Tag Archives: future

To Let It Be

I turned to my friend and announced: “Resistance is what causes most of our suffering.”

This was off the back of a weekend spent in bed, sick and alone, while the sun shone, radio DJs played dance music to prepare us all for a fun Saturday night out, and my Facebook friends posted pictures of forest walks and ice creams in Dun Laoghaire.

I knew I was feeling sorry for myself. And I knew I had a lot to be thankful for. I wasn’t battling cancer. I hadn’t lost my home to a hurricane. And I wasn’t counting pennies to see if I’d be able to put food on the table.

But I was sick. And the weekend blazed sunnily through the windows. And there were no more dark chocolate covered rice cakes in the house.

And I was face-slappingly, heartbreakingly alone.

The thing is, I could have asked for help. In fact, one friend asked me if I needed anything. I replied honestly that I didn’t. There was nothing that I needed. And I didn’t want anyone to have to cancel their plans for me. I wanted people to be with me because they wanted to be there.

So I spent two days at home alone. Between sleeping, blowing my nose and weeping over my aloneness, I delved into Cheryl Strayed’s wonderful book Wild.

Cheryl had gone through some really tough times. Her father was abusive and her mother died of cancer. After Cheryl’s marriage broke down due to her infidelities and use of heroin, Cheryl took on an extraordinary journey in order to become the woman her mother saw in her. Cheryl hiked over a thousand miles alone on the epic Pacific Crest Trail.

“I felt more alone than anyone in the whole wide world,” Cheryl admitted. Later, she reasoned: “Maybe I was more alone than anyone in the whole wide world. Maybe that was okay.”

I lay in bed reading but it felt like I joined Cheryl as she sweated up mountains, grew blisters, lost toenails, and crossed paths with deer, bears and rattlesnakes. I walked alongside her as she raged into the wilderness, carrying a giant rucksack which she aptly named Monster. 

Before Cheryl set off on this amazing trek, somebody told her that the father’s job is to teach his children how to be warriors, “to give them the confidence to get on the horse and ride into battle when it’s necessary to do so.” She said that if you don’t get that from your father, you have to teach yourself. This woman predicted:

“There will come a time when you’ll need to get on your horse and ride into battle and you’re going to hesitate. You’re going to falter. To heal the wound your father made, you’re going to have to get on that horse and ride into battle like a warrior.”

I could relate to the burden Cheryl bent beneath. As she emptied a lifetime of sadness and anger into the wild, I too allowed myself to heal and release. And when Cheryl didn’t think she could go any further, I championed her as she walked on anyway. Her strength and determination humbled me as she completed a miraculous journey back to self. Cheryl finished her memoir with the words:

“How wild it was, to let it be.”

How wild it would be, to let everything be as it is. Without trying to change it. Without resisting what is. Without wishing things were different. Without wondering and worrying, regretting and replaying.

So this evening, I turned to my friend and said:

“Resistance is what causes most of our suffering.” 

And she retorted:

“Thinking is what causes most of our suffering.”

She went on to describe her morning. How she had spent time sweeping up leaves. My friend, like all of us, has plenty to think about, but she didn’t think. She swept.

She watched the leaves swirling in the wind. She felt the brush in her hands. And she listened to the sound of the bristles as she swept.

Tonight in bed, I notice that I am curled up tight, thinking. It hits me that I’ve probably spent most of my life thinking. Not living. Not experiencing. Not being. I’ve spent most of my life in my head. Thinking.

This is my life, I realise. And I want to be present to it. So I resolve to climb out of my head and into my heart. To be in my body. To feel. To experience. To live. To be present. To be open. To simply be.

A vision of my friend sweeping leaves floats into my consciousness. I relax into the bed. I can almost hear the bristles flicking onto the pathway, as the leaves dance in disobedience.

How wild it would be, to let it be.

weheartit.com

weheartit.com

Advertisements

No More Drama

These past few days, I’ve been questioning whether I’m holding the belief that good things don’t last. It’s like I dare not presume that it’ll all work out. I’ve been almost expecting things to go wrong.

I certainly don’t want to think this way and I’m afraid that this type of thinking will turn out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But how do I shake such a belief? On the one hand, I’ve managed to become much more positive in many areas of my life. I often go back to the mantra: If one can, everyone can. But I haven’t yet integrated this optimism into all aspects of my life.

As I drive to work today, I tell myself that I’m going to have to shift this. And soon. But how? Do I need to do more tapping and thinking? Should I book in with an energy therapist or a Life Coach?

And then it dawns on me. I don’t have to do anything at all. I just have to stay present. It’s so simple that I might actually have to stop struggling.

What would I do with all the time and energy if I’m not worrying, resisting and analysing? I might have nothing left to write about.

Earlier today, I was speaking to someone about setting up a mindfulness evening. I remarked: “Some people might find the idea of a mindfulness evening boring. We’re so addicted to drama.”

And we are. We get caught up in the highs and lows of life. We love to complain and gossip, fantasise and catastrophise, daydream and reminisce. The thought of sitting in meditation and being present, without constantly narrating or being entertained by our loquacious imaginations, isn’t all that appealing.

My friend told me how beneficial he finds practising mindfulness. He pointed out that the more we sit in meditation, the more automatic mindfulness becomes in our day-to-day lives. It’s no longer such an effort to stay present. It just is. And we just are. He adds:

“And one day, a cup of tea is enough to bring you into total presence.”

I thank him for this beautiful reminder, then go right back to trying to decide what to do tonight. Should I stay in or go to that party? If I go out, will I enjoy it? Will I be too tired at class tomorrow?

I listen to this internal dialogue and bring myself back to the present. I don’t have to decide anything right now. I can see what I feel like doing when it’s time to do it. And I can enjoy this moment because I’m in it.

It really is that easy. No fuss. Just presence.

Well, that was an anti-climax.

unrealitymag.com

unrealitymag.com

I Surrender

Something happened this week that left me feeling extremely vulnerable. Instead of acknowledging my reaction, I ignored it and hoped it would disappear all by itself.

This morning, I set off on a fairly long journey. I switch on the radio to distract myself from how I’m feeling. Just as I turn up the volume, I miss my exit. I want to cry. But that won’t do. I’m wearing mascara.

I know that my upset isn’t really about getting lost on the motorway. It’s about the vulnerability that I’m trying to suppress. Issues around love, rejection and self-worth are simmering beneath the surface.

I want to be strong and independent. But now that I’m well and truly lost in a foreign part of the country, I realise that a lot of that is fake. I’m putting up walls in an attempt to protect myself. Act like you don’t care, Sharon. Then you can’t be hurt. 

Where’s the logic in that? Is anybody benefitting from this performance? I think not. And know it’s not real. So of course I can still feel pain. I’m just hiding it from others. And while I’m feigning nonchalance, I’m disconnecting from the full potential of the present experience.

I don’t know where I am or where I’m going. I allow the tears to roll down my cheeks. I give myself permission to feel the fear, to embrace it, to listen to its voice, and to open up to what is.

As I drive into unfamiliar territory, I spot a lone tree in a large green field. I feel an irrational kind of sadness for this solitary tree.

But who’s to say the tree is on its own? Is the tree separate from its roots and leaves and branches? Is the grass beneath it a part of it too? And the air that caresses its limbs? Where does the tree begin and does it ever end?

In The Infinite Way, Joel S. Goldsmith writes:

“The wave is one with the ocean, indivisible and inseparable from the whole ocean. All that the ocean is, the wave is; and all the power, all the energy, all the strength, the life and all the substance of the ocean are expressed in every wave. The wave has access to all that lies beneath it, for the wave really is the ocean, just as the ocean is the wave, inseparable, indivisible, one. Note here this very important point: There is no place where one wave comes to an end and the next wave begins, so the oneness of the wave with the ocean includes the oneness of every wave with every other wave.”

If there is no separation, there can be no rejection. It is only my thinking about abandonment that causes suffering. In my resistance to what is, I’m floundering.

I let go. It doesn’t matter what happens. And what has already occurred is perfect too. I surrender.

A sense of calm settles around me like a blanket of sunbeams. I feel cleansed. I really am okay. I’m whole and open and connected.

I take a chance on an unknown direction and it brings me to where I’m meant to be.

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.

IMG_3110

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.

IMG_3046

Images: Author’s Own

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.

zdravoslovnohranene.com

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.

What Happens to This Moment?

It is a beautiful day. My companion and I stroll through the woods, picking shamrocks and blackberries. We touch the thick trunks of towering trees, admire the hawthorn, and sniff purple lupine and yellow furze.

We stand for several minutes, gazing out at a stunning view of the Mourne mountains, the sun on the water, and the unexpected sight of a large round moon in the cornflower sky.

I break the silence and ask, “How present are you?”

He pauses then says: “There are a few ways I can be right now. I could be all about the other person – you. I could be totally present within myself. Or I could be present to myself and to another human being simultaneously. Thank you for reminding me of that.”

Later, we discuss the topic further. My friend recalls a Byron Katie quote:

“The end of suffering is to not project a future even one nanosecond away from now, whether you’re experiencing a terrorist attack or just doing the dishes.”

He adds: “We’re always thinking: ‘What’s next? What’s next?’ And when we’re doing that, what happens to this moment?”

“We’re not there for it,” I respond.

I realise that, even while speaking about presence, I’m catapulting myself out of the present by planning and daydreaming, hoping and worrying, fantasising and catastrophising. I’m stepping ten minutes into the future, leaping into next week and somersaulting over decades.

When I’m doing that, what happens to this moment?

I take a breath deep into my centre, look into his eyes and smile.

Image: Author's Own

Image: Author’s Own

Lost in Thought

It’s after midnight so it is now the first of September. My self-determined challenges for this month are to stop biting my lip and fingers (something I’ve been doing since I was a child) and to be present (and whenever I discover that I’m not being present, I’ll gently bring myself back).

Tonight, I lie in bed, wide awake. I cry for my friend Michelle, who died suddenly. Since receiving the shocking and upsetting news, my emotions have become heightened.

I went for a long walk today and photographed the sun in the trees. I gazed delightedly at the yellow crescent moon perched low in the dusky sky. Music pulses through my body like blood.

I feel for Michelle and her parents. I remember the times we had together. I wonder how I’ll be at her funeral.

My mind flits from Michelle to a guy I’m interested in to an upcoming holiday to work and back to Michelle. I bite my lip.

I glance at the time. It’s twenty-five minutes past midnight. It’s September, I realise with a jolt and snatch my hand away from my mouth. I’m supposed to be present now.

I groan as I recognise that sometimes I actually enjoy being entertained by the drama of my mind. I quite like fantasising and reminiscing and anticipating. Mindfulness can be boring, right? Twenty-five minutes in and I’m already resisting the challenge.

The clock creeps past one am. I know that my mind is keeping me awake, like an enthusiastic relative back from their travels, telling me stories and bombarding me with pictures.

It’s late and I’m still wired. Not so entertaining now, is it? Maybe being present would be a good idea, I decide.

My breath deepens. I sink into my body and snuggle into the bed. My mind escapes again. And again. I patiently allow it to shuffle back. My shoulders drop. I stop holding on so tight. And I fall asleep.

Perhaps living in the past and potential future is just another bad habit like biting my lip and fingers. Apparently it takes 21 days to make or break a habit. Thirty days hath September. So let’s see if this month bestows me with boredom or liberation and peace…

How will you challenge yourself this month?

Safe journey, Michelle. Rest in peace xxx

Safe journey, Michelle. Rest in peace xxx

Image: Author’s Own.