaned and doubted, raged and self-victimised all over two sides of an A4 sheet. I tore out the page and turned to a new one. Here, I wrote how all of my grievances were making me feel. Let’s just say that I don’t know if many other negative emotions even exist because I was feeling all of them.

Although I don’t believe in focussing on the negatives in life (and who’s to say what’s “negative” anyway?), it became clear to me that this was a really beneficial exercise.

I had been feeling this way for no apparent reason. However, when I asked myself what had been upsetting me, I was able to fill two entire pages with reasons.

I also realised that some of the things that were irritating me were things that don’t usually annoy me when I’m feeling good and energised. All of the small stuff was mounting up and creating a massive lump in my chest. It was robbing me of my peace. Or rather, I was allowing it to. But how was I to know what I was allowing when I hadn’t even given any of it my attention?

As I worked my way down the list of feelings that had arisen from all of my perceived problems, I recognised that there was one thing that would set me free. Acceptance.

I could accept the situation. I could accept other people as they are. I could accept what they had done and hadn’t done. I could accept that the past is the past (even if it only happened yesterday, it’s still old news). I could accept how I’m feeling right now. And most importantly, I could accept myself exactly as I am.

Acceptance melts resistance. Acceptance and struggle cannot coexist. Neither can acceptance and anger. Or acceptance and judgement.

When you accept something, you let go of the desire for things to be different. And with that, you become truly present. With that, you can breathe again…

freedom

This is Your Song

Last night, I went to see The National in the O2. They were amazing. Matt Berninger’s voice sounded just like it does on their albums. And he really got into the performance.

The person with me commented: “They don’t write songs for the public, they write songs for themselves.” This really rang true. The lead singer appeared to let go when he was on stage. It was like he was losing himself in his passion, exposing his darkest thoughts and deepest emotions, sharing his heart with all of us. It felt raw and honest.

We could only get seated tickets, which was fine as The National’s music is quite relaxing. But there was no dancing or jumping in our section of the arena. However, after a while, the energy of the musicians rippled into the crowd. The woman in front of us started raising her hand and standing after each song. The man beside me played air guitar. And I swayed and roared in appreciation.

I gazed at a beautiful visual behind the band of the ocean and a sun-streaked sky. I was brought back to times when I swam in the sea or bobbed on a boat. I had felt free and alive.

I thought: How often do we experience these things in our everyday lives? When do we allow ourselves to let go and become one with that joy, that aliveness?

Perhaps when we drink alcohol, take drugs, have sex or go on holidays. Or when we attend gigs like this one. We connect with that passion when we witness someone living their dream, when another human being lets us in to the honesty and depth of their authentic selves.

We become truly present. We enjoy all of our senses. And we give ourselves permission to be free, even if just for one day, one night, one moment…

weheartit.com

weheartit.com

Slow Down

I am currently on a weeklong holiday in the west of Ireland. Each morning after breakfast, I do some work. Then, I take myself out for a walk. I rush the walk to get it out of the way so I can pop into a pub or café to use the WiFi.

Not too long ago, I felt peace. I appreciated nature. I could lie in a bubble bath and listen to music or read a novel over a frothy cappuccino.

How easily I’ve forgotten. How quickly I’ve transformed into a busy, perfection-driven woman who finds it hard to sit still.

Lately, I’ve been trying to fit as much as possible into every single day. No wonder I wasn’t glad when morning arrived.

Even the things I’d once enjoyed had become just another chore to tick off the self-renewing to-do list. Cycle – check. Meditate –check. Prepare Positive Living class – check.

Even nature, my most favourite thing in the entire world, had become an afterthought to work and exercise. When I did get out in it, I sped through it, favouring body tone over nourishment of the soul.

Today, the sun comes out and I decide to go for a walk. Alone. I leave the phone in the car. I don’t listen to music or take photographs. Today, I walk slowly. I roll up my sleeves and feel the heat on the back of my neck. I breathe. I inhale delightful fragrances that bring me back to simple childhood holidays.

I pause to take in the aqua milkiness of the ocean. I watch a man swimming. A fluffy green caterpillar inches its way along the path. Seagulls congregate on a large, flat rock. Cows graze in a field below.

A woman sits on the cliff edge, eyes closed, face tilted towards the sky. I wonder if she’s being truly present, mindfully aware of all of her senses. Or is she simply completing her daily chore of meditation?

Even though it pains me, I challenge myself to sit for a few moments. To just sit. I exhale a sigh of frustration.

Then, I gaze out at the waves as they crash upon the rocks. The waters roar mightily like the exciting take-off of an aeroplane.

The ocean speaks to me of opportunity and adventure, beauty and impermanence, creation and destruction. Tears spring to my eyes.

But even now, in this blessed moment, I am eager to get back. Because I have been mentally making note of everything I’ve experienced. This is the curse and wonder of being a writer.

I take a deep breath. I breathe in and out. I accept myself as I am in this moment. A writer who is forever composing. A human being who is doing her best. A person who is learning and growing and steeping herself in the awareness that will ultimately set her free.

IMG_1484

This evening, I go for a second slow-paced walk along beach, cliff and country road. I peer out at boats bobbing in the bay. I stroll past jellyfish, seaweed and salt-polished pebbles.

I sit several times along the way. I marvel at the sheer magnificence of a cliff face. Gulls soar overhead. I walk beneath a cacophony of starlings perched upon wire.

The sight of fuchsias makes me well up. The scent of cow dung and the perfume of a passing stranger make me smile.

I saunter past stone walls, a tractor and a good-looking horse. I feel my body as it moves. My hips roll and my arms sway. This evening, I do not rush or yearn for the finish line.

I stop to taste roadside blackberries. I pick a handful to take home. For the remainder of the journey, I walk palm up, my hand ink-red with an offering of sweetness.

I realise that when I’m an old lady, reflecting on the beauty of my life, I won’t be thinking about the times I power-walked up hills. I’ll remember the magical moments when I sat and witnessed the silent majesty of a gliding gull and the mesmerising movements of the ocean.

Images: Author's Own

Images: Author’s Own

Riding the Waves

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.”

Message in a Bottled Dream

Last week, I had a dream that I was climbing a cliff of purple amethyst. I had to think carefully about where to place my hands and feet. Suddenly, I became aware of how precarious my position was, how high up I was, how far I had to fall, how vulnerable I was. I was terrified. People below shouted words of praise and encouragement. I thought: It doesn’t matter what anybody else says or does. The belief has to come from within.

Something about this dream seemed relevant so I revisited it to search for its meaning. I read the words I’d scrawled, drunk with sleep, in my journal. The first message was obvious: Belief must come from within. The second message was slightly more obscure. In the dream, I’d felt fine while climbing the cliff until a thought had changed everything. The thought was: I am unsafe. I am in danger. And so I became frightened. I was paralysed with fear. A simple thought can totally transform our reality. Therefore, a different thought or even a detachment from the thought can alter our reality in a more positive way.

Recently, I was chatting to a lady who felt depressed. She said: “What’s weighing me down is the thought that I am like this, that I am depressed.” It wasn’t the depression that was making her feel bad, it was the thought of being depressed that she couldn’t escape. As Byron Katie would say, “Who would you be without the thought?” A whole lot lighter! In my dream, who would I be without the thought that I might fall? I would be confident and secure and present in my task of climbing.

As I shut my journal, I realised that the dream didn’t really possess two separate meanings. Both messages pointed in the same direction: Everything comes from within us. Our thinking is what makes our reality. The thought doesn’t have us; we have the thought. We choose every single thought. So, we can replace thoughts that fill us with fear, anger or sadness with thoughts of peace, love and happiness. We can empower ourselves and enrich our own lives. We can choose to live in the present and enjoy each and every moment.

Don’t Hide; Seek Yourself

Last night, I dreamt that I was going to stay in a hostel with a young couple. I worried that the couple wouldn’t get in if they weren’t seen to be with me. They went in ahead of me and got in, no questions asked. As we settled in our bunks, I could hear the couple talking loudly. Again, I worried that others would judge them, dislike them, and maybe even kick them out. I was surprised to see the older people around them smiling, joining in, laughing, and even telling dirty jokes.

When I awoke, I wrote down this dream. I realised that I am still trying to control my feelings and behaviour. I think I need to change myself because I’m afraid that if I don’t, others will criticise or reject me. In certain situations, around certain people, I believe that I “should” behave a certain way in order to give off the “right” and “acceptable” impression. I fear that if I am open with my emotions or childlike in my behaviour, people will have nothing to do with me. However, in the dream, the older people enjoyed the lightness the young couple brought to the hostel. They even began joking about “inappropriate” things.

I recently started seeing someone who’s very calm and centred. I really like the way he’s so sure of who he is. He doesn’t change himself for anybody else. However, I worried that I wasn’t as together as he is. That if he found this out, he’d be out the door. I know now that I started to close myself off a little, trying to control and even change myself. One evening, as we played CraniumI was so astonished to answer a factual question correctly that I actually tumbled off the couch, landing in a heap on the floor. I had been taking myself so seriously and I still wound up arse in the air right in front of him! I laughed and laughed.

I am adamant now that I am not going to change myself for anybody else. Thankfully, we are all different. We can learn from each other and enjoy our differences, bringing new depths and dimensions to our lives. I was drawn to this guy because he is so sure of himself, which is clearly something I need in myself. And maybe he was drawn to me because he sensed that I could bring an element of fun into his life. And whether it lasts or doesn’t last isn’t important. We should keep learning and growing, no matter what, always remaining open to love for and from others and, most importantly, for ourselves.

This got me wondering how much do we close off to when we hold back, when we suppress what we’re really feeling, and when we deny ourselves what we truly desire? All because we think we have to hide who we are. We are afraid that if we are our true selves, if we express what we’re feeling, and ask for what we want, we will be judged, criticised, and abandoned. So, we control ourselves. In new relationships, in the workplace, and even amongst friends and family, we hold in our opinions because we’re afraid that we won’t come across as being intelligent or witty or loveable.

But here’s the shortcut – be yourself and you’ll find out much, much sooner if you and your partner are really suited. Or your ideas might revolutionise your company. Your friends and family members could learn a lot from your views. The simple act of being yourself is so freeing that it will allow others close to you to be themselves also. Judgement and role-playing will dissolve. You will become assertive in asking for what you desire in your life. People will know where they stand with you because you will be reliable to them – you will always be exactly who you are. And because you are no longer judging or trying to change yourself, those around you will know you are not trying to control or change them either. How liberating!

Of course, it’s not easy to be yourself. First, you have to know yourself, own and accept it, forgive yourself, and love yourself unconditionally. Then, you can gift that beautiful, unique, sparkling true self to the world. Today, decide not to hold back any longer because you would be doing yourself, and those around you, a huge disservice.

Made to Feel This Way

Last night, I hardly slept. At 3 am, I resigned myself to my sleepless fate, put on the kettle, and read the guts of Lullabies for Little Criminals. As I turned page after page, I thought defiantly: Who said I had to sleep at this hour anyway? I don’t have to be tired in the morning. I could stay in bed until midday.

By nine am, I was awoken by the sound of the car park coming to life. I shoved earplugs into my ears and waited to be sucked into a silent slumber. It didn’t happen. The challenging inner voice piped up: Who said I needed eight hours sleep in order to function? And I can go for a nap later, if needed. 

I logged onto the laptop to peruse the papers online and I came across this article in The Guardian. Interestingly, it was all about sleep and how most of us don’t really understand it. The author questioned if we really need a solid eight-hour block of slumber. He suggested we sleep in stints, like we apparently used to do in the good ol’ days. I closed the laptop in satisfaction. Just because I’d only had a couple hours’ sleep, didn’t mean I should choose to be exhausted for the day.

All this made me wonder what other things I was feeling just because some unquestioned “fact” told me I should. When I felt ugly or beautiful, was it really me or the media and fashion industry’s guidelines I’d gullibly swallowed? When I felt worthwhile or useless, whose opinion was taking precedence over my own?

Who had decided the “right” way for us to look, to work, to live our lives, and to conduct our relationships? And what constituted “success” in this society? A house, a family, and a pensionable career? What about the other, intangible, aspects of life? Fun? Connection? Peace of mind?

I walked by the river and smiled at strangers, then sauntered into a café and ordered an espresso, even though all the “healthy” people tell me that coffee is hard on the stomach, introduces too much heat into the body, and that the caffeine high swiftly switches to a sorry slump. “You’d do better with a herbal tea,” they’d advise, smiling their white smiles.

I took a few gulps as I jotted down my thoughts. My stomach’s fine. I’m not too hot. And I’m simply not tired. Okay, I had to admit that it was a little hard on the stomach. I suppose there’s a difference between doing things because I want to and doing things to prove the point that I refuse to be told what to do. That, in its own pathetic way, was another manner of being controlled – by my ego. If I’d listened to my body, I would have ordered a tea. A black one, mind you, with caffeine and tannins. There I go again…

I realise that it takes a while to banish old belief systems and strip away the ego before you can even catch a glimpse of the perfection of your unshakeable core. Paradoxically, the key is not to even try. Just be the witness. And enjoy the show.

I actually am quite tired. Damn.

badgirlsdormitory.tumblr.com/post/13177647044

Perfection is a Disease

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.

Images: http://weheartit.com/entry/19229697

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=249115865140615&set=a.135308636521339.34695.135306759854860&type=3&theater

http://weheartit.com/entry/19241509

The Gift of the Present

We spend far too much time in our heads – worrying, remembering, giving out to ourselves, complaining… Imagine how much energy we waste on our thoughts… Do we really need them? Could we go on without them? Picture how free we would be if we cut most of them out…

"I've developed a new philosophy... I only dread one day at a time." Charlie Brown

It’s extremely difficult to break the habits of a lifetime but it is possible and so worth it. Everybody’s got to start somewhere. So, here are a few simple exercises that you can try right here, right now…

1. Close your eyes and really feel what it is that you’re feeling. If you’re anxious, find out where that anxiety is. What parts of your body are affected? Give it a colour, a shape. Allow it to expand. There is nothing to fear. When we move out of our thoughts and into our feelings, we take a huge step towards being present.

2. If you’re experiencing pain somewhere in your body, don’t run away from it. It’s trying to tell you something – that you need to take a rest, slow down, make a change… Give the pain a name. Describe how it feels. I know it’s “sore” but what else? What’s the first thing that pops into your head? Homeopaths find the most effective remedies when people describe their symptoms in peculiar ways as it really narrows down the search (there are thousands of remedies). Is the pain digging or dragging, stabbing or burning? Does it feel like tiny needles or grains of sand? Is it hammering or pulsating? When you acknowledge the pain and allow it to express itself to you, it may shift or alter or even disappear completely.

3. I found this next exercise in Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now

“Close your eyes and say to yourself: ‘I wonder what my next thought is going to be.’ Then become very alert and wait for the next thought. Be like a cat watching a mouse hole. What thought is going to come out of the mouse hole? Try it now.”

How long did it take before a thought came in? Are you amazed at how quickly one invades your mind? Did you notice the gap in thinking – the stillness, the “state of intense presence”? Wasn’t that nice? Do you want more of it? Don’t worry, you don’t have to force anything. The more aware you are, the wider the gaps will become.

Being present is being aware. Of what you’re experiencing right now. Not what you think about it or what you think you should do about it. But what simply is. It’s so simple, in fact, that we dismiss it for that very reason.

"Let us not look back in anger or forward in fear, but around in awareness." James Thurber

Images: http://cuzworldisntblackandwhite.tumblr.com/post/13779627654