Tag Archives: truth

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…

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“Depression is a friend, not my enemy” by Conor Cusack

Have a look at this amazing blog on depression, written by Irishman Conor Cusack. Conor bravely, honestly and perfectly describes the pain of depression. The most amazing part of this article is when he calls depression his friend, not his enemy. He admits that:

“Once or twice a year, especially when I fall into old habits, my ‘friend’ pays me a visit. I don’t push him away or ignore him. I sit with him in a chair in a quiet room and allow him to come. I sit with the feeling. Sometimes I cry, other times I smile at how accurate his message is. He might stay for an hour, he might stay for a day. He gives his message and moves on.”

Emotion welled up in me as I read his words. Conor believes that depression is “a message from a part of your being to tell you something in your life isn’t right and you need to look at it.” I agree.

It’s so important to sit with how you’re feeling, to ask yourself what’s needed for you to be able live an authentic life, and to really listen to yourself even when all you want to do is run away.

If you would like an insight into how someone with depression is feeling or if you would like some reassurance that you’re not alone, this article is a must-read.

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Tuesdays with Morrie

I pick up a little book called Tuesdays with Morrie while on holidays in Spain. I saw it years ago but avoided it because the blurb on the back made me worry that it’d be a depressing read. It is about a dying professor (Morrie Schwartz) and his younger student (Mitch Albom). This time, I am ready. I devour it in two sittings. And I cry and cry and cry.

It isn’t that it’s unbearably sad. It’s just so touching, it moves me like nothing else has for a long time. I can feel Morrie’s energy with me as I finish the memoir. I love him. I can honestly say that he (and the endearingly honest Mitch) has changed my life. The gradual shift in Mitch’s attitude inspires me almost as much as Morrie’s wisdom.

Morrie allowed himself to let go, to be vulnerable, and to ask for help. He observed that, when you’re an infant, you need help from others and, when you grow old, you require their assistance also. However, what we fail to acknowledge is that we need other people in between times too.

Morrie told the tale of the little wave that witnessed other waves crashing against the shore. The wave wailed, fearfully: “Oh no, look! This is the fate that awaits us. How horrible!” Another wave reassured him: “Don’t fret, little one, for you are not a wave, you are part of the ocean.” As Rumi wrote: “You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean, in a drop.”

Morrie’s message has made me realise how closed off I’d become. I’d tell myself that “I like my own space”. I’d go home while co-workers would sit and have tea, a chat and a laugh. I’d stay alone in the flat watching episode after episode of The Good Wife. I’d spend weekends preparing classes instead of exploring the countryside with loved ones. I’d retire early rather than spend time with friends.

I still believe that there should be a balance between rest, work and play and between stillness, silence and moments of noise and interaction. But Morrie’s story has shown me that the most important thing in life is to love. To share what you have with others. To give another human being the gift of your time. Morrie said that he was always 100 per cent present with whomever he was speaking. When he was talking with Mitch, he thought only of Mitch. This resonates with me as I am often in the company of others when I’m not really there. I’m thinking of what needs to be done, or how I shouldn’t have eaten that or I might even be putting a photo through Instagram while somebody attempts to converse with me.

Morrie’s big, brave, generous heart has made me resolve to really live life, to connect with people, to appreciate nature, to question the values we’ve been brainwashed into adopting, to understand that love and peace are what’s true and priceless compared with ever-changing, unreliable material and physical possessions. One of my new goals is to do something that makes me feel alive every single day. I also promise to be present with people, as if each encounter were our last, and to ask, in the words of Robert Holden in his book Loveability: “How can I love you more?”

I have a couple of hours before I have to head for the airport. I could go for a last swim at what the locals call the “healing beach”. But it’s a bit of a walk, I mentally argue. And it’d mean packing a wet bikini. Then, I remember that I’m living life. So I set off in my flip-flops, carrying a pink towel. A line of ants and a yellow butterfly cross my path. A lone purple wildflower on this dry dirt track reduces me to tears. I offer an Hola and a smile to an old man sitting alone. He returns my smile, its corners clipped with surprise. An elderly couple stroll ahead, hand-in-hand. Yet again, my eyes mist. I beam as I spot a set of keys a stranger has carefully balanced atop a bollard.

My breasts bob and sway as my feet flap upon the sand. I feel like an ancient elephant striding across the desert. I inhale the scent of my sweat that has collected in cracks and creases. A homeless man sits on a wall behind the beach. I abandon my beach bag and strip. I don’t suck in my stomach. Not today. I duck my head into the ocean even though my hair was freshly washed this morning. I am alive.

Mitch and Morrie used to say, “We’re Tuesday people” because they usually met on Tuesdays. And I am writing this piece on a Tuesday, watching the waves surge and retreat, with tears in my eyes and a heart that’s breaking… wide open.

Image: Author's own

Image: Author’s own

You, Guru

Tonight I watched Kumaréa documentary about a man who impersonates an Indian guru. Having become disillusioned with religion and faith, gurus and masters, Vikram Gandhi decides to fake it. He adopts an Indian accent, grows out his hair and beard, and sports orange robes and a comical staff.

Before long, Sri Kumaré has gathered a loyal following for his self-made teachings, pushing the boundaries as far as he can. It is amazing but not all that surprising to see how readily people believe and how willingly they devote themselves to him.

It is not Vikram’s intention to fool or humiliate these people. He simply wants to demonstrate that there is a guru within each and every one of us. That we already have all the answers. That we don’t need to give our power away by looking outside of ourselves for guidance. That we shouldn’t have to follow anyone else’s orders or advice. Sri Kumaré tells his devotees: “You are all great beings and you must stop pretending that you are not.”

Interestingly, Vikram realises that his new persona is the best version of himself. He is happier and more loving and connected than he ever was as Vikram Gandhi. But he must unveil the illusion in order to teach his lesson. By revealing who he really is, he hopes to reveal the guru inside each of his followers. And speaking of revealing, don’t worry, I’m not about to give away the ending.

In India, the greeting “Namaste” is frequently used. It means “I bow to you” and it is accompanied with a slight bow made with hands pressed together in front of the chest. The gesture represents the belief that there is a divine spark within each of us. I love the idea of saluting the divinity in every person I encounter. But it must start with oneself.

An old Zen koan attributed to Linji Yixuan goes like this: “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” This means that you should not worship any one person or value anyone else’s opinions over your own. Yes, it’s great to meet a wise person who shares their valuable teachings. But the smart thing to do is to take what they say and then allow it to sit with you. Is it right for you? What is your intuition or gut telling you? Give yourself time and space in silence to listen to yourself. As your own best guru, only you can lead your way. Namaste.

The Work

Today, I attended a Byron Katie workshop. Byron Katie’s work involves asking yourself four simple questions whenever you’re feeling bad. They are as follows:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
  3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
  4. Who would you be without the thought?

You then turn the thought around. I’ll give you the example I used when filling out the “Judge-Your-Neighbor” worksheet. We were instructed to go back to a time when we felt hurt. I remembered being dumped by a boyfriend. Katie asked us to go back to the centre of the most painful moment of that episode. I was lying on my bed, roaring crying. I felt shocked, upset, disappointed and rejected. I was also angry because I felt that he had disrespected me.

Here are a couple of the questions from the worksheet: In this situation, what advice would you offer to that person? You should be honest and true to yourself. What do you think of this person in this situation? I think ______ is asleep, unfair, dishonest, cowardly and immature. 

I asked myself the four questions, which I understood and which rang true for me. But it was the turnaround that really blew me away. Turn the thought around: should be honest and true to myself. Yes, without a doubt. ______ is honest and true to himself. He is awake, fair, honest, brave and mature. Of course he is. He was awake enough to know that he didn’t want to be with me any longer. He was honest with himself and with me. He was brave enough to end it. He was mature enough to do the right thing. was asleep, unfair, dishonest, cowardly and immature. Right again! I was willing to stay in a relationship that wasn’t working. I was being dishonest with myself and with him. I was wailing like an abandoned infant. Wow!

There were a number of other Aha moments as the day progressed. I’ll mention a few of them. One man stated: “_____ should be more open-minded.” Katie asked, “Can someone be more open-minded than they are in that moment?” The answer is no. This really got me thinking. Imagine if we stopped trying to control how others behaved? If we stopped judging them, criticising them, feeling superior to them, feeling hurt by them? The other person is not hurting us. It is our thought, our reaction that hurts us. And we have the power to change that thought. What a liberating realisation!

Byron Katie spoke about relationships. She suggested: “Your partner is your teacher. He / she is working on you as he / she is always showing you what you need to learn. This makes it much easier for you as it cuts your work in half.” I had never thought of it that way before. So, it’d be in my interest to find myself a “teacher”… Must put in a request…

Finally, one woman told us that she hates her belly because it’s too fat. Byron Katie picked up a little flower and said (in the type of voice a flower might have): “I’m so beautiful!” She then pointed the flower in the direction of a vase filled with different flowers. She / the flower said: “There must be something wrong with me… I’m not yellow. I don’t have as many leaves as that flower, I’m not as open as that other one, and I think I’m too short.” We laughed at how ridiculous it sounded. She then turned to the woman and asked, “Your belly is too fat for what?” The woman answered, “To be sexy and attractive.” Katie said: “So, you see your body as collateral. You think – I’m not going to get much with this body.” Again, we laughed. The woman admitted that sometimes her boyfriend tells her that he doesn’t like her belly. Byron Katie said: “You be your boyfriend and tell me that you don’t like my belly. I’ll be somebody who loves my belly. I’ll be you.” When the woman told Katie that she had a problem with her belly, Katie responded: “Oh my God, I hope you get over that! That must be awful for you. Whose problem is that? It’s certainly not mine.” She added: “If your mind cannot compare, is it possible to see yourself as anything other than perfect?” She concluded: “Your ego doesn’t want you to become enlightened. Your attachment to the thought that you are fat is not allowing you to wake up.” Sit with that one for a moment…

Who would you be without the thoughts that are terrorising you? Relaxed? At peace? Happy? Present? Become aware of the thoughts that are making you feel bad. Develop an inquiring mind. Question your beliefs. And turn them around. As Byron Katie says: “Change your thoughts. Change the world.”

Which of these poppies is not perfect?

Image: incrediblesnaps.com/60-beautiful-flower-pictures

The Dark Side of the Moon

Today, I had a very interesting conversation about good and evil. One woman stated: “Of course evil exists if good exists. Everything has its polarity.”

I’ve been told before that I only see the good in people and that I need to live in the “real” world. Despite this, I said: “I realise that without darkness, there can be no light. But ultimately, and beyond all that, I feel that love and light prevail. And everything is part of that Divine Oneness.” Somebody else piped up: “Yes, duality only comes into play when the human mind perceives it.”

Deep, I know! I went home in a bit of a daze. I knew I had to sit with this and feel what was right for me. I went to bed with a copy of the Tao Te Ching and randomly opened a page. I was amazed to read the following words:

“Recognise beauty and ugliness is born. Recognise good and evil is born. Is and isn’t produce each other. Hard depends on easy, Long is tested by short, High is determined by low, Sound is harmonised by voice, After is followed by before.”

It is only in defining something that its opposite arises. I felt very tired. I switched off the light, pulled back the curtains and gazed up at the night. “What is the truth,” I asked the crescent-shaped moon. The clouds moved across the sky, part shadow, part light. Suddenly, a large black cloud completely covered the moon. It was as though the darkness had banished the light.

The truth, according to my human eye, was that the shadow had overridden the light. Yet I knew that the moon had not gone anywhere. It still was. I also knew that, although it only appeared to be a sliver of its full self, the moon never actually diminished in size. It was always there in its entirety. And I knew that it was the brightest object in the sky, after the sun, even though its surface was actually very dark, with a similar reflectance to coal.

The dark cloud moved on and the light shone down. The moon said nothing. It simply was. And I no longer needed to be answered.

justhotpics.blogspot.com/2008/12/beautiful-pictures-of-moon

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.

What if I told you…

What if I told you that you are safe? That you are perfectly supported by the Universe. What if I told you that your essence is eternal? That you and nature and everyone around you are connected. That you all come from the same source.

What if I told you that your natural state is one of peace, love and happiness? That abundance is right there for you if you would just ask for it and believe that you deserve it. What if I told you that you are perfect? That you are energy flowing from and towards and with God. What if I told you that everything is happening for a reason? For you to learn. For you to get to know your self.

Would you resist these words and choose to believe that to live means to struggle and to suffer; to feel insecure, angry, afraid and alone? Or would you realise that these are the only truths we need to know so that we can create peace, connection and total love? So that we can experience and enjoy the beauty and light and radiance of simply being.

magazine.macs-salon.co.uk/2011/12/loathe-the-end-of-the-summer-sun-2/

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

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