Tag Archives: suffering

Fairy Story

Last night, as I flicked through an old copy book in search of an empty page, I stumbled upon a Fairy Story that I’d been asked to write as part of an Inner Child workshop I’d taken part in a while back. Here it is…

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful, perfect little princess called Sharabella. There was something about this girl that shone brilliantly from within. You could see it in the sparkle of her eyes and her fun-loving laugh.

People loved to be around Sharabella. She didn’t even have to do anything. People just felt better after having been in her presence.

This was Princess Sharabella’s magic gift. She simply had to be herself and others were healed. All was well in this magical kingdom.

However, there came a time when Princess Sharabella was needed in a very different kingdom. A kingdom that was full of pain, sadness and suffering. The Powers That Be decided that Princess Sharabella could help transform this kingdom’s pain into love and beauty. 

Sharabella landed on this kingdom filled with peace and optimism. What Princess Sharabella hadn’t counted on was how much skepticism and resistance she’d face. 

Slowly over time, poor Sharabella began to doubt her magic powers. She started to wonder if she really was as perfect and beautiful as she’d once believed. 

It was such a struggle trying to change these people’s way of looking at things so Sharabella began to shut up and shut down.

Her beautiful light dimmed more and more over the years until one day, when The Powers That Be paid this dark, gloomy kingdom a visit, they no longer recognised beautiful Princess Sharabella. 

Sharabella was tired, grey and depressed. When The Powers That Be finally realised who she was, they asked her what had happened. 

At first, Princess Sharabella didn’t know what they were talking about. “This is who I am now,” she stated gruffly. “I’m ugly and useless and this kingdom would be better off without me.”

“But once upon a time, you were Princess Sharabella – the most beautiful, luminous, perfect creature, with the gift of healing others with your mere presence,” The Powers That Be exclaimed.

Nobody realised that an outsider had overheard their conversation. A crippled old lady had witnessed the whole exchange. She was moved to tears by Sharabella’s despondence. If a Princess despised herself so much, what hope did the rest of them have?

The old lady couldn’t help but speak out. “Excuse me,” she interrupted as she leaned on her walking cane. “I’m confused. I have to ask: What is a Princess doing in this horrible kingdom? This place is filled with hate and destruction. Us citizens know no different. We’re used to this life. But you? I urge you to get out. Save yourself, while you still can!”

The lady trembled with urgency while The Powers That Be stood there, uncertain as to how to proceed.

Slowly, Sharabella looked up, her eyes brimming with tears. She started to sob – loud, uncontrollable gulps of emotion.

As she cried, her cloudy, grey eyes turned to bright blue. Her ashen complexion became rosy pink. A brilliant light flickered, then started to beam out with such magnificence that everybody dropped to their knees in awe.

In this moment, Sharabella realised that she was not the ugly, depressed woman she had grown to believe she was. She remembered that she was the beautiful, perfect Princess that was her birthright. It had simply become unclear and difficult to express in a kingdom that had never accepted such perfection.

If she could heal people in her old kingdom, she knew she could do it here too. But not if she continued believing that she was ugly and worthless.

Suddenly the old lady, inspired by what she had just witnessed, ran away, excited to tell her friends and family what had just happened. 

“She forgot her walking cane,” Sharabella said. And Princess Sharabella and The Powers That Be laughed and laughed.

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weheartit.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.

madripoor.tumblr.com

madripoor.tumblr.com

No More Drama

These past few days, I’ve been questioning whether I’m holding the belief that good things don’t last. It’s like I dare not presume that it’ll all work out. I’ve been almost expecting things to go wrong.

I certainly don’t want to think this way and I’m afraid that this type of thinking will turn out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But how do I shake such a belief? On the one hand, I’ve managed to become much more positive in many areas of my life. I often go back to the mantra: If one can, everyone can. But I haven’t yet integrated this optimism into all aspects of my life.

As I drive to work today, I tell myself that I’m going to have to shift this. And soon. But how? Do I need to do more tapping and thinking? Should I book in with an energy therapist or a Life Coach?

And then it dawns on me. I don’t have to do anything at all. I just have to stay present. It’s so simple that I might actually have to stop struggling.

What would I do with all the time and energy if I’m not worrying, resisting and analysing? I might have nothing left to write about.

Earlier today, I was speaking to someone about setting up a mindfulness evening. I remarked: “Some people might find the idea of a mindfulness evening boring. We’re so addicted to drama.”

And we are. We get caught up in the highs and lows of life. We love to complain and gossip, fantasise and catastrophise, daydream and reminisce. The thought of sitting in meditation and being present, without constantly narrating or being entertained by our loquacious imaginations, isn’t all that appealing.

My friend told me how beneficial he finds practising mindfulness. He pointed out that the more we sit in meditation, the more automatic mindfulness becomes in our day-to-day lives. It’s no longer such an effort to stay present. It just is. And we just are. He adds:

“And one day, a cup of tea is enough to bring you into total presence.”

I thank him for this beautiful reminder, then go right back to trying to decide what to do tonight. Should I stay in or go to that party? If I go out, will I enjoy it? Will I be too tired at class tomorrow?

I listen to this internal dialogue and bring myself back to the present. I don’t have to decide anything right now. I can see what I feel like doing when it’s time to do it. And I can enjoy this moment because I’m in it.

It really is that easy. No fuss. Just presence.

Well, that was an anti-climax.

unrealitymag.com

unrealitymag.com

Giving Up

This morning, I received some news that I really didn’t want to hear. I felt disappointed, upset, and even a little angry. I also felt foolish for putting myself in this position… again! I should have known this would happen. 

I cried and talked it out with a friend. She assured me that it’s best to find out one way or another sooner rather than later. She suggested that I’m better off without this particular situation in my life.

My friend’s advice made perfect sense. In the past, I’ve often been grateful when certain things were removed from my path (much to my dismay at the time) because they just weren’t right for me and they made room for more amazing things to enter my life.

Yes, I got my hopes up and they’ve been dashed yet again. And yes, it’s tempting to shut myself off in order to protect myself. I’ll never allow this to happen again. I’ll show them! But who suffers then? It would be quite sad to live that way.

Isn’t it better to be open to life and to love? To allow yourself to be vulnerable and to relate to other human beings with honesty and a welcoming heart? To be accessible to all the good stuff that life has to offer?

Of course, I do wind up getting hurt now and again. But it doesn’t affect me as badly any more. And I get over things much quicker. I can see the lessons in everything. I cry and moan, then learn and grow, and move on.

learning

This evening, as I practise yoga, the tears spill down my cheeks. Why am I so upset, I wonder. Am I really that cut up over this particular loss? Or is it because I’m losing hope? Is it because I’m believing thoughts that are laden with always and nevers? Or is it simply because I’m not getting what I want?

It’s probably a combination of all of the above. I got a taste of something that I liked and I want more. Is it okay to want? Or should I just be present with what is? Because this present moment is actually fine.

It is my mind that’s steeping me in sorrow. My thoughts are making me wallow. I’m dwelling on the if-onlys and what-if-I-nevers. And I’m beating myself up for not having moved past all of this when I really thought that I had.

As I complete my yoga sequence in corpse pose, I realise that it’s okay to take action and go after what I desire but it’s the attachment to the outcome that’s causing me to suffer. This attachment will raise me with elation when I perceive that I have what I want and it will fling me into devastation when it’s taken away.

I have to be okay with who I am, where I am, and how I am, no matter what. Right now, I’m feeling beaten down. I don’t have all the answers. And I feel like giving up.

But I know, deep down, that I am not these transient feelings. They are just visiting. However, I can take the time and space to sit with them and allow them to speak to me. I know that I’ll learn from this experience and the emotions that have arisen from it.

I lie here in corpse pose and I give up. I’m not running away from the pain and I’m not running forward to fix it or to feel better. I give up. I give up the need to know what’s going to happen and why. I give up control and expectations. I give up blaming and victimising. I give it all up.

And when I get up, I feel lighter.

thompsonblogs.org

thompsonblogs.org

Practising Presence

I’m over a week into my challenge to be present. I could tell you that I’m completely zen, that I’ve attained enlightenment, and that I’m connected with and full of love for the entire universe. But I won’t do that.

I’ll be honest. I’m not there just yet. I’m definitely not present all the time. I’m probably not even present half the time. However, the knock-on effect from simply setting this challenge is that it’s making me much more aware. And once you’re aware, you begin to wake up.

I’m looking at my thoughts and feelings with interest. Rather than scolding myself for not being perfect, I’m observing my reactions with curiosity and humour. And when I notice my mind fleeing from the present, I’m now able to catch the tail of my projections and coax myself back to centre.

I recognise that I always have a choice as to how I feel in any given moment. I can decide which thoughts to believe. I can question my assumptions. And I can release stagnant patterns so that life flows with ease, joy and abundance.

For most of my life, the extravaganza of my ego hypnotised me. But now that I’m sampling pure pockets of peace, this mindfulness jazz tastes like more.

Today, I sit in the September sun. For fear of doing nothing, I walk outside armed with phone, book, journal and iPod. But I get a sense that I’m doing this out of habit. I ignore the paraphernalia, put my feet up, tilt my face skyward, and appreciate the wine-stained autumn leaves and the heat on my toes. The crumpled clouds remind me of a morning strand, slick from a recent tide.

This evening though, I huff and puff over the stories my mind barrages me with. Again, it dawns on me that I’m doing this out of habit. I take a breath, drop into my core, and let it go.

In bed tonight, my mind visits many foreign and oft-explored destinations. At first, I indulge these memories, fantasies and nightmares. Then, I shift out of the nonsense and into the present. Only in presence do I realise that my body is clenched and I’m not lying in a comfortable position. I give myself permission to relax.

zdravoslovnohranene.com

zdravoslovnohranene.com

If you want to become more present, remember that practice makes “perfect”. It may be helpful to figure out which places and techniques assist you with the process. Being in nature usually grounds me. So does concentrating on my breath.

And yes, it is easier to be present when faced with a special moment or a spectacular view. Being present comes effortlessly when you gaze at the enormous moon in a glittering sky. Or when you watch the holiday sun melt into the horizon. Or when you turn your attention to your other senses – sinking into a yoga pose after a long day; the sensation of a lover’s touch; the strangely comforting sound of the roaring rain and wailing wind at your window.

But what about all the other moments? How can you be present during the difficult, sad and angry episodes? Can you maintain your presence of mind, body and spirit throughout the mundane and the chaotic? When you’re stuck in traffic or shuffling at the back of a massive queue? When you’re exhausted after a trialling time or choked up with dread over an imminent event?

Don’t worry if your desire to be present doesn’t manifest immediately or if it vanishes at the first sign of struggle. Simply be aware of how you are. The key is to treat yourself with compassion. Whenever I have trouble with mindfulness, I  recall a friend’s suggestion:

“You must be gentle with yourself. Each time you attach to thought and abandon the present moment, bring yourself back with the lightest nudge. Like with the soft top of a paintbrush.”

With practice, presence will start to become automatic. Because it’s our natural state. We just got a little lost along the way. We got caught up in the adventure, we drank in too much drama, and our vision grew blurry.

But now that I’m sobering up, I can focus on the path home, and I finally understand that I don’t have to travel very far. I don’t have to go anywhere at all. I just have to be.

Judge Not

The neighbours who wake you at 7am on a Sunday after a drink-fuelled Saturday night. The friend/family member/love interest who hasn’t replied to your message. The person who’s pissed you off or who’s pissed off with you. Social media’s knack for igniting envy as you scroll through everyone else’s world trips, dream jobs, perfect relationships, new homes and other Instagrammed milestones and achievements, while you spend the entire day in your dressing gown, watching movies and grazing on junk food instead of working on that assignment, working out, or even just working on being a social, functioning member of the human race.

If only everyone and everything would just cooperate. Then you could finally be okay.

You believe that the source of your peace, happiness, love and success is outside of you. You hold out hope that there’s one special person who will complete you. That contract will give you security. The money will bestow upon you peace of mind. As soon as you move house, you’ll achieve serenity. The job promotion will make you feel successful and worthy of approval.

All you yearn for is happiness. Peace. Love. You judge everything outside of you for its ability to give or rob you of these commodities. And you judge every feeling inside of you as lack or confirmation of these things. But it is these judgements and labels that cause you to swing from joy to suffering. And it can be scary how quickly and easily this can happen.

When you judge how you’re feeling, you begin to battle against or struggle to hold on to the feeling, or what you perceive to be the cause of that feeling. And it is this clutching and resistance that heightens the suffering and keeps you in its stronghold.

It is in accepting the thought, the feeling or the situation that unhooks the attachment. And giving yourself love and compassion allows you to be present with whatever arises. You don’t need to get rid of the emotion in order to feel better. Allow it to surface. Notice it. Let it go. And love yourself throughout.

Peace and love come from within you. Nothing anyone else does or doesn’t do can make you feel these things. Nor can they take them away. You are responsible and you have nobody to blame, including yourself. Bring awareness to what is, accept it, give yourself love and compassion. And with grace and gratitude, keep breathing…

weheartit.com

weheartit.com

Eat Pray Love?

I am hesitant about spending three days on my own in a mostly closed-down seaside village in March but I know I want to get away and I also know that I have to do it alone.

I have had a bit of a rough time of it in the last while and I need respite from the storm. As I drive from east to west Ireland, I head straight from a metaphorical storm into a real one.

I expect to feel lonely but I am quite content in my own company. Upon my arrival, I go out to the beach. I walk against high winds and watch the crashing waves. In the evening, I take my laptop to a hotel and peek out at the ocean as I sip on a glass of Guinness. That night, I nibble on chocolate as I watch a movie from beneath a mound of blankets. And I have the most wonderful sleep.

On the second day, I complete a college assignment and jog down a quiet country road. I make a “chillax” playlist, light incense and candles, and get drunk in the bath on a glass of red wine as I delightedly tuck into Elizabeth Gilbert’s endearing memoir Eat Pray Love.

weheartit.com

weheartit.com

That night, the wind shakes the rafters and the rain pelts down. And it isn’t the kind of rain that appears on many a relaxation CD; it’s the kind that makes you worry for the house (and for yourself).

On the third day, the loneliness descends. I feel too depressed to make food or leave the house so I give myself permission to close the curtains, put on a movie and eat chocolate. The sun shines annoyingly from behind the blinds. I feel guilty.

Earlier in the day, I had finished Eat Pray Love. Elizabeth Gilbert had found pleasure, peace, God and love, and I am happy for her, but now I really am alone. Even the nice, fun self who got drunk with me in the bath has left and been replaced with a demanding, insatiable self who reprimands me with all the fervour and righteousness of a school-teaching nun. I haven’t signed up for this. I’m on holidays. I can do what I want.

Halfway through the movie, I decide that I’d actually quite like to spend some time in the company of the sun and the ocean so I drag myself out of bed and embark upon a cliff walk.

The wind whips me in several directions. The ocean is beautiful but frightening as its waves roar and rise higher and higher, its spray landing on my face. I wonder if it’s safe to walk so high up, to be so close to such fierce unpredictability. There is nobody around. Am I alone in my insanity?

At one point, the wind grows so strong that I have to hold on to a railing. Then, there is no more railing. I could turn back but I’ve come so far. I just have to get to the peak and turn the corner. I’m stubborn in my insanity too.

Suddenly, a stone hits me in the face. I march to the top and turn the corner. Only then do I raise my hand to my cheek. I quite enjoy the sting of it. Tears spring to my eyes. Am I a masochist? Do I think I deserve to be hurt? No. It is simply because I can understand physical pain. Physical pain allows me to lift a gentle hand to my cheek to check if I’m okay.

As I move onto safer terrain, I ask myself why I’d been scared. In case I died? With a jolt, I realise that it isn’t death I’m afraid of; it’s more suffering. If you’re so afraid of suffering, a voice from within asks, why do you keep creating more and more of it? Why not put an end to all the guilt, the shoulds and shouldn’t haves, the only ifs and whens? Why not stop the exhausting drive for perfection?

If I’m serious about ending the needless suffering, I need to peel off the “good” and “bad” labels I put on everything. I have to stop the judgements. I also have to stop being so dependent on outside events, on other people and their opinions, and on my own thoughts and feelings.

I’ve been so dependent on a variety of people, things and invisible forces that I’m like a small child perched on one end of a see-saw, always waiting to see who’ll sit on the other side, before I can know how high or low they’ll take me.

How I long to connect with that inner stillness I’ve been reading so much about. That pure, perfect, beautiful, unconditional love that’s apparently a part of me. If only I could know, really know, that the essence of who I am is like the clear blue sky, then I wouldn’t be so disturbed and even altered by the lightning and the storm clouds.

All I have to do is accept myself exactly as I am. And accept others for who they are. And accept situations and feelings just as they are too. All I have to do is accept graciously and love unconditionally. But how do I get there?

I guess the first step of all this acceptance stuff is to accept that I don’t have all the answers and that I’m just not there yet.

And so I start to run. The wind settles, the sun beams down from a clear blue sky, and, I shit you not, I run right underneath a rainbow.

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favim.com