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The Adventure

I awake several times in pain. I might still be able to fit in a workout tomorrow morning before my flight, I try to convince myself.

The following morning, I can barely put weight on my foot. I had felt the twinges in a couple of fitness classes but had chosen to ignore them. I had pushed myself too hard and hadn’t listened to my body. Maybe I need to become more balanced in my approach, I muse philosophically while simultaneously huffing with resistance.

I might not be able to go to London, I realise as my eyes well up. This is closely followed by another thought: I’ve been feeling great exercising and now it’s being taken away from me. It’s not fair. I want to look and feel good. Oh dear, there’s clearly more I need to learn here.

Of course, exercise is good for me and it’s important to take action and do the things that are beneficial for my physical and mental well-being. I honestly thought I’d been doing great but, now that I can’t exercise, I immediately feel less good about myself. I have formed an attachment to exercising as an external source of happiness and self-worth.

I know I have the potential to feel good no matter what. I just have to figure out how.

favim.com

favim.com

The next few days are filled with learning and awareness. A friend comes over and I instruct her as to where to place acupuncture needles.

It’s interesting to have to ask for help, to be on the receiving end of such care, and to experience the magic of acupuncture when I really need it. I’m delighted to discover that I’m able to tell my friend where the energy meridians are merely by feeling where they are in my own body.

Afterwards I notice that, as I hobble around the kitchen, I’m repeating the mantra: I am amazing. I’m not forcing myself to do it. It’s coming naturally. All those affirmations I’ve been saying are clearly paying dividends.

I’ve resigned myself to cancelling my trip to London when I ring my mother who’s a nurse. She speaks to a physiotherapist who assures her that if I collect crutches on my way to the airport, there should be no reason that I can’t fly to England.

I’m going, I resolve. I feel strong and excited.

My friend very kindly offers to drive me. We grab the crutches and an hour later I’m making my way to Departures. I’ve never used crutches before and I’m surprised to learn how energy-consuming they are.

A member of staff approaches me to offer me a wheelchair. I say yes. What a weird experience!

Suddenly, I’m at a different level to everyone else. Most people don’t look at me. Others stare at me with what I presume to be pity in their eyes.

Now that it isn’t happening, I realise that men usually look at me as I walk past. This afternoon, I feel invisible to some and as obvious as a clown in Mecca to others. I certainly don’t feel very sexy.

I haven’t had time to wash my hair. And I’m wearing runners as they’re the only footwear that don’t hurt too much. I’m unable to drag along a suitcase so I’ve packed the bare minimum into a small backpack. Talk about hurling myself out of my comfort zone in so many different ways!

I’m transferred from the wheelchair to a buggy then deposited at my gate. One of my favourite things to do in an airport, or anywhere really, is to go for coffee. But I wouldn’t be able to carry a cup while on crutches.

I hop over to a café anyway and ask the barista if she could bring a latte to my seat for me. She gladly obliges.

Last Christmas, I presented my friend with a wonderful book by Cheryl Richardson called The Art of Extreme Self-Care. Each month, a few of us meet to read a chapter together, set some goals, and find out how we got on with the previous month’s challenge.

A couple of months ago, we did a chapter on taking your hands off the wheel, letting go of control and asking for help. Last month, my friends asked me how I’d done.

I reported being aware of when I’m being controlling. I admitted that I hadn’t actually asked for help but that I hadn’t needed to. Now, I’m eating my words.

When it’s time to board, I’m escorted down to the plane and up to my seat. When we arrive in London, I’m put in a wheelchair and wheeled to the bus terminal.

By the time I meet my friend at Victoria Coach Station, I’m exhausted and emotional. We have a catch-up and a quiet night in.

katimorton.com

katimorton.com

The next morning, I’m ready to manoeuvre the London public transport system on crutches.

Hobbling slowly through a tube station when everyone else is speeding is an interesting experience. I have to be okay with going at a certain pace. I have to take it one slow step at a time.

The kindness I receive from people who hold open doors, carry my crutches as I make my way down the stairs, and give me their seats on the Underground is really heart-warming. I’ve never said “thank you” so much in my entire life.

I spend all day Saturday at a Hay House: I Can Do It! conference. One of the first things the beautiful speaker Robert Holden speaks about is self-image. Perfect!

Robert describes how infants, up until the age of 18 months, don’t recognise themselves in the mirror. They have not yet identified themselves with their bodies. Robert surmises that babies are still identifying with something greater – the very essence of their being.

This is something I need to connect with more – my soul. I am more than just my body.

So when I can’t exercise, when I’m on crutches, in runners, with unwashed hair, I can still love and accept myself and feel the energy of my amazing spirit.

Subsequently, Robert shows us a lovely ad that he was involved in making.

Robert also teaches us that being too independent and trying to force things to happen exactly as we want them to is not allowing life to flow. He says:

“If we stick with independence, often we’re running on adrenaline and not grace.”

I sit back and allow life to flow because, right now, I can do very little else. And it feels good. I experience a sense of peace as I breathe a sigh of relief.

An excellent question Robert poses is the following:

“If I could let life love me even more, what great things could happen?”

Tears spill down my cheeks as I contemplate this.

During the break, remembering my vow to take myself out of my comfort zone, and recalling how I definitely didn’t do so at the last Hay House: I Can Do It! conference I attended, I purchase Robert Holden and Louise Hay’s book Life Loves You: 7 Spiritual Practices to Heal Your LifeI then join a queue to have Robert sign my book.

I take this incredible opportunity to tell Robert how much I love him, how wonderful his talk was and how much I enjoy his radio show. I even get my picture taken with him. Go me!

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Pictorial evidence

I meet some lovely people at this inspiring event. One woman insists on buying me a coffee and carrying it back to the conference centre for me. And Hay House author Susan Lander approaches me to give me a free signed copy of her book Conversations with History.

Despite all the learning, awareness and random acts of kindness, I decide that I’ve had enough of the crutches. It takes so much effort and energy to use them. My arms are paining me. And I want to be seen as a “normal” 35-year old woman again.

Thankfully, I’m reminded by inspirational author and speaker Mike Dooley that everything happens for a reason. Mike likens life to a three-hour car ride.

Before this car ride, you decide where you want to go. You type your destination into the GPS system, or Divine Intelligence as he calls it. Then, you have to put your car into gear and drive.

For that three-hour journey, you may not know where you’re going. You may feel lost and the whole experience might feel weird. You may even take a few wrong turns but the GPS always recalibrates. And you don’t know if the GPS has worked until you get there.

Mike then describes a baby learning how to walk. The child takes a couple of steps before it keels over. The parents don’t start shouting at the child, telling him that he deserves it or that he brought it on himself. This child clearly has a desire to walk. And his parents recognise that falling down is part of the child’s journey.

After a great conference, yummy food, lots of adventures outside of my comfort zone, and quality time spent with friends, I leave London with a knowing that everything is unfolding perfectly. I resist nothing. I allow life to flow.

Before I arrive at Stansted airport, my mother texts offering to collect me from the airport. And I take her up on that offer.

I now have a greater understanding of how people must feel when they’re injured or incapacitated. From now on, I’m going to be more mindful of offering help to people when I’m in a position to do so as I can attest to how much it’s appreciated.

Today, my foot is almost all better. I’ve learnt many lessons from this injury. Some of which I didn’t want to have to learn. But learn I must if I want to move forward.

The GPS recalibrates and onwards I stride.

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tumblr.com

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The Journey

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

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

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

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

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

istillshootfilm.org

istillshootfilm.org

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 LebowskiTo 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

There is Light

Recently, a friend asked if I wanted to join her in giving gifts to the homeless for Christmas. As soon as she suggested it, I knew that this would be my priority for the day.

I bought socks, hats, gloves, scarves and chocolates and we set out one cold, windy evening. I hoped that the heavy rain would disappear before we wandered around the city but then I realised that this was just one evening out of my life, unlike every evening that the homeless had to endure. The following Feed the World lyrics came to mind: “Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you.”

For the next couple of hours, we handed presents to the homeless. We were greeted with smiles and thank you’s. One man was so surprised, he continued to shout his thanks long after we’d left. It broke my heart and opened it in one fell swoop.

In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey writes about the Win/Win Paradigm of Human Interaction. This is the mindset that sees life as a cooperative, not a competitive arena. It’s based on the principle that there is plenty for everyone, that one person’s success isn’t achieved at the expense of others. “It’s not your way or my way; it’s a better way, a higher way.”

Many people have become jaded with the ways of our world. There is war and violence, theft and abuse. There is illness and death, grief and sorrow. But there is also love, connection and altruism. There is laughter, joy and sharing. The opening speech of Love Actually says it so perfectly:

“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.”

What if it’s not you versus me, and us versus them? What if we came together, helped one another, and recognised that we are part of the same whole? What if we gave love to ourselves and others? And accepted the love that is all around?

Last night, I attended an amazing gig – Paddy Casey and The Secret Light Orchestra featuring the Shannon and Dublin Gospel Choir. The song Paddy started with was There is Light. I’ll finish with his beautiful words:

“We are everything, we are everything. And we have wild and precious songs to sing. We are lights that shine, throughout all time. We have all of this and more to bring… And the love that moves between us all knows we are the same.”

weheartit.com

weheartit.com

Activating the Activist

The last few courses I’ve done have included the four different styles of learners. While reading through the descriptions, I learned that I am an Activist. I don’t think any of us fits perfectly into just one type of learning style. I am also a bit of a Reflector, even a Pragmatist, and less so of a Theorist. But I am mostly an Activist. 

Activists are all about experiencing life and immersing themselves fully in activities. They enjoy trying new things and they move enthusiastically from one project to the next. I embrace this aspect of my personality. And I regularly encourage the students of my Positive Living classes to really live and enjoy life too.

So this morning, as I drive home to do some class preparation, I spot a sign for Donadea Forest and decide, on a whim, to go there. It is a clear, crisp October day and I, as the Activist, seize this opportunity.

However, there is a traffic diversion along the way and I become quite lost. Suddenly, I see a sign for Ballinafagh Lake. I’ve never been there before. The adventurer inside me whoops with excitement.

I pull into a small car park in the middle of nowhere. I get out of the car and start walking through the dew-drenched grass. My feet get wet but this doesn’t stop me from exploring this new landscape.

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It looks like Hallowe’en, smells like Christmas, and reminds me of primary school nature tables. The lake is still and oh so tranquil. I place my ear against the bark of a tree and am amazed at the sounds of its inner stirrings.

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The sight of red berries delights me. I tread upon a boggy carpet of autumn leaves. Deceased but still so beautiful. The constant cycle of nature is both thought-provoking and comforting.

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This walk has nourished the Activist within me. I return to the car feeling energised and inspired.

What type of learner are you? (Click here to find out.) And what can you do today to honour that part of you?

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Images: Author’s Own

You Are Not Alone

The more I speak to people who are brave enough to be honest about how they’re really feeling, the more I realise that we are all the same. We all go through tough times. We all struggle with fears and insecurities. We have all gone through or are currently going through periods when we feel depressed, hopeless and unable to cope.

Many of us struggle with our inability to be “perfect”. We believe that we must achieve, accumulate and gain approval in order to deserve a space on this planet. We beat ourselves up, even hate ourselves, when we think that we have failed. We feel lost and alone. We disconnect, shut ourselves down and close ourselves off from love, both for ourselves and for others. For when we don’t love ourselves, how can we possibly love one another?

It’s sad that many of us feel alone in this world. We fear that there is something wrong with us, that we have messed up, and that we must try to fit in. But how can we fit in with something that is just an act? It’s all an illusion. We are human. We were born into this life perfect and we spend the rest our lives struggling to come to terms with that reality. We battle against it. We rage so hard against ourselves that we look for the quickest way out of our self-inflicted hells. We turn to drugs, alcohol, overwork, unhealthy relationships, anything, to forget how bad we’re really feeling. To avoid the real reason for our suffering. To blame anything or anyone other than ourselves for not living life to the fullest. Until we cannot kid ourselves any longer. Wouldn’t it be easier if we accepted that we deserve love just because? The mere fact of our existence is enough to merit self-acceptance.

I’d love to take the whole world in a giant embrace and tell you all that you are okay. That you are not alone. That everybody feels bad sometimes. That you are magnificent and miraculous. That life can be wonderful. That if we all dropped the bullshit act of pretending, there wouldn’t be so many people who punish themselves for being less than society’s idea of perfect. But I can’t. Because everyone has a journey. Because everybody has their personal lessons to learn. Because I’m not a preacher. But I am a human being who has been through some really rough times, who’s struggled with a lot of the things I’ve mentioned above, and who still does sometimes. I am also an example of how, once you let go, open up and surrender, you can connect, enjoy, live and love.

This Christmas, consider the fact that everyone has a story that they may never tell you. Most people have been hurt and continue to hurt themselves over and over. But if we open our wounds to one another, we can finally start to heal.

Merry Christmas, my beautiful readers. I am delighted to be able to connect with you all. I am full of gratitude. I am also constantly learning. Right now, remember all the things that you are grateful for. Give yourself the gift of self-love this Christmas. And allow yourself to connect with your fellow human beings. We are all in this together.

inspiring-pictures.com

inspiring-pictures.com

Wish you a Merry Christmas

“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.”

When I read this quote by Hamilton Wright Mabie, it made me realise that Christmas is a wonderful occasion. Without it, the winter would be long and dark and joyless. Because of it, we decorate our homes and celebrate with loved ones. We prepare delicious meals and spend time with friends and family. We organise parties and string coloured lights across our streets. We give each other gifts and take time to rest and have fun. We sing along to much-loved tunes and give more generously to those in need. And we allow ourselves a sprinkle of hope and magic as we acknowledge the birth of baby Jesus and anticipate the sound of sleigh bells for Santa’s annual visit.

Unfortunately, some people dread this time of year. The pressure of spending money on presents and getting the house ready for visitors, the long dark cold evenings and, for those who have lost a loved one, the memories of happier Christmases past, are difficult to handle. However, there are many reasons to be thankful for this beautiful season. Here are some of mine…

Nature is stunning when it dresses for winter…

liffey walk

december liffey

icy walk

Fairy lights, candles and the scent of Christmas trees…

xmas tree

This year, I am choosing to focus on the best qualities of Christmas – generosity, love, laughter and fun, holidays and rest, good food and movies, parties, games and warm fires, loved ones who travel home from far off lands, and Christmas songs…

So, how about connecting with the true spirit of Christmas this year? The authentic sentiments of love, hope and blessings. Give your loved ones the best present of all – the gift of your presence. Your happiness. Your joy. And spread the goodwill all around. Ho ho ho!

Images: Author’s own.