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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.

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Body Talk

Two weeks ago today, I injured my left calf while jogging. It happened about half way through my run so I had to hobble the rest of the way back to my car.

I couldn’t exercise at all for a few days. I remember commenting to a friend that, “Usually I’d be feeling fat by now.” But I wasn’t.

I wasn’t beating myself up over not exercising, which was my usual pattern. I was aware that the negative voices were whispering to me but they just weren’t getting to me. I was delighted.

A few days later, I started back with yoga. Then walking. I danced at a gig last weekend. And during the week, I went for a cycle. My leg was better.

So yesterday, I attempted another jog. And the same thing happened. Half way through the run. Again, I had to limp the rest of the way back to the car.

The walk took me forty-five minutes, which gave me plenty of time to think and to feel. Why is this happening again? Why me? Lots of people can jog every day. It’s not fair.

An anger arose in me. Frustration bubbled. How am I going to exercise now? And of course, fear. If I don’t exercise, I’ll get fat. That old chestnut.

I’d kept the voices at bay a couple of weeks ago. And last week, I discovered my reasons for trying to be perfect. I think I have to be perfect so I can be accepted and loved. So I won’t be left all alone in this world.

If I understand it, why is it still coming back to haunt me? I’ve learned the lesson, so do I now need to be tested on it? If this is a test, I’m pretty sure I’m failing miserably. Emphasis on miserably.

I know I’m pushing myself to try to be as perfect as I can be. I only feel good when I do all that I can do. But when I’m not doing, I feel bad. When I can’t do, I feel unworthy. When I’m not exercising, I feel uncomfortable in my body. I feel bloody angry.

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Having injured myself a couple of weeks ago, I hurt myself again yesterday. If I were a client of mine, I’d be able to see that maybe I need to slow down. Go easier on myself. Be gentler. Take the pressure off. Believe I deserve love and care and give those things to myself no matter what I do or achieve or how I look.

I realise that I tend to push myself. Whenever I have time to exercise, I cycle or jog. I don’t walk unless I’m with somebody else or I’m on holidays.

When it’s raining, I follow yoga sequences on YouTube. The types of yoga classes I do are Yoga for Weight Loss or Yoga Fat-Burning Workouts. I don’t allow myself to take the easy option. I admire myself for that too. But there has to be a balance.

Last weekend, because I was easing myself back into exercising, I went for the first walk on my own in a long time. And it was one of the best hours of my life.

I thoroughly enjoyed my music, the sensation of the sun on my skin, and the welcome sight of the flowers, trees and country fields. I had time to appreciate this feast for the senses because I wasn’t speeding past it or wanting to get it over with.

And today, because I can’t run or cycle or even walk, I completed a yoga class on YouTube for hips, hamstrings and lower back. The sequence was slow and my body actually oohed with pleasure.

Today, I have the awareness of what’s going on in my mind, why I’m doing what I’m doing and what I’m hoping to achieve. I have insights into the underlying fears that are propelling my thoughts and actions. And I can even understand why my body’s giving out to me. Great.

So how do I stop myself from feeling the way I feel sometimes? The times I feel so uncomfortable in my body that I want to hide. The horrible things I think about myself. The unconditional love that I’m unsure I’m capable of giving.

I just don’t know. It makes me angry that I don’t have the answers. I want to change. I can’t continue life like this.

In a moment of desperation, I turn to God. I plead for help. A feeling of calm descends upon me. I could just let go. And to complete the popular saying, I could just let God.

Show me what to do God, I sob. A line from a prayer I used to recite as a child springs to mind: “Thy will be done.” 

I’m letting go. I can’t control this. I don’t know how I’m going to change. I can’t predict how life is going to be.

I have to trust that it’s all unfolding perfectly. That God will show me what I need to do and where I need to go.

I don’t know exactly what or who God is. Does He/She/It resemble the traditional Christian image of God with white hair and a long beard? Or is God an invisible Higher Power that resides in all of us? Could God encompass the infinite magnificence of The Universe?

I guess I don’t need to know that either. I just need to let go. Which is something that I very rarely do.

If you’re suffering from illness, injury or pain, it could be worth your while to explore the possible messages your body is trying to express to you. Are you willing to listen? Are you ready to change? Are you able to let go?

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Knock Hard, Life

Have you ever had One Of Those Days when you’re just fed up? That’s sort of a rhetorical question because you’re human and this is life so of course you have. I came home this evening with a whopper of a headache after a number of things had gone “wrong”. A number of things were going right too but, when you’re having One Of Those Days, you choose to ignore them. I wanted to crawl under the duvet and pretend that life didn’t have to go on.

Then, I remembered the Winston Churchill quote: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Even though I didn’t feel like it, I switched on Hay House Radio just as Denise Linn was speaking these words: “I choose to believe that things will get better.” 

Sometimes, we feel so beaten down that it’s tempting to just not get up any more. Rumi wrote: “When the world pushes you to your knees, you’re in the perfect position to pray.” It is during these dark moments that we need to ask for help, from a friend or family member or simply by offering a prayer up to the heavens. This is when we need to surrender to some higher wisdom. This is when we need to understand that the bigger picture is so big that we can’t yet see how it’s all meant to fit together. Marilyn Monroe said: “Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.”

I don’t know how all the parts of my life are going to come together. Sometimes, I try to jam pieces together when they’re clearly not the right shape and then I cry with frustration when I break them. And occasionally, I feel broken too. Caroline Myss wrote: “We will all have experiences meant to ‘break our hearts’ – not in half but wide open.”

We all have days when we feel like giving up. When we no longer have all the answers. I’ve quoted five people in this article. Sometimes, it’s a quote you read or hear on the radio that rekindles that tiny flicker of hope. Sometimes, all you’ve got is a quote. Here’s five of them. I hope they help.

Faith in More

I’ve been learning a lot about religion lately. I’ve been pondering questions and ideas and philosophies about what to believe and how to live my life. I was raised a Catholic and my father is Greek Orthodox. I married a Muslim. I spent a week in a Buddhist centre in the Scottish Highlands. I’m currently preparing to give a lecture on Hinduism in my meditation class. And this week, I’ll be learning about Judaism from a couple of other students.

Faith is something that gives people hope and direction. It enables them to look to the bigger picture when crawling through dark and difficult times. It offers them comfort when they face illness and death, be it of a loved one or of themselves.

Nowadays, many people have moved away from religion and towards what they call spirituality. Spirituality is a belief in the spirit or the soul. New Agers talk about energy and chakras, synchronicity and meditation. Without a specific religion to practise, it is important for spiritual people to have a discipline and a network of people with a similar mindset to their own. But what a spiritual person does is not so dissimilar from what a religious person does. Prayer is a form of meditation, after all. A way to connect with God or nature or the oneness of the Universe.

I’m constantly searching and questioning and wondering. Some people might accuse me of being lost or easily led or of turning my back on the religion I was baptised into. I disagree. I find other cultures and their beliefs fascinating. I love to learn new things, to consider different ideas, and to understand where everybody is coming from. I think there is value and beauty in all faiths. We are, every one of us, a human being, whether we wear a burqa or drink the blood of Christ or circumcise our children.

In my early twenties, I read the Quran, completed Ramadan twice, and spent a month in Morocco, where I spoke to many Muslim men and women, attended a Mosque, witnessed the slaughtering of lambs for the festival of Eid al-Adha, and even wore a headscarf. It appealed to me that the focus of Muslim life points far away from that of body image, which many Westerners obsess about. However, that reason alone is not reason enough to dive into a religion.

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Hinduism teaches about karma and reincarnation. This religion is about overcoming maya, the delusion of separateness; and accepting that this world, which we believe to be reality, is in fact an illusion. Every time we suffer or feel depressed or alone, every time we have a problem with money or with a co-worker, we must realise that this is all a dream, a test. Nothing is as important as it seems. What a relief.

Buddhism is an offshoot of Hinduism. Buddhists don’t believe in a God and they don’t worship a particular prophet. They believe that God is everywhere. God is within all of us. They don’t believe in souls either. They believe in energy and, when we die, our vibration simply joins the vibration of the Universe. The end goal of a Buddhist is to achieve enlightenment, which like Hinduism, is to lift the veil of maya, and become one with the world. I also welcome this concept of feeling at one with everyone and everything. When I have a negative thought about someone, I should just remind myself that I am them and they are me. Not so easy to get the head around that one.

Last weekend, I paid a visit to Glenstal Abbey, a beautiful Benedictine monastery in Limerick. I participated in a Chant Day, attended mass and Vespers in the evening. I even had an interesting chat with a lovely priest. I put my questions to him about different religions and spirituality and the idea that God is a part of us all. He answered in a non-judgemental fashion and presented me with quotes from The Bible.

He told me the story of the thief who was nailed to a cross beside Jesus Christ. He turned to Jesus and said: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” The priest elaborated: “This man had sinned all his life but, at the last minute, he asked to be pardoned. Don’t forget to ask.” This reflects the New Agers’ thinking on the power of intention and of “putting it out there to the Universe”. If you don’t ask, you won’t receive.

The priest also told me about the importance of gratitude. And of helping others. And of positivity. And when I spoke about us all being part of the same family, he answered: “You are not just one piece of the whole, you are irreplaceable. God loves you very much.” Always nice to hear.

The following morning, as I waited for the gift shop to open, I decided to attend 10 am mass. The ceremony was beautiful. I felt like I was at the theatre. The monks gave readings and chanted and sang to the tunes pounded out on the organ. They bowed and swung smoking incense in every direction and held the priest’s robes as they moved across the altar. I felt happy to be able to participate in this celebration of faith and togetherness.

I don’t have any more answers now than when I started writing this blog post. In fact, I probably have more questions. But I’m curious and open-minded and full of faith. Faith in God. In love. And in the bigger picture. Faith is “belief that is not based on proof” (dictionary.reference.com). I don’t have proof. But I know that I believe in something higher, something more important, something more real than this body, this pain, this life. I also believe that we can learn so much from all traditions. My eyes and ears are open. And, more importantly, so is my heart.