Tag Archives: difficulty

Open your Heart

A dear friend sent me a link to an interesting TED talk on love and relationships given by Mandy Len Catron. The theme of love and relationships had already been playing on my mind.

After watching the clip, I confessed to my friend that I long to share intimacy and affection with someone of the male variety. I quickly added that I’m just feeling impatient and that I should simply be present.

My friend replied: “There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have a special connection with a man. What you mustn’t do is ever make yourself feel bad because that want is there. It’s human nature.” It was nice to read her words.

Mandy Len Catron’s TED talk came about because Mandy, in the midst of a breakup, turned to science to better understand love. While researching the workings of the heart, Mandy discovered a study undertaken by psychologist Arthur Aron 20 years ago.

The study involved having two strangers ask and answer a series of 36 questions designed to make the participants fall in love. Six months later, the participants were married.

One evening, Mandy described Arthur Aron’s study to a university acquaintance. He proposed that they put the questions to the test. And they promptly fell in love!

Mandy went on to write an article about her experience for The New York Times. Since then, she has received endless calls and emails from people who all want to know one thing: Are Mandy and her university acquaintance still together? And the answer is that they are.

This may seem like the happy ending that we’re all hoping for. But what Mandy learned from this incredible experience is that there is no happy ending. There is no ending.

Falling in love is the easy part. The challenge lies in the decision to continue loving each other through the good and the difficult times. The hard part is to allow yourself be vulnerable and to give your heart to someone who may or may not choose to love you back.

These are the parts of love that many single people forget about when we crave a relationship. We want the smiles and the glances, the cuddles and the kisses, the electricity of attraction and the rush of romance.

However, closeness with a partner can really trigger you and bring all your issues to the surface. The choice then is to succumb to the temptation to close your heart and retreat (or defend) or you can deal with these issues and expand, both as a human being and as a couple.

It’s exciting and scary to open your heart to another human being. Being loved can make you feel blissful and secure one moment and out of control the next.

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Today, I told another friend about all of this. She excitedly suggested that we ask one another the 36 questions. “Imagine if we fell in love,” she laughed.

My friend and I answered all 36 of Arthur Aron’s questions. The questions encouraged us to share our life stories, embarrassing incidents, favourite memories, fears, problems and dreams. We were also invited to tell each other what we liked about one another.

Did we fall in love? I can honestly say that my heart was bursting by the end of the exercise. In truth, my friend and I already love one another.

However, this exercise highlighted how much we have in common and how much we value our friendship. Being let into my friend’s life in this way deepened my love for her. Answering these questions also reminded me of how far I’ve come, how great my life is and how wonderful I am.

How do a series of questions make people fall in love? I believe that these questions inspire you to share yourself with another human being openly and honestly. This vulnerability allows someone to get to know the real you. And this can greatly speed up the falling in love process.

I’d definitely recommend completing this exercise, preferably with someone dishy. It may just make you fall in love – with your friend, your partner, or an attractive stranger. It may also make you fall in love with your journey, with your life, and with you, the real you.

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Rejection Therapy

It’s only Day 3 of my Rejection Therapy and already I’ve learned so much. On Day 1, I asked Danny from The Script out on a date. I haven’t heard back from him but he’s currently in the middle of a world tour so I can forgive him for being a bit busy to respond to a Tweet from a crazy stranger.

As I ponder my courage at asking out an international superstar, I wonder if it’d be harder to ask out someone in “real life”. Someone who’s actually met me. A real live man (Sorry Danny, you’re a real live man too but ya know what I mean).

If a real live man rejected me, I couldn’t brush off the rejection by saying things like: Ah sure he’s probably busy dodging the paparazzi, selling out arenas and shagging Tulisa. Sorry Danny. I’m definitely not going to bag a date with him at this rate.

I’ve also had the awareness that I’d find it way more challenging to have Danny agree to go on a date with me. Therefore, it’s not always rejection or failure that I’m afraid of.

I’m terrified of success because then I’ll be tested and judged on it and I’ll have to prove my worth to the world. And that sounds like way too much pressure! No wonder I prefer not to put myself out there at all.

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Yesterday, on a beautiful hike, one of my friends decided to join the Rejection Therapy game. As part of it, we said hello to most oncoming hikers.

It’s amazing how something as simple as greeting a stranger can bring up a strange fear of rejection. What if they ignore me? However, we were met with such friendliness that we smiled and laughed our way up the mountain.

One man didn’t respond to my friend. She reacted with celebration. “Yay, I got rejected,” she exclaimed as she pumped her fist in the air. It’s extraordinary how different things feel when you change your perspective.

I said hello to a man who coughed at me. Is that rejection? After going so big on Day 1, being coughed at seemed like a bit of an anti-climax. So I took another action and posted the following on Facebook: 

“Does anyone want to do something fun/funny/adventurous/inspiring with me tomorrow? I haven’t made any plans and would love to see what you lovely people suggest…”

One friend, who knows about the challenge I’ve set myself, told me: “NO WAY SHARON!!” But I didn’t feel rejected by that. It just made me laugh.

My cousin jokingly invited me to supervise her kids during their 6.30am breakfast. I’ve been known to be a bit gullible so I wasn’t entirely sure if she was being serious.

I really didn’t want to get up at the crack (excuse the pun) of dawn on Easter Sunday. Oh no, I thought. Is part of this Rejection Therapy having to do the rejecting? 

Turns out I try to avoid being the rejector (is that a thing?) because A) I don’t want to hurt/offend anyone and B) I want to be liked. So if I reject someone and they don’t like me for it then I’m being rejected. Phew, see how sneaky this rejection stuff is?

In that moment, I realised that just because I say no to someone doesn’t mean that I’m rejecting them. It just means that I have other plans or I don’t want to participate in that particular activity.

If that’s the case for me, then the reverse is also true. When people say no to me, they’re not rejecting me either.

Let’s return to the Real Live Man for a moment. If he “rejects” me, it may well be that he doesn’t like my personality or appearance (and even that’s okay because, thankfully, we all have different tastes). But it could just as easily be that he’s unavailable/not looking for a relationship/having a bad hair day.

I’m reminded of Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements. Two such Agreements are: Don’t Take Anything Personally and Don’t Make Assumptions. If I don’t make assumptions or take things personally, then nothing can hurt. I can’t be rejected because nothing is personal.

And if I can’t be rejected, then do I really need to continue this challenge for the rest of the month?

But as I write this, I have another insight. I don’t have to actually get rejected by anyone because I can feel rejected whenever I choose.

Sometimes, I feel rejected when someone goes quiet, can’t meet, cancels plans or doesn’t reply to a text/Facebook message. Sometimes, I feel rejected when a person’s in bad form/doesn’t laugh at my jokes/looks at me funny.

My fear of rejection is so all-encompassing that I’d probably feel rejected if the wind stopped blowing in my direction. What have I done to make the wind dislike me?

So yes, I really do need to continue my Rejection Therapy. I’m open to any suggestions, people. But I might reject them. Just sayin’.

My friend and I hiking/getting rejected

My friend and I hiking/getting rejected

Laugh Yer Ass Off

Yesterday, I took part in teaching a class. I prepared what I would speak about, dressed up for the occasion, and delivered my presentation. I received excellent feedback and felt I was behaving quite professionally.

After the lunch break, everybody was sitting and waiting for class to resume. I sat down and, right in front of everyone, I fell right through the chair, landing on my ass. We all laughed, my cheeks reddened (the ones on my face!) and we continued on.

As I sat there, trying not to guffaw, I realised that this was a hilarious lesson on not taking myself too seriously. I’d had an emotional week and I’d been feeling tired and fed up. It all felt like hard work. But I was proud of myself for getting through it and doing my best. And then I fell, bum in the air, in front of a room full of people.

Last night, I drank a glass of wine with my mother, watched ridiculous YouTube clips with my sister, and smashed open a coconut like I used to as a child on Hallowe’en. I slept in my childhood bed and didn’t get up until almost midday, skipping an all-day workshop that I could have attended.

If yesterday’s incident has taught me anything, it’s that I need to lighten up, have fun and enjoy life for what it is, instead of attempting to control everything and be perfect.

The funny thing is that, even if I do wind up bum in the air in front of everyone, we can all laugh about it, and the show still goes on.

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Practising Presence

I’m over a week into my challenge to be present. I could tell you that I’m completely zen, that I’ve attained enlightenment, and that I’m connected with and full of love for the entire universe. But I won’t do that.

I’ll be honest. I’m not there just yet. I’m definitely not present all the time. I’m probably not even present half the time. However, the knock-on effect from simply setting this challenge is that it’s making me much more aware. And once you’re aware, you begin to wake up.

I’m looking at my thoughts and feelings with interest. Rather than scolding myself for not being perfect, I’m observing my reactions with curiosity and humour. And when I notice my mind fleeing from the present, I’m now able to catch the tail of my projections and coax myself back to centre.

I recognise that I always have a choice as to how I feel in any given moment. I can decide which thoughts to believe. I can question my assumptions. And I can release stagnant patterns so that life flows with ease, joy and abundance.

For most of my life, the extravaganza of my ego hypnotised me. But now that I’m sampling pure pockets of peace, this mindfulness jazz tastes like more.

Today, I sit in the September sun. For fear of doing nothing, I walk outside armed with phone, book, journal and iPod. But I get a sense that I’m doing this out of habit. I ignore the paraphernalia, put my feet up, tilt my face skyward, and appreciate the wine-stained autumn leaves and the heat on my toes. The crumpled clouds remind me of a morning strand, slick from a recent tide.

This evening though, I huff and puff over the stories my mind barrages me with. Again, it dawns on me that I’m doing this out of habit. I take a breath, drop into my core, and let it go.

In bed tonight, my mind visits many foreign and oft-explored destinations. At first, I indulge these memories, fantasies and nightmares. Then, I shift out of the nonsense and into the present. Only in presence do I realise that my body is clenched and I’m not lying in a comfortable position. I give myself permission to relax.

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zdravoslovnohranene.com

If you want to become more present, remember that practice makes “perfect”. It may be helpful to figure out which places and techniques assist you with the process. Being in nature usually grounds me. So does concentrating on my breath.

And yes, it is easier to be present when faced with a special moment or a spectacular view. Being present comes effortlessly when you gaze at the enormous moon in a glittering sky. Or when you watch the holiday sun melt into the horizon. Or when you turn your attention to your other senses – sinking into a yoga pose after a long day; the sensation of a lover’s touch; the strangely comforting sound of the roaring rain and wailing wind at your window.

But what about all the other moments? How can you be present during the difficult, sad and angry episodes? Can you maintain your presence of mind, body and spirit throughout the mundane and the chaotic? When you’re stuck in traffic or shuffling at the back of a massive queue? When you’re exhausted after a trialling time or choked up with dread over an imminent event?

Don’t worry if your desire to be present doesn’t manifest immediately or if it vanishes at the first sign of struggle. Simply be aware of how you are. The key is to treat yourself with compassion. Whenever I have trouble with mindfulness, I  recall a friend’s suggestion:

“You must be gentle with yourself. Each time you attach to thought and abandon the present moment, bring yourself back with the lightest nudge. Like with the soft top of a paintbrush.”

With practice, presence will start to become automatic. Because it’s our natural state. We just got a little lost along the way. We got caught up in the adventure, we drank in too much drama, and our vision grew blurry.

But now that I’m sobering up, I can focus on the path home, and I finally understand that I don’t have to travel very far. I don’t have to go anywhere at all. I just have to be.

Testing, testing

I’ve noticed that, when things are going well and I think I’ve learned so much, I get tested on it. As much as I’d rather the good times keep rolling, these tests do push me further along on my journey and make me appreciate the view all the more once I’ve achieved the arduous climb.

In the past few weeks, I’ve experienced some wonderful opportunities that have filled me with anxiety. Despite the temptation to remain tucked tight in my comfort zone, I’ve risen to these challenges with courage and I’ve been able to acknowledge my determination and skills.

Over the past while, I’ve also been faced with a number of not so pleasant challenges. These circumstances have demonstrated how swiftly I can be blown out of the present moment, how easily my enjoyment of life is snatched away, and how much power I hand over to other people and things.

On the upside, these challenges have highlighted how different I am now, how much more I value myself, how aware I am of my own reactions, how I refuse to be sucked into the drama, and how quickly I can bring myself back.

A Hay House Radio presenter suggests viewing a painful situation not as something to avoid and be frustrated about but as an opportunity for growth.

It may be difficult to see the positive in current tribulations so imagine that you can see into the future. In the big picture, this trialling time will probably work as a catalyst for change or it will be used as a stepping stone towards your highest good.

Are you facing any challenges right now? If you’re human, you very likely are. What is this challenge showing you? Is it presenting you with an opportunity for growth? If so, lean into it. Good luck!

Freewheelin’

I went for a cycle this morning. The sun was shining but the wind was strong. As I struggled against the wind, I thought: It’s amazing how something invisible can exert so much force, how something I can’t see can hinder me from going where I want to go.

Then it struck me. Our thoughts are a lot like the wind. They’re intangible and we can’t physically look at them. But they can stop us in our tracks as we attempt to battle against them.

Last night, as I flicked through a friend’s Coaching manual from Executive Coaching SolutionsI came across a section on Common Cognitive Distortions (CCDs), otherwise known as ‘thinking traps’. This is the type of distorted thinking that causes us to feel negative emotions.

Examples of CCDs include All or Nothing thinking, Disqualifying the Positive, Jumping to Conclusions (suddenly we become really talented mind readers and fortune tellers), Approval Seeking, Comparison, and Woe is Me thoughts.

I know I’ve engaged all of the above on many the occasion. The trick here is to be aware of the style of thinking you’re employing and to question it. Question the validity of your statements, check the facts, and see if you can turn it around into something more useful, more positive. I’m a big fan of Byron Katie’s work. Read more about how to question your thoughts and turn them around here.

Now, back to the bike. As the wind blew, I had to stand up and pedal harder. The sun blinded me as it reflected up off the wet ground. Then, I spotted a man walking his horse. When they heard me approach, the horse bucked. I waited for it to settle before moving on.

Today’s cycle threw up a few obstacles. At least with the things I could physically see, I was able to manoeuvre them. I squinted and averted my eyes from the glare of the sun. I stopped until the man had his horse under control before passing with caution. But there was nothing I could do about the wind. Well, I could get off the bike and walk but I was determined to keep riding.

Moments later, I turned a corner. I got in front of the wind and freewheeled down a hill. I felt exhilarated. By the time I got to a flat surface, the wind had died down and I cycled the rest of the way home with ease.

Your thoughts are much like the wind as you balance precariously atop the saddle on your exciting journey through life. Sometimes your thoughts will come thick and fast and you’ll have to decide whether to ride on or get off the bike. Other times, your thoughts will die down and you’ll flow through your days with ease. But you’re human and so thoughts will always come. It’s up to you whether you make them work for or against you. It’s your choice. Labour against the wind or ride with it!

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Knock Hard, Life

Have you ever had One Of Those Days when you’re just fed up? That’s sort of a rhetorical question because you’re human and this is life so of course you have. I came home this evening with a whopper of a headache after a number of things had gone “wrong”. A number of things were going right too but, when you’re having One Of Those Days, you choose to ignore them. I wanted to crawl under the duvet and pretend that life didn’t have to go on.

Then, I remembered the Winston Churchill quote: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Even though I didn’t feel like it, I switched on Hay House Radio just as Denise Linn was speaking these words: “I choose to believe that things will get better.” 

Sometimes, we feel so beaten down that it’s tempting to just not get up any more. Rumi wrote: “When the world pushes you to your knees, you’re in the perfect position to pray.” It is during these dark moments that we need to ask for help, from a friend or family member or simply by offering a prayer up to the heavens. This is when we need to surrender to some higher wisdom. This is when we need to understand that the bigger picture is so big that we can’t yet see how it’s all meant to fit together. Marilyn Monroe said: “Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.”

I don’t know how all the parts of my life are going to come together. Sometimes, I try to jam pieces together when they’re clearly not the right shape and then I cry with frustration when I break them. And occasionally, I feel broken too. Caroline Myss wrote: “We will all have experiences meant to ‘break our hearts’ – not in half but wide open.”

We all have days when we feel like giving up. When we no longer have all the answers. I’ve quoted five people in this article. Sometimes, it’s a quote you read or hear on the radio that rekindles that tiny flicker of hope. Sometimes, all you’ve got is a quote. Here’s five of them. I hope they help.