Tag Archives: living

To Let It Be

I turned to my friend and announced: “Resistance is what causes most of our suffering.”

This was off the back of a weekend spent in bed, sick and alone, while the sun shone, radio DJs played dance music to prepare us all for a fun Saturday night out, and my Facebook friends posted pictures of forest walks and ice creams in Dun Laoghaire.

I knew I was feeling sorry for myself. And I knew I had a lot to be thankful for. I wasn’t battling cancer. I hadn’t lost my home to a hurricane. And I wasn’t counting pennies to see if I’d be able to put food on the table.

But I was sick. And the weekend blazed sunnily through the windows. And there were no more dark chocolate covered rice cakes in the house.

And I was face-slappingly, heartbreakingly alone.

The thing is, I could have asked for help. In fact, one friend asked me if I needed anything. I replied honestly that I didn’t. There was nothing that I needed. And I didn’t want anyone to have to cancel their plans for me. I wanted people to be with me because they wanted to be there.

So I spent two days at home alone. Between sleeping, blowing my nose and weeping over my aloneness, I delved into Cheryl Strayed’s wonderful book Wild.

Cheryl had gone through some really tough times. Her father was abusive and her mother died of cancer. After Cheryl’s marriage broke down due to her infidelities and use of heroin, Cheryl took on an extraordinary journey in order to become the woman her mother saw in her. Cheryl hiked over a thousand miles alone on the epic Pacific Crest Trail.

“I felt more alone than anyone in the whole wide world,” Cheryl admitted. Later, she reasoned: “Maybe I was more alone than anyone in the whole wide world. Maybe that was okay.”

I lay in bed reading but it felt like I joined Cheryl as she sweated up mountains, grew blisters, lost toenails, and crossed paths with deer, bears and rattlesnakes. I walked alongside her as she raged into the wilderness, carrying a giant rucksack which she aptly named Monster. 

Before Cheryl set off on this amazing trek, somebody told her that the father’s job is to teach his children how to be warriors, “to give them the confidence to get on the horse and ride into battle when it’s necessary to do so.” She said that if you don’t get that from your father, you have to teach yourself. This woman predicted:

“There will come a time when you’ll need to get on your horse and ride into battle and you’re going to hesitate. You’re going to falter. To heal the wound your father made, you’re going to have to get on that horse and ride into battle like a warrior.”

I could relate to the burden Cheryl bent beneath. As she emptied a lifetime of sadness and anger into the wild, I too allowed myself to heal and release. And when Cheryl didn’t think she could go any further, I championed her as she walked on anyway. Her strength and determination humbled me as she completed a miraculous journey back to self. Cheryl finished her memoir with the words:

“How wild it was, to let it be.”

How wild it would be, to let everything be as it is. Without trying to change it. Without resisting what is. Without wishing things were different. Without wondering and worrying, regretting and replaying.

So this evening, I turned to my friend and said:

“Resistance is what causes most of our suffering.” 

And she retorted:

“Thinking is what causes most of our suffering.”

She went on to describe her morning. How she had spent time sweeping up leaves. My friend, like all of us, has plenty to think about, but she didn’t think. She swept.

She watched the leaves swirling in the wind. She felt the brush in her hands. And she listened to the sound of the bristles as she swept.

Tonight in bed, I notice that I am curled up tight, thinking. It hits me that I’ve probably spent most of my life thinking. Not living. Not experiencing. Not being. I’ve spent most of my life in my head. Thinking.

This is my life, I realise. And I want to be present to it. So I resolve to climb out of my head and into my heart. To be in my body. To feel. To experience. To live. To be present. To be open. To simply be.

A vision of my friend sweeping leaves floats into my consciousness. I relax into the bed. I can almost hear the bristles flicking onto the pathway, as the leaves dance in disobedience.

How wild it would be, to let it be.

weheartit.com

weheartit.com

Into the Wild

“We’re supposed to be different. Thank goodness.”

I posted these words on my Facebook page yesterday evening along with a quote from Susan Cain’s insightful book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

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In Quiet, Cain explores the differences between introverts and extroverts. In a society that seems to reward the confidence, charm and exuberant energy of extroversion, introverts often feel the need to step up, speak out and pick up the pace just so they too can succeed at life.

In the questionnaire at the beginning of the book, I scored a whopping 18 out of 20. This signifies that I’m more of an introvert. It means that I enjoy my own company. I need space and time alone. I recharge by spending evenings in with a book or a movie. I get energy from walks in nature and lying in the sun. And I like to sit in stillness and reflect on my feelings and the meaning of life.

I’m a thinker and a writer. And I’m sensitive. Sensitive to beauty, music and wonderfully worded pieces of prose. I’m sensitive to energy, people’s moods and violence on the television.

I feel deeply. I get depressed. An act of kindness can bring me to tears. I marvel at the many miracles of the universe. Spirituality is more important to me than material things. I’m passionate about life. But at times I feel like I’m drowning in it.

When I feel intimidated, I shut up. It can take me a while to feel comfortable around new people. On nights out, I’d rather not compete with the loud music and the din of chatty pub-goers. So I don’t. My voice just doesn’t seem to carry. If someone really wants to hear what I have to say, we have to lean in to one another.

However, when I’ve had a drink, none of that matters. Cain likens an alcoholic beverage to a glass of extroversion.

Most people aren’t exclusively introverts or extroverts. I love being around people and I lead a fairly busy social life. I enjoy meeting friends and trying out new hobbies but I much prefer participating in deep conversations with one or two people rather than chatting in large groups.

I recognise the benefits of team playing and brainstorming but I work best alone in a quiet room where I can retreat, silence my phone, and concentrate.

When something is bothering me, I tend to write, meditate, read and think. Then I discuss my problems, one-to-one, with someone I trust.

I end romantic relationships if they’re not right. I’d rather be alone than with someone who doesn’t help me flourish.

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favim.com

Last night, I watched Into the Wild for the second time. This true story is based on American adventurer Christopher McCandless. At twenty-four, Chris has fulfilled his parents’ dream of getting good grades and going to college. Then, instead of attending Harvard, he burns the remainder of his college fund, cuts up his social security and credit cards, and disappears, without a word, into the wild.

One of the reasons I love this film is because I feel it’s quite balanced in its storytelling. The different characters have different viewpoints, personalities and lifestyles.

We learn of Chris’ perspective on life. He resents the control and expectations of society and his parents. He wants to roam free. He needs to be independent and true to himself. He’s happiest when he’s diving into lakes, climbing mountains, and living off the land.

When he enters Los Angeles, he regards the skyscrapers and city-dwellers with an expression of disappointment and despair. We can almost see his soul dimming as he trudges through the metropolis. He imagines how his life could have been and he doesn’t regret his decision to break away. He can’t even stay one night there.

We also hear his sister’s version of events. She understands Chris’ reasons for abandoning the family. Her parents desperately desire a particular way of life for their son. Their intentions are good. This is the only way they know how to guide and protect him. But they’ve also caused their children a lot of pain. Ultimately, we watch them suffer too.

This movie really got me thinking. Was Chris acting selfishly? Was he foolish and naive? Or was he right to go on his own journey, to figure out his meaning of life, to really live and experience and come to his own conclusions?

busaff.com

busaff.com

I’ve often felt different. I’ve struggled to fit in. I’ve felt stifled by society and I’ve agonised over the following:

What is being true to yourself? And what is running away? When do you stop living in the clouds and finally conform? When do you “settle down”?

Then there are the shoulds and norms of society. You should be responsible. That’s what being an adult is all about. You need a good job. You can’t live without money. You need your own home. When are you going to find a husband? Will you have enough time for children? For goodness’ sake, you won’t survive without a pension.

I got 525 points in my Leaving Certificate but secondary school may as well have been a battlefield for all the anxiety I experienced. I did well at swimming and athletics but competition didn’t sit well with me. I dropped out of college twice.

Truthfully, the only reason I went back to college as a mature student was because I felt I had to. How else would I become a functioning member of society?

I obtained a First Class Honours degree and received the Sunday World Cup for Best Student of Journalism with a Language. Though proud of my achievements and happy to gain approval from the people I care about, it added to the pressure I felt to do more with my life, to live up to my potential and to succeed.

And I don’t do well under pressure. So instead of applying for jobs in journalism, I threw myself into an alternative world of acupuncture, homeopathy, personal development and spirituality. And I’ve never been happier.

Of course, I still experience paralysing moments of fear. The voices in my head go something like this: What are you doing with your life? Grow up. Be normal.

So I tentatively move forwards with one eye clamped on everybody else in the world who’s doing things the “right” way. I compare, criticise and compete. I alter my behaviour and try to change who I am in the hope that I will prosper. I worry that I’m not adult enough for this big bad world of business and mortgages.

But what does “adult” mean? How “should” a 34-year-old woman live? Why must we all melt into one right way of doing things? We’re not all the same. That much is very clear.

Yes, there’s a reason why most of us follow the well-trodden path in life. There’s safety and security in the tried and tested route. Most people want to see life’s landmarks so they know where they are and what to expect around the corner.

But some of us thrive on change. The unknown excites us. Newness is revitalising. It’s what keeps that spark inside of us alight.

It’s a relief to realise that we don’t have to be the same as one another. We don’t have to compete because we each have unique gifts to bring to the world.

There’s no point trying to do things his way or attempting to be as good as her because you’re not them. You’re you.

Some of us want to climb the career and property ladders all the way to the top. And some of us are quite happy to keep our feet on the ground.

Whether we’re commuting to our permanent jobs, bringing our children to school or backpacking across the globe, we can be fully alive and true to the essence of who we really are.

Whether we’re writing fantasy novels, saving lives, cleaning the streets or designing websites, we can be the people we’re meant to be.

Whether we’re introverted or extroverted or a dollop of one and two tablespoons of the other, we are unique and perfect just as we are.

We’re different and brilliant in our all of our shade and all of our colour. We blend and we clash and we all come together in this stunning masterpiece of humanity.

We may think we know who we are. We stamp ourselves with neat and convenient labels so we can understand and make sense of the world around us. But life changes. We change. We grow and develop and we dip in and out of lots of different attributes and characteristics. Every colour of the rainbow is available to us to try on and see what suits us best.

And whether we’re paying into our pensions or collecting the dole, none of us can really know what to expect next. Nothing is certain.

The weather is unpredictable. And the terrain is constantly changing. We may want to know the exact directions to a predetermined destination. But we are all, in fact, walking into the unknown. We are all on a journey into the wild.

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favim.com

The Fear

One of the biggest things I’ve struggled with over my lifetime is fear. Over the past few days, I’ve examined this fear and I’ve discovered that it has many, many layers.

There is fear of making mistakes. Fear of doing it wrong. Fear of failure. Fear of getting into trouble. Fear of criticism, disapproval and rejection. Fear of my own feelings. Even fear of happiness in case it were to disappear.

Fear of not being good enough. Fear of not being talented enough, competent enough, confident enough, pretty enough, slim enough, and the list goes on…

Fear of losing hope. And fear of having hope because I’m bound to destroy it.

As I shower this morning, I realise what’s really lurking behind all this fear. It’s fear of being found out. Found out to be stupid, incapable, ugly, unlovable.

And so this fear has prevented me from going for jobs, moving abroad, writing a book, staying in relationships, opening up to friends, and telling people that I like them. In short, fear has stopped me from putting myself out there.

Once I make this discovery, I can logic it. What is it about stepping out that I’m so afraid of? That people will discover that I’m human? Scared? Imperfect?

Aren’t these the things that I love and admire in other people? Don’t we feel more connected with other human beings when we realise that we’re all the same? Real and brave and frightened?

If I can accept others for how they are, why do I resist doing the same for myself? Why are my standards and expectations for myself so ridiculously high? Is it because I don’t like myself enough or is it because I like myself so much that I want to be the best that I can be? Interesting because this desire is actually blocking me from doing just that.

Over the Christmas, I read Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles. Once I delved into the first chapter, I was hooked. Marianne speaks about being paralysed with terror. She writes:

“You’d think we have some compassion for ourselves, bound up in emotional chains the way we are, but we don’t. We’re just disgusted with ourselves, because we think we should be better by now. Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking other people don’t have as much fear as we do, which only makes us more afraid. Maybe they know something we don’t know. Maybe we’re missing a chromosome.”

This really resonated with me. I forget that other people feel fear too. Everybody does. We just don’t hear about it all that much. We think that other people just get on with it. They do and they grow and they succeed.

And I compare myself unfavourably with the whole human race. I neglect to focus on my own courage and achievements, which are many.

I dismiss my own journey and instead listen to the family members and neighbours as they comment on So-and-so’s flourishing business and Thingymajig’s promotion and new home and Yer-one-down-the-road’s wonderful partner and family.

“They’re doing so well”, they gush. And I hate myself a little more. I see other people’s highlight reels on Facebook and I wince in self-judgement.

Last night, I lay in bed reading Oprah Winfrey’s lovely book What I Know For Sure when I had an Aha moment. Oprah speaks about her fear of seeming arrogant. She writes:

“In some ways, even my weight was my apology to the world – my way of saying, ‘See, I really don’t think I’m better than you.'”

When I was younger, I was teased for being “posh” and using big words. I was also teased for having a rather large bosom for a 13-year-old. And I was beaten up because a girl’s boyfriend fancied me.

After those experiences, I was careful with my language and I tried not to appear full of myself. I changed the way I behaved depending on the group of people I was with. I didn’t flirt. And I made sure not to do anything too different so that I could avoid unwanted attention.

When other people were miserable, I downplayed my contentment and instead broadcast my difficulties. You see, I’d say. I’m not a threat. So you can like me.

Now that I understand where all this fear comes from, I have a choice. I choose to no longer allow fear to immobilise me. I want to take risks and move forwards and flourish. And I understand that I do love myself. I’ve just been confused about how to show myself this love.

From now on, I’ll love myself when I have the courage to shine. I’ll love myself when I’m gasping with fear. I’ll love myself when I do. And I’ll love myself when I am.

The trick is to understand that we all feel fear. Our bravery lies in our ability to push forth anyway. In Oprah Winfrey’s words:

“Sometimes moving on terrified me. But it always taught me that the true meaning of courage is to be afraid, and then, with your knees knocking, to step out anyway.”

keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

Stepping into 2015

Over the past few days, there’s been a lot of talk about the coming year. I’ve been asked about my new year’s resolutions, I chose my Word for 2015 (Free), and yesterday, my friend and I played a thought-provoking game which highlighted our fears and desires.

My new year’s resolutions are to be present, to be brave, and to love. Last night in the pub, a friend asked me if I had any more concrete goals, things that I could tick off my list with satisfaction. She mentioned wanting to read and go to the theatre more. Another friend would like to participate in a project that excites her and to find a new hobby that raises her adrenaline. Somebody else listed off the countries she wants to visit.

I paused. The other evening, my mother had asked me about romantic relationships. “I have to sort my life out first mam,” I declared. It’s difficult to think about hobbies, classes, holidays and dating when I feel like I’m currently in limbo. I need to figure out my career and where I’m living.

So I’ve set up a session with a great Life Coach for next week. I finally feel ready to be completely honest about myself, and about the fears, issues, blocks and beliefs that are limiting me. It’s my life and I deserve to live it to my full potential. I want to grow and move forwards. I’m also going to exercise more.

Yesterday evening, I called over to a friend. I asked her what her Word for 2015 is. She decided on PeaceShe explained that there is no greater thing than Peace. In Peace, you are present. You can be more creative and efficient. In Peace, you break through fear. “Yes,” I say excitedly. “You can’t feel fear and Peace at the same time. What a great Word!”

Then, my friend suggested a wonderful exercise. She took out a page and divided it into 16 pieces. On each slip of paper, we wrote things like: I desire. I fear. I need. I am. 

We took turns in finishing these sentences. It was interesting to see what came up for us and how much everything overlapped. It enabled us to become really clear on what we need to focus on (and let go of) for the coming year. I realised that I have to love and accept myself no matter what.

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Many people use this time of year to reflect, plan and motivate themselves. The way things have worked in my life has been quite synchronistic. I’m starting afresh right at the beginning of a new year. I’m releasing old patterns that are no longer serving me. I’m willing to change.  And I’m open to new opportunities.

And despite the fear, negativity, confusion and over thinking that I’ve fallen into over the past month, I have also really enjoyed the holidays. And I’m so grateful for the lovely people I surround myself with.

I’ve appreciated and been present to the simple things in life like laughter, music, movies, nights out, sleeping, eating, exercising, reading, writing, being in nature, and spending time with friends and family.

The other night, I caught the end of a documentary called Unhung HeroThe documentary-maker was struggling with insecurity and he considered giving up on the film altogether. His mother gave him the following advice: “With growth there’s pain.”

I feel that I am on the cusp of something great. I’m about to take a massive leap forwards. And it’s natural to experience fear when you’re challenging yourself to step into the unknown.

And so I step into 2015, a never-before-seen year, with freedom, presence, courage, love and peace. I wish the same for all of you. Thank you for reading. You make this labour of love all the more worthwhile.

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favim.com

The Journey

This morning, I arise at 5am to bring my brother to the airport. We embrace at departures and I drive away.

An evocative song plays on the radio and tears slide down my cheeks. Life is painful, I decide. No sooner have I had that thought when I have another: But it’s also beautiful.

Both my siblings are in Australia but I’m lucky to have a great relationship with them. I’m fortunate to experience love and sadness. This is living.

I’m feeling melancholy and alone but there’s a certain freedom in these feelings. I’m present and open. I’m alive.

And so I enjoy this early morning journey. The pull of the wind. The warmth of my car. The quiet road beneath a somber sky. And the scent of the Christmas wreath as I creep back into the family home.

istillshootfilm.org

istillshootfilm.org

Word.

For Christmas, a dear friend gave me Susannah Conway‘s wonderful workbook called Unravelling the Year Ahead: 2015. I spend the evening hunched over the book, thinking and writing.

One of the questions that I’d like to share with you is: What is your Word for 2015? Susannah suggests choosing a word that will guide you through the year, a word that makes you feel expanded and inspired.

I scribble options in the margins. Words like Courage and Love, Peace, Presence and Abundance.

But the word that’s right for my coming year is FreeI feel light and optimistic as I scrawl these four letters onto the page.

Recently, I was in a situation where I felt trapped. I wanted out. I wanted to scream and rebel. But I struggled against guilt and obligation. I longed to flee the person, the place, and most importantly, the emotions that arose in me.

However I realised that, instead of complaining, blaming and running, I had to look at myself. These terrifying feelings were hiding in my inner shadows and this event simply shone a light on them so that I could examine them. And rather than resist these feelings, I had to accept them and love myself (and the other person) anyway. I understood that if I didn’t deal with my own issues, the same experience would repeat itself again and again.

So this coming year, my word is Free. It doesn’t matter where I am, what I’m doing, or who I’m with. I can choose to feel free in any given moment.

The following question is: If you lived and breathed your Word every day in 2015, what would be different for you?

If I lived and breathed FREE every single day, I would be doing things out of choice, enjoyment, love and independence. There would be no need or attachment, resentment or fear. I would stop labelling and limiting, blocking and restricting. I would be happier. I would live in the flow. I could do anything. I could be anything.

What is your Word for 2015? Then ask yourself these four questions:

  1. If you lived and breathed your Word every day in 2015, what would be different for you?
  2. List some ways you are already being/experiencing this Word.
  3. What can you do this year to bring more of your Word into your world?
  4. Choose four more words to support your Word this year. They could be anything from inspiring words to names of people to things you want to invest in…
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favim.com

The Christmas Present

It was the end of September and I was practising mindfulness. I had just had the best holiday ever. I’d also experienced a summer of fun, friendship and adventure. I remember telling a couple of friends that I was in a “really great place”.

And then things changed. The following few months were turbulent. I felt stressed and under pressure. My feelings swung from anger and resentment to guilt and fear.

Ten days ago, I was asked to make a difficult decision. And one week before Christmas, I found myself moving out of one house and into another. I was shocked and exhausted, upset and excited, free and frightened.

My friends rallied around and took me on a couple of big nights out where I drank a lot of alcohol. The days afterwards were strangled with panic and depression.

I certainly wasn’t feeling very Christmassy. I didn’t decorate. I stopped meditating and exercising. I was just too tired to take out my tools for well-being.

I convinced myself that people wouldn’t like me very much if I wallowed and complained but I couldn’t pretend either. I wanted to be left alone but I felt needy for company and love.

I beat myself up for not snapping out of it, for attracting in this turmoil with my thoughts and beliefs. It’s all my fault, I decided. But I didn’t know how to transform it. It isn’t fair, I wailed.

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favim.com

And today it’s Christmas. I meditate. I exchange gifts and well-wishes with family and friends. I gorge on chocolate and a variety of meats and vegetables. I take the dog for a walk. I watch movies. I give myself acupuncture. I rest. I write in my journal. I do everything I can to lift my spirits but I’m still lacking in enthusiasm and hope.

Suddenly, it strikes me that my suffering does not exist in this present moment. It has arisen out of my thinking. It lurks in my expectations about how I should be. It grows in my resistance to how things are. It expands with my longing for something more, something different. It strengthens with my doubt and self-flagellation.

I realise that this moment holds no pain. So I bring my full attention to right now. I become present to the dog as it snuggles up beside me. To the trees that line the quiet country road. To my laughter at The Big Lebowski. To my loved ones. To the clear night sky and the shooting star that dives before me.

This moment is perfect. My suffering is simply an illusion created by my thoughts, attachments and misguided beliefs.

Today, my brother gives me a gift of a beautiful necklace. I decide to use this chain as a reminder to be present.

Today, I give myself the gift of my presence. I shall stop telling myself that this moment is not enough, that I’m not enough.

Because when I’m truly present, this moment is complete. I am complete.

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madripoor.tumblr.com