Tag Archives: difficulties

Success Story

A while back, I received an email inviting me to become an online author for a website called Success Stories. Naturally, I clicked on the link. The tagline for the website read:

“Learn from People who Already Made it”

Was this spam? Or was this a real live website? And if it was legit, why had they selected me to write for them?

What makes me successful in their eyes? Is it because I have a blog? Because I have the words Life Coach, Acupuncturist & Reiki Practitioner beneath my profile picture? Does my ability to write make me seem like I’ve made it?

If only they knew, I thought. I haven’t made it. Far from it. Then I promptly forgot all about it.

Until yesterday. When I received a follow-up email from the editor reminding me of the invitation. This time I replied, asking a few questions. What type of articles? How many words? Would I get paid?

The response I received didn’t make me want to write for them. But it did get me thinking about how I view myself.

I tend to forget about all the amazing things I’ve done. I downplay my achievements.

I compare myself to others, believing that they’re more successful, more confident, more able, more driven and ambitious. I don’t have what it takes, my inner bully insists.

Now however, I imagine how others might view me. How some people may not be able to understand why I sometimes feel afraid and insecure.

When all someone can see is a smiling picture and a job title at the top of a blog that’s been running for almost five years, they’re bound to think I’ve made some sort of a success of things.

And you know what, they’d be right. I have been creating this blog for almost five years. set it up. write the posts. get myself through the experiences that inspire me. I learn from them. I grow. I share.

Yet I dwell on the parts of my life that I deem to be less than successful. But who’s to say what’s a success and what isn’t?

Some of the more difficult and less appealing things that have happened are actually the things that spurred me on to make important changes. To be brave. To be great.

Shouldn’t that be what success really means? So yeah, maybe I have made it.

Here are some things that have happened to me, for me and by me:

  • I did an excellent Leaving Cert. I dropped out of college. Twice.
  • I suffered from an eating disorder and depression. I took myself off antidepressants. I worked on myself. I still do. Every day. I’m happier than I’ve ever been.
  • I lived in Spain and Munich. I backpacked through South and Central America. I inter-railed around Europe. I spent a summer on a Greek island.
  • I married at 23 years of age. I got divorced. I’m single. I’m dating.
  • I went back to college as a mature student. I’m qualified in many things. I usually get great results.
  • I’ve worked lots of different jobs. I’ve left lots of different jobs.
  • I have a great circle of friends.
  • I’m renting.
  • I set up my own business.

And you know what? I’m proud of myself. But I don’t think I’ll ever make it.

Because I’m still on a journey. And this journey can be as challenging and painful as it can be beautiful and rewarding.

I feel strong. I recognise all I’ve done to get to where I am. And I acknowledge all that I am.

I have empowered myself enough to be able to navigate my way in the world. I’m doing my best. I’m making it.

Compiling a list of all the things that you’ve been through and all that you’ve achieved is such a positive thing to do. Please make your own list. See how far you’ve come. You’re doing great.

slideshare.net

slideshare.net

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The Fear

One of the biggest things I’ve struggled with over my lifetime is fear. Over the past few days, I’ve examined this fear and I’ve discovered that it has many, many layers.

There is fear of making mistakes. Fear of doing it wrong. Fear of failure. Fear of getting into trouble. Fear of criticism, disapproval and rejection. Fear of my own feelings. Even fear of happiness in case it were to disappear.

Fear of not being good enough. Fear of not being talented enough, competent enough, confident enough, pretty enough, slim enough, and the list goes on…

Fear of losing hope. And fear of having hope because I’m bound to destroy it.

As I shower this morning, I realise what’s really lurking behind all this fear. It’s fear of being found out. Found out to be stupid, incapable, ugly, unlovable.

And so this fear has prevented me from going for jobs, moving abroad, writing a book, staying in relationships, opening up to friends, and telling people that I like them. In short, fear has stopped me from putting myself out there.

Once I make this discovery, I can logic it. What is it about stepping out that I’m so afraid of? That people will discover that I’m human? Scared? Imperfect?

Aren’t these the things that I love and admire in other people? Don’t we feel more connected with other human beings when we realise that we’re all the same? Real and brave and frightened?

If I can accept others for how they are, why do I resist doing the same for myself? Why are my standards and expectations for myself so ridiculously high? Is it because I don’t like myself enough or is it because I like myself so much that I want to be the best that I can be? Interesting because this desire is actually blocking me from doing just that.

Over the Christmas, I read Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles. Once I delved into the first chapter, I was hooked. Marianne speaks about being paralysed with terror. She writes:

“You’d think we have some compassion for ourselves, bound up in emotional chains the way we are, but we don’t. We’re just disgusted with ourselves, because we think we should be better by now. Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking other people don’t have as much fear as we do, which only makes us more afraid. Maybe they know something we don’t know. Maybe we’re missing a chromosome.”

This really resonated with me. I forget that other people feel fear too. Everybody does. We just don’t hear about it all that much. We think that other people just get on with it. They do and they grow and they succeed.

And I compare myself unfavourably with the whole human race. I neglect to focus on my own courage and achievements, which are many.

I dismiss my own journey and instead listen to the family members and neighbours as they comment on So-and-so’s flourishing business and Thingymajig’s promotion and new home and Yer-one-down-the-road’s wonderful partner and family.

“They’re doing so well”, they gush. And I hate myself a little more. I see other people’s highlight reels on Facebook and I wince in self-judgement.

Last night, I lay in bed reading Oprah Winfrey’s lovely book What I Know For Sure when I had an Aha moment. Oprah speaks about her fear of seeming arrogant. She writes:

“In some ways, even my weight was my apology to the world – my way of saying, ‘See, I really don’t think I’m better than you.'”

When I was younger, I was teased for being “posh” and using big words. I was also teased for having a rather large bosom for a 13-year-old. And I was beaten up because a girl’s boyfriend fancied me.

After those experiences, I was careful with my language and I tried not to appear full of myself. I changed the way I behaved depending on the group of people I was with. I didn’t flirt. And I made sure not to do anything too different so that I could avoid unwanted attention.

When other people were miserable, I downplayed my contentment and instead broadcast my difficulties. You see, I’d say. I’m not a threat. So you can like me.

Now that I understand where all this fear comes from, I have a choice. I choose to no longer allow fear to immobilise me. I want to take risks and move forwards and flourish. And I understand that I do love myself. I’ve just been confused about how to show myself this love.

From now on, I’ll love myself when I have the courage to shine. I’ll love myself when I’m gasping with fear. I’ll love myself when I do. And I’ll love myself when I am.

The trick is to understand that we all feel fear. Our bravery lies in our ability to push forth anyway. In Oprah Winfrey’s words:

“Sometimes moving on terrified me. But it always taught me that the true meaning of courage is to be afraid, and then, with your knees knocking, to step out anyway.”

keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

Thoughtclouds

It’s been a roller coaster of a week. I hurtled into shock, grief, disappointment and confusion. And I soared with laughter, love, joy and beauty.

For the month of September, I’ve decided to be present. And for the first few days, my commitment to this challenge has really been tested.

Instead of beating myself up over being less than perfectly present, I’m glad that I’m aware when I swing high above and far below the present moment.

When I experience a rush of happiness, I look at it with curiosity. I can see that this feeling was born by a thought. A fleeting image of an interesting man I’ve been chatting with. I detach from the reverie and come back to the present.

When I tell myself I’m in a bad mood, I question it. Am I this feeling? Does it belong to me? I examine it. I realise that I feel this way because I just read a message from a friend who’s depressed.

If she’s feeling unwell, should I feel lousy too? Is it my responsibility to make her better? I need to cut the cord that I have loving placed around both our necks before we strangle one another completely. I unravel the attachment and step back into the present.

When I believe a thought, I adhere importance to it. A feeling arises from this connection. This can occur so quickly that it’s difficult to spot the sequence. Now that I understand what’s happening, I ask myself: What am I choosing to believe? And is that true?

This evening, I flake out on the armchair and watch the thoughts that dance for my attention. What can I say to help her? Will I go to badminton tonight? Would it be better to drive to the airport next week or get the bus? Maybe she doesn’t like me any more. Will I grow old gracefully? I wonder if we’ll fancy one another… I need to make an appointment for a bikini wax. What’ll I wear tomorrow night? Where am I going to live? Is everything okay?

The thoughts shimmy before me and I am exhausted. I decide that I’m too tired to think. I just couldn’t be bothered.

I could simply be present. Isn’t that where I want to be anyway? Isn’t that where I am? Spiritual teacher Mooji said:

“You’re like the infinite sky. Can any clouds come and stay? Everything is passing, everything is passing. Will you fall in love with a cloud? How long will your relationship last?”

Thoughts come. Thoughts go. Feelings surface. Feelings change. Nothing is permanent. Nothing stays the same. Everything passes, like clouds.

Why then should I fear what won’t last? And why should I hold tight to things that cannot remain? I’d rather not waste time and energy when there really is no point in doing so.

So I sit here, close my eyes and breathe. And the thoughts pass. Like clouds.

Mindfulness for the Full Mind

In recent weeks, I’ve been battling against my own reaction to noise. I eventually decided to stop blaming the external and work on my inner peace instead.

Last week, I was so exhausted (from lack of sleep but mainly from my own internal chitchat) that I gave up. And that was when the magic happened. I let go. I surrendered the control that I had been fearfully clasping on to so damn tightly. I recognised that I can’t control my surroundings. But I can be okay with them.

I was too tired to use all the positive tools and techniques that I’d taught myself over the years. So I stopped trying so hard. I simply accepted what was – the noise and how I was feeling.

I also figured out that I often felt anxious before the noise started. I was nervously anticipating when it would begin. Then, I would project into the following day and I’d imagine how tired I’d be. I was so very far removed from the present moment.

healthshire.com

healthshire.com

One word kept entering my mind: Mindfulness. Then, I remembered that I’d seen a workshop advertised a while back. I rooted out the email and, as synchronicity would have it, it was on in a few days’ time. I immediately signed up for it.

The workshop consisted of four hours of meditation, silence and mindful walking. Halfway through the class, I suddenly felt impatient. It was all so slow. Nothing was happening. It was then that I had a deep knowing that this was exactly what I needed – I had to physically slow down and bring my awareness to the present moment (my bodily sensations, my breathing and the sounds around me) in order to slow down the sprinting chatter of my mind.

No wonder I felt restless during this workshop as I had been living such a fast-paced life. Rushing to work. Coaching sessions. Classes. Reading. Cramming weekends with class preparation and assignments, then trying to squeeze in family time, dates and catch-ups with friends.

And even when I did sit down to watch television, whenever the ads came on, I’d check my emails, pop onto Facebook or send a text. I even checked my phone while sitting on the loo (hands up if you’ve done this!)

When I received an energy treatment the other day, I realised just how busy my mind was. I lay there composing emails and imagining conversations I would have. If I could just be present, I wouldn’t have to drain myself with all the mental rehearsing and reliving.

weheartit.com

weheartit.com

Last night, I woke at 2.30am and could not go back to sleep. So I got up, trudged into the sitting room and switched on the light. The first thing my bleary eyes landed on was a book that had been recommended to me almost a year ago – Mindfulness for Life by Craig Hassed and Stephen McKenzie.

It was just the right time to start reading this book. Hassed and McKenzie describe mindfulness as “the practice of paying attention.” They say that many people get interested in mindfulness because they want to learn to relax or cope better with stress and anxiety. However, they suggest that this can pose a problem. If we become too preoccupied with the goal of relaxing and destressing, we may become frustrated if the practice doesn’t turn out the way we expect or if we don’t achieve the results as quickly as we want.

Another interesting point they write about is how we try to cling to the bits of life that we like and banish those we don’t. Of course, this is understandable. We are trying to protect ourselves from suffering but this is what exactly what causes suffering.

Hassed and McKenzie write: “To be peaceful and happy we have to accept things that we don’t like when they come, and we have to let go of things that we do like when they go.” 

The only guarantee in life is that nothing is permanent. Not the good stuff, nor the bad. As the old adage accurately predicts: “This too shall pass.”

At five am, I put the book away and became aware of my bed and the feeling of it beneath me. I snuggled into the duvet and breathed deeply. I was aware of my breath and the sound of the rain outside. I was aware of my thoughts and how frequently they whisked me away from the present moment.

It was easy to want to detach from the negative thoughts but what I found challenging was to bring myself into the present when I was lounging in happy memories.

Recently, I had a pleasant experience. Last night, I found myself remembering all the tiny details of that moment. How I felt, what was said, what it all meant. I smiled as I relished reliving the event. However, I was no longer aware of my body, my breathing, the bed or the sounds outside. But why did I need to be mindful when I was clearly enjoying dwelling on certain parts of the past?

I asked myself: Was I truly present when that event was actually occurring? Incredibly, I hadn’t been. A large part of me had been caught up in thoughts, fears and expectations. And now, I was making up for it by reliving every last detail.

From this, I have learned that I need to practice mindfulness now so that I can be fully present in every moment. Then, I will be able to really bask in the pleasure and beauty of life. Practicing mindfulness will also help me to act effectively, with a clear mind, during the challenging times.

Hassed and McKenzie suggest starting with a mindfulness practice of five or ten minutes twice daily – before breakfast and dinner. It is best to sit upright and bring your awareness to the present moment by focussing on your breath, on an image or on the sounds around you.

The idea is that mindfulness can become part of your life, not just in a formal capacity. When you get into your car after work, take a few mindful breaths before you start driving. Wash the dishes mindfully. Brush your teeth mindfully. Eat, walk, and listen to music mindfully. Give your conversation partner the gift of a mindful ear. Conduct your relationships mindfully.

Mindfulness isn’t easy but it is oh so simple. Be present. Because all that exists is now.

be all there

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/

From black and white to technicolour

Good fucken fuqballs, I’m writing at 5am again! I blame Jeannette Walls’ gripping account of her exciting, albeit difficult, childhood in The Glass Castle. Only moments earlier, I had to hold the book away for a good five minutes as I sobbed.

Walls’ honest depiction of life as the resilient daughter of an irresponsible but irresistible drunkard, and a refreshingly free-spirited but inexcusably selfish artist, is as heart-warming as it is heart-breaking.

This captivating memoir teaches us that we mustn’t view things, or people, in black and white. Jeannette paints her unique story, mixing muted shades of sepia and charcoal with delightful streaks of vibrant colour.

Everybody is doing the best they can with what they’ve got. We are all simply trying to survive. Even the most despicable of villains have another (better, softer, more vulnerable) side. Lord Voldemort lived a loveless childhood and suffered a pathological fear of death. The Joker was grieving the loss of his wife and unborn child. In 102 Dalmations, Cruella de Vil dedicates her life to saving animals. And Simon Cowell still goes to bed with his blankie. (Poetic license here, folks. Work with me.)

So, the next time you want to curse (or plot the untimely demise of) your unreasonable boss or critical co-worker, take a deep breath. Recognise that they wouldn’t be behaving this way if they were content with their lot.

On his days off, that bad-tempered librarian volunteers to help children with special needs. The self-centred ladies’ man cries himself to sleep each night. The rude motorist who cut in front of you this morning was preoccupied with meeting his new-born son for the first time. The irritable shop keeper doesn’t hate you. She hates her job. Or her husband. Or herself. The town drunk you cross the road to avoid tried to clean himself up several times before he lost his wife, his kids, and his battle with this unrelenting illness.

Insert gratuitous Leo pic here.

I’m not advocating that you accept bad behaviour. I just want to promote compassion and understanding. Everyone has their story, their baggage, their reasons. Everybody longs for happiness. For love. Everyone breathes the same breath of life and dreams of a better future.

Somewhere between the stormy blacks and calm whites of judgement and acceptance appears an uncontrollable rainbow of regret and determination, sorrow and hope, anger and forgiveness. Because that is what it is to be human.

Images: http://www.thew2o.net/; http://favim.com/image/125933/;

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Random act of kindness

Last week, I was presented with an interesting assignment: give something to a complete stranger. I loved the idea! Little did I know how difficult I would actually find it…

I gleefully pondered the many wonderful things I could bestow upon a stranger. I could buy someone a coffee or hand a child a large, coloured lollipop. I could pay for someone’s parking or help an elderly person across the street. I could saunter up to a solitary diner in a café and present them with a beautiful lemon cupcake. I could purchase a bus ticket for the person behind me in the queue.

But I repeatedly talked myself out of each idea. They’ll think I’m crazy. My motives will be questioned. It’s easier to just look after myself. I marvelled at my own hesitation.

Three days later, I still hadn’t completed my mission, and I was having a pretty horrible week. Money worries, strife with a loved one, and a serious dose of PMS. I was hardly in any form to accomplish this random act of kindness.

Today, after a triathlon of tears, free-flow writing and meditation, I dragged myself out the door. And someone from a passing car fired an egg at me! Its insides dribbled across my runners. I wanted to cry.

I considered going home immediately as I silently wailed: Who would want to make someone cry? Then, I wondered: Was the energy I was giving off attracting all this negativity? The car had long gone and I hadn’t reacted. I sent the goon with the great aim some loving thoughts, took a deep breath, and made up my mind to be strong and turn things around. It was now or never.

inspiringbetterlife.blogspot.com

I popped into a shop and bought a Cornetto. A man wearing sunglasses walked my way.

I tried: “Hi. Can I give you an ice cream?”

“I don’t want it,” he muttered as he side-stepped me.

I felt bad but I recognised his scepticism towards my altruism, and moved on. A few others approached me.

“Would anyone like a Cornetto?” I ventured.

“Why?” asked an elderly lady.

“Because I’d like to give this to someone.”

She took it and queried,” How much do you want for it?”

“Nothing,” I answered. “I just wanted to give it to someone.”

With that, she beamed and said: “Thank you. That’s very kind.”

I walked home with a renewed light in my eyes and a smile on my lips. As I neared my flat, a young boy grinned at me and bellowed, “Hi!” The negative energy I had been wallowing in melted away in this child’s generous greeting.

This once-assumed easy task taught me a lot. It showed me that I still care what people think of me. It confirmed that what we’re thinking about the world will be perfectly mirrored back to us. I realised how suspicious people can be of simple acts of kindness but that is merely because these acts are so rare. When you do something with a pure heart, the self-protective barriers will subside, and the results will be extremely rewarding for both giver and receiver.

Now, I have an assignment for you, my lovely readers. Give something to a complete stranger. Take note of what happens and be aware of how you’re thinking and feeling before, during and after the act. It will teach you some valuable lessons and it will make a lucky stranger’s day.

"The universe is exactly the way we think it is and that's why." John Woods

Featured image: Painting by Pamela Cisneros