Tag Archives: good

To-Do

Today I attend a Life Coach for a much-needed, sort of dreaded business coaching session. We speak about timelines and deadlines. The Life Coach draws a “To-Do” box on the whiteboard. We also discuss ideas, fears and things that are weighing me down.

I confess that I’ve really been beating up on myself lately. I’ve been comparing myself unfavourably to others, calling myself names and believing that I’m “less than”. My mean streak is at a peak.

Towards the end of the session, I’m experiencing anxiety and my head hurts. The Life Coach asks me what I believe the pain in my head signifies.

“Pressure,” I answer.

He then asks me:

“What do you need to put in the “To-Do” box?”

Without hesitation, I answer:

“I need to love myself.”

“That’s a big one,” he smiles.

“Yes,” I reply as tears fill my eyes.

“When I’m not loving myself, it’s not just affecting my business. It’s influencing how I relate to life. It’s impacting on my enjoyment of every moment. It’s changing how I feel in my relationship. It’s altering how I am with friends and how I react in all of my activities.”

“Can you hear yourself,” the Life Coach asks.

“I hope you write about this and share it with everyone you know.”

I exhale deeply. I feel relieved. It’s so obvious, so simple, something I already know.

But I needed reminding. I needed to feel this anxiety, this pain and this pressure to understand that I haven’t been loving myself.

I acknowledge how far I’ve come. And I’m grateful for this experience as it’s showing me that I still have work to do. This time at a deeper level.

Yes, I could fill a whole notebook with To-Do lists and I have and will again. But when I’m not loving myself, I become paralysed with fear. I lack confidence, trust and self-belief.

When I don’t love myself, I can’t accept love from anyone else. I don’t see myself as deserving of all the good things in life.

However, when I love myself, I’m present. I enjoy the moment. I know that I’m safe. I can see that I’m capable, amazing even. I’m loving and loveable.

When I love myself, fearful projections transform into exciting projects. I’m filled with inspiration, enthusiasm, positive energy and hope. When I love myself, I’m happy and in the flow.

So for now, I have one task on my To-Do list: To love myself.

I challenge you to do the same. Let’s witness miracles at what unfolds from here…

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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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The Inner Family

I’m currently rereading Anodea Judith’s excellent book Eastern Body, Western MindThis morning, I completed an exercise on the Inner Family that I’m going to share with you.

Anodea Judith suggests making a list of the various parts of yourself. You might include the inner child, the clown, the achiever, the lover, the critic, and so on. In my case, I listed the lost child, the inner child, the lover, the romantic, the fearful one, and the warrior.

Next to each name on the list, write a few words describing how you perceive this part of yourself.

For example, I could describe the inner child as playful, curious or innocent. The lost child might be scared and alone. The lover is open, present and sensual. The romantic believes in love. The fearful one anticipates that bad things will happen. And the warrior is stunning, strong and skilled.

Now, write down what you think each part wants. My inner child wants to experience. The lost child wants to be loved. The lover wants to make love. The romantic wants to connect. The fearful one wants peace. And the warrior wants to live.

Ask yourself how often these parts succeed in getting what they want. How realistic are their desires? And what can be done to bring them into wholeness?

In order to bring the various parts of myself into wholeness, I can connect with people, including myself. I can be open to relationship and to love. I can meditate, rest and be still. I can be in nature, surround myself with beauty, and go on adventures. Using all of my senses, I can make love with life every single day. I can be present, really live, relax, allow and enjoy.

The final part of this exercise is to look at who relates to whom. For instance, does the critic inhibit the artist? Or does the clown entertain the sad inner child?

I realise that the parts of myself that I listed seem to go in pairs. The loving, playful inner child is the lost child’s reassuring companion. The confident lover and the dreamy romantic are in perfect partnership. And the warrior protects the fearful one and makes her feel safe.

This is an interesting exercise. Try it and let me know how you get on.

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I Am

I get angry and irritable. I criticise myself and others. I complain. I get depressed and cynical. I lose hope. I cry. I have unkind thoughts. Fear blocks me. I envy others their good fortune. I gossip. I need. I desire. I try to control. I resist what is.

I love. I share. I feel empathy and compassion. I give. I help. I donate. I listen and understand. I open my heart. I feel joy. I appreciate beauty. I am affectionate. I meditate. I laugh. I am present.

Which list is nicer? Should I feel pride about one and shame over the other? Is one list worse or better than the other? Is one good and the other bad? Is either list more or less human? Does any of it define who I am?

Do I dislike myself when I dip into the ingredients of the first list? Is there such a thing as a negative emotion? And should I attempt to dismiss it as soon as it arises? Or do I allow? Welcome? Embrace?

It is what it is. And I am everything. Good and bad. Darkness and light. Ugly and beautiful. Tears and smiles.

It all moves through me. I unhook, detach and observe. I peel off the layers and labels and I see that I am human and more than that. I am indescribable. I cannot be named.

I feel and experience. I judge and then I remember not to judge. And it ebbs and flows and ebbs once again.

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Let It All In

Remember those noisy neighbours? Well tonight, I pop in a pair of earplugs and will myself to sleep. My body is tense from the anticipation of the noise that I wish would disappear from my life completely.

This time however, instead of trying desperately to block out the noise, I decide to really go into the feeling that it brings up in me. It feels like the noise gets right into me. I want to withdraw from it but I can’t. I believe that this shouldn’t be happening and that is what fills me with rage. I wish I could wrap myself in a safe little bubble where nothing can get in but I just can’t seem to protect myself from it.

Once I’ve felt all there is to feel, I access a memory of childhood summers snorkelling in Greece. I’d spend hours submerged in this underwater haven where all I could hear was the sound of my own breathing. There was another world down there, full of peace and colour and surprises. I long for that peace right now.

Suddenly, I have an awareness. I am insisting on shutting out a part of life. I’m not allowing certain things in. And if I’m closing myself off to the noise, what else am I resisting?

I lie in bed and tentatively begin to let it all in. I am open. I am open to the good and bad, the noise and silence, the love and despair, the fear and joy. I am open to the anger and happiness, sadness and inspiration, the beauty and simplicity, the light and the darkness. Life in all its forms. Once I start allowing the noise in, who knows what other wonderful things will appear?

I also realise that the noise isn’t an outside invader, robbing me of my calm. The struggle is within me. I am reacting to this perceived injustice. I can choose how this affects me.

Rather than viewing these things as outside of me, I accept that all aspects of life are a part of me. In my withdrawal from the noise, what noise of my own am I suppressing? I am the noise but I am also the peace. And I am the love that once seemed so external and conditional.

So tonight, I let it all in. Because it’s already there. And on that conundrum, I promptly fall asleep.

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Eat Pray Love?

I am hesitant about spending three days on my own in a mostly closed-down seaside village in March but I know I want to get away and I also know that I have to do it alone.

I have had a bit of a rough time of it in the last while and I need respite from the storm. As I drive from east to west Ireland, I head straight from a metaphorical storm into a real one.

I expect to feel lonely but I am quite content in my own company. Upon my arrival, I go out to the beach. I walk against high winds and watch the crashing waves. In the evening, I take my laptop to a hotel and peek out at the ocean as I sip on a glass of Guinness. That night, I nibble on chocolate as I watch a movie from beneath a mound of blankets. And I have the most wonderful sleep.

On the second day, I complete a college assignment and jog down a quiet country road. I make a “chillax” playlist, light incense and candles, and get drunk in the bath on a glass of red wine as I delightedly tuck into Elizabeth Gilbert’s endearing memoir Eat Pray Love.

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That night, the wind shakes the rafters and the rain pelts down. And it isn’t the kind of rain that appears on many a relaxation CD; it’s the kind that makes you worry for the house (and for yourself).

On the third day, the loneliness descends. I feel too depressed to make food or leave the house so I give myself permission to close the curtains, put on a movie and eat chocolate. The sun shines annoyingly from behind the blinds. I feel guilty.

Earlier in the day, I had finished Eat Pray Love. Elizabeth Gilbert had found pleasure, peace, God and love, and I am happy for her, but now I really am alone. Even the nice, fun self who got drunk with me in the bath has left and been replaced with a demanding, insatiable self who reprimands me with all the fervour and righteousness of a school-teaching nun. I haven’t signed up for this. I’m on holidays. I can do what I want.

Halfway through the movie, I decide that I’d actually quite like to spend some time in the company of the sun and the ocean so I drag myself out of bed and embark upon a cliff walk.

The wind whips me in several directions. The ocean is beautiful but frightening as its waves roar and rise higher and higher, its spray landing on my face. I wonder if it’s safe to walk so high up, to be so close to such fierce unpredictability. There is nobody around. Am I alone in my insanity?

At one point, the wind grows so strong that I have to hold on to a railing. Then, there is no more railing. I could turn back but I’ve come so far. I just have to get to the peak and turn the corner. I’m stubborn in my insanity too.

Suddenly, a stone hits me in the face. I march to the top and turn the corner. Only then do I raise my hand to my cheek. I quite enjoy the sting of it. Tears spring to my eyes. Am I a masochist? Do I think I deserve to be hurt? No. It is simply because I can understand physical pain. Physical pain allows me to lift a gentle hand to my cheek to check if I’m okay.

As I move onto safer terrain, I ask myself why I’d been scared. In case I died? With a jolt, I realise that it isn’t death I’m afraid of; it’s more suffering. If you’re so afraid of suffering, a voice from within asks, why do you keep creating more and more of it? Why not put an end to all the guilt, the shoulds and shouldn’t haves, the only ifs and whens? Why not stop the exhausting drive for perfection?

If I’m serious about ending the needless suffering, I need to peel off the “good” and “bad” labels I put on everything. I have to stop the judgements. I also have to stop being so dependent on outside events, on other people and their opinions, and on my own thoughts and feelings.

I’ve been so dependent on a variety of people, things and invisible forces that I’m like a small child perched on one end of a see-saw, always waiting to see who’ll sit on the other side, before I can know how high or low they’ll take me.

How I long to connect with that inner stillness I’ve been reading so much about. That pure, perfect, beautiful, unconditional love that’s apparently a part of me. If only I could know, really know, that the essence of who I am is like the clear blue sky, then I wouldn’t be so disturbed and even altered by the lightning and the storm clouds.

All I have to do is accept myself exactly as I am. And accept others for who they are. And accept situations and feelings just as they are too. All I have to do is accept graciously and love unconditionally. But how do I get there?

I guess the first step of all this acceptance stuff is to accept that I don’t have all the answers and that I’m just not there yet.

And so I start to run. The wind settles, the sun beams down from a clear blue sky, and, I shit you not, I run right underneath a rainbow.

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An Invitation to Live Life As It Is

“The rain is awful!” “Glorious weather we’re having!” “I’m so happy!” “I feel bad.” “It’s so pretty.” “That’s really ugly.” How often we label things, people, and moods as “good” and “bad”.

When you’re surrounded by “good” stuff, you think your life is running smoothly. However, as soon as something “bad” happens, you’re thrown into chaos and despair. The first sign of a “negative” emotion and you’re reaching for the antidepressants or the alcohol or you’re throwing yourself into excessive activity or mind-numbing television shows. You run from what you perceive to be bad, avoiding it for as long as you possibly can, then battling it with all your might. No wonder you’re exhausted! You’ll only be content when the sun is shining, when you look fantastic, when everything goes the way you think it should, and when everyone around you behaves the way you expect them to. Good luck with that!

In The Invitation, Oriah Mountain Dreamer writes about her experience of resisting what she had labelled as bad:

“The world offers itself to me in a thousand ways, and I ache with an awareness of how infrequently I am able to receive more than a small fraction of what is offered, of how often I reject what is because I feel it is not good enough. Some mornings, sitting for a moment in the backyard, I don’t even notice how I have tensed my muscles against the sound of the city’s traffic, resisting what I have decided is a marring of the morning quiet. I pull away from it, unable or unwilling to welcome this sound as part of what is alive, as simply the sounds of men and women beginning their day, going into the world to do the work they do to provide for themselves and their children.”

In another chapter, she writes:

“We live in a culture that wants only the times of fullness, that often denies outright the fading times. We have forgotten that there can be no full moon without the existence at other times of the tiny sliver of light surrounded by darkness. The fullness of summer is held, on the opposite side of the wheel, by the time of the longest night. To be separated from these cycles of the world, from the births and the deaths, is to be separated from life itself. But still we work frantically, seeking the knowledge that will put humans outside this natural cycle of blossoming and decay.”

Imagine the relief if you decided to stop fighting the darkness. How would it feel to simply accept everything exactly as it is? To recognise that everything is as it should be? And how do you know that everything is as it should be? Because it is. It’s so simple that you think you need to make it more complicated in order to understand it. You make your life difficult by suffering and complaining because you think things should be different from what they are. Things should not be any different. Why? Because what is is.

This does not mean staying in a situation that is not serving you well. The trick is to be present enough to acknowledge that it is time to move forward. People often have to feel bad enough for long enough before they will finally do something about their suffering. In this case, the “unpleasant” situation has also unfolded exactly as it was meant to. So that you could learn. So that you could grow. So that you could realise that you love yourself.

When you’ve lived an entire lifetime of expecting things to be “wonderful” and constantly (but not at all surprisingly) being disappointed, this new mindset takes a bit of time to sink in. Just today, I felt annoyed because somebody behaved in a way that I didn’t like. What a ___head, I muttered as I put my foot on the accelerator. This thought filled my body with heat and anger. My head throbbed as I tensed against these sensations. I don’t want this pain, I thought. Pain is something I’ve always feared. It was something I had learned that you had to immediately eradicate. I realised that I was, yet again, resisting reality. I thought that the man should have acted differently. But the reality was that he had behaved exactly the way he had behaved. I could accept it. Or I could dwell on it, take it personally, wish for something different, and wind myself up tighter and tighter. I also didn’t want to be in pain. But I was. I could fight against that too. Or I could breathe into it and observe what happened.

As I drove, I looked out at the countryside. The day was “dull” and “dreary”. The sky was grey and heavy. The rain drizzled “monotonously”. I knew that if the sun was shining, I would feel instantly uplifted. I’d marvel at the shock of yellow rapeseed in the fields and gaze up at a sky streaked with colour.

What’s wrong with a day like today, I asked myself. The trees and bushes glistened a lush green, having drunk an abundance of rain. I too drank in this perfect example of nature. I realised that the guy from earlier was merely acting as a mirror to reflect something to me that I needed to look at. If I stopped making it all about him and started making it all about me, I could learn from it. I then brought my awareness to the pain in my head. It told me that I’m alive. I took a long and satisfying breath.

The rain continued to fall. Instead of cursing the weather and agonising over all the things I couldn’t do, I became aware of all the things I could do. I could practice yoga and listen to music, then make myself a huge mug of tea, and curl up in an armchair with a fluffy blanket and a great book. Or I could lie on my bed and listen to the rainfall, grateful that I have a roof over my head. I could see the world for what it is and lovingly accept it all.

This field is astonishingly joyous.

Image: Author’s own.