Now What?

She plays the trumpet in her bedroom, eyes closed. He spills all his passion into his lyrics. The beat moves his body as he jumps on stage.

The motivational speaker scrunches her forehead, irises burning. The therapist does his utmost to change the trajectory of his client’s hurtling demise.

I watch. I listen. I feel a surge of emotion, a prickle upon the skin. A tingling that reminds me to really live.

It’s my duty to inhale all this beauty and passion, to embody it, and to create some of my own.

A year later, I wake up from a slumber of day-to-day and it-is-what-it-is, and I ask myself some questions. Where am I going? Why? What’s my purpose? If nothing changes in my life, how will I be?

Fear. Paralysis. Stuck. Yes, I’m much improved but shouldn’t I be doing more?

What do I actually want? Where do I want to be? Do I even know?

The motivational speaker makes me feel inadequate. So does the therapist.

Where’s my drive? My ambition? My business-savvy?

I experience an uncomfortable shaking within. Maybe I’m scared of being pushed. But I brought myself to these questions.

So despite the tremble and the choking sensation at my throat, I take a look at my life and ask myself what it is that I want. What do I need to do? And when will I do it?

I’m inspired to do more, to reach higher, to push past the layers of insecurity to a belief that I deserve an existence of abundance, passion and freedom.

And where will that take me? To more of this, here? Or to a new start in a land of sunshine and opportunity?

Will I be writing books and launching podcasts? Or will I succumb to a 9-5 with a regular salary?

What’s next? Putting myself out there? Knock-backs and tears? Or persistence and resilience?

Hitting rock bottom so the only way is up again? Again?

All the while learning to feel the feelings – depressed, scared, victorious and in love – so I can open up and enjoy an authentic relationship with myself and my life.

What should my goals be? To have children? Buy a house? Get a pension? Make a living doing what I love, helping others, and living a rich, balanced, healthy, fulfilling life?

Will my parents worry at my continual shunning of the norm? But I’m an adult. And this is my life. I have to make it my own.

Will I remain childless and regret it? Or could I have a lifetime of affection and adventure with my partner instead?

Will I lose my loved ones and go through unbearable grief? Or will I be granted many priceless years of love and happiness?

Will I keep on this road of growth, gratitude and wonderful surprises, trusting that everything works out for the best?

Who got to decide the basics for us all anyway? Five weekdays and we’ll name Saturday and Sunday the weekend. By this age, you should be starting a family. And we’ll award you a mortgage and the next 35 years of making sure you’ve enough to make the payments.

I don’t do 9-5, weekdays or weekends. And what if I never get married, buy a house, bear children or secure a pensionable job?

Does that make me a fool? Should I live my life the way it’s been drawn out for the masses?

Am I fucked or free? Do I need to tie myself down so one day, before it’s too late, I can fly?

But I still hear her blowing that trumpet. And his heart’s splayed open in that tune he sings. And the globe is pulsing with possibility. Yet my bank balance is not enough. Not enough.

So I remove my gaze from the clouds. I place my feet on the ground, my hands on my hips, and my chest to the sky. Now what?

crossroads

Artist: John Berry, Illustration Source

 

Advertisements

The Warrior

There is always something to think, to worry about, to get angry over. Always some drama, a problem to figure out, a decision to make.

With this realisation, I detach, let go, and travel within. The thoughts form and dissolve. The movie of my life still plays on. But I turn down the volume and focus within.

I connect with a deep sense of peace, a groundedness. I listen. I breathe.

Like a novice snorkeller in a world of underwater magic. Astonished by the beauty. Yet all I can hear is my breathing.

I could be lifted from this peace and wonder by an unconscious wandering to wherever my thoughts whimsically transport me. Or I could choose, moment by moment, to return to the present and to appreciate what’s before me, what’s part of me, what I really am.

A slice of this miracle of life presents itself to me. I come to my senses. I savour in the deliciousness of it all. I’m nourished. Whole.

No fear any more. Really. Although there’s still fear, insecurity, discomfort, dangling into the chasm of the unknown.

A lifetime of clinging and scrambling. Dictatorially and unintelligently controlling. Resisting, closing, lashing out against the emotions and the people who triggered me.

Now, I make a different choice. I lean in. Allow. Listen. And with that, comes relief. Learning. Growth. Strength.

I am a warrior in my courage to feel, to be, to connect with others, even though I could be wounded at any moment.

I shrug off my armour and lay down my shield. I no longer point my sword threateningly at the sky. I bare my heart to the heavens.

I have never seen a warrior so vulnerable. Yet she closes her eyes just to feel the sunlight on her skin.

Nature congratulates her with pink and white blossoms, yellows and purples and oranges. Trees reveal themselves to her. Birdsong replaces her soundtrack of doubt. The universe is full.

Her body now free to embrace those she loves. And that has to be everyone. Everything. Herself. Myself. My movie and my constantly altering reviews and reactions.

I drop judgment. I wince at the pain of unhooking attachments.

With loss, there’s lightness. An opening, a flow. A current of love. A deep-seated peace.

I go within and feel calm. I open so that I can live.

I feel a tingling of love wash over me. I understand. I know. I connect.

As soon as I see clearly, my goggles fog over again. For it goes beyond my limited ways of words, analysis and explanation.

It just is. As I am. And I will remember again and again.

meditation sun

Sometimes

Do you ever feel so bad about yourself that you can’t fathom that great things could happen? You don’t believe in yourself. You forget all the good that you do.

Sometimes.

You close yourself off to all the love that surrounds you. You compare yourself unfavourably to others and see everyone else as confident, successful, flourishing…

You focus on the negatives. You spot rejection, failure and disappointment in every comment, action and imagination.

Sometimes.

You push loved ones away then hate yourself more for doing so. For self-destructively banishing what you crave: love, care and affection.

They try to love you. They offer you acceptance. But deep down, you’re never going to measure up or be worthy of their naive loving of you.

You shut down the love. You silence the laughter. You dare not believe in your potential. It frightens you.

You sob. You cry. You let go. You open up. You let him in.

Sometimes.

A smile breaks through. You can’t help but laugh. He’s so good.

He sees the best in you. You want to be that person. And one day, as you sip on a coffee in the afterglow of his presence, you realise that you are.

You are that bouncing, brave, beautiful person that he admires. But you block yourself.

Sometimes.

You think thoughts and you believe them. You identify with the bad.

You stop dancing. You don’t feel the music. You forget who you are. You exist but you cease living.

Sometimes.

While the real you simmers patiently beneath. Always there. Waiting for you to shake off the shackles and rejoin the dance.

Ready to roar in perfection. And smile and love and shine. And be free.

He loves you because finally you remember that you love you. You just don’t believe it.

Sometimes.

Image: Author's Own

Image: Author’s Own

My Song

I welcome the first day of summer by attending a yoga and music workshop with musician and yoga teacher Jack Harrison.

We lie down and begin with some breathing exercises. Jack strums his guitar, recites poetry and sings.

Then he takes us through a powerful yoga sequence. No music plays now. All we can hear are Jack’s instructions and our breath.

My breathing deepens. I feel strong, present and peaceful.

Afterwards, we sit in a circle and sing. For the most part, I close my eyes and really get into it.

Occasionally, I open my eyes and appreciate what’s in front of me. The fantastic Jack Harrison playing guitar. And a group of people joyously opening their hearts together in song.

Next, Jack suggests that we sing any tune we feel like.

“Dissonance is beautiful,” he insists.

“Some of us were told as children that we weren’t good singers. I was kicked out of the school choir when I was a boy,” he laughs.

“But singing is easy,” he says with a smile.

Many of us spend our lives trying to fit in and appear normal. We’re told how to live and what’s expected of us.

But today for a change, we’re being encouraged to be different. We’ve been given licence to sing our own song in a way that’s right for us in this special moment.

We start quietly and self-consciously. But before long, we become louder and more confident.

I realise that it’s much easier to sing in unison. It’s actually harder to be different. But I’m determined to find my own song.

I go with the feeling. I put judgment aside. I allow myself to be me.

Somewhere between dissonance, unison and harmony, I hear my own voice. Tears prickle behind my eyes. Jack’s right, it is beautiful.

bird girl

favim.com

Take Me Over

I decide to open up to a fellow holistic therapist about how I’m feeling. I tell her that nothing necessarily bad is happening to cause this feeling but that I sense its heaviness.

I’m choosing to carry it around and I’m not letting it go. I admit that I’m afraid, which makes me want to close down and not care in order to protect myself.

My friend instructs me to close my eyes and really get into the feeling of being scared. She tells me to allow it to grow and expand and fill my body.

I feel an energy in my chest and my stomach. It feels like fear then anger and then I relax. I open my eyes and relay this to her.

She asks if there’s any bad feeling left. I tell her there is. Sadness and grief. So I’m told to repeat the process of feeling and allowing the sadness.

I see the little girl inside of me. I feel what she’s feeling. But there’s a resistance within me. I don’t particularly want to go there now. Been there, done that.

Despite my current resistance, this year I’ve been loving myself more. When I feel bad, I remember not to reject myself. Because of this major personal breakthrough, I know that I’ll be okay.

My friend tells me that I’m repeating an old pattern. There really is nothing to be afraid of. I need to face my fear so that I can see that it’s just an illusion.

I already feel much better. This makes so much sense. I usually resist these bad feelings, fearing that they will control my life and affect how I behave, react and relate to others.

My friend reminds me that this is where my resistance lies. I don’t want these feelings. I’m trying to avoid certain behaviours. And I’m fearing the worst possible outcome.

“Stop resisting,” my friend insists.

“Allow the feeling to take you over. That will create a shift. A letting go. Which will open you up in wonderful ways.

Open your heart. Allow yourself to be hurt. And the funny thing is, you won’t be hurt. Because the real you can never be destroyed.”

She predicts that letting go of resistance and allowing the feelings to take me over will change everything. I won’t have to worry about what might happen, how I may react or the many ways I could self-destruct.

She also warns that just because I’ve now stopped pushing against the swing of resistance doesn’t mean that it will immediately cease moving.

“Once you stop pushing the swing, it will continue to move back and forth for a while. But it will be less forceful and it will gradually swing less and less,” she smiles.

I leave my friend’s house with an unfamiliar feeling in my chest. Is it pain? Discomfort?

I allow the feeling to grow and expand until I realise what it is. My heart is open. And that’s okay.

withanopenheart.org

withanopenheart.org

The Work Tools

Something happened recently that disappointed me. However, part of me insisted that it wasn’t a big deal, that I was overreacting and that I should get over it and move on. And I did. I mentally high-fived the new easy-going me.

In a conversation this evening, the same issue resurfaces. I receive new information that triggers me all over again.

I end the chat as quickly as I can. I’m just home after a very busy day and I’m starving but I’m too upset to eat.  So I fly up to my room and mutate into a wailing, thumping, tantrumming child.

I’m surprised to see that I’m angry. Anger is an uncomfortable emotion for me. I tell myself that I need to calm down.

I put my phone on silent, sit on my meditation cushion and tap on how I’m feeling (click here for more on EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique).

The anger pours out, as does the hurt. I allow the ego to have its say. What it says and how it speaks sounds so petty and silly that I start laughing. Then the tears return. As does the rage.

Even as I write this, it sounds overdramatic. I don’t want to worry family and friends over something so “trivial”.

That stern, no-nonsense part of me wants to assure you that it really isn’t a big thing. But what message would I be sending my sobbing inner child if I silenced her like that? And so I continue.

google.com

google.com

The tapping uncovers deeper feelings of not being important or special enough. Of being a “psycho”.

I should pretend that I’m fine because if I reveal my real feelings, if I ask for what want, I will surely and immediately become unloved and abandoned. And if that happens, I’ll feel so bad that everything else will be ruined.

With these imaginations, I’ve catapulted myself from a meditation cushion on a fine Friday evening to a near future of doom and failure. I may need another tool…

So I turn to Byron Katie’s transformative process The Work. The first step of The Work is to come up with a statement which is making me feel bad.

The statement I go for is: I’m overreacting. 

I then ask four questions.

The first question is: Is it true? Is it true that I’m overreacting?

Yes, I answer resolutely. Because nothing anyone does should make me feel bad. Only I can make myself bad. So I am overreacting. I should be zen at all times.

The second question is: Can you absolutely know that it’s true?

Again I respond with a Yes because “I should know better than to react this way”. However, I also know that a No to this question would move The Work along nicely.

Once I give myself permission to say that No, maybe I’m not overreacting, the reasons for why I’m feeling this way become clear. No wonder you’re upset, I comfort my poor inner child. There, there.

Then for question number three: How do you react, what happens when you believe that thought?

When I believe that I’m overreacting, I reject myself. I tell myself that I shouldn’t feel the way I’m feeling. I don’t have a right to speak up. My needs aren’t as important as the needs of others. And if I act like they are, those other people will become angry and leave.

The fourth question is: Who would you be without the thought?

If I didn’t have the thought I’m overreacting, if I couldn’t have it, I wouldn’t doubt myself so much. I’d be clearer about my needs. I’d know what I want and what I deserve. I wouldn’t beat up on myself and I wouldn’t feel bad for feeling bad. I’d love myself.

This year, I promised myself something powerful, something life-changing:

I will not abandon myself any more.

This evening, in spite of the pain, I refuse to turn my back on myself. I give myself some much-needed, much-appreciated love.

Regarding the situation, I don’t know yet what the next step is. But maybe acknowledging how I’m feeling, getting to the root of these emotions, seeing that I’m as deserving as anyone else, and loving myself throughout is enough.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Little Camino

The past month has been weighed down with money worries, career anxiety, fear for the future and feelings of insecurity. This in turn has had an effect on my self-esteem; how I see myself and how I feel when I’m with others.

The main outcome of a much-needed business coaching session this week was that I need to love myself. And yesterday, I had another revelation.

I’ve been depending on external factors to make me feel okay. I’ll be good enough if and when… I’ll relax when I’m earning more money. I’ll be worthy when I have a flourishing business. I’ll feel secure when my boyfriend does and says all the right things.

However, the reverse should be true. I need to feel good first, anyway, irrespective of anything or anyone.

I have to love myself just because. I must stop placing conditions on my self-acceptance.

And I definitely need to stop waiting for someone else to make me feel good. Because that strategy is destined to fail. Catastrophically.

It’s guaranteed to foster pressure, disappointment and resentment. Feelings become extremely precarious. One action, one word, one thought has the power to tear everything asunder.

What I want to do now is come back to me. That creative, happy individual who knows herself, and who has a full and balanced life with work and friends and hobbies. Who now also has a boyfriend who’s gorgeous and good and full of love and enthusiasm.

But just because I’m now in a relationship doesn’t mean I should lose myself in it. An intimate relationship is actually an opportunity to find myself more deeply than ever before.

I need to live my life. Do the things that give me energy and inspiration. Be there for myself.

I have to stop abandoning myself whenever things go “wrong”. I must remember my worth, see my light, and know that I’m deserving of love and all the good things in life. I need to focus on all the positives that are right there in front of me.

Today is Thursday and I have the day off. Part of me feels ashamed that I’m not busier, that I’m not a part of “normal” working society. Then I remember that I have to stop rejecting myself.

“What’s the most loving thing I could do for myself today,” I ask.

An image of walking in nature flashes before me.

“The sea,” I think excitedly.

“Healthy, delicious food and coffee. And a good book,” I add.

I’ve come up with the perfect recipe: I’ll hike along the coastline from Bray to Greystones, have lunch in one of my favourite restaurants The Happy Pear, then wander back to Bray.

IMG_7281

Most “normal” people work on a Thursday so I go alone. And that’s kind of perfect. My very own mini-Camino.

I don’t listen to music and I put my phone on silent. The weather goes from windy to sunny to rainy.

As I walk, I start thinking. Then I realise that I’m feeling bad. I observe this with interest.

Nothing has actually happened in the here and now and I’ve still managed to make myself feel bad. When instead I could be enjoying the beautiful views of aquamarine waters leaning into the horizon, mountain and birds and yellow furze. I could be breathing in the fresh air. Appreciating this time, this peace, this space…

IMG_7279

So today I choose to come back to me, to stay with me, to love myself and to make myself happy. Because when I’m present to myself in this moment all is right in my world.

Today I take this big lesson from my little Camino back to my working life and to my romantic relationship but most importantly to my relationship with myself.

IMG_7278

Images: Author’s Own