Tag Archives: mind

My Song

I welcome the first day of summer by attending a yoga and music workshop with musician and yoga teacher Jack Harrison.

We lie down and begin with some breathing exercises. Jack strums his guitar, recites poetry and sings.

Then he takes us through a powerful yoga sequence. No music plays now. All we can hear are Jack’s instructions and our breath.

My breathing deepens. I feel strong, present and peaceful.

Afterwards, we sit in a circle and sing. For the most part, I close my eyes and really get into it.

Occasionally, I open my eyes and appreciate what’s in front of me. The fantastic Jack Harrison playing guitar. And a group of people joyously opening their hearts together in song.

Next, Jack suggests that we sing any tune we feel like.

“Dissonance is beautiful,” he insists.

“Some of us were told as children that we weren’t good singers. I was kicked out of the school choir when I was a boy,” he laughs.

“But singing is easy,” he says with a smile.

Many of us spend our lives trying to fit in and appear normal. We’re told how to live and what’s expected of us.

But today for a change, we’re being encouraged to be different. We’ve been given licence to sing our own song in a way that’s right for us in this special moment.

We start quietly and self-consciously. But before long, we become louder and more confident.

I realise that it’s much easier to sing in unison. It’s actually harder to be different. But I’m determined to find my own song.

I go with the feeling. I put judgment aside. I allow myself to be me.

Somewhere between dissonance, unison and harmony, I hear my own voice. Tears prickle behind my eyes. Jack’s right, it is beautiful.

bird girl

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Take Me Over

I decide to open up to a fellow holistic therapist about how I’m feeling. I tell her that nothing necessarily bad is happening to cause this feeling but that I sense its heaviness.

I’m choosing to carry it around and I’m not letting it go. I admit that I’m afraid, which makes me want to close down and not care in order to protect myself.

My friend instructs me to close my eyes and really get into the feeling of being scared. She tells me to allow it to grow and expand and fill my body.

I feel an energy in my chest and my stomach. It feels like fear then anger and then I relax. I open my eyes and relay this to her.

She asks if there’s any bad feeling left. I tell her there is. Sadness and grief. So I’m told to repeat the process of feeling and allowing the sadness.

I see the little girl inside of me. I feel what she’s feeling. But there’s a resistance within me. I don’t particularly want to go there now. Been there, done that.

Despite my current resistance, this year I’ve been loving myself more. When I feel bad, I remember not to reject myself. Because of this major personal breakthrough, I know that I’ll be okay.

My friend tells me that I’m repeating an old pattern. There really is nothing to be afraid of. I need to face my fear so that I can see that it’s just an illusion.

I already feel much better. This makes so much sense. I usually resist these bad feelings, fearing that they will control my life and affect how I behave, react and relate to others.

My friend reminds me that this is where my resistance lies. I don’t want these feelings. I’m trying to avoid certain behaviours. And I’m fearing the worst possible outcome.

“Stop resisting,” my friend insists.

“Allow the feeling to take you over. That will create a shift. A letting go. Which will open you up in wonderful ways.

Open your heart. Allow yourself to be hurt. And the funny thing is, you won’t be hurt. Because the real you can never be destroyed.”

She predicts that letting go of resistance and allowing the feelings to take me over will change everything. I won’t have to worry about what might happen, how I may react or the many ways I could self-destruct.

She also warns that just because I’ve now stopped pushing against the swing of resistance doesn’t mean that it will immediately cease moving.

“Once you stop pushing the swing, it will continue to move back and forth for a while. But it will be less forceful and it will gradually swing less and less,” she smiles.

I leave my friend’s house with an unfamiliar feeling in my chest. Is it pain? Discomfort?

I allow the feeling to grow and expand until I realise what it is. My heart is open. And that’s okay.

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withanopenheart.org

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…

relationship

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.

life coach kildare

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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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Energy

Today, I decide to spend the whole day chilling out at home. I have a lie-in, I meditate, I eat breakfast.

I reply to a few text messages. I attempt to get cheap car insurance. I have lunch. I read emails. I watch Whip It for the second time.

By four pm, I’m agitated. What to do next? I could watch another movie. What a privilege to have the time and space to do so. I could read.

But I’m starting to feel uncomfortable. I’d probably feel better if I went for a walk. It’s sunny outside. I’d feel less guilty if it was raining.

I could follow a yoga class on YouTube. But I just don’t want to.

In the past, when I suffered spells of depression, I spent long periods in my room. I stayed in bed. I binged on junk food and mind-numbing box sets.

As a result, I became even more depressed and self-hating. Then, I definitely didn’t want to face the world because I felt so ugly and useless. Now, a part of me is scared that something similar could happen again.

For the past while, I’ve made sure to exercise every day. I get out of the house. I’m sociable. I’m busy. I work. I write blogs.

What I’ve learned from Chinese Medicine is that, when we don’t move enough, our energy becomes stagnant and we experience pain and fatigue. When enough energy doesn’t go to the head, we can feel depressed. That’s why it’s important to move our bodies and to receive energy treatments such as acupuncture.

However, I’d been moving my body to such an extent that I’d injured myself several times and I was exhausted. Following an acupuncturist’s advice, I haven’t exercised in four days.

Last night, I met a friend who’s home from abroad. She told me that I’m looking really well. I wanted to work out immediately. But I didn’t. Instead, I noted this reaction and I was okay with it.

For a change this Saturday, I haven’t arranged any coffee dates. I haven’t driven to the gym. I haven’t walked or yoga’d or even ventured outside the house. Instead, I drink hot beverages in bed, bite my fingers and click on Facebook for something to do.

The energy is rising. I usually shake it off or stuff it down. I’m not used to doing nothing. I don’t think I can do nothing.

I want to pump iron and dance and make love with aggression. I want to race through the countryside and bomb into the ocean. I want to laugh and cry and scream with abandon. I want to explode all this energy into my writing. I want to squeeze all my blackheads and peel off my skin. I even consider rejoining Tinder.

But I don’t do any of these things. I stay in my room, turn my phone on silent and sit on my meditation cushion. I bounce a little and rock back and forth. I start composing this blog post.

Then, I realise that there’s something about this energy that makes me want to burn it off. It doesn’t matter how. It just has to be released.

Suddenly, images of yogis and monks come to mind. People who have trained themselves to sit with this energy and allow it to build.

Humans who have managed to transcend these egoic and bodily urges to sex and spend, do and distract. They harness this energy and use it to connect with something bigger than all of this. To be present to all that is rather than losing themselves in all that they wish they were.

There’s nothing wrong with making the most of this creative energy. Artists splash it across canvasses to form beautiful masterpieces. Musicians and singers unleash it with passion. Champions triumph. New lives enter the planet.

And the rest of us mere mortals make sure to stay just ahead of it so we don’t have to think or feel too much. We move forward, we move forward, we move forward. We don’t want to get caught.

Most of the time, when I write an article, I’ve reached some sort of conclusion. I’ve come up with a positive slant. I’ve learned something. I’ve let go of something else. I’ve made myself feel better.

Today, I don’t transcend body, mind or ego. I sit on that meditation cushion for 10 minutes before moving the cushion in front of the laptop and vomiting all over WordPress. I feel a little bit better. I guess I’m still ahead.

life coach kildare

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The Calm During The Storm

The last few days have been strange. I went on a date that ended horribly. A man from my hometown was assaulted and later died. I visited a woman I know in hospital who was badly injured in an accident. And a client of mine passed away. She was a really lovely 36-year-old woman who is leaving behind a loving family, including three small girls.

What I’ve realised over these past few days is how much I’ve changed, how different my reactions are, and how grateful I am.

On Saturday night, I thought enough of myself to leave the date. I didn’t take it personally. And on the dark, wet drive home, I comforted myself with my favourite songs. It was good to find out what this man was like after only two dates and I was glad to get home safe.

Last night, after meditating, I stretched pleasurably and felt grateful to be able to move, unlike my friend in hospital.

And this evening, after attending my client’s funeral, I participate in a Mega Mix fitness class. The music is loud and fast and the instructor is fit in every sense of the word. We jump and squat and plank and it’s all a bit manic.

I have a sudden urge to burst out laughing. I feel so happy to be alive and healthy and able-bodied.

I feel lucky to have great friends and family, a business that I love, and a car that can whisk me towards dates and adventures and crazy fitness classes.

And most of all, I’m grateful for how far I’ve come. For how deeply I can appreciate this moment. For how present I am. For how much I love myself. For how centred I feel.

And for how I trust that everything is unfolding perfectly and for my highest good. I am exactly where I’m supposed to be.

So I hop and skip and sweat and eye up the fit fitness instructor. And I breathe.

benefits of gratitude and meditation

The Judge

Yesterday, I came up with an exercise to assist people to get to the root of certain destructive behaviours or patterns. The behaviour I had in mind when I designed the exercise was that of judging or criticising.

Last night, I wondered if I could do the exercise. Who am I judging or criticising? I realised that the person I’m currently judging most is myself.

So I completed the three steps to this exercise. The first step is to ask yourself these questions:

1. When you’re judging, is there an underlying fear? If so, what is it?

My answer astounded me and brought me to tears. My fear is that I’m imperfect. I go deeper with this realisation. If I’m imperfect, I believe that I won’t be loved or accepted. I go deeper again. Then, I’ll be rejected. Cast out. Abandoned.

Suddenly my mind is flooded with snapshots of childhood, teen years and early adulthood, where I felt my imperfection brought about rejection, humiliation, anger, fear and withdrawal of love.

Messages I internalised from an early age convinced me that I had to try to be perfect in order to earn love or even just acceptance. I couldn’t be myself or feel the things I was really feeling. I had to try to be what others wanted me to be. Otherwise, I’d be left alone in this world. And to be all alone in this world means certain death.

This made perfect sense when I read Harville Hendrix’s brilliant book Getting The Love You Want. Hendrix describes the structure of the human brain.

The brain stem, which is the most primitive layer, oversees reproduction and vital functions such as breathing, blood circulation and sleep. Then there is the limbic system, which generates vivid emotions. The main concern of this portion of the brain is self-preservation. It is constantly on the alert, trying to ensure your safety. Hendrix refers to these two parts of the brain as the “old brain”.

The third part of the brain is the cerebral cortex, which is most highly developed in Homo Sapiens. This section of the brain deals with cognitive functions. It’s the part of you that makes decisions, thinks, observes, plans, organises information and creates ideas. Hendrix calls this the “new brain”.

The new brain is logical and tries to find a cause for every effect. This part of the brain can moderate some of the instinctual reactions of your old brain.

With regard to my self-judging, I believe that I need to be perfect. If I’m not perfect, I won’t be loved. I will be abandoned. This primeval fear comes from the old brain logic that tells me that the world is not safe. When love is withdrawn from me, I am filled with a fear of death.

So, in answer to the first question about the fear underneath my self-judgment, I am afraid of abandonment. I am afraid for my very survival.

This leads on to the second part of the exercise, which is to ask yourself the following:

2. When you judge, what are you hoping to achieve?

When I judge myself, I’m hoping to change aspects of myself. I’m longing to be perfect. Maybe if I criticise myself enough, I’ll change. Then I’ll be loveable. Both to others and to myself.

I am hit by another huge insight. When I see myself as imperfect, I question my right to be loved.

This makes me feel depressed. I close off a part of myself. My vital force shuts down. I no longer feel alive.

I am abandoning myself. I’m actually killing off a part of myself. Yet again, the old brain is pretty sure I’m going to die.

Having answered these questions and hopefully arrived at some interesting insights, you’re ready for the third part of the exercise, which is this:

3. For one whole day, every time you notice yourself judging, stop and ask yourself: “What would it be like to accept this?”

Yes, it’s good to be the best that you can be and to do things that make you feel good. But for so many years, the only way I could silence my inner critic was to do do do.

However, this was just a temporary fix that didn’t unearth the root cause of the problem. And so these deep-seated beliefs, fears and behaviours were repeatedly resurrected. When I got sick or tired, or when I just couldn’t do all the things that boosted my self-esteem, my superficial confidence crumbled.

Finally, I was no longer prepared to continue running on this ridiculous treadmill of turmoil. I kidded myself that it made me feel good to be doing something but it got me nowhere and, every so often, I’d slip off and smack myself in the face.

So, I’ve stepped off and decided to look deeper. And this exercise has facilitated the process.

Now that I have an understanding about why I’m so self-critical and why these judgements make me feel so bad, my behaviour ceases to be unconscious. I’m now conscious of my seemingly destructive patterns. I understand what’s happening and why it’s happening.

Therefore, I can consciously introduce a new way of thinking and behaving. A way that’s healthier and more beneficial than my previously misguided, outdated attempts at self-protection.

The next time I call myself fat or wince at my grey hairs, I’ll remember that what I’m really experiencing is fear. My critical voice is just trying to prevent me from dying. It wants me to be loved.

As an adult, am my primary care-giver. am responsible for caring for me. I have a choice to love and accept all of me as I am. I’m not going to abandon myself any more. I am safe.

This exercise can be applied to any thought process or pattern of behaviour that is causing you to suffer. Remember, the old brain got its name because it’s been here for a long, long time. So be patient with yourself as you recondition your thinking. And know that you are safe.

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