Tag Archives: panic

You’re Making a Scene

Do you ever question why you feel bad? The majority of the time I feel bad is as a result of a thought I’ve just entertained.

Without the thought, I’d feel perfectly fine. I’d be in the moment.

However when I live in my head, thoughts of shoulds and shouldn’ts, worst-case scenarios, overwhelming to-do lists and doomed-to-fail expectations flood me with feelings of annoyance, panic, disappointment and exhaustion.

The thought of what needs to be done teleports me into a bad mood. The thought of the consequences of breaking out of my comfort zone keeps me barricaded inside it. The thought of the negatives eclipses the positives.

Thoughts can cause energy leaks, destroy special moments and meddle with my relationships. Living in my thoughts dishonours what is. It’s right there and I’m missing it.

Armed with this realisation, whenever I feel bad, I ask: Is this feeling a product of a thought I’ve attached to?

If it is, I acknowledge it and let it go. If it isn’t just a thought, if it really is my feeling, I allow myself to fully feel it so that it can transform and so that I can heal and grow.

The average brain thinks about 50,000 thoughts per day. There’s no use trying to resist them. Simply observe them and let them float on by like clouds in the sky.

The danger is when you identify with your thoughts. If it looks like your ego’s making a scene, disentangle yourself from it. Pause. Breathe. Release.

Get out of your head and come back into your body. Stop thinking. Feel your way through.

I still catch myself holidaying in my head. It’s like a booze-fuelled break from reality. It’s certainly not boring up there but it’s seriously unhealthy and leaves me feeling drained and full of fear.

When I notice that my thought-inspired dramas are spilling into my reality, I make the decision to STOP THINKING. I have to make that decision on a fairly regular basis.

I remember to count my blessings, breathe and be present. I swap my critical, fear-based, lack-based self-talk to a more loving, gentle, encouraging pep-talk.

Thoughts will come and they will go. One minute they’ll tell you one thing, the next minute they’ll swear it’s the opposite. Why would you believe such an unreliable storyteller?

The truth is in this moment. Not in your thoughts about this moment. But in this beautiful, unadorned present moment.

This is your reality. Right now. Look at it. Listen to it. Give gratitude for it. Breathe into it. Now.

Mindfulness-Movement

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Into the Wild

“We’re supposed to be different. Thank goodness.”

I posted these words on my Facebook page yesterday evening along with a quote from Susan Cain’s insightful book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

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In Quiet, Cain explores the differences between introverts and extroverts. In a society that seems to reward the confidence, charm and exuberant energy of extroversion, introverts often feel the need to step up, speak out and pick up the pace just so they too can succeed at life.

In the questionnaire at the beginning of the book, I scored a whopping 18 out of 20. This signifies that I’m more of an introvert. It means that I enjoy my own company. I need space and time alone. I recharge by spending evenings in with a book or a movie. I get energy from walks in nature and lying in the sun. And I like to sit in stillness and reflect on my feelings and the meaning of life.

I’m a thinker and a writer. And I’m sensitive. Sensitive to beauty, music and wonderfully worded pieces of prose. I’m sensitive to energy, people’s moods and violence on the television.

I feel deeply. I get depressed. An act of kindness can bring me to tears. I marvel at the many miracles of the universe. Spirituality is more important to me than material things. I’m passionate about life. But at times I feel like I’m drowning in it.

When I feel intimidated, I shut up. It can take me a while to feel comfortable around new people. On nights out, I’d rather not compete with the loud music and the din of chatty pub-goers. So I don’t. My voice just doesn’t seem to carry. If someone really wants to hear what I have to say, we have to lean in to one another.

However, when I’ve had a drink, none of that matters. Cain likens an alcoholic beverage to a glass of extroversion.

Most people aren’t exclusively introverts or extroverts. I love being around people and I lead a fairly busy social life. I enjoy meeting friends and trying out new hobbies but I much prefer participating in deep conversations with one or two people rather than chatting in large groups.

I recognise the benefits of team playing and brainstorming but I work best alone in a quiet room where I can retreat, silence my phone, and concentrate.

When something is bothering me, I tend to write, meditate, read and think. Then I discuss my problems, one-to-one, with someone I trust.

I end romantic relationships if they’re not right. I’d rather be alone than with someone who doesn’t help me flourish.

favim.com

favim.com

Last night, I watched Into the Wild for the second time. This true story is based on American adventurer Christopher McCandless. At twenty-four, Chris has fulfilled his parents’ dream of getting good grades and going to college. Then, instead of attending Harvard, he burns the remainder of his college fund, cuts up his social security and credit cards, and disappears, without a word, into the wild.

One of the reasons I love this film is because I feel it’s quite balanced in its storytelling. The different characters have different viewpoints, personalities and lifestyles.

We learn of Chris’ perspective on life. He resents the control and expectations of society and his parents. He wants to roam free. He needs to be independent and true to himself. He’s happiest when he’s diving into lakes, climbing mountains, and living off the land.

When he enters Los Angeles, he regards the skyscrapers and city-dwellers with an expression of disappointment and despair. We can almost see his soul dimming as he trudges through the metropolis. He imagines how his life could have been and he doesn’t regret his decision to break away. He can’t even stay one night there.

We also hear his sister’s version of events. She understands Chris’ reasons for abandoning the family. Her parents desperately desire a particular way of life for their son. Their intentions are good. This is the only way they know how to guide and protect him. But they’ve also caused their children a lot of pain. Ultimately, we watch them suffer too.

This movie really got me thinking. Was Chris acting selfishly? Was he foolish and naive? Or was he right to go on his own journey, to figure out his meaning of life, to really live and experience and come to his own conclusions?

busaff.com

busaff.com

I’ve often felt different. I’ve struggled to fit in. I’ve felt stifled by society and I’ve agonised over the following:

What is being true to yourself? And what is running away? When do you stop living in the clouds and finally conform? When do you “settle down”?

Then there are the shoulds and norms of society. You should be responsible. That’s what being an adult is all about. You need a good job. You can’t live without money. You need your own home. When are you going to find a husband? Will you have enough time for children? For goodness’ sake, you won’t survive without a pension.

I got 525 points in my Leaving Certificate but secondary school may as well have been a battlefield for all the anxiety I experienced. I did well at swimming and athletics but competition didn’t sit well with me. I dropped out of college twice.

Truthfully, the only reason I went back to college as a mature student was because I felt I had to. How else would I become a functioning member of society?

I obtained a First Class Honours degree and received the Sunday World Cup for Best Student of Journalism with a Language. Though proud of my achievements and happy to gain approval from the people I care about, it added to the pressure I felt to do more with my life, to live up to my potential and to succeed.

And I don’t do well under pressure. So instead of applying for jobs in journalism, I threw myself into an alternative world of acupuncture, homeopathy, personal development and spirituality. And I’ve never been happier.

Of course, I still experience paralysing moments of fear. The voices in my head go something like this: What are you doing with your life? Grow up. Be normal.

So I tentatively move forwards with one eye clamped on everybody else in the world who’s doing things the “right” way. I compare, criticise and compete. I alter my behaviour and try to change who I am in the hope that I will prosper. I worry that I’m not adult enough for this big bad world of business and mortgages.

But what does “adult” mean? How “should” a 34-year-old woman live? Why must we all melt into one right way of doing things? We’re not all the same. That much is very clear.

Yes, there’s a reason why most of us follow the well-trodden path in life. There’s safety and security in the tried and tested route. Most people want to see life’s landmarks so they know where they are and what to expect around the corner.

But some of us thrive on change. The unknown excites us. Newness is revitalising. It’s what keeps that spark inside of us alight.

It’s a relief to realise that we don’t have to be the same as one another. We don’t have to compete because we each have unique gifts to bring to the world.

There’s no point trying to do things his way or attempting to be as good as her because you’re not them. You’re you.

Some of us want to climb the career and property ladders all the way to the top. And some of us are quite happy to keep our feet on the ground.

Whether we’re commuting to our permanent jobs, bringing our children to school or backpacking across the globe, we can be fully alive and true to the essence of who we really are.

Whether we’re writing fantasy novels, saving lives, cleaning the streets or designing websites, we can be the people we’re meant to be.

Whether we’re introverted or extroverted or a dollop of one and two tablespoons of the other, we are unique and perfect just as we are.

We’re different and brilliant in our all of our shade and all of our colour. We blend and we clash and we all come together in this stunning masterpiece of humanity.

We may think we know who we are. We stamp ourselves with neat and convenient labels so we can understand and make sense of the world around us. But life changes. We change. We grow and develop and we dip in and out of lots of different attributes and characteristics. Every colour of the rainbow is available to us to try on and see what suits us best.

And whether we’re paying into our pensions or collecting the dole, none of us can really know what to expect next. Nothing is certain.

The weather is unpredictable. And the terrain is constantly changing. We may want to know the exact directions to a predetermined destination. But we are all, in fact, walking into the unknown. We are all on a journey into the wild.

favim.com

favim.com

The Christmas Present

It was the end of September and I was practising mindfulness. I had just had the best holiday ever. I’d also experienced a summer of fun, friendship and adventure. I remember telling a couple of friends that I was in a “really great place”.

And then things changed. The following few months were turbulent. I felt stressed and under pressure. My feelings swung from anger and resentment to guilt and fear.

Ten days ago, I was asked to make a difficult decision. And one week before Christmas, I found myself moving out of one house and into another. I was shocked and exhausted, upset and excited, free and frightened.

My friends rallied around and took me on a couple of big nights out where I drank a lot of alcohol. The days afterwards were strangled with panic and depression.

I certainly wasn’t feeling very Christmassy. I didn’t decorate. I stopped meditating and exercising. I was just too tired to take out my tools for well-being.

I convinced myself that people wouldn’t like me very much if I wallowed and complained but I couldn’t pretend either. I wanted to be left alone but I felt needy for company and love.

I beat myself up for not snapping out of it, for attracting in this turmoil with my thoughts and beliefs. It’s all my fault, I decided. But I didn’t know how to transform it. It isn’t fair, I wailed.

favim.com

favim.com

And today it’s Christmas. I meditate. I exchange gifts and well-wishes with family and friends. I gorge on chocolate and a variety of meats and vegetables. I take the dog for a walk. I watch movies. I give myself acupuncture. I rest. I write in my journal. I do everything I can to lift my spirits but I’m still lacking in enthusiasm and hope.

Suddenly, it strikes me that my suffering does not exist in this present moment. It has arisen out of my thinking. It lurks in my expectations about how I should be. It grows in my resistance to how things are. It expands with my longing for something more, something different. It strengthens with my doubt and self-flagellation.

I realise that this moment holds no pain. So I bring my full attention to right now. I become present to the dog as it snuggles up beside me. To the trees that line the quiet country road. To my laughter at The Big LebowskiTo my loved ones. To the clear night sky and the shooting star that dives before me.

This moment is perfect. My suffering is simply an illusion created by my thoughts, attachments and misguided beliefs.

Today, my brother gives me a gift of a beautiful necklace. I decide to use this chain as a reminder to be present.

Today, I give myself the gift of my presence. I shall stop telling myself that this moment is not enough, that I’m not enough.

Because when I’m truly present, this moment is complete. I am complete.

madripoor.tumblr.com

madripoor.tumblr.com

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