Tag Archives: personal growth

Sometimes

Do you ever feel so bad about yourself that you can’t fathom that great things could happen? You don’t believe in yourself. You forget all the good that you do.

Sometimes.

You close yourself off to all the love that surrounds you. You compare yourself unfavourably to others and see everyone else as confident, successful, flourishing…

You focus on the negatives. You spot rejection, failure and disappointment in every comment, action and imagination.

Sometimes.

You push loved ones away then hate yourself more for doing so. For self-destructively banishing what you crave: love, care and affection.

They try to love you. They offer you acceptance. But deep down, you’re never going to measure up or be worthy of their naive loving of you.

You shut down the love. You silence the laughter. You dare not believe in your potential. It frightens you.

You sob. You cry. You let go. You open up. You let him in.

Sometimes.

A smile breaks through. You can’t help but laugh. He’s so good.

He sees the best in you. You want to be that person. And one day, as you sip on a coffee in the afterglow of his presence, you realise that you are.

You are that bouncing, brave, beautiful person that he admires. But you block yourself.

Sometimes.

You think thoughts and you believe them. You identify with the bad.

You stop dancing. You don’t feel the music. You forget who you are. You exist but you cease living.

Sometimes.

While the real you simmers patiently beneath. Always there. Waiting for you to shake off the shackles and rejoin the dance.

Ready to roar in perfection. And smile and love and shine. And be free.

He loves you because finally you remember that you love you. You just don’t believe it.

Sometimes.

Image: Author's Own

Image: Author’s Own

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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

favim.com

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.

withanopenheart.org

withanopenheart.org

The Work Tools

Something happened recently that disappointed me. However, part of me insisted that it wasn’t a big deal, that I was overreacting and that I should get over it and move on. And I did. I mentally high-fived the new easy-going me.

In a conversation this evening, the same issue resurfaces. I receive new information that triggers me all over again.

I end the chat as quickly as I can. I’m just home after a very busy day and I’m starving but I’m too upset to eat.  So I fly up to my room and mutate into a wailing, thumping, tantrumming child.

I’m surprised to see that I’m angry. Anger is an uncomfortable emotion for me. I tell myself that I need to calm down.

I put my phone on silent, sit on my meditation cushion and tap on how I’m feeling (click here for more on EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique).

The anger pours out, as does the hurt. I allow the ego to have its say. What it says and how it speaks sounds so petty and silly that I start laughing. Then the tears return. As does the rage.

Even as I write this, it sounds overdramatic. I don’t want to worry family and friends over something so “trivial”.

That stern, no-nonsense part of me wants to assure you that it really isn’t a big thing. But what message would I be sending my sobbing inner child if I silenced her like that? And so I continue.

google.com

google.com

The tapping uncovers deeper feelings of not being important or special enough. Of being a “psycho”.

I should pretend that I’m fine because if I reveal my real feelings, if I ask for what want, I will surely and immediately become unloved and abandoned. And if that happens, I’ll feel so bad that everything else will be ruined.

With these imaginations, I’ve catapulted myself from a meditation cushion on a fine Friday evening to a near future of doom and failure. I may need another tool…

So I turn to Byron Katie’s transformative process The Work. The first step of The Work is to come up with a statement which is making me feel bad.

The statement I go for is: I’m overreacting. 

I then ask four questions.

The first question is: Is it true? Is it true that I’m overreacting?

Yes, I answer resolutely. Because nothing anyone does should make me feel bad. Only I can make myself bad. So I am overreacting. I should be zen at all times.

The second question is: Can you absolutely know that it’s true?

Again I respond with a Yes because “I should know better than to react this way”. However, I also know that a No to this question would move The Work along nicely.

Once I give myself permission to say that No, maybe I’m not overreacting, the reasons for why I’m feeling this way become clear. No wonder you’re upset, I comfort my poor inner child. There, there.

Then for question number three: How do you react, what happens when you believe that thought?

When I believe that I’m overreacting, I reject myself. I tell myself that I shouldn’t feel the way I’m feeling. I don’t have a right to speak up. My needs aren’t as important as the needs of others. And if I act like they are, those other people will become angry and leave.

The fourth question is: Who would you be without the thought?

If I didn’t have the thought I’m overreacting, if I couldn’t have it, I wouldn’t doubt myself so much. I’d be clearer about my needs. I’d know what I want and what I deserve. I wouldn’t beat up on myself and I wouldn’t feel bad for feeling bad. I’d love myself.

This year, I promised myself something powerful, something life-changing:

I will not abandon myself any more.

This evening, in spite of the pain, I refuse to turn my back on myself. I give myself some much-needed, much-appreciated love.

Regarding the situation, I don’t know yet what the next step is. But maybe acknowledging how I’m feeling, getting to the root of these emotions, seeing that I’m as deserving as anyone else, and loving myself throughout is enough.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

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

Hear, Say, Believe?

I’m having coffee with someone (let’s call her Person A) when she informs me that someone else (the imaginatively named Person B) said certain things that Person A took to be jabs at her and at me. I feel hurt and angry. Person A must sense this because she tries to change the subject and make small talk. I find it difficult to talk about trivial things at times like these. After a few moments, she asks if I’m okay. I tell her how I feel and say that I just need a bit of time and space and that I’ll probably be fine in an hour.

Afterwards I get into the car, put on the new Daft Punk album and take myself off for a drive. I am fuming and tears threaten an onslaught. I park in a quiet spot and sit with what has just happened. The only thing that would make me feel better would be to understand why Person B said those things and also why Person A decided to tell me. I take out a pen and paper.

I make three lists. The first list has the title: “Why Person B said what they said.” The second is called: “Why Person A told me.” I am fully aware that I am engaging in guesswork and mind-reading but understanding where these people may have been coming from helps me realise why they said what they said, which, in turn, makes me feel better. Some of the reasons include jealousy, worry, resentment, hurt, control, and even speaking openly without thinking of the consequences. Already, I feel better about the whole thing.

The third list I make is: “The benefits of this happening.” I manage to come up with eight of them. But what is most revealing of all is when I question what has actually been said. All I heard was what Person A had heard and internalised and then repackaged in her own fears and projections. Not only that, but then I had internalised all of that and sifted it alongside my own insecurities and sensitivities.

Fact looks very different from imagination. What had Person B actually said? Who knows if this person meant to cause any pain? And even if they did, that’s saying a lot about how they’re feeling. If it is important enough to me to find out, I can go straight to the proverbial horse and poke around in its mouth but, for now, this exercise has been sufficient.

This whole process has highlighted to me that I still have a bit of work to do on myself, especially when it comes to caring what my nearest and dearest think of me. I recognise that this area is usually quite challenging for most people. I give myself permission to have human emotions and reactions. I also understand myself more now and I realise that having a time-out is essential for me to process how I’m feeling, thus enabling me to learn and grow and have healthier relationships.

I close the notepad and, without even trying, I remember something that Person B did for me recently that was extremely thoughtful. Oftentimes, we’re so blindsided by something somebody just did that we obliterate his or her positive attributes. Or we fail to understand that sometimes people do things out of fear or insecurity or because they’re feeling so bad that they want someone else to hurt too. Other times, they are unaware that what they say or do can have a huge impact on another person.

I’m not suggesting that you should accept abusive behaviour but, in many cases, understanding where the other person is coming from and distinguishing fact from emotional hearsay can help make you feel better. Because they only thing you need to do is look after how you’re feeling. And everything else will come right in time.