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The Work Tools

Something happened recently that disappointed me. However, part of me insisted that it wasn’t a big deal, that I was overreacting and that I should get over it and move on. And I did. I mentally high-fived the new easy-going me.

In a conversation this evening, the same issue resurfaces. I receive new information that triggers me all over again.

I end the chat as quickly as I can. I’m just home after a very busy day and I’m starving but I’m too upset to eat.  So I fly up to my room and mutate into a wailing, thumping, tantrumming child.

I’m surprised to see that I’m angry. Anger is an uncomfortable emotion for me. I tell myself that I need to calm down.

I put my phone on silent, sit on my meditation cushion and tap on how I’m feeling (click here for more on EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique).

The anger pours out, as does the hurt. I allow the ego to have its say. What it says and how it speaks sounds so petty and silly that I start laughing. Then the tears return. As does the rage.

Even as I write this, it sounds overdramatic. I don’t want to worry family and friends over something so “trivial”.

That stern, no-nonsense part of me wants to assure you that it really isn’t a big thing. But what message would I be sending my sobbing inner child if I silenced her like that? And so I continue.

google.com

google.com

The tapping uncovers deeper feelings of not being important or special enough. Of being a “psycho”.

I should pretend that I’m fine because if I reveal my real feelings, if I ask for what want, I will surely and immediately become unloved and abandoned. And if that happens, I’ll feel so bad that everything else will be ruined.

With these imaginations, I’ve catapulted myself from a meditation cushion on a fine Friday evening to a near future of doom and failure. I may need another tool…

So I turn to Byron Katie’s transformative process The Work. The first step of The Work is to come up with a statement which is making me feel bad.

The statement I go for is: I’m overreacting. 

I then ask four questions.

The first question is: Is it true? Is it true that I’m overreacting?

Yes, I answer resolutely. Because nothing anyone does should make me feel bad. Only I can make myself bad. So I am overreacting. I should be zen at all times.

The second question is: Can you absolutely know that it’s true?

Again I respond with a Yes because “I should know better than to react this way”. However, I also know that a No to this question would move The Work along nicely.

Once I give myself permission to say that No, maybe I’m not overreacting, the reasons for why I’m feeling this way become clear. No wonder you’re upset, I comfort my poor inner child. There, there.

Then for question number three: How do you react, what happens when you believe that thought?

When I believe that I’m overreacting, I reject myself. I tell myself that I shouldn’t feel the way I’m feeling. I don’t have a right to speak up. My needs aren’t as important as the needs of others. And if I act like they are, those other people will become angry and leave.

The fourth question is: Who would you be without the thought?

If I didn’t have the thought I’m overreacting, if I couldn’t have it, I wouldn’t doubt myself so much. I’d be clearer about my needs. I’d know what I want and what I deserve. I wouldn’t beat up on myself and I wouldn’t feel bad for feeling bad. I’d love myself.

This year, I promised myself something powerful, something life-changing:

I will not abandon myself any more.

This evening, in spite of the pain, I refuse to turn my back on myself. I give myself some much-needed, much-appreciated love.

Regarding the situation, I don’t know yet what the next step is. But maybe acknowledging how I’m feeling, getting to the root of these emotions, seeing that I’m as deserving as anyone else, and loving myself throughout is enough.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Parking It

It’s a sunny day in beautiful Barcelona and I am alone. My friend had an earlier flight to catch but instead of travelling with her to the airport and hanging around there for a few hours, I find my way to a park and sit facing the sun.

I watch the other park dwellers. There are groups of friends chatting, drinking and dancing. Couples sleep side by side, holding hands. A few solitary figures read or play with their phones. Others jog, cycle and saunter by.

I have no book, no notepad, no music. Usually, I have all three. Today, I am forced to sit and do nothing.

Earlier on, I noticed my mood drop. I went into fear around business and money. I spoke harshly to myself for not being successful enough. Where’s your get-up-and-go, I asked myself. You need more drive.

I compared myself to other women, judging myself for not being as slim, toned, pretty or stylish. No wonder those girls are in relationships, I thought. They’re cool and confident. You’re not.

I also criticised myself for not undertaking enough big challenges with regard to the Rejection Therapy I’m currently doing.

Suddenly, sitting here on Spanish soil, I have an awareness. I realise that, despite not actively seeking rejection, I am still being rejected. By myself. And that makes me feel sad.

Asian men with plastic bags walk by, repeating the mantra: “Agua! Cerveza!” I purchase a one euro can of beer and sip it as I sit and watch and think and feel the sunlight on my skin. A welcome feeling of calm settles upon me.

I understand that, when I project into what may or may not happen in the future, I feel overwhelmed. I’ll just take it one step at a time, I decide. I can manage that.

I also have a knowing that comparing myself to others just doesn’t feel good. I am what I am. All I have to do is be present. And enjoy the moment.

And for one whole hour, I do.

Me. In Barcelona.

Me. In Barcelona.

Cheerleader

Some of you will be familiar with a popular song of the moment, “Cheerleader” by OMI. Well, up until Sunday night, I thought the lyrics went something like this: “Oh I think that I found myself a cherry air.” 

Which makes no sense at all but I happily sang along anyway while enjoying the sunshiney sound of the trumpet.

On Sunday night, I was in a beer garden when OMI’s reggae tune came on. “Oh I think that I found myself a cheerleader,” one woman sang as she threw her hands in the air. Oh!

I’ve since heard the song several times and now that I know what OMI is actually singing, I can’t not hear it. This got me thinking. Is it the same with awareness? Once you have an awareness/insight/Aha moment, you can’t unhave it.

Anyway, that’s my thought for the day (well, one of them at least).

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

Stepping into 2015

Over the past few days, there’s been a lot of talk about the coming year. I’ve been asked about my new year’s resolutions, I chose my Word for 2015 (Free), and yesterday, my friend and I played a thought-provoking game which highlighted our fears and desires.

My new year’s resolutions are to be present, to be brave, and to love. Last night in the pub, a friend asked me if I had any more concrete goals, things that I could tick off my list with satisfaction. She mentioned wanting to read and go to the theatre more. Another friend would like to participate in a project that excites her and to find a new hobby that raises her adrenaline. Somebody else listed off the countries she wants to visit.

I paused. The other evening, my mother had asked me about romantic relationships. “I have to sort my life out first mam,” I declared. It’s difficult to think about hobbies, classes, holidays and dating when I feel like I’m currently in limbo. I need to figure out my career and where I’m living.

So I’ve set up a session with a great Life Coach for next week. I finally feel ready to be completely honest about myself, and about the fears, issues, blocks and beliefs that are limiting me. It’s my life and I deserve to live it to my full potential. I want to grow and move forwards. I’m also going to exercise more.

Yesterday evening, I called over to a friend. I asked her what her Word for 2015 is. She decided on PeaceShe explained that there is no greater thing than Peace. In Peace, you are present. You can be more creative and efficient. In Peace, you break through fear. “Yes,” I say excitedly. “You can’t feel fear and Peace at the same time. What a great Word!”

Then, my friend suggested a wonderful exercise. She took out a page and divided it into 16 pieces. On each slip of paper, we wrote things like: I desire. I fear. I need. I am. 

We took turns in finishing these sentences. It was interesting to see what came up for us and how much everything overlapped. It enabled us to become really clear on what we need to focus on (and let go of) for the coming year. I realised that I have to love and accept myself no matter what.

self-love

Many people use this time of year to reflect, plan and motivate themselves. The way things have worked in my life has been quite synchronistic. I’m starting afresh right at the beginning of a new year. I’m releasing old patterns that are no longer serving me. I’m willing to change.  And I’m open to new opportunities.

And despite the fear, negativity, confusion and over thinking that I’ve fallen into over the past month, I have also really enjoyed the holidays. And I’m so grateful for the lovely people I surround myself with.

I’ve appreciated and been present to the simple things in life like laughter, music, movies, nights out, sleeping, eating, exercising, reading, writing, being in nature, and spending time with friends and family.

The other night, I caught the end of a documentary called Unhung HeroThe documentary-maker was struggling with insecurity and he considered giving up on the film altogether. His mother gave him the following advice: “With growth there’s pain.”

I feel that I am on the cusp of something great. I’m about to take a massive leap forwards. And it’s natural to experience fear when you’re challenging yourself to step into the unknown.

And so I step into 2015, a never-before-seen year, with freedom, presence, courage, love and peace. I wish the same for all of you. Thank you for reading. You make this labour of love all the more worthwhile.

favim.com

favim.com

Holiday

I’m just back from what I can genuinely say was my best holiday so far. Practising presence has really paid off.

Being present enabled me to treasure each moment for what it was, without labelling it, predicting its expiry date or viewing it through a haze of longing or attempted prolonging.

Everything unfolded perfectly. Whatever happened was the way it was meant to be. I even enjoyed the day-long trek to Athens via Stansted. I chatted to friends, read, slept and conversed with fellow travellers.

When I arrived in Greece, I soaked up the heat, the smell, the ancient language and the ardent stares of the hot-blooded males. My friends and I lapped up the attention and the compliments. We flirted and joked and laughed so hard that tears came.

I sat in silence on a ferry as dawn set the sky on fire. I sipped frappes in the blaze of the morning. And I shared cocktails with family as we watched the journey of the ball of glowing sun until the last of its embers trickled into the horizon.

When the boat was over an hour late, I delighted in the extra time in Paros where I people-watched from the port café and availed of the free WiFi.

I relished every mouthful of tzatziki-filled gyros and olive oil-drenched salads. I savoured the evenings as my friends and I swallowed beer, applied makeup, put on fashion shows, danced and sang.

I felt gratitude for the time I spent with my father as we lunched beneath the Acropolis.

I snorkelled with the fish and mermaided underneath the water. I was truly present as I floated in the sea, my body pressed towards the sky.

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And when the impatient bus driver took us the long way around the island, I appreciated the view of places I hadn’t yet seen. I giggled as the driver shouted at passengers, beeped and gestured furiously, and belted around precariously narrow bends. He caught my eye in the mirror, winked and turned the music up loud.

Occasionally, my mind put up a road-block but I simply noted it and veered around it. I was aware of the impact of my thoughts and I reminded myself to stay present.

A few times, a “bad” feeling descended. Whereupon, I allowed myself to really feel it. I uncovered the thought process behind it. Once I recognised its source, I was able to let it go.

On my last day in Athens, I visited my grandmother. We said all that we could say in our limited Greek and English, then sat back and watched each other as we sucked on ice creams. Then, she started to cry. I too became emotional.

In the bathroom, as I collected myself, I realised that the reason I was feeling so upset was because I had had the thought: This could be the last time I see my grandmother.

I brought myself back to the present, returned to my grandmother, touched her ninety-year-old skin and told her that she’s beautiful and I love her.

And now, as the bus carts me back to Newbridge, I try to shake the sinking feeling that most holiday-makers catch at the end of their vacation. This time however, I see it for what it is: habit.

I’ve had an amazing holiday. And now I’m hurtling back to “reality”. I’m being dragged away from the aquamarine waters of Antiparos and Mykonos and plunged into a swamp of thought-induced depression.

But that’s all in my mind. I look out the window. The fields are green and the sun is shining.

I’m not in Greece. But I’m also not in Ireland. Not really. I am me. I am now. And it is what it is.

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Images: Author’s Own

Coming Unstuck

I’m chatting with someone who admits to having unkind thoughts about people. “I’m so angry with myself for being like this,” she cries. As I move to embrace her, something comes to me. I explain:

“We have everything inside of us. Hatred, anger, envy, love, compassion, darkness, light, ugliness and beauty. And we move into whatever we need at that time. But we can get stuck in one energy or emotion and it affects us negatively. Then we attract more and more of the same. All you have to do now is get unstuck. Even talking about it is unsticking you. Letting go of your resistance to this will unstick you. Could you bring acceptance to how you’re feeling?”

She nods thoughtfully. As I am speaking, I have another realisation: “When we’re happy, we’re happy for other people to be happy. When we’re not, we’re not. So all we have to do is make ourselves happy.”

And that’s just what I have been doing lately. Instead of dwelling on the argument or the rejection and rather than worrying about the future or wishing things were different, I’m choosing to make myself happy.

I’m making sure to live a balanced life. I’m appreciating friends and family. I’m enjoying my work and my writing. I’m singing while driving and relishing in the sound of tyres on tarmac. I’m basking in the breathtaking sunset as I jog across the Curragh plains. I’m doing what I love and being in the flow and amazing things are arising out of it.

Do you need unsticking? What would shift that energy for you? Can you bring acceptance to how you’re feeling? Are you doing things that you love? What are you grateful for? Make yourself happy and the world will open up to you like a flower tilted towards the sun.