Tag Archives: negative

Time Out

Whenever I get sick, three things happen. First, I resist the situation. I resent having to slow down and take time off. I think I should be working (and working out). Next, I go with it. I recognise that my body needs to heal. I even enjoy the rest, the reading, sleeping and daytime television. And finally, I learn something huge and take a massive leap forwards.

This time, after the initial groaning and settling process, I learned something pretty major. I had been complaining about noisy neighbours, a lack of sleep, and tiredness. I had decided to approach said neighbours so that they would be made aware of my suffering and would hopefully change their noisy ways.

However, with a bit of time and space to meditate on the issue, I realised that I have a thing about noise. I have been living in my current flat for just over three years. And since I’ve moved in, I’ve had problems with noisy birds, followed by a noisy buzzer, and now, noisy neighbours.

Last weekend, I heard someone say: “Wherever you go, there you are.” I can’t stop thinking about this quote.

I had been hoping the noise would stop. I’d been wishing the neighbours would move out. I’d even been fantasising about living in a large, detached house in the middle of the countryside. But wherever I go, there I am. It’s not about the flat or the neighbours or even the noise. It’s all about me.

me

Spiritual guide Anthony de Mello said that no noise can rob you of your peace, unless of course it’s so loud that it damages your eardrums. De Mello opted to hold his meditation classes in a room on a busy street as he felt it was important to be able to centre yourself in any environment. His class used to meditate on the sounds they heard.

One mantra that’s helped me over the years is: “If one can, everyone can.” If Anthony de Mello’s class could connect with stillness in the midst of all the noise, then so can I. If people can get used to sleeping in a hectic city or a rowdy youth hostel or next to railway tracks, then I too can accustom myself to noise. If certain people can boast about being able to sleep through anything, then it’s possible for me to able to get to that state.

I once heard Soul Coach Denise Linn speaking on Hay House Radio about a shape shifting technique. She suggested imagining ourselves as being an abundant or successful person. Once we get into the feeling of being like that, she said, we actually transform into that person.

After listening to that show, I did a shape shifting meditation with my Positive Living group where we imagined being a beautiful bird. We were all able to feel what it was to be that powerful, majestic bird soaring in the sky.

A while later, I was struggling up a hill on my bicycle. I remembered the shapeshifting exercise so I decided to shape shift into a super fit person. The climb became effortless! So with regard to the neighbours, I could shape shift into someone who simply isn’t bothered by noise.

The other day, one of my Life Coaching classmates asked me how I feel after ten minutes’ meditation. I described feeling calm and grounded. I joked: “Wouldn’t it be great to be able to get into that feeling without having to do the meditation!” She sighed, “If only it was that easy.” But perhaps it can be that simple.

You want to be happy? What would it feel like to be perfectly content? Really get into the feeling… Can you do it? Yes? Well there you are, you’re in it. Want to feel relaxed, still and centred? Visualise feeling that way. Soon, you’re no longer visualising the calm. You are that calm.

Since having these realisations, I’ve still been woken by noise. But instead of labelling it in a negative way, as something that shouldn’t be happening (because the annoyance and anxiety that consumed me as a result of that thinking was what was keeping me awake), I’ve brought acceptance to the situation.

However, it can be quite a challenge to effortlessly move from rage to serenity in the middle of the night. So instead of beating myself up for getting so uptight, I’ve used a wonderful affirmation that I learned from the Emotional Freedom (Tapping) Technique: “Even though I’m [filled with anger], I deeply and completely love and accept myself.” 

That was the bridge I needed to go from desperately wishing things were different to acceptance of the situation and of myself. And every single time, I’ve drifted back into slumber.

If I hadn’t had the time off that my flu had forced me to take, I’d probably still be blaming the external forces for my suffering. It can be so enlightening and empowering when you give yourself permission to slow down.

Images: weheartit.com

Images: weheartit.com

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The Sound of Silence

On January 31st, I made a list of goals for February. One of those goals was to sit in silence for five minutes first thing every morning. Since before Christmas, I’ve been emphasising the importance of silence to my Positive Living group. However, even I hadn’t managed to set aside just five minutes each day.

For the last nine days before I get out of bed, I’ve been giving gratitude for about five things in my life. This instantly brings me joy. Then I wash my face and, if my body feels the need, I do a bit of yoga. Next, I move into the living room and sit in silence for about five minutes. I don’t switch on my phone until I have completed this ritual. This really centres me for the day ahead. And if I feel unsettled in the evening, I give myself time to sit in silence and observe what is going on for me. This allows me to get in touch with my body and the subtle messages it’s giving me. Often, I feel compelled to write afterwards or I get an idea for a class or a solution to a problem I’ve been mulling over. Other times, I simply enjoy the space and quiet I’m giving myself. I feel an expansion and a blurring of all those things I used to think were so important. There is freedom and peace and connection in these moments.

Last night, I did a meditation with someone who said: “Your mind is just another organ. You can’t stop it from thinking. Just like you can’t stop yourself from breathing. The trick is to focus on the breath. Allow the thoughts. Do nothing. Try nothing. Just observe.” We sat in silence, focussing on the breath for at least 15 minutes. The time flew. And I felt totally relaxed. When I came home, I didn’t open the laptop straight away as I usually would because I just didn’t need the noise.

Meditation has been scientifically proven to improve health and mental wellbeing. It lowers blood pressure and boosts the mood and immune system. When we are stressed, our breathing speeds up and we find it difficult to take a deep, satisfying breath. Meditation helps us to unwind. When we relax, our breathing slows down. This benefits the heart and blood flow to the organs, which in turn allows for healing to take place.

When we meditate mindfully, the idea is not to change anything. We don’t attempt to slow the breath or change or banish the thoughts. It’s all about awareness. Observe the breath. Bring awareness to the sensations in the body. Allow the thoughts to occur. And when we don’t attach to the thoughts or bodily sensations, they will move on like clouds in the sky.

Many people who are trying to change their lives for the better come to the realisation that happiness is a choice and that their negative thinking is impacting their lives. Therefore, they try to change their thoughts. While I believe that it is beneficial to introduce gratitude for all the good things in our lives and focus on that which brings us joy rather than pain, I also feel that it is counterproductive when we begin stressing over the negative thoughts we are having. Awareness is key. Don’t judge your thoughts or deny the parts of you that you perceive to be “bad”. Simply observe, let go and focus on the breath…

"You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you're too busy; then you should sit for an hour." Old Zen saying

“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.” Old Zen saying

Image: bendalayoga.com

For more on meditation, check out: https://betterthansurviving.me/2012/03/04/time-takes-from-the-essence/

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.

“You’re making me feel bad”: true or false?

Do you have (at least) one person in your life who constantly makes you feel bad? He/she passes hurtful remarks, criticises, or makes fun of you. I’m interrupting this transmission of self-pity to bring you a very important newsflash: The other person is not the one making you feel bad. You are doing an excellent job of that all on your own.

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." Eleanor Roosevelt

Everything you sense has to go through a filter system in your mind before it can have any effect on you whatsoever. You control this. Therefore, you are the one who allows yourself to feel bad. If an insulting remark is something that you already believe about yourself, then you’re more inclined to be sensitive about it and it’s more likely to hurt you. If, on the other hand, your friend tells you that you look like a luminous yellow dinosaur, it won’t rattle your confidence because you know for a fact that you don’t resemble an extinct vertebrate wearing a hi-vis vest. That’s ridiculous, you snigger. What is ridiculous is when you internalise other equally silly comments.

People can only make you feel bad when you’re already feeling bad. Or when your good feelings are based on something so shallow and transient that they are all too easily snatched away. Having said that, there are some people who are more skilled than others at resurrecting those negative emotions that you’d prayed were long-buried.

Let me tell you about a childhood friend of mine. Simone and I met in play school. She was imaginative and hilarious and fun. Even though I moved town a couple of years later, we continued to have regular sleep overs. We phoned and wrote letters and emails,  sharing all our teenage and early adult experiences. I thought she’d be a friend for life. In my mid-twenties, however, I began to realise that she was making me feel bad.

She sulked and gave me the silent treatment any time I couldn’t hang out with her. Her brilliant sense of humour was often at my expense. She insulted me with witty remarks and gave me back-handed compliments. She once told me I laughed like The Whirligig Witch in Fortycoats and, when I pouted, she told me I should be happy ‘coz the Whirligig Witch had magic powers. Then she snorted: “You kinda look like her too…” When we holidayed together before college, she announced that I’d lost “soooo much weight”, like I’d been previously obese. She complimented me on my new hair style, adding that she’d hated it after the last hair cut. She regularly told me how “awfully tired” I was looking. And consistently poked fun at my “dumb blonde” tendencies. She’d often say things like: “Why do you and I put on weight so easily?” or “How come we never have boyfriends?” (I didn’t even bother pointing out that I was two sizes smaller than her and I had been MARRIED.) She called me a “swot” for studying and “boring” or “Little Miss Perfect” when I wouldn’t indulge in food, cigarettes and alcohol as vigorously as she did. She frequently bitched about my other close friends and even my family members. And any time I landed myself a fella or started making a success of my life, she totally withdrew from me.

It’s scary that it took me so long to realise how bad I was feeling whenever I was around Simone. And I’m not blaming it all on her. I’m sure that some of the things I took to be insults were benign comments or jokes. I had always been super-sensitive and I clearly cared what she thought, otherwise it wouldn’t have bothered me. Some people just aren’t as tapped in to others’ feelings and they blurt things out before they have time to censor them. Or they honestly believe they’re being helpful when they inform you that you look like you haven’t slept a wink in days. But, oftentimes, when someone puts you down, it’s because they’re feeling so miserable about their own lives that lashing out at someone else makes them feel marginally better.

Simone’s father had a habit of “affectionately” calling Simone, “my little fattie”. Her three older brothers teased her incessantly. A particular favourite taunt was: “No fear of you ever getting pregnant! If you look ‘contraceptive’ up in the dictionary, there’s a picture of your face!” And much later, I found out that Simone’s mother had tried to commit suicide when Simone was only nine years old. Simone and I have since drifted apart. I don’t know if she’s grown into a happier woman. I hope she still laughs as much as she used to (preferably not at anyone else’s expense).

If you have a multitude of Simones in your circle of friends, here’s what to do:

1) Speak up!

Confront the person about their behaviour. They may be perfectly unaware of how they’ve been acting. However, blaming them for how upset you’ve been will only get their backs up, so, instead of snarling: “You did this!”, try: “I felt hurt when…” This will help them to see things from your perspective without making them feel as if they’re under attack. This mature approach may even gain you some respect. And when someone respects you, they’re unlikely to mistreat you.

2) Second chances

Everyone deserves a do-over. Perhaps your friend or loved one has been going through something difficult recently, which would explain their hurtful behaviour. If you’ve had the talk and they’ve apologised, the ball is now in your court to give them an opportunity to get back onside.

3) From a distance

The trick to all of this is not to allow anybody to affect you negatively. Unfortunately, with certain people, this can be extremely difficult. Especially if it’s a parent or lover. In delicate cases like these, the only remedy is distance. You are not strong enough yet to come out of an altercation with this person uninjured. You don’t need to put yourself through that right now. Just be gentle with yourself and work on your confidence, so then, if you decide to go back for round two, you’ll be well able for whatever they throw your way.

4) Cut your losses

If, like me, you’re no saint, there’s only so much you’re going to be able to take before you snap. And this may not be a bad thing. You’re not doing them any favours by accepting that kind of behaviour. Maybe losing you as a friend will be enough of a wake-up call to prevent them from sacrificing any more relationships. And if you’ve had to distance yourself from most of your so-called friends, don’t worry if you’re feeling a bit lonely. You will now have more time and space to meet like-minded people. People who will enrich your life and appreciate your friendship.

5) Build yourself up

Once you start believing in yourself, and recognising that you’re wonderful, you’ll probably notice that people won’t get at you as much. They will sense your strength and won’t even consider trying to annoy you. After all, bullies only pick on those they deem to be weak.

6) Observe

When you remove yourself from a situation emotionally, it can have no negative power over you. Instead of getting hurt or angry, observe the person with interest. Contemplate why they might be behaving this way. If they’re sulking, let them. Like a spoiled kid, they want to get their own way. So, treat them like the child they’re imitating and ignore them. Don’t let their tantrums dampen your spirits or poison your enjoyment. Detach from their negativity and recognise that their mood is not yours.

7) Have fun

Once you reclaim your power, you may even begin to get a kick out of observing others’ silly behaviour and letting them know that you know what they’re playing at. I know a farmer, who’s fascinated by human behaviour. He always manages to show people what they’re really like. It’s almost like he carries around a magnifying mirror and whips it out when the person least expects it. He walked into a room once, where a cranky, old lady squinted sourly at her visitors. She only ever had time for gentry. She looked down her nose at this country man and sneered, “Who might you be?” Without missing a beat, he answered, “I’m an alien from outer space.” This rendered the woman speechless. Instead of passing her usual judgemental remarks, she had to really think about what had just happened.

8. Understand

In Chinese medicine, when someone is feeling angry, resentful or frustrated, their liver is said to be “in excess”. When they lash out at somebody else, this releases some of the excess, making them feel better.

If you find that your loved ones are trying to put you down regularly, it is saying a lot more about them than it is about you. Perhaps, recently, you’ve started to put yourself first, you’re learning to say “no”, and you’re becoming more self-assured. Your loved ones may fear that you’re going to outgrow them completely. They’re terrified of losing you. If they keep you in your box, like a pet rat, you’re not going to go anywhere. So, if your husband tells you your bum definitely does look big in that, or scoffs at your decision to go back to college; instead of vowing to only consume celery and lemon juice for the next month, or beating yourself up for being so stupid as to even consider giving education another shot, recognise that he is simply threatened by your new-found confidence. He’s probably scared that you’ll go off with another man in your new skinny jeans and FMBs, or he may be positive that, once you hit the library with your smart, sexy lecturer, you’ll suddenly realise how dull and uneducated he is.

When you find yourself feeling bad because of what other people say or do, you need to take a long, hard look at why. Do you still care what others think of you? When someone puts you down, think of it as a test. You are being examined on how much you really believe in yourself. If one snotty remark can fling you into a spiral of self-doubt, your self-esteem is weak and in need of a work-out.

If a compliment makes your day, an insult will crush you. Stop giving all of your power away. Don’t wait for others to validate you as a worthwhile human being. Believe in yourself, your strength, your talents, and the miraculous beauty of your body and spirit. Nobody can make you feel bad. Nobody can make you feel good either. The power is, and always has been, in your hands. Do with it what you will.

10 metre jump into the sea!