Tag Archives: reactions

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

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Other People

Yesterday, I texted a few of my like-minded friends to share my most recent awareness. The importance of other people.

Relationships (with a partner, friends, family, co-workers, acquaintances) accelerate our growth and teach us more about ourselves than all the spiritual retreats, self-help books, and hours of meditation and counselling ever could.

Other people serve as mirrors. They reflect back to us how we feel about ourselves and the beliefs we’re holding about life.

Every single person who enters our lives is there for a reason – to show us all the barriers we’ve placed around ourselves. Once we become aware of these barriers, we can remove them and open ourselves to love.

In Marianne Williamson’s book A Return to Loveshe writes about the two main emotions we experience – love and fear. Fear closes our hearts. Love opens us up to an easier, brighter, more wonderful world.

Up until recently, I had assumed that I preferred to be alone. I’d spend most evenings on my own, reading, writing, and watching TV. I walked alone, jogged alone, cycled alone. I meditated and did yoga alone. I took myself for coffee. I wandered alone in nature and took pictures. I holidayed in the west of Ireland. Alone.

I’m proud of my independence and I’m content in my own company but sometimes a stray pang of loneliness manages to slip through my carefully constructed armour. I realise now that I was confusing strength with a refusal to budge out of my comfort zone.

I really believed that I did better at life when I was single. Romantic relationships seemed to blaze into my world. They were quick and exciting and dangerous.

They were so out of my control that I feared I’d be engulfed in their flames. Then they died out, leaving me to tend to my burns.

I missed the warmth and beauty of relationships but I also felt blessedly relieved to be alone again. Alone, I was in control.

My longest romantic relationship was with my now ex-husband. Everything since then has never made it past the four-month mark.

I led what I thought was a balanced life. I had oceans of time to work on myself. I grow more when I’m single, I convinced myself.

And I’m glad of the time and space I’ve had to heal and to flourish. I agree that one must love oneself and have a full and happy life before one is ready to enter into a healthy relationship.

The thing is, I kept waiting for one (i.e. little old me) to become perfect, conscious and enlightened. I forgot that this life is a journey. And on this arduous yet rewarding adventure, we’re constantly learning, evolving and recalibrating.

It’s nice to share some of that journey with our fellow travellers who can also feel lost and who are also searching for meaning. And there’s more laughter and intimacy to be had on a path walked with more than one set of feet.

feet

After living alone for four years, I now have two housemates. I’m also spending more time with my fabulous friends. And I love meeting new people. How different we are fascinates me. How similar we are humbles me.

I understand now that living involves other people. For what is a life without company, support, affection and passion?

Other people highlight the areas we need to work on so that we can peel off yet another bullet-proof layer. It’s so much lighter and freer to let go of these heavy burdens that weigh us down and close us off. But it’s scary to be so exposed, so vulnerable.

I know that I have difficulty letting people in. Asking for help and believing I deserve to have my needs met is a challenge. But it’s a challenge I’m willing to accept.

Communication is also an area I’m working on. Recently, I detected a pattern of mine. When the going gets tough, my instinct is to bolt. To get out that door and never come back. But where’s the maturity in that? Where’s the learning, the growing, the compassion? Where is the love?

Other people have an amazingly frustrating knack of triggering the emotional reactions that I used to resist and get angry about. Now, when someone does or says something that provokes me to feel hurt, annoyed or defensive, I remember to breathe into it.

I feel grateful for this issue that I need to deal with. I look at my feelings about the incident, which leads to an understanding of why I’m feeling the way I do. Then, I let go and bring myself back to the present moment.

This is a very new practise for me, by the way, but it’s a revelation! I highly recommend it.

Today, I’m more open than ever before. This translates into a heightened enjoyment of life, a deeper appreciation of beauty, and more fun, peace and connection.

I am, thankfully and in Melody Beattie’s words, codependent no more. Nor am I locked in a distant land of me, myself and I.

I’m travelling on this awe-inspiring path called life. And it’s rich with billions of souls from whom I can learn so much, and with whom I can share a luminous journey.

hammock

Images: Favim.com

Practising Presence

I’m over a week into my challenge to be present. I could tell you that I’m completely zen, that I’ve attained enlightenment, and that I’m connected with and full of love for the entire universe. But I won’t do that.

I’ll be honest. I’m not there just yet. I’m definitely not present all the time. I’m probably not even present half the time. However, the knock-on effect from simply setting this challenge is that it’s making me much more aware. And once you’re aware, you begin to wake up.

I’m looking at my thoughts and feelings with interest. Rather than scolding myself for not being perfect, I’m observing my reactions with curiosity and humour. And when I notice my mind fleeing from the present, I’m now able to catch the tail of my projections and coax myself back to centre.

I recognise that I always have a choice as to how I feel in any given moment. I can decide which thoughts to believe. I can question my assumptions. And I can release stagnant patterns so that life flows with ease, joy and abundance.

For most of my life, the extravaganza of my ego hypnotised me. But now that I’m sampling pure pockets of peace, this mindfulness jazz tastes like more.

Today, I sit in the September sun. For fear of doing nothing, I walk outside armed with phone, book, journal and iPod. But I get a sense that I’m doing this out of habit. I ignore the paraphernalia, put my feet up, tilt my face skyward, and appreciate the wine-stained autumn leaves and the heat on my toes. The crumpled clouds remind me of a morning strand, slick from a recent tide.

This evening though, I huff and puff over the stories my mind barrages me with. Again, it dawns on me that I’m doing this out of habit. I take a breath, drop into my core, and let it go.

In bed tonight, my mind visits many foreign and oft-explored destinations. At first, I indulge these memories, fantasies and nightmares. Then, I shift out of the nonsense and into the present. Only in presence do I realise that my body is clenched and I’m not lying in a comfortable position. I give myself permission to relax.

zdravoslovnohranene.com

zdravoslovnohranene.com

If you want to become more present, remember that practice makes “perfect”. It may be helpful to figure out which places and techniques assist you with the process. Being in nature usually grounds me. So does concentrating on my breath.

And yes, it is easier to be present when faced with a special moment or a spectacular view. Being present comes effortlessly when you gaze at the enormous moon in a glittering sky. Or when you watch the holiday sun melt into the horizon. Or when you turn your attention to your other senses – sinking into a yoga pose after a long day; the sensation of a lover’s touch; the strangely comforting sound of the roaring rain and wailing wind at your window.

But what about all the other moments? How can you be present during the difficult, sad and angry episodes? Can you maintain your presence of mind, body and spirit throughout the mundane and the chaotic? When you’re stuck in traffic or shuffling at the back of a massive queue? When you’re exhausted after a trialling time or choked up with dread over an imminent event?

Don’t worry if your desire to be present doesn’t manifest immediately or if it vanishes at the first sign of struggle. Simply be aware of how you are. The key is to treat yourself with compassion. Whenever I have trouble with mindfulness, I  recall a friend’s suggestion:

“You must be gentle with yourself. Each time you attach to thought and abandon the present moment, bring yourself back with the lightest nudge. Like with the soft top of a paintbrush.”

With practice, presence will start to become automatic. Because it’s our natural state. We just got a little lost along the way. We got caught up in the adventure, we drank in too much drama, and our vision grew blurry.

But now that I’m sobering up, I can focus on the path home, and I finally understand that I don’t have to travel very far. I don’t have to go anywhere at all. I just have to be.

Listen

As I climb into bed, various opinions and pieces of advice that people have given me over the years flash into my mind. I recall their musings on my life and on what I should and shouldn’t be doing.

After bulldozing in with their tuppence worth, these supposed do-gooders continued on with their lives without a second thought. Meanwhile, I attached more value to their throwaway comments than to my own lifetime experience of being me.

I’ve spent long enough caring about how others perceive me. I’ve winced at their judgements, flinched at their criticism, basked in their compliments, and hoped for their approval.

Before taking action, I presumed how other people would react. This ineffective technique of mind-reading actually influenced how I was feeling and the choices I made.

Now in my thirty-fifth year on this planet, I’m finally getting sense. I understand that anything anyone says is coming from their perspective. People dish out suggestions that are based on a minuscule snapshot of my life. And even that tiny glimpse is filtered through the lens of their own history and beliefs.

Last night, as I walked alongside my sister, I was tempted to ask for her thoughts on something I’d spoken about earlier. But I realised that I would be doing it out of habit. It didn’t really matter what she thought about this subject. Getting her to advise me would be a waste of her energy because I knew that I would go with my gut anyway. And I mightn’t even want to hear what she had to say.

Not many people enjoy being told what to do. Nobody likes feeling judged either. And how can anyone know with absolute certainty what’s right for another person?  By doling out our opinions and “friendly” advice, we run the risk of blocking the flow of communication.

All we have to do is be there for one another. We don’t have to stress about giving the right guidance. What a relief not to have to be responsible for coming up with the answers or fixing everyone else’s problems.

Instead of handing out answers, start asking questions. This will facilitate lateral thinking, which will enable the other person to open up to previously unexplored options.

Support your friends/family/partners/clients in whatever course of action they decide to take. Listen to them. And more importantly, really hear what they’re expressing.

All we really want is for someone to just be with us and really hear what it is we’re saying. Because when we are heard, we feel understood. And when we feel understood by another human being, that is the beauty of true connection.

quoteswave.com

quoteswave.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.