Category Archives: Uncategorized

Lent

I’m not religious. But I’m going to use Lent as an excuse to challenge myself.

I considered giving up rubbish (as I’m eating more since I moved in with my sweet-toothed boyfriend). Then, I remembered what I heard in my Non-duality class last night.

Most of us spend our lives trying to increase pleasure and avoid pain. We’re constantly distracting ourselves.

We lie back on the couch and switch on Netflix. Then we get up to make ourselves a cup of tea before pulling open the biscuits. Then we pick up our phone.

This all keeps us from getting to know who we really are.

Yesterday evening, I was feeling anxious. I silenced my phone and sat in stillness for twenty minutes.

As I sat, many things passed through my mind – to do lists, memories, imaginations. My leg became uncomfortable.

Eventually all of that, including the anxiety, softened, melted. I don’t know if it went away or if I just dropped deeper. To a place within where none of it mattered.

So I’ve decided, instead of denying myself lots of things, I’m going to give myself something much greater. The gift of my presence.

If I choose to eat something, I’ll eat it. I won’t stuff it in my gob while numbing out in front of the TV.

I’ll take up the phone when I want to do something with it. Not out of habit. Not just to have something, anything, to do.

In between appointments this morning, I take myself for coffee and a scone. I leave the book I’m reading in my handbag. My phone lies idle on the table.

I notice as I’m eating that I’m lifting more scone to my face before I’ve finished chewing the last mouthful. I think about texting my parents.

I start composing an Instastory in my mind. I have the urge to leave the café and share all of this with my followers.

I am aware of this need to speed up, to get to the next thing and the next and the next. So I remain where I am.

I finish the scone slowly. I look at fellow customers as they pass by. A few of them smile at me.

I decide to write all this down instead of trying to squash my musings into a story. I don’t want to speak rapidly to fit it all in before Instagram cuts me off. Social media forces us to be quick and then wipes it all away.

I realise that if I live this way, one thing at a time, pausing, breathing, aware- that is meditation. It’s a learning of who I am.

Initially, that includes my thoughts and fears, my issues and insecurities. My ego.

And then comes a stillness. Or the I comes to stillness.

Nowhere else to go. Nothing to do.

Nothing I have to fix, change or get. I already am everything.

Image: Etsy

Anon

I’ve been shaken up. The way I’m relating to the world has shifted. I’m excited and I’m resisting.

I’m almost half-way through a Non-Duality course with Mark Molumby and I’m doing lots of research on the subject as well as exploring the topics of psychology, spirituality and psychedelics.

As we debate in class, a nervousness bubbles. My identity and attachments are challenged. The ego mutters Uh-oh!

During a class meditation, I go from living in a head of rapid-fire thoughts, predictions and analysis to a melting relaxation to energy whooshing up the front and down the back of the body to a vision of a spiral then a single eye.

As is customary for me, I go from experiencing to thinking about the experience, wanting to describe it and squeeze out meaning. But I’m noticing this habit so my direct experiences are becoming more intense.

I’m having terrifying and wonderfully vivid dreams- a terror of falling backwards from an extreme height then deciding to do a skydive to face the fear and be reborn; a river of colours flanked by ancient trees; and communicating with my boyfriend without words.

I’ve lost interest in Netflix and Love Island, novels and too-sweet biscuits. The humdrum of dramas and complaining seems redundant.

I don’t need to switch off anymore. I’m turned on.

I’m hungry for more- more newness in a return home. I crave sitting in stillness.

For too many years, I struggled to cope with the norms of growing up- exams, holding down a job, finding someone to love me, earning enough money, getting a “normal”, pensionable career, and buying a house (I still haven’t done some of the above, probably never will).

Every so often, I believed myself to be such a failure that I thought I’d be better off dead.

So I worked on myself- I went for counselling, inhaled self-help books, and chanted. I sucked on homeopathic remedies, exercised daily, and ate healthily.

I completed several courses, set up a well-being business, and created Mindfulness, meditation and Positive Living classes, which I myself benefit from immensely.

I’m seeing that we all struggle. And in that struggle, we grow, we redirect and we connect.

Over four years ago, I entered into a relationship with a man who, without years of trying and deconditioning, is naturally in the flow of giving and receiving love. I watched and I learned.

In the process of feeling vulnerable, loving him and accepting his adoration, I slowly started to accept myself.

In the early days, I admitted to a Life Coach that losing Luis would be the worst thing that could happen to me. I now trust myself (and life) enough to see that I am enough.

A possible separation is just an experience. An imagination. An illusion. I don’t have to make it who I am.

I’ve also come to realise that, instead of rejecting myself by judging my feelings, I can feel my feelings and be okay. Better than okay.

I can allow my emotions to split me open in a tear-soaked surrender. An abandon. A scream: “Fuck it, I’m ready!” then “Please help me!”

And in the aftermath of the cracking and the softening, everything feels like it’s inside me- the passionate singer, the rain-streaked wind, a mug of tea, a warm embrace, my body moving, embers of laughter.

I’m energised and enthused. The world is throbbing with beauty and adventure.

My mind still questions, wants to understand the meaning of all of this- the universe and why we are here, how it all began.

But I’m willing to let go of the need to know and control everything. I can’t control anything anyway. What a relief and a blessed reclamation of energy.

Maybe there’s nothing to figure out after all. It simply is. I am. So enjoy the ride.

Now I’m detaching from all that I think I know, from my judgments, conditioning and expectations, from my loved ones, and from what I believe myself to be. And in the detaching, I set myself free. I set everyone free.

And that’s a scary place too. I worry about the ripple effects on my relationship.

But that’s me jumping back into the head. So I stay present to the present, to my feelings, to what life is offering me.

I open my heart and come alive.

In my honest reflections, I’ve observed a desire to cling to Mark and all that he can offer. I could do so many things with him, learn so much, become different, feel better, and travel to fascinating places.

But nobody can take me anywhere. It’s all within me. I have the power to take myself there. And there is nowhere to go.

So I unhook an attachment to Mark also. I’m floating solo yet more connected than ever.

Images: Google & Tinybuddha.com

Just Breathe

I’m woken early by the gentle sounds of a housemate rising. I’m working the late shift today so I don’t have to get up. I decide to seize the day.

I’m the only person on the Curragh plains. The sun blesses me with light. Dew drops glitter in the grass.

Sheep belch and wail. A lamb lies in the crook of its mother’s wool.

Birds whistle. Yellow furze smiles coconut.

The backstory to this early morning rising and exercising is as follows:

I started practicing the Wim Hof breathing technique less than a month ago and I’m already enjoying amazing benefits.

In Charles Duhigg’s fascinating book The Power of Habit, he reports that changing one habit has a positive knock-on effect in other areas of a person’s life.

I’m doing about 10 minutes’ deep breathing per day and I’m experiencing more energy, enthusiasm, creativity and motivation.

A week into the practice, I stopped biting my lips and fingers (a habit I’ve had since I was a very small child).

I’m getting up earlier. I want to move my body more. I’m taking a cold shower a day. And I’ve started writing and running again.

I’d tried running before but it was more about weight control and I kept getting injured. I couldn’t get a handle on my breathing. And I needed music to make it bearable.

This morning, I run to the sounds of nature and my own steady breath. Instead of tensing my body and fearing injury, I do what feels good. I notice where I’m tight and I soften accordingly.

I put myself under no pressure. I alternate between walking and jogging.

When I reach the hills, I’m inspired to run up them. I want to challenge myself.

I feel that comes from the part of the Wim Hof breathing exercise where I hold my breath for longer than I think I can. And the cold showers are making me braver, stronger, more resilient.

I’m proving to myself that I can. And I want to.

I feel happy and proud. My world shimmers with flow and possibility.

Until I’m about to pay for groceries in the supermarket and realise that I’ve lost my bank card and driving license somewhere back there on the plains.

I trip into a few moments’ resistance. And I notice that.

I remember what’s important. I relax into grace.

I retrace my steps. I go to the Garda station and the bank. I cancel the bank card and order a new one. I take out cash and retrieve the shopping.

Then I treat myself to coffee and a scone, which I thoroughly enjoy.

I feel relaxed and accepting whereas before I would have become panicked and irritated.

I just breathe.

Images: Author’s Own

Excavation

The cavity in my chest fizzes. Jaw is clenched.

I’m bracing against this feeling. Not accepting how I am in this moment.

All I want is to be better. If I allow it, I’ll feel it. And I’ve been telling myself that this is not okay.

With a jolt of insight, I realise that I can be present to this. Witnessing it will enable whatever this is to pass through.

I’ll finally see it, know what it is.

I won’t have to unwittingly hold on to it or store it for a later date like a saved Facebook video. I could free up that space.

Regurgitate. Spit. It. Out.

Tongue out. Shout. Punching. Screaming. Tears.

Let it rise. Mouth widens as cobwebs stretch.

Something is forming. It’s dark. It’s panic. It’s feathers and claws.

I dislike how messy it is. It’s unclear and I don’t understand it.

It sticks to my throat and cuts me as it flaps and it scraws.

I cough and choke and splutter until it emerges.

Its feathers are slick. It’s still, frozen, wide-eyed.

Then it shakes its head, ruffles its feathers, spreads its wings and flies. It soars.

It spikes into the night, claiming its space in the sky.

Now there’s an empty place in the cage of my chest. This is an unfamiliar feeling.

I’m pale and I’m shook and I’m lighter than before. But I know that there are more birds and reptiles lurking.

They’re hidden, afraid to venture forwards. It will have to be me to have the courage to give birth to these twisted, deformed thoughts and beliefs.

Animals of suppression, being held captive by the expectations of others. Ones that I willingly purchased and am now the shamefaced owner.

I’ve paid the highest price- my freedom, my peace, my happiness. My true beaming authentic self.

But if I can release one ebony, hard-beaked entity, I can growl out more.

I breathe. I open. I’m ready.

 

What’s your Default?

Last night, as I tripped, once again, into negative self-judgment, I had a wonderful realisation. This is my default.

When my energy is depleted, when I’m in conflict in relationships, when someone criticises me, this is my default.

Self-judgment. There’s something wrong with me. I’m not good enough. I should be different.

With this understanding, I decide that enough is enough. It’s not fair to hate myself. To take all of the blame. To compare myself and always come up short.

I have to accept myself for who I am. Love myself. Be there for me. Otherwise, who else can?

No more apologies. No more biting my tongue for an “easy life”.

What might seem easier in the external world creates chaos in the internal.

When I don’t speak my truth, I tell myself that my opinion doesn’t matter, that I don’t know best. I’m not worthy.

I turn the confusion and anger inwards and it eats me up. It turns me inside out so I face the world raw and defenceless.

Anxiety, depression and low confidence prevent me from fulfilling my potential and enjoying presence and happiness.

I stress about my finances, career, personal life and body image. Instead of figuring out what’s good for me, I hand my power over to everybody else.

So today, I refuse to remain silent.

I won’t apologise for my belly that sticks out a little. I don’t have to say sorry for having different interests, beliefs and insecurities.

I’m not “too much” of one thing and “too little” of the other. I am what I am.

I’m on a journey just like we all are. And I’m figuring it out as I go along.

After a challenging Life Coaching session this morning, I walk towards a café.

The wind flaps my t-shirt upwards. For a moment, I worry about my protruding belly.

Then I remember that I don’t care what anyone thinks. I’m me and that’s perfect.

As I enter the café, Billy Joel belts out these lyrics:

I don’t care what you say any more, this is my life.

Go ahead with your own life and leave me alone.

I break into a grin and keep on walking.

Without Judgment

Last week, I completed another exercise from Louise Hay and Robert Holden’s small but action-packed book Life Loves You: 7 Spiritual Practices to Heal Your Life. 

This practice involves sitting comfortably with your hand on your heart and repeating the following question once every minute for 15 minutes: What is it like to be me when I’m not judging myself?

So I sit. I hold my hand to my heart. And I ask. And I ask. And I ask.

I’m at a loss. I don’t know, is my answer.

I realise that I’ve always judged myself. Compared. Felt less than, not good enough, unworthy.

I’ve always been striving for perfection, wishing I were different. Then feeling so bad about myself that all my energy left me and I didn’t have the motivation to change.

I closed myself off to the good that life was trying to give me and I couldn’t appreciate the good within myself.

Surely, as a child, I was once myself without judgment. But I can’t think back to a time when I wasn’t on high alert. Judging myself and attempting to mould myself into someone who could be loved and accepted.

I tried so hard to be perfect. So even as a very young child, I was anxious and exhausted a lot of the time.

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Me as a perfect child

I decide now that I can give myself the unconditional love that I was so desperately hoping for. I can open myself up to love despite my imperfections.

Instead of trying to alter myself and hide what’s “wrong” with me, I can finally allow myself, my whole self, to be loved. Why deny myself love?

Who could be so mean to snatch love away from a human being the moment they detect an “imperfection”? Well, I’m no longer going to tolerate such cruelty. And I understand that I’ve been my own worst tormentor, my own worst victim.

I rub my face. I throw my head back and I blow out years of sadness, disappointment, hurt, fear and rejection.

I’m surprised when I start wailing. The words that tumble out of me are those of an infant, a toddler, a small child.

They’re not logical and I have no control over them. I let them out. I witness. I soothe.

I choose to love and accept myself without judgment. I understand that, while I continue to judge myself, I’m going to judge others too. And this judgment creates a barrier to love, presence, forgiveness, possibility and peace.

The second part of this exercise is to complete the following sentence five times: One good thing that could happen if I judged myself less is…

I take out my journal and I write. I write about presence and beauty, enjoyment, freedom, happiness, confidence, acceptance, unconditional love and peace. I write:

“One good thing that could happen if I judged myself less is that I wouldn’t care what others thought of me. I wouldn’t try to change myself or hide parts of myself in order to be liked. I’d be me. And people would love me.”

Are you willing to try this exercise? You’d be surprised at what reveals itself!

sharon vogiatzi life coach

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Basic Human Needs

Last night, I read Marianne Power’s most recent post on the six basic human needs. Yes, it may seem like I’ve become obsessed with this woman and maybe I have. But not in a lesbian way. In an admiring, respecting, fellow-blogger-and-self-help-enthusiast way.

Anyway, I found Marianne’s post really interesting. Marianne is regurgitating self-improvement guru Tony Robbins’ work and I, in turn, am regurgitating Marianne’s work. But we’re all putting our own spin, experience and insights into it.

So here’s my take on Marianne Power’s take on Tony Robbins’ take on the six basic human needs. First of all, let me give you the six basic human needs, in Marianne’s words:

“Need 1: Certainty/Comfort
Our need to feel in control and secure.
Need 2: Uncertainty/Variety
Our need for variety, surprises.
Need 3: Significance
We all need to feel important, special, unique, or needed – some of us get a feeling of significance from our work, some do it by having a flash car or by getting a thousand Twitter followers. You can get significance by having more or bigger problems than anybody else (moi) and criminals get it by the attention they get for their crimes.
Need 4: Love & Connection
We all need love but many of us are terrified of it and settle for connection, through our romantic relationships, friendships, our pets, walking through nature.
Need 5: Growth
If you’re not growing, you’re dying – whether that’s growing your business, your relationships, your education etc.
Need 6: Contribution
‘Life’s not about me; it’s about we,’ says Tony, who reckons that giving is what life’s all about.”

Marianne suggests (or maybe it was Tony Robbins who suggested it but I can’t keep up) asking yourself the following question:

OUT OF THE SIX HUMAN NEEDS WHICH TWO HAVE YOU BEEN VALUING THE MOST?

For me, Significance has definitely been one of my biggest needs. I want to feel special and I get that feeling by writing this blog, taking selfies, getting likes on Facebook, doing well in school and college, and having men fancy me. I like to be liked. I love to be loved. And I want other people to think I’m nice, pretty, talented, funny and desirable.

Love and Connection is also high on my list of priorities. I don’t feel comfortable unless I’m connecting. I achieve this connection by communicating with others, meditating, and communing with nature. I seek connection through affection, intimacy and even technology. And through all this connection, what I’m really hoping to experience is love. Pure, beautiful, all-encompassing, unconditional love.

The next question is: WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES OF VALUING THOSE NEEDS?

The consequences I face are feelings of sadness, loneliness, rejection and depression when I delude myself that I’m alone, insignificant and unloved. I don’t deal well with criticism. And rejection is almost physical in its ability to wound me (hopefully not for much longer as I’m participating in this Rejection Therapy game).

In order to protect myself from the shadow side of significance, love and connection, I withdraw. I shut down. Or I try to be perfect because I convince myself that no one will love me otherwise.

Now, ask yourself: WHAT WOULD BE YOUR TOP TWO NEEDS NOW FOR YOUR LIFE TO TRANSFORM? 

For my life to transform, I have to prioritise Growth. Growth keeps you moving, learning, improving and evolving.

When I stop being so hard on myself, I can acknowledge that I actually am growing in all areas of my life. I’m attending courses, seeing a Life Coach, reading, making progress in my career, and changing the way I relate with life, other people and, most importantly, myself.

I also choose to focus on Contribution. Significance brings up a competitive streak in me. It’s all about being better, smarter and prettier. The need for significance fuels a striving to be more popular, more talented, more successful, more loved.

But life isn’t meant to be a competition. We’re all in this together. To be really spiritual about it, we’re all one.

Once I understand that, I want to cooperate and collaborate rather than compete. I want to help and share and give.

Tony Robbins says that Growth and Contribution are the needs that make you happy and fulfilled. He calls them Spiritual Needs, while the first four are the Needs of the Personality.

I actually felt chuffed that I’d got it “right”. There I go racing back to my need for Significance. But I’m aware of my tendencies now and the reasons behind them. I’m learning. There’s growth in that. And I’m sharing all of this with you guys. So I’m contributing.

Random image of my friend and I dancing on a mountaintop

Random image of my friend and I dancing on a mountaintop

Now to go off on a completely different tangent, today I remembered Marianne’s challenge to smile at strangers. I thought: That’s easy. I’m always smiling at strangers. 

Until I walked past an attractive man on a bridge this morning. I considered smiling at him but he was scowling. Cool, handsome scowling but scowling nonetheless.

I realised that smiling at strangers isn’t easy at all. I found it hard to look at this man, let alone smile at him.

I’d love to tell you that I felt the fear and smiled anyway. But I didn’t. I bottled it. But I did look at him, which is more than I’d have done before. Baby steps.

Another realisation I had on that bridge is that it’s easy to smile at strangers when they’re already smiling. Handsome, scowling men don’t invite smiles. But smiley, kind-faced people do. So I think we should all smile more.

And to waffle on for just a little longer, after last night’s post on wanting men to beat down my door (metaphorically of course), I received a random text from a man I went on a date with once. This “putting it out there to the Universe” stuff might actually work.

So, here goes… Are you listening, Universe? I would like a successful career that I love and that helps others to be all that they can be. I would like an abundant, happy life filled with peace, love, fun, laughter, beauty, friendship, enjoyment and adventure.

While I’m at it, I would like to be financially secure, own a great house, and go on lots of amazing holidays around the world. I would like health, wealth and well-being for myself and all my friends and family and the whole wide world.

And if you’re still listening Universe, I would like to get swept off my feet by (and have a healthy, wonderful relationship with) an older, available but equally smouldering version of Zayn Malik.

Even if he is scowling.

Even if he is scowling.

Image of Zayn Malik: http://www.heatworld.com