Tag Archives: safety

The Inner Family

I’m currently rereading Anodea Judith’s excellent book Eastern Body, Western MindThis morning, I completed an exercise on the Inner Family that I’m going to share with you.

Anodea Judith suggests making a list of the various parts of yourself. You might include the inner child, the clown, the achiever, the lover, the critic, and so on. In my case, I listed the lost child, the inner child, the lover, the romantic, the fearful one, and the warrior.

Next to each name on the list, write a few words describing how you perceive this part of yourself.

For example, I could describe the inner child as playful, curious or innocent. The lost child might be scared and alone. The lover is open, present and sensual. The romantic believes in love. The fearful one anticipates that bad things will happen. And the warrior is stunning, strong and skilled.

Now, write down what you think each part wants. My inner child wants to experience. The lost child wants to be loved. The lover wants to make love. The romantic wants to connect. The fearful one wants peace. And the warrior wants to live.

Ask yourself how often these parts succeed in getting what they want. How realistic are their desires? And what can be done to bring them into wholeness?

In order to bring the various parts of myself into wholeness, I can connect with people, including myself. I can be open to relationship and to love. I can meditate, rest and be still. I can be in nature, surround myself with beauty, and go on adventures. Using all of my senses, I can make love with life every single day. I can be present, really live, relax, allow and enjoy.

The final part of this exercise is to look at who relates to whom. For instance, does the critic inhibit the artist? Or does the clown entertain the sad inner child?

I realise that the parts of myself that I listed seem to go in pairs. The loving, playful inner child is the lost child’s reassuring companion. The confident lover and the dreamy romantic are in perfect partnership. And the warrior protects the fearful one and makes her feel safe.

This is an interesting exercise. Try it and let me know how you get on.

weheartit.com

weheartit.com

Advertisements

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.

IMG_3812

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

VulnerAble

Do you ever feel lost? Unsure of your next step? Hesitant about which direction you’re going to take?

Will you move house, emigrate or travel the world? Would it be more sensible to start your own business or remain an employee? Should you go after this guy or that girl or concentrate on your own growth?

Well, I’m feeling pretty lost right now. I’m all over the place. And I’m angry with myself for thinking so hard and not being present.

I’m impatient too. I want to find all the answers immediately. I need to make decisions. And I worry that I don’t have the luxury of time.

But I’m afraid. Should I take the risks and trust that it’ll all work out? That it’s already unfolding exactly as it’s meant to? That I’m okay just as I am?

Today, I opened up to a friend about all this. She reminded me to tell myself that even though I don’t know what to do, I love and accept myself. Even though I feel shame and embarrassment, fear and anxiety, anger and annoyance, sadness and grief, I deeply and completely love and accept myself. She got me to tap on the feelings that arose as I spoke these words. As I tapped, I remembered this quote:

“Wherever you go, there you are.”

I can find beauty and despair anywhere. It doesn’t matter if I’m in Ireland or Greece, Thailand or Australia, if I’m in my current flat or a quiet house in the countryside, if I’m loved up or single (I can be loved up and single too of course).

All I have to work on is myself. Once I feel inner peace, everything else will fall into place. I must raise my own energy and the right path will beckon.

Right now, I feel vulnerable. Shaky. Part of me is too proud to admit this. To show my weaknesses and risk disapproval. But I’m doing it anyway.

Here I am in all my naked glory. I’m not perfect. I feel scared and uncertain. And that’s okay.

I could ask friends and family for advice. I could make an appointment with a life coach. I could listen to my acupuncturist’s words of wisdom. And I’m tempted to do all of those things. But I know that I have the answers. I need to take time out, switch off my phone, be in nature, sit in stillness and listen…

I still don’t feel good. But these emotions, events, deadlines and ultimatums are mirrors that are reflecting back to me the things I need to look at. They’re presenting me with an opportunity to make changes for the better. And I’m grateful for that.

It might seem like doors are closing but that shouldn’t limit me if I see the world as my playground. So instead of shutting down and resisting, I’m unlocking and allowing.

I have cracked open and that doesn’t feel safe. But it feels right.

anais nin

Let It All In

Remember those noisy neighbours? Well tonight, I pop in a pair of earplugs and will myself to sleep. My body is tense from the anticipation of the noise that I wish would disappear from my life completely.

This time however, instead of trying desperately to block out the noise, I decide to really go into the feeling that it brings up in me. It feels like the noise gets right into me. I want to withdraw from it but I can’t. I believe that this shouldn’t be happening and that is what fills me with rage. I wish I could wrap myself in a safe little bubble where nothing can get in but I just can’t seem to protect myself from it.

Once I’ve felt all there is to feel, I access a memory of childhood summers snorkelling in Greece. I’d spend hours submerged in this underwater haven where all I could hear was the sound of my own breathing. There was another world down there, full of peace and colour and surprises. I long for that peace right now.

Suddenly, I have an awareness. I am insisting on shutting out a part of life. I’m not allowing certain things in. And if I’m closing myself off to the noise, what else am I resisting?

I lie in bed and tentatively begin to let it all in. I am open. I am open to the good and bad, the noise and silence, the love and despair, the fear and joy. I am open to the anger and happiness, sadness and inspiration, the beauty and simplicity, the light and the darkness. Life in all its forms. Once I start allowing the noise in, who knows what other wonderful things will appear?

I also realise that the noise isn’t an outside invader, robbing me of my calm. The struggle is within me. I am reacting to this perceived injustice. I can choose how this affects me.

Rather than viewing these things as outside of me, I accept that all aspects of life are a part of me. In my withdrawal from the noise, what noise of my own am I suppressing? I am the noise but I am also the peace. And I am the love that once seemed so external and conditional.

So tonight, I let it all in. Because it’s already there. And on that conundrum, I promptly fall asleep.

dandelion_sunset_by_lady_deliah-d4bltds

I Sea

Wrapped in a brightly coloured towel, I eye the Atlantic apprehensively. The wind whips around me, its haunting voice taunting me about my probable madness at wanting to swim in this weather. My skin is raised in the goose bumps that ingeniously serve to trap air between my body hairs in order to keep me insulated and warm. But I don’t feel warm. I’m bloody freezing.

Impulsively, I throw down the towel and hurry towards the ocean. I know from experience that inching my way in will only prolong the suffering so I submerge myself quickly and front crawl vigorously towards the horizon. It takes a while for the numbness to subside but, when it does, I thoroughly enjoy the feeling of my body bobbing in the ocean, my fingers threading through the soft water, the view of the rich, green fields, chiselled cliffs, the brilliant white of the spitting waves, and the knowing that, even if my phone rings, I won’t hear it from out here in the centre of a pollock hole. I tilt my head back in the golden path of sunlight that dapples over the surface of the water.

A child in goggles gazes at the world below. His kicking feet splash me slightly. An elderly man dives in and swims determinedly in my direction. As he passes, the small waves he has generated elbow me gently across the jaw. I keep going. I am swimming through the ripples created by other people, by the wind, by the ocean, and by myself. I am in the ocean and I am part of it. I remember that a significant amount of the human body is made up of water. I am in it and it is in me. And we are all part of the same.

Afterwards, I am so grateful that I went for that swim despite my hesitation. It reminds me of the time I almost hadn’t gone to the cinema with a couple of people I barely knew. Since then, I have had lots of fun with one of those people, who has become one of my best friends. I look back at that moment of doubt whenever I consider not doing something just because I’d rather the safe option.

Later, as I settle down to read Gregory David Roberts’ Shantaram, I come across these words of Johnny Cigar, an Indian slum dweller:

“Our life, it probably began inside of the ocean about four thousand million years before now… Then, a few hundred million years ago… just a little while, really, in the big history of the Earth – the living things began to be living on the land, as well. But in a way you can say that after leaving the sea… we took the ocean with us. When a woman makes a baby, she gives it water, inside her body, to grow in. That water inside her body is almost exactly the same as the water of the sea. It is salty, by just the same amount. She makes a little ocean, in her body. And not only this: Our blood and our sweating, they are both salty, almost exactly like the water from the sea is salty. We carry oceans inside of us, in our blood and in our sweat. And we are crying the oceans, in our tears.”

And so, this is life. What we fear and dread outside of ourselves is just as much inside of us. And while that scary thing that we must plunge into, without thinking too much about the possible consequences and unpleasantness, can be difficult and painful, it can also be beautiful, rewarding and so worthwhile. And that too comes from within.

Image: Author’s own