Tag Archives: reality

Mindfulness for the Full Mind

In recent weeks, I’ve been battling against my own reaction to noise. I eventually decided to stop blaming the external and work on my inner peace instead.

Last week, I was so exhausted (from lack of sleep but mainly from my own internal chitchat) that I gave up. And that was when the magic happened. I let go. I surrendered the control that I had been fearfully clasping on to so damn tightly. I recognised that I can’t control my surroundings. But I can be okay with them.

I was too tired to use all the positive tools and techniques that I’d taught myself over the years. So I stopped trying so hard. I simply accepted what was – the noise and how I was feeling.

I also figured out that I often felt anxious before the noise started. I was nervously anticipating when it would begin. Then, I would project into the following day and I’d imagine how tired I’d be. I was so very far removed from the present moment.

healthshire.com

healthshire.com

One word kept entering my mind: Mindfulness. Then, I remembered that I’d seen a workshop advertised a while back. I rooted out the email and, as synchronicity would have it, it was on in a few days’ time. I immediately signed up for it.

The workshop consisted of four hours of meditation, silence and mindful walking. Halfway through the class, I suddenly felt impatient. It was all so slow. Nothing was happening. It was then that I had a deep knowing that this was exactly what I needed – I had to physically slow down and bring my awareness to the present moment (my bodily sensations, my breathing and the sounds around me) in order to slow down the sprinting chatter of my mind.

No wonder I felt restless during this workshop as I had been living such a fast-paced life. Rushing to work. Coaching sessions. Classes. Reading. Cramming weekends with class preparation and assignments, then trying to squeeze in family time, dates and catch-ups with friends.

And even when I did sit down to watch television, whenever the ads came on, I’d check my emails, pop onto Facebook or send a text. I even checked my phone while sitting on the loo (hands up if you’ve done this!)

When I received an energy treatment the other day, I realised just how busy my mind was. I lay there composing emails and imagining conversations I would have. If I could just be present, I wouldn’t have to drain myself with all the mental rehearsing and reliving.

weheartit.com

weheartit.com

Last night, I woke at 2.30am and could not go back to sleep. So I got up, trudged into the sitting room and switched on the light. The first thing my bleary eyes landed on was a book that had been recommended to me almost a year ago – Mindfulness for Life by Craig Hassed and Stephen McKenzie.

It was just the right time to start reading this book. Hassed and McKenzie describe mindfulness as “the practice of paying attention.” They say that many people get interested in mindfulness because they want to learn to relax or cope better with stress and anxiety. However, they suggest that this can pose a problem. If we become too preoccupied with the goal of relaxing and destressing, we may become frustrated if the practice doesn’t turn out the way we expect or if we don’t achieve the results as quickly as we want.

Another interesting point they write about is how we try to cling to the bits of life that we like and banish those we don’t. Of course, this is understandable. We are trying to protect ourselves from suffering but this is what exactly what causes suffering.

Hassed and McKenzie write: “To be peaceful and happy we have to accept things that we don’t like when they come, and we have to let go of things that we do like when they go.” 

The only guarantee in life is that nothing is permanent. Not the good stuff, nor the bad. As the old adage accurately predicts: “This too shall pass.”

At five am, I put the book away and became aware of my bed and the feeling of it beneath me. I snuggled into the duvet and breathed deeply. I was aware of my breath and the sound of the rain outside. I was aware of my thoughts and how frequently they whisked me away from the present moment.

It was easy to want to detach from the negative thoughts but what I found challenging was to bring myself into the present when I was lounging in happy memories.

Recently, I had a pleasant experience. Last night, I found myself remembering all the tiny details of that moment. How I felt, what was said, what it all meant. I smiled as I relished reliving the event. However, I was no longer aware of my body, my breathing, the bed or the sounds outside. But why did I need to be mindful when I was clearly enjoying dwelling on certain parts of the past?

I asked myself: Was I truly present when that event was actually occurring? Incredibly, I hadn’t been. A large part of me had been caught up in thoughts, fears and expectations. And now, I was making up for it by reliving every last detail.

From this, I have learned that I need to practice mindfulness now so that I can be fully present in every moment. Then, I will be able to really bask in the pleasure and beauty of life. Practicing mindfulness will also help me to act effectively, with a clear mind, during the challenging times.

Hassed and McKenzie suggest starting with a mindfulness practice of five or ten minutes twice daily – before breakfast and dinner. It is best to sit upright and bring your awareness to the present moment by focussing on your breath, on an image or on the sounds around you.

The idea is that mindfulness can become part of your life, not just in a formal capacity. When you get into your car after work, take a few mindful breaths before you start driving. Wash the dishes mindfully. Brush your teeth mindfully. Eat, walk, and listen to music mindfully. Give your conversation partner the gift of a mindful ear. Conduct your relationships mindfully.

Mindfulness isn’t easy but it is oh so simple. Be present. Because all that exists is now.

be all there

Let’s Agree to Disagree

It has just struck me how I’ve been struggling for as long as I can remember to be perfect. I want to look perfect. I have to do everything perfectly. I’d love to be in the perfect relationship. I need to feel perfect.

But what is perfect? Who decides what perfect looks like? What’s perfect to me might not be perfect to you and vice versa.

As Don Miguel Ruiz demonstrates in his brilliant book The Four Agreementswe, as a society, have made certain agreements. Agreements on how things should be. And if any of us stray away from these agreements, if one of us dares to be different, there are consequences.

We fear being ostracised, disapproved of, and rejected. So we attempt to bundle the enormity of our spirit into a perfectly suffocating box.

And the most unbelievable part is that these agreements were probably decided before we were even born or at least before we had the sense and intelligence to realise what we were signing up for.

We were given a name and instructed how to behave, how to look, what to do, and how to be. And if we moved away from any of those specifications, we were shown, directly, or worse, indirectly – through withdrawal of love and affection – that to be unique was not okay.

Well hey, I’ve got some liberating news to share. It is okay to be yourself. It’s more than okay. The world needs free spirits, different thinkers and adventurous trailblazers. Let’s tear up those obsolete agreements and allow our individual lights to shine.

I am no longer going to strive for perfection because it doesn’t exist. Perfection is an illusion that I blindly agreed to pursue. But now that I can see clearly, I am choosing to disagree. Who’s with me?

real

Thinking the World

Once upon an evening, I was getting ready to meet a guy for the first time. I sent him a message: “Are you there? Just leaving my place now.” He responded: “No. Is it tonight? I forgot.” I took off my jacket and heels and flopped onto my bed. I can’t believe this is happening to me, I thought, in utter shock. Not so much as an apology or a “Be right there” or even a promise to reschedule. He must be the kind of guy who likes making dates and not showing up. He must enjoy making women feel bad. Aw man, now I’m gonna have to make dinner. I was just about to phone a friend when a text came through: “Just kidding. I’m here.” And then another: “I was only joking! I’m here.” I replied: “Okay… That wasn’t a very funny joke!” I slipped back on the heels and jacket and approached the date with apprehension.

It ended up being a lovely evening and he was a total gentleman. He told me that he’d planned on sending me a message straight after his not-so-hilarious first but his phone had gone dead. He had to wait for it to switch back on before he could send the text. He realised that it appeared cruel. The point is, for several minutes, I believed that I had been stood up. I assumed that this guy was weird and masochistic. And I thought I was being treated very badly. That wasn’t the reality of the situation but, for those few moments, it became my reality.

Buddha said: “With our thoughts, we make our world.” What’s real for me is whatever thoughts I’m thinking. I’m sure a lot of other women would have presumed the same as me. It was there in the black and white of a text message after all. But it was just a massive sign for me to see that my reality is what I make it. With that kind of power, I’d better make it a good one.

The Law of Attraction

This short video made me laugh so much. I’ve watched it several times since I saw it on Facebook last night. I delighted in watching someone so young engaging in this wonderful exercise on gratitude.

 

Take time to be grateful for what you have in your life. Set up your day by giving gratitude first thing in the morning. During the day, make note of all the things you like. And as Dr Wayne Dyer suggested, when you focus on what you love before you go to sleep, you marinade in those good feelings throughout the night.

The Law of Attraction shows us that we get what we give. When we give our attention to things, whether they are things we want or things we don’t want, we get what we focus upon. As the quote goes: “Where attention goes, energy flows.” So bring your awareness to what brings you happiness, to what makes you smile and to what lifts your spirits, and allow more of the good stuff to come your way. Enjoy!

baby beach

johnallenyeager.com

You Are Not Alone

The more I speak to people who are brave enough to be honest about how they’re really feeling, the more I realise that we are all the same. We all go through tough times. We all struggle with fears and insecurities. We have all gone through or are currently going through periods when we feel depressed, hopeless and unable to cope.

Many of us struggle with our inability to be “perfect”. We believe that we must achieve, accumulate and gain approval in order to deserve a space on this planet. We beat ourselves up, even hate ourselves, when we think that we have failed. We feel lost and alone. We disconnect, shut ourselves down and close ourselves off from love, both for ourselves and for others. For when we don’t love ourselves, how can we possibly love one another?

It’s sad that many of us feel alone in this world. We fear that there is something wrong with us, that we have messed up, and that we must try to fit in. But how can we fit in with something that is just an act? It’s all an illusion. We are human. We were born into this life perfect and we spend the rest our lives struggling to come to terms with that reality. We battle against it. We rage so hard against ourselves that we look for the quickest way out of our self-inflicted hells. We turn to drugs, alcohol, overwork, unhealthy relationships, anything, to forget how bad we’re really feeling. To avoid the real reason for our suffering. To blame anything or anyone other than ourselves for not living life to the fullest. Until we cannot kid ourselves any longer. Wouldn’t it be easier if we accepted that we deserve love just because? The mere fact of our existence is enough to merit self-acceptance.

I’d love to take the whole world in a giant embrace and tell you all that you are okay. That you are not alone. That everybody feels bad sometimes. That you are magnificent and miraculous. That life can be wonderful. That if we all dropped the bullshit act of pretending, there wouldn’t be so many people who punish themselves for being less than society’s idea of perfect. But I can’t. Because everyone has a journey. Because everybody has their personal lessons to learn. Because I’m not a preacher. But I am a human being who has been through some really rough times, who’s struggled with a lot of the things I’ve mentioned above, and who still does sometimes. I am also an example of how, once you let go, open up and surrender, you can connect, enjoy, live and love.

This Christmas, consider the fact that everyone has a story that they may never tell you. Most people have been hurt and continue to hurt themselves over and over. But if we open our wounds to one another, we can finally start to heal.

Merry Christmas, my beautiful readers. I am delighted to be able to connect with you all. I am full of gratitude. I am also constantly learning. Right now, remember all the things that you are grateful for. Give yourself the gift of self-love this Christmas. And allow yourself to connect with your fellow human beings. We are all in this together.

inspiring-pictures.com

inspiring-pictures.com

The Deception in Perception

One evening, my friend told me about a fight she’d had with a friend of hers. She finished her anecdote with the statement: “Oh my God, I’m a complete psycho!” Hearing herself say the story aloud made her realise that she may have overreacted.

I went on to tell my friend about a guy I was dating four or five years ago. He came from a far-off land (Italy). I mentioned our email correspondence, which hadn’t ended well. “He was a real A$5hol€,” I added for good measure. “I might still have the emails,” I squealed excitedly. Minutes later, I managed to retrieve them. When I read the last email my Italian beau had written, I was surprised to find that, in parts, he had actually been quite nice and affectionate. I definitely hadn’t remembered that. As I read the last email I’d sent him, I visibly cringed. I sounded moany and needy. I hadn’t remembered that either. Yes, there were parts of his email that were defensive and uncompromising and parts of mine that were fair but, up until now, they had been the only parts I’d remembered.

Revisiting a memory when your emotions aren’t running high, when you’re not too attached to your story and when your ego has taken more of a back seat, can be quite revealing. My friend and I had, one after the other, found that we’d perceived the event in a very different way than it had actually occurred. We had been convinced of our innocence. It was hard for us to admit that we had a part to play in the drama but at least we were open to letting go of the need to be right. As a result, the other person could no longer be labelled the “bad guy”. The real villains in our cases were our egos. And that was something we were going to have to look at.

I still feel that my Italian wasn’t the right stallion for me. But I now understand that perceptions are extremely unreliable. We are all coming from different places and experiences… so everything, everything, is tainted with that. For example, I thought the Italian was harsh and inconsiderate, whereas he may have felt perfectly justified in his behaviour. He may have told his friends that I was more trouble than I was worth and that he wasn’t going to change for anybody, especially not an argumentative Irish woman.

Perceptions are totally subjective. The world looks different to you than it does to me. And it looks different to me today than it did yesterday. Everything I look at is compared and contrasted with everything I’ve already seen. I view current relationships through old hurts. Past fears leak into new ventures. Everything is laced with expectation. And my ego assures me that the way I see the world is the only reality there is.

I’m not suggesting that we beat ourselves over the head until we completely banish our egos. We are human beings with egos and emotions. However, simply recognising that we all experience things differently allows for understanding, forgiveness and acceptance. We don’t have to be right. We don’t need to be better. We just are. With this knowledge, we can stop expecting, judging and criticising and start really experiencing and enjoying life.

Depending on how you perceive this famous image, you may see an old lady or a young one. And once you’re aware of this, you can see both.

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.