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Instamoment

I wake in the early hours of the morning. Unable to fall back to sleep, I creep to the other room to meditate.

The curtains are pulled wide. The sky is decorated with layers of cloud, dusky and white. The wind mewls, causing the ebony trees to arch and bounce.

My first instinct is to capture this experience for an Instastory. But having already committed to a social media-free Sunday, I don’t do this.

I’m forced to be in the moment, to really see and hear and feel what’s right in front of me. I look out and I breathe. My senses are heightened.

Most people are sleeping at this mysterious hour. I’m in the privileged position of being a lone observer, from this vantage point, of nature in all of its mind-blowing glory.

I marvel at the lightness and flexibility of the branches as they sway and back-bend.

The clouds move across the heavens. I make out a seahorse, which transforms into a chimpanzee. I can’t remember when I’ve been quiet and undistracted long enough to look for shapes in the clouds.

Every so often, a single star is revealed. And the pinprick of an aeroplane travels through the night.

If it hadn’t been for social media-free Sunday, I’d have taken a brief impression of this spectacular moment, then immediately pointed my phone at it.

I’d eye it through a screen, then frame or alter it before sharing it online. How it looked onscreen would be more important than the reality, which I’d barely give a second glance.

Nature is bestowing me with miracles. The least I can do is give it all of my attention and appreciation.

And so I sit at that window, a different screen altogether, and connect in a way that only time and pure presence allows.

girl window night sky

I didn’t point my phone at this special moment so this is an image I lifted from Google.

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Judge Not

The neighbours who wake you at 7am on a Sunday after a drink-fuelled Saturday night. The friend/family member/love interest who hasn’t replied to your message. The person who’s pissed you off or who’s pissed off with you. Social media’s knack for igniting envy as you scroll through everyone else’s world trips, dream jobs, perfect relationships, new homes and other Instagrammed milestones and achievements, while you spend the entire day in your dressing gown, watching movies and grazing on junk food instead of working on that assignment, working out, or even just working on being a social, functioning member of the human race.

If only everyone and everything would just cooperate. Then you could finally be okay.

You believe that the source of your peace, happiness, love and success is outside of you. You hold out hope that there’s one special person who will complete you. That contract will give you security. The money will bestow upon you peace of mind. As soon as you move house, you’ll achieve serenity. The job promotion will make you feel successful and worthy of approval.

All you yearn for is happiness. Peace. Love. You judge everything outside of you for its ability to give or rob you of these commodities. And you judge every feeling inside of you as lack or confirmation of these things. But it is these judgements and labels that cause you to swing from joy to suffering. And it can be scary how quickly and easily this can happen.

When you judge how you’re feeling, you begin to battle against or struggle to hold on to the feeling, or what you perceive to be the cause of that feeling. And it is this clutching and resistance that heightens the suffering and keeps you in its stronghold.

It is in accepting the thought, the feeling or the situation that unhooks the attachment. And giving yourself love and compassion allows you to be present with whatever arises. You don’t need to get rid of the emotion in order to feel better. Allow it to surface. Notice it. Let it go. And love yourself throughout.

Peace and love come from within you. Nothing anyone else does or doesn’t do can make you feel these things. Nor can they take them away. You are responsible and you have nobody to blame, including yourself. Bring awareness to what is, accept it, give yourself love and compassion. And with grace and gratitude, keep breathing…

weheartit.com

weheartit.com

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

Tuesdays with Morrie

I pick up a little book called Tuesdays with Morrie while on holidays in Spain. I saw it years ago but avoided it because the blurb on the back made me worry that it’d be a depressing read. It is about a dying professor (Morrie Schwartz) and his younger student (Mitch Albom). This time, I am ready. I devour it in two sittings. And I cry and cry and cry.

It isn’t that it’s unbearably sad. It’s just so touching, it moves me like nothing else has for a long time. I can feel Morrie’s energy with me as I finish the memoir. I love him. I can honestly say that he (and the endearingly honest Mitch) has changed my life. The gradual shift in Mitch’s attitude inspires me almost as much as Morrie’s wisdom.

Morrie allowed himself to let go, to be vulnerable, and to ask for help. He observed that, when you’re an infant, you need help from others and, when you grow old, you require their assistance also. However, what we fail to acknowledge is that we need other people in between times too.

Morrie told the tale of the little wave that witnessed other waves crashing against the shore. The wave wailed, fearfully: “Oh no, look! This is the fate that awaits us. How horrible!” Another wave reassured him: “Don’t fret, little one, for you are not a wave, you are part of the ocean.” As Rumi wrote: “You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean, in a drop.”

Morrie’s message has made me realise how closed off I’d become. I’d tell myself that “I like my own space”. I’d go home while co-workers would sit and have tea, a chat and a laugh. I’d stay alone in the flat watching episode after episode of The Good Wife. I’d spend weekends preparing classes instead of exploring the countryside with loved ones. I’d retire early rather than spend time with friends.

I still believe that there should be a balance between rest, work and play and between stillness, silence and moments of noise and interaction. But Morrie’s story has shown me that the most important thing in life is to love. To share what you have with others. To give another human being the gift of your time. Morrie said that he was always 100 per cent present with whomever he was speaking. When he was talking with Mitch, he thought only of Mitch. This resonates with me as I am often in the company of others when I’m not really there. I’m thinking of what needs to be done, or how I shouldn’t have eaten that or I might even be putting a photo through Instagram while somebody attempts to converse with me.

Morrie’s big, brave, generous heart has made me resolve to really live life, to connect with people, to appreciate nature, to question the values we’ve been brainwashed into adopting, to understand that love and peace are what’s true and priceless compared with ever-changing, unreliable material and physical possessions. One of my new goals is to do something that makes me feel alive every single day. I also promise to be present with people, as if each encounter were our last, and to ask, in the words of Robert Holden in his book Loveability: “How can I love you more?”

I have a couple of hours before I have to head for the airport. I could go for a last swim at what the locals call the “healing beach”. But it’s a bit of a walk, I mentally argue. And it’d mean packing a wet bikini. Then, I remember that I’m living life. So I set off in my flip-flops, carrying a pink towel. A line of ants and a yellow butterfly cross my path. A lone purple wildflower on this dry dirt track reduces me to tears. I offer an Hola and a smile to an old man sitting alone. He returns my smile, its corners clipped with surprise. An elderly couple stroll ahead, hand-in-hand. Yet again, my eyes mist. I beam as I spot a set of keys a stranger has carefully balanced atop a bollard.

My breasts bob and sway as my feet flap upon the sand. I feel like an ancient elephant striding across the desert. I inhale the scent of my sweat that has collected in cracks and creases. A homeless man sits on a wall behind the beach. I abandon my beach bag and strip. I don’t suck in my stomach. Not today. I duck my head into the ocean even though my hair was freshly washed this morning. I am alive.

Mitch and Morrie used to say, “We’re Tuesday people” because they usually met on Tuesdays. And I am writing this piece on a Tuesday, watching the waves surge and retreat, with tears in my eyes and a heart that’s breaking… wide open.

Image: Author's own

Image: Author’s own