Tag Archives: silence

The Warrior

There is always something to think, to worry about, to get angry over. Always some drama, a problem to figure out, a decision to make.

With this realisation, I detach, let go, and travel within. The thoughts form and dissolve. The movie of my life still plays on. But I turn down the volume and focus within.

I connect with a deep sense of peace, a groundedness. I listen. I breathe.

Like a novice snorkeller in a world of underwater magic. Astonished by the beauty. Yet all I can hear is my breathing.

I could be lifted from this peace and wonder by an unconscious wandering to wherever my thoughts whimsically transport me. Or I could choose, moment by moment, to return to the present and to appreciate what’s before me, what’s part of me, what I really am.

A slice of this miracle of life presents itself to me. I come to my senses. I savour in the deliciousness of it all. I’m nourished. Whole.

No fear any more. Really. Although there’s still fear, insecurity, discomfort, dangling into the chasm of the unknown.

A lifetime of clinging and scrambling. Dictatorially and unintelligently controlling. Resisting, closing, lashing out against the emotions and the people who triggered me.

Now, I make a different choice. I lean in. Allow. Listen. And with that, comes relief. Learning. Growth. Strength.

I am a warrior in my courage to feel, to be, to connect with others, even though I could be wounded at any moment.

I shrug off my armour and lay down my shield. I no longer point my sword threateningly at the sky. I bare my heart to the heavens.

I have never seen a warrior so vulnerable. Yet she closes her eyes just to feel the sunlight on her skin.

Nature congratulates her with pink and white blossoms, yellows and purples and oranges. Trees reveal themselves to her. Birdsong replaces her soundtrack of doubt. The universe is full.

Her body now free to embrace those she loves. And that has to be everyone. Everything. Herself. Myself. My movie and my constantly altering reviews and reactions.

I drop judgment. I wince at the pain of unhooking attachments.

With loss, there’s lightness. An opening, a flow. A current of love. A deep-seated peace.

I go within and feel calm. I open so that I can live.

I feel a tingling of love wash over me. I understand. I know. I connect.

As soon as I see clearly, my goggles fog over again. For it goes beyond my limited ways of words, analysis and explanation.

It just is. As I am. And I will remember again and again.

meditation sun

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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

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

Taking the Mind out of Mindfulness

I gave my Positive Living group the homework of doing one thing per day in complete mindfulness. This means being present with every sensation and emotion that you experience as you participate in an activity.

It involves being aware of the taste, smell, colour and texture of each ingredient you eat. It includes really listening to the sounds and silences of the music that’s playing. It’s about the feel of the ground beneath your feet with every step you take. It is the subtle sense of your breath as it leaves your nostrils and touches your skin.

We had a week off class because of the mid-term break. So one week later, when I started preparing this week’s class, I remembered the homework. I hadn’t done it once. I was anything from an exemplary teacher. I resolved to start. I still had a week.

This evening, as I sat down to dinner, I remembered the task. I had totally forgotten about it again. This was the perfect opportunity to practice. I could eat mindfully right now. But it’ll take too long, my inner resistance whined.

The logical part of me suggested that it wouldn’t take much longer to eat mindfully than it would to just eat. The only difference would be that I’d have to set aside my mind chatter for a few moments. You know what happened? I lost my appetite.

To be perfectly honest, I still haven’t done my homework. Some stubborn part of me is refusing to let go of the busyness, to quiet the din, to slow down, to simply be.

I’m sure the reason for this will become apparent but I’ll probably have to do all of the things I just mentioned first.

Could you do one thing per day in complete mindfulness for a week? If so, please let me know how you get on. I’d love to learn from you.

runningahospital.blogspot.ie

runningahospital.blogspot.ie

Slow Down

I am currently on a weeklong holiday in the west of Ireland. Each morning after breakfast, I do some work. Then, I take myself out for a walk. I rush the walk to get it out of the way so I can pop into a pub or café to use the WiFi.

Not too long ago, I felt peace. I appreciated nature. I could lie in a bubble bath and listen to music or read a novel over a frothy cappuccino.

How easily I’ve forgotten. How quickly I’ve transformed into a busy, perfection-driven woman who finds it hard to sit still.

Lately, I’ve been trying to fit as much as possible into every single day. No wonder I wasn’t glad when morning arrived.

Even the things I’d once enjoyed had become just another chore to tick off the self-renewing to-do list. Cycle – check. Meditate –check. Prepare Positive Living class – check.

Even nature, my most favourite thing in the entire world, had become an afterthought to work and exercise. When I did get out in it, I sped through it, favouring body tone over nourishment of the soul.

Today, the sun comes out and I decide to go for a walk. Alone. I leave the phone in the car. I don’t listen to music or take photographs. Today, I walk slowly. I roll up my sleeves and feel the heat on the back of my neck. I breathe. I inhale delightful fragrances that bring me back to simple childhood holidays.

I pause to take in the aqua milkiness of the ocean. I watch a man swimming. A fluffy green caterpillar inches its way along the path. Seagulls congregate on a large, flat rock. Cows graze in a field below.

A woman sits on the cliff edge, eyes closed, face tilted towards the sky. I wonder if she’s being truly present, mindfully aware of all of her senses. Or is she simply completing her daily chore of meditation?

Even though it pains me, I challenge myself to sit for a few moments. To just sit. I exhale a sigh of frustration.

Then, I gaze out at the waves as they crash upon the rocks. The waters roar mightily like the exciting take-off of an aeroplane.

The ocean speaks to me of opportunity and adventure, beauty and impermanence, creation and destruction. Tears spring to my eyes.

But even now, in this blessed moment, I am eager to get back. Because I have been mentally making note of everything I’ve experienced. This is the curse and wonder of being a writer.

I take a deep breath. I breathe in and out. I accept myself as I am in this moment. A writer who is forever composing. A human being who is doing her best. A person who is learning and growing and steeping herself in the awareness that will ultimately set her free.

IMG_1484

This evening, I go for a second slow-paced walk along beach, cliff and country road. I peer out at boats bobbing in the bay. I stroll past jellyfish, seaweed and salt-polished pebbles.

I sit several times along the way. I marvel at the sheer magnificence of a cliff face. Gulls soar overhead. I walk beneath a cacophony of starlings perched upon wire.

The sight of fuchsias makes me well up. The scent of cow dung and the perfume of a passing stranger make me smile.

I saunter past stone walls, a tractor and a good-looking horse. I feel my body as it moves. My hips roll and my arms sway. This evening, I do not rush or yearn for the finish line.

I stop to taste roadside blackberries. I pick a handful to take home. For the remainder of the journey, I walk palm up, my hand ink-red with an offering of sweetness.

I realise that when I’m an old lady, reflecting on the beauty of my life, I won’t be thinking about the times I power-walked up hills. I’ll remember the magical moments when I sat and witnessed the silent majesty of a gliding gull and the mesmerising movements of the ocean.

Images: Author's Own

Images: Author’s Own

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.

Tuesdays with Morrie

I pick up a little book called Tuesdays with Morrie while on holidays in Spain. I saw it years ago but avoided it because the blurb on the back made me worry that it’d be a depressing read. It is about a dying professor (Morrie Schwartz) and his younger student (Mitch Albom). This time, I am ready. I devour it in two sittings. And I cry and cry and cry.

It isn’t that it’s unbearably sad. It’s just so touching, it moves me like nothing else has for a long time. I can feel Morrie’s energy with me as I finish the memoir. I love him. I can honestly say that he (and the endearingly honest Mitch) has changed my life. The gradual shift in Mitch’s attitude inspires me almost as much as Morrie’s wisdom.

Morrie allowed himself to let go, to be vulnerable, and to ask for help. He observed that, when you’re an infant, you need help from others and, when you grow old, you require their assistance also. However, what we fail to acknowledge is that we need other people in between times too.

Morrie told the tale of the little wave that witnessed other waves crashing against the shore. The wave wailed, fearfully: “Oh no, look! This is the fate that awaits us. How horrible!” Another wave reassured him: “Don’t fret, little one, for you are not a wave, you are part of the ocean.” As Rumi wrote: “You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean, in a drop.”

Morrie’s message has made me realise how closed off I’d become. I’d tell myself that “I like my own space”. I’d go home while co-workers would sit and have tea, a chat and a laugh. I’d stay alone in the flat watching episode after episode of The Good Wife. I’d spend weekends preparing classes instead of exploring the countryside with loved ones. I’d retire early rather than spend time with friends.

I still believe that there should be a balance between rest, work and play and between stillness, silence and moments of noise and interaction. But Morrie’s story has shown me that the most important thing in life is to love. To share what you have with others. To give another human being the gift of your time. Morrie said that he was always 100 per cent present with whomever he was speaking. When he was talking with Mitch, he thought only of Mitch. This resonates with me as I am often in the company of others when I’m not really there. I’m thinking of what needs to be done, or how I shouldn’t have eaten that or I might even be putting a photo through Instagram while somebody attempts to converse with me.

Morrie’s big, brave, generous heart has made me resolve to really live life, to connect with people, to appreciate nature, to question the values we’ve been brainwashed into adopting, to understand that love and peace are what’s true and priceless compared with ever-changing, unreliable material and physical possessions. One of my new goals is to do something that makes me feel alive every single day. I also promise to be present with people, as if each encounter were our last, and to ask, in the words of Robert Holden in his book Loveability: “How can I love you more?”

I have a couple of hours before I have to head for the airport. I could go for a last swim at what the locals call the “healing beach”. But it’s a bit of a walk, I mentally argue. And it’d mean packing a wet bikini. Then, I remember that I’m living life. So I set off in my flip-flops, carrying a pink towel. A line of ants and a yellow butterfly cross my path. A lone purple wildflower on this dry dirt track reduces me to tears. I offer an Hola and a smile to an old man sitting alone. He returns my smile, its corners clipped with surprise. An elderly couple stroll ahead, hand-in-hand. Yet again, my eyes mist. I beam as I spot a set of keys a stranger has carefully balanced atop a bollard.

My breasts bob and sway as my feet flap upon the sand. I feel like an ancient elephant striding across the desert. I inhale the scent of my sweat that has collected in cracks and creases. A homeless man sits on a wall behind the beach. I abandon my beach bag and strip. I don’t suck in my stomach. Not today. I duck my head into the ocean even though my hair was freshly washed this morning. I am alive.

Mitch and Morrie used to say, “We’re Tuesday people” because they usually met on Tuesdays. And I am writing this piece on a Tuesday, watching the waves surge and retreat, with tears in my eyes and a heart that’s breaking… wide open.

Image: Author's own

Image: Author’s own