Tag Archives: humour

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.

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Attitude of Gratitude

The other day, I was complaining about how long it takes to blow-dry my hair. My mother informed me that, when she was a child, she had to towel-dry hers. I felt grateful for the invention of hair dryers. A couple of my friends then told me that they wish they had thick hair like mine. Again, I had to be grateful for what I was lucky enough to have.

This quote comes to mind: “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.”

Gratitude is something I practice every single day. It instantly lifts my mood and brings enjoyment to all the little (and the big) things that I have in my wonderful life.

I would like to own my own house some day but, right now, I give gratitude for the lovely little flat I’m living in. It’s cosy and central and I have it all to myself.

Yesterday, I met a woman who has been through cancer twice. She lifted her shirt to show us the scars from her double mastectomy. A wave of gratitude and admiration for this brave woman enveloped me.

She spoke of the fun she used to have with the fellow patients in the hospital. She remembered how the nurses would bring her tea and toast at 2am if she couldn’t sleep. “They didn’t have to do that,” she added. In the face of such a huge challenge, this lady was still able to express gratitude. She is an inspiration.

If you’re experiencing dissatisfaction, envy, frustration or a feeling of lack, try replacing it with gratitude. Think of a few things that are grateful for today. What you focus upon multiplies. And soon, you’ll marvel at the sheer abundance in your life.

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etsy.com/ie/shop/valentinadesign

Instalove

I was describing my new Christmas pyjamas to someone recently when she asked if I’d taken a photo of myself in said pyjamas and posted it on Instagram or Facebook because, she continued: “So-and-so* tells me you’ve been taking a lot of photos of yourself lately.” *Name has been changed to protect anonymity.

I felt annoyed and embarrassed. Because (a): People were talking about me behind my back. And (b): If they were saying it, how many others were? I worried that I’d appear vain or insecure or both.

I chided myself for getting upset over such a trivial matter. Then, I remembered that I don’t give out to myself any more. I reminded myself that I’m human and I still care what others think of me, though less so than before. Thankfully!

I realised that I don’t have to take the comment in a negative way. It doesn’t mean that these people don’t like me. It was a simple observation. Like: “Sheesh Sharon, you’ve been going on a lot of cycles lately!” or “Wow, you drank a lot of water today.”

Clearly, this has stirred something in me. Something that was already there. It just took this comment to shine a light on it. So I hacked into my two earlier points and came up with the following:

(a) I don’t want people to speak about me behind my back. Is that true? Well, I’d quite like it actually if they were talking about how talented and gorgeous I am. And if they’re saying something negative, would I rather they say it to my face? Not really.

(b) I was worrying about people thinking I was vain or insecure. The irony is that I was being vain and insecure by worrying about being seen as vain and insecure.

weheartit.com

weheartit.com

These days, many girls (and guys for that matter) are taking selfies with their cellphones. And with the prevalence of amazing App Instagram, we can paint ourselves in fantastically forgiving filters.

The thing is, I love beautiful things. I enjoy taking pictures of them and I delight in Instagramming them, then sharing them via social media. I actually take plenty more pictures of nature than I do of myself. So why is it more acceptable to upload shots of flowers and trees than profiles of your fabulous self?

It’s because you’ll be seen as “up yourself” or “too big for your boots”. The confidence of the Americans is often perceived as brash and annoying across the Atlantic. It’s a rather Irish trait to not want to be seen as “getting ahead of yourself”. Modesty is our currency. No wonder we’re broke.

All the personal development books tell us to love ourselves but sure that’s a daft notion to us Irish. “That wan really loves herself” is a horrific insult round these parts. And we’d feel mad foolish speaking affirmations into a mirror!

I distinctly remember, as a very small child, being read a lovely fairy-tale. The heroine of the story was a beautiful young thing who didn’t know how beautiful she was. This only made her more beautiful to all who witnessed her shy beauty. However, she believed she was a dreadful, lowly creature. She lived her life this way until, one day, a dashing prince set his eyes on her and fell head over heels in love, much to her total astonishment. And, of course, they lived happily ever after. The end.

At the tender age of five years, I decided that I would be just like that fictional doormat of a character. To think of myself as less than was surely the right way to do it. I can’t logic this out for you now as I can’t quite get back into the mindset of that tiny child. But it’s no wonder it’s been a long, challenging process turning it all around.

The fact that I now see myself or my new haircut or the bright orange of the scarf I’m wearing in the same admiring light as the autumn leaves or the ocean or that delicious cupcake I’m about to scoff is wonderful.

I don’t think these people did anything wrong for making such a comment. A comment is just a comment. It is my reaction to it that matters. I looked at my reaction, thanks to the light that was shone upon it, and accepted it.

I’m delighted I’ve come this far. And for me, social media is all about sharing. One day, I’ll want to share with you my latest blog or a stunning piece of music. The next, I’ll post an inspirational quote or a picture I just took of a woman who loves herself.

picasaweb.google.com

picasaweb.google.com

Stuff we do be sayin in Ireland

Us Irish definitely have the gift of the gab. Here’s what we do be sayin…

I met a friend for a night out over the Christmas. She looked me up and down before stating: “Look at you all trendy! With your black shoes.”

The other night in the pub, a cute (but drunk) guy bounded over to me. “Do you have a boyfriend?” he bellowed. Why waste time on small talk?

An old friend is always hilariously mixing up phrases. Recently, she told me that she thinks her neighbour cheats on his wife. She added, “He has a rotating eye.”

Another girl I know has a similar problem. With expressions, not randy neighbours. She was giving out about something and complained: “Now, that’s below the biscuit!”

One of the girls lamented that she still doesn’t feel like a grown-up because she hasn’t settled down or bought a house or had a child. I piped up, “I’m the exact same!” She retorted, “At least you’re divorced!”

And here are a few oft-heard sentences…

Pass the butter. Will ya have tea? Any goss? Are ye right there folks, please! The country’s fucked! Ah sure, it’ll be grand. Not a bother!

By the way, “how’re ya?” is a greeting, not a question. We don’t really want to know.

And surely we’re the country with the most synonyms for the word “drunk”. We get hammered, polluted, plastered, pissed, langered, ossified, baloobas, twisted, fluthered, paralytic, unconscious, slaughtered. Should we be worried? Ah sure, feck it! Will we have another? And one for the road…

The unexpected: balding eyeballs and sheep poo

This was taken before...

Everything finally seems to be in order. You’re feeling great, you’ve discovered your passions, and found your niche in life. You’re enjoying yourself and living in the now. You’re perfectly content with your partner or your single status, and you’re more at ease with life and they way you live it.

You’re moving along at a steady, comfortable pace when suddenly, some unforeseen circumstance throws a pothole in your path and gives you a serious jolt. And everything you’ve learned and implemented whooshes out the door. You instantly morph back into that stressed out, negative, completely un-zen like creature you’d been trying so desperately to shake off.

The unexpected can surprise you in any form- a death, a job loss, a life-threatening illness. Even the less serious but equally unexpected things can shake you to your core.

I was finally feeling good about myself. I had let go of control and was starting to enjoy life and love myself. Until one day recently, as I cleaned my flat, I managed to get bleach in my eye (I never claimed to be the sharpest tool in the shed). And just like that, half my eye lashes vanished. I felt as though I’d lost my femininity and charm. I might as well give up on finding a man, I thought dismally. I’d pass by the mirror and burst into tears at the sight of my freakishly bald eye.

“I can hardly notice when you wear eye liner,”  a close friend tried to mollify me.

“But I can’t wear eye liner all the time. What if I want to have a shower with someone?” I blubbered.

“You don’t even have a boyfriend.”

Yeah, thanks for that. After a couple of days of feeling sorry for myself, I decided that this must have happened to teach me a lesson. There was still clearly a certain amount of shallowness lurking within me. I still had a terrible time allowing others to see my imperfections. I still believed I had to look good to be liked, loved, and wanted. I thought I had become more enlightened but I still had a way to go. I promised to never again complain about my short, straight lashes. I thanked my disappearing lashes for teaching me more about myself. And I felt grateful for what I had and also for what I didn’t have (alopecia or cancer, for example).

With every lesson learned, the universe will test you. Which brings me to today. I had a couple of hours off before work, so I borrowed my aunt’s car and drove out to the plains of the Curragh. I felt good about how I was dealing with things and interacting with life. I marvelled at the blue blue sky, lifted my face to the sun, observed the grazing sheep, photographed the trees, and lost myself in the music pounding from my iPod. Until I realised I’d lost the key to my aunt’s car.

I flew straight from the present moment into a tornado of panic, worry, self-flagellation, and an endless string of curse words. I was propelled into a near future where I was walking the streets, freezing and starving and in desperate need of a shower. I no longer noticed the sun, sky, trees or sheep. And my music annoyed me so much that I had to switch it off.

All I had on me was a camera, an iPod, and a hankie. And the Curragh was unusually devoid of people. My options were to wave my hankie in the air, while taking multiple photographs with the flash on, and blasting The Beatles’ “Help” on full volume. Or I could retrace my steps as best as I could remember.

Unfortunately, I was searching for a single black key that happened to look very much like the sheep droppings that carpeted the vast plains of the Curragh. I eventually came across a chap in army attire, who told me he wasn’t allowed carry a mobile phone. I just had to laugh.

So, armed with my sense of humour, the seeds of a lesson that had to be watered, and the makings of a relatively humorous and thought-provoking blog post, I made my way back to Newbridge town. My aunt wasn’t at home so I called into her neighbour, a woman I had done a course with about a year ago. What was it her name was? Maureen? Unexpectedly, a strange man answered the door. He looked red-faced and hostile. I was thrown.

“Is Maureen there?”

“Maureen who?”

“That might not even be her name. I took the car. It’s not mine. The key’s in the Curragh. There’s so much sheep poo…” I babbled.

“Who are you looking for?” Silence. “Do you have her name? What’s her number?” Eh… “What do you want?” Oh God! “Do you want to use my phone to call this Maureen character?”

“Yes!” I finally managed to splutter.

“Okay, come in. My wife Pauline will be down in a minute.”

“Pauline!” I shrieked. “That’s her name! I’m Sharon,” I muttered, relieved that something was starting to make sense.

With that, Pauline sauntered in.

“Siobhán!” she called me. And her husband snorted.

And so, after telling my aunt the embarrassing news, I sat back with a cup of tea and a choccie biccie and listened to this couple’s tales of travel in South America. When my aunt returned and we rescued her car with the spare key, I enjoyed a long, hot shower.

The car key is still missing but I’ve gained some insight as to how I function. I’m happy with myself and with life so long as it’s running smoothly. It’s easy to be fully aware and appreciative of the present moment when everything is going the way you want. But when life happens, when you come across an unexpected fork in your journey, it is then that you need to take a moment to be still before deciding which route to take. The unexpected is what we call life. According to John Lennon:

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

So, the next time a  volcanic ash cloud or snow storm disrupts your travel plans, a shocking event occurs, or you receive some bad news, you miss the bus, your friend cancels on you last-minute, your eye lashes fall out, or you lose your aunt’s car key in a sea of sheep poo, here’s what to do:

  1. Release control
  2. Go with the flow
  3. Believe that everything happens for a reason
  4. Observe what unfolds instead
  5. Unleash your sense of humour
  6. Accept the situation
  7. Check out what lesson you’ve been sent
  8. Learn from it
  9. Move on