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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.

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The Way

The other day, someone generously sent me an audiobook of The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff, which is an introduction to Taoism using the characters of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories. Tao literally means “way” and Taoism emphasises simplicity, compassion, moderation, humility and spontaneity. This book describes the virtues of Taoism with wit and ease.

Once I finished the book, I put my iTunes into shuffle mode. Curiously, one chapter of The Tao of Pooh came on a number of times. I listened with interest as the narrator spoke about “inner nature” and how we try to put square pegs into round holes by trying to be something we are not.

How often we try to fit in with what our society dictates to us, with what we are told is desirable and what we feel is expected of us by parents, teachers and politicians. How we do do do, rush, worry and stress instead of simply being. We are all different. We each have different interests and talents. We should not all attempt to fit into the same “perfect” mould of what we think is appropriate. We worry that others will not approve of us if we veer off the well-trodden path. But isn’t that boring? And unrealistic? We could always find our own way. A way of really living. A way of seeing the beauty of life instead of the monotony of what’s deemed to be “normal”. A way of not always trying so hard. Because if we honour our true inner nature, living becomes effortless.

I recall a college student telling me: “Growing up is horrible. I used to wish I was older. But there’s so much stress and responsibility. I hate college. Why does it have to be like this? I wish I could just run away.” Is this how our youth should feel about life and their future? This young adult was already deadening her spirit in order to “survive”. But as it says on this blog’s tagline, “life is about more than just surviving”.

In society today, during their most creative and energetic years, children are locked into schools where they are force-fed material in order to pass the exams that will enable them to spend most of the rest of their lives in jobs that they probably won’t enjoy. And the “underclass” of society on welfare have to wait in demeaning queues for handouts and are made to feel that they are a drain on the country’s wealth.

I’m currently reading Gerard Leahy’s Towards a Jobless Society. This book really peaked my interest as it got me thinking about society in a way that I never even dreamed possible. While it’s tempting to tell you every single thing Leahy suggests, I’ll try to summarise his views succinctly.

Leahy believes that the job-oriented society we are living in is depressing and unsustainable. With the advances in technology, a lot of jobs have become redundant. We have the means to produce goods extremely cost-effectively. However, governments are insistent on giving grants and subsidies to keep other companies in business to compete with the companies that are offering cheaper products. Despite these technological advancements, the economy is not any wealthier because consumers have to pay increased taxation to artificially sustain the levels of employment. Governments are also spending money on unnecessary administration and on “job creation”, forcing the unemployed into training for jobs that do not exist. Creating jobs is not the same as creating wealth, which is where the focus should really be.

We are human beings born onto this planet so we all deserve a place here and our basic needs should be met. Using an “island model” approach to get his point across, Leahy proposes that all people over 16 years of age receive a basic income. Nobody will “have” to work in order to survive. Without this pressure, people will be able to express their individuality and creative genius. Some will offer their services such as teaching, counselling, policing and healing on a voluntary basis or for a small fee. Others will write, sculpt, act and meditate. People will have time to spend with family and on personal development.

Leahy also suggests that all products and services be subject to a taxation of 50 per cent, which will be divided equally amongst the population. So those who wish to work will have incentive to do so. And those who don’t want to will not feel pressurised.

Imagine a world where the pressure is off, where we can be ourselves, where we have the opportunity to explore our creativity and talents, and time to work on our personal and spiritual development. Where it is okay to simply be. Where we have the license to share our unique selves with one another. This way of simplicity, spontaneity, compassion, moderation and humility is the way of this wonderful world. It certainly sounds good to me.

After writing this post, someone showed me the following video narrated by the great Alan Watts…

Time takes from the Essence

Recently, I’ve become aware that I am often rushing, running late, under pressure, behind. The questions I have to ask myself are: Behind what? Rushing where? All that exists is the present moment. Everything else is past or future. Whenever I don’t give myself enough time, I am refusing to accept the beauty of the present moment.

I curse as I get stuck behind a tractor. I can’t walk fast enough as I barrel down the street. However, when I feel I have time, I can enjoy the journey. I sing along to music. I appreciate the countryside; the shades and colours and patterns of the sky and fields and mountains. The shock of daffodils on the side of the road that announce the arrival of spring by simply being.

From the moment we are born, a big clock starts ticking. As difficult as it is for a lot of us to accept, we are all going to face death. However, most religions teach us that we are everlasting. Hindus believe in reincarnation. Christians and Muslims believe in an eternal afterlife in Heaven or Hell. Therefore, for want of a better phrase, we have all the time in the world. This doesn’t mean we can afford to waste our time on earth. We are here for a special reason and so, we should make the most of every precious moment. And if you believe that when we die, we die, that’s it, nothing more, then you’d want to make the most of what time you have left. For religious folk and atheists alike, all that exists is the present moment anyway. Right here. Right now. Now… Now… Now… And now.

Of course, if we wish to participate in mainstream society – if we want to work, take classes, keep appointments – we are choosing to follow the structure of time that we have constructed. However, when we believe that time is all there is, this is when problems arise. We are stressed because we don’t think we have enough time to get everything done. We get depressed because something we perceive as negative is taking too much time to go away. We feel guilty because we haven’t exercised as many times this week as we should have. We become frustrated because it’s been so long since we’ve gone on a date or a holiday or had time to ourselves. We judge our situation and our feelings with regard to time. If there was no such thing as time, we would be more at peace, more relaxed.

Alan Watts writes:

“Fictions are useful so long as they are taken as fictions. They are then simply ways of “figuring” the world which we agree to follow so that we can act in cooperation, as we agree about inches and hours, numbers and words, mathematical systems and languages… But the troubles begin when the fictions are taken as facts. Thus in 1752 the British government instituted a calendar reform which required that September 2 of that year be dated September 14, with the result that many people imagined that eleven days had been taken off their lives, and rushed to Westminster screaming, ‘Give us back our eleven days!'”

How can we get away from time when we have to be in work or at a class, when we have to pay our bills and study for upcoming exams? We can give ourselves time off. We can take ourselves on a break away from the constraints of time, where we can enjoy lengthy breakfasts on the balcony, sunbathe on the beach, and read until our eyes become heavy. We can give ourselves more time. This sounds paradoxical but it can be done by managing our time and figuring out what’s really important and what we want, as opposed to what we think we should be doing or falling into the trap of wasting time doing very little. Instead of losing too much time on Facebook or watching the soaps or on the phone listening to someone complaining about this and that, we can give ourselves time to stand under the shower and feel the warm water cascading along our bodies. We can go for long walks in nature. We can sit beneath a large tree and inhale the fresh air and scents of flowers and freshly cut grass and recent rainfall. We can turn off the TV and open a book. We can log off Facebook Chat and meet up with loved ones. We can meditate.

Meditation is one of the best ways to simply be. There should be no time. No stress. No ego. The word “meditation” comes from the Latin “meditare”, which means “to heal”. You can meditate in silence or by repeating a mantra. You can meditate with prayer or by sitting in nature or by watching the flickering flame of a candle. Initially, it can be difficult to switch off the incessant thoughts, the constant checking of the watch, the negative thinking, and the internal planner who sits there deciding what to have for dinner and how to complete that project. You don’t have to banish these thoughts. Simply observe them and let them go. And after a bit of practise, you’ll notice your mind becoming clearer. Focus on your breathing. Feel the connection with everything around you. Simply be. With the present moment. Now. And now. And now.

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