Tag Archives: strength

The Christmas Present

It was the end of September and I was practising mindfulness. I had just had the best holiday ever. I’d also experienced a summer of fun, friendship and adventure. I remember telling a couple of friends that I was in a “really great place”.

And then things changed. The following few months were turbulent. I felt stressed and under pressure. My feelings swung from anger and resentment to guilt and fear.

Ten days ago, I was asked to make a difficult decision. And one week before Christmas, I found myself moving out of one house and into another. I was shocked and exhausted, upset and excited, free and frightened.

My friends rallied around and took me on a couple of big nights out where I drank a lot of alcohol. The days afterwards were strangled with panic and depression.

I certainly wasn’t feeling very Christmassy. I didn’t decorate. I stopped meditating and exercising. I was just too tired to take out my tools for well-being.

I convinced myself that people wouldn’t like me very much if I wallowed and complained but I couldn’t pretend either. I wanted to be left alone but I felt needy for company and love.

I beat myself up for not snapping out of it, for attracting in this turmoil with my thoughts and beliefs. It’s all my fault, I decided. But I didn’t know how to transform it. It isn’t fair, I wailed.

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favim.com

And today it’s Christmas. I meditate. I exchange gifts and well-wishes with family and friends. I gorge on chocolate and a variety of meats and vegetables. I take the dog for a walk. I watch movies. I give myself acupuncture. I rest. I write in my journal. I do everything I can to lift my spirits but I’m still lacking in enthusiasm and hope.

Suddenly, it strikes me that my suffering does not exist in this present moment. It has arisen out of my thinking. It lurks in my expectations about how I should be. It grows in my resistance to how things are. It expands with my longing for something more, something different. It strengthens with my doubt and self-flagellation.

I realise that this moment holds no pain. So I bring my full attention to right now. I become present to the dog as it snuggles up beside me. To the trees that line the quiet country road. To my laughter at The Big LebowskiTo my loved ones. To the clear night sky and the shooting star that dives before me.

This moment is perfect. My suffering is simply an illusion created by my thoughts, attachments and misguided beliefs.

Today, my brother gives me a gift of a beautiful necklace. I decide to use this chain as a reminder to be present.

Today, I give myself the gift of my presence. I shall stop telling myself that this moment is not enough, that I’m not enough.

Because when I’m truly present, this moment is complete. I am complete.

madripoor.tumblr.com

madripoor.tumblr.com

Giving Up

This morning, I received some news that I really didn’t want to hear. I felt disappointed, upset, and even a little angry. I also felt foolish for putting myself in this position… again! I should have known this would happen. 

I cried and talked it out with a friend. She assured me that it’s best to find out one way or another sooner rather than later. She suggested that I’m better off without this particular situation in my life.

My friend’s advice made perfect sense. In the past, I’ve often been grateful when certain things were removed from my path (much to my dismay at the time) because they just weren’t right for me and they made room for more amazing things to enter my life.

Yes, I got my hopes up and they’ve been dashed yet again. And yes, it’s tempting to shut myself off in order to protect myself. I’ll never allow this to happen again. I’ll show them! But who suffers then? It would be quite sad to live that way.

Isn’t it better to be open to life and to love? To allow yourself to be vulnerable and to relate to other human beings with honesty and a welcoming heart? To be accessible to all the good stuff that life has to offer?

Of course, I do wind up getting hurt now and again. But it doesn’t affect me as badly any more. And I get over things much quicker. I can see the lessons in everything. I cry and moan, then learn and grow, and move on.

learning

This evening, as I practise yoga, the tears spill down my cheeks. Why am I so upset, I wonder. Am I really that cut up over this particular loss? Or is it because I’m losing hope? Is it because I’m believing thoughts that are laden with always and nevers? Or is it simply because I’m not getting what I want?

It’s probably a combination of all of the above. I got a taste of something that I liked and I want more. Is it okay to want? Or should I just be present with what is? Because this present moment is actually fine.

It is my mind that’s steeping me in sorrow. My thoughts are making me wallow. I’m dwelling on the if-onlys and what-if-I-nevers. And I’m beating myself up for not having moved past all of this when I really thought that I had.

As I complete my yoga sequence in corpse pose, I realise that it’s okay to take action and go after what I desire but it’s the attachment to the outcome that’s causing me to suffer. This attachment will raise me with elation when I perceive that I have what I want and it will fling me into devastation when it’s taken away.

I have to be okay with who I am, where I am, and how I am, no matter what. Right now, I’m feeling beaten down. I don’t have all the answers. And I feel like giving up.

But I know, deep down, that I am not these transient feelings. They are just visiting. However, I can take the time and space to sit with them and allow them to speak to me. I know that I’ll learn from this experience and the emotions that have arisen from it.

I lie here in corpse pose and I give up. I’m not running away from the pain and I’m not running forward to fix it or to feel better. I give up. I give up the need to know what’s going to happen and why. I give up control and expectations. I give up blaming and victimising. I give it all up.

And when I get up, I feel lighter.

thompsonblogs.org

thompsonblogs.org

I Surrender

Something happened this week that left me feeling extremely vulnerable. Instead of acknowledging my reaction, I ignored it and hoped it would disappear all by itself.

This morning, I set off on a fairly long journey. I switch on the radio to distract myself from how I’m feeling. Just as I turn up the volume, I miss my exit. I want to cry. But that won’t do. I’m wearing mascara.

I know that my upset isn’t really about getting lost on the motorway. It’s about the vulnerability that I’m trying to suppress. Issues around love, rejection and self-worth are simmering beneath the surface.

I want to be strong and independent. But now that I’m well and truly lost in a foreign part of the country, I realise that a lot of that is fake. I’m putting up walls in an attempt to protect myself. Act like you don’t care, Sharon. Then you can’t be hurt. 

Where’s the logic in that? Is anybody benefitting from this performance? I think not. And know it’s not real. So of course I can still feel pain. I’m just hiding it from others. And while I’m feigning nonchalance, I’m disconnecting from the full potential of the present experience.

I don’t know where I am or where I’m going. I allow the tears to roll down my cheeks. I give myself permission to feel the fear, to embrace it, to listen to its voice, and to open up to what is.

As I drive into unfamiliar territory, I spot a lone tree in a large green field. I feel an irrational kind of sadness for this solitary tree.

But who’s to say the tree is on its own? Is the tree separate from its roots and leaves and branches? Is the grass beneath it a part of it too? And the air that caresses its limbs? Where does the tree begin and does it ever end?

In The Infinite Way, Joel S. Goldsmith writes:

“The wave is one with the ocean, indivisible and inseparable from the whole ocean. All that the ocean is, the wave is; and all the power, all the energy, all the strength, the life and all the substance of the ocean are expressed in every wave. The wave has access to all that lies beneath it, for the wave really is the ocean, just as the ocean is the wave, inseparable, indivisible, one. Note here this very important point: There is no place where one wave comes to an end and the next wave begins, so the oneness of the wave with the ocean includes the oneness of every wave with every other wave.”

If there is no separation, there can be no rejection. It is only my thinking about abandonment that causes suffering. In my resistance to what is, I’m floundering.

I let go. It doesn’t matter what happens. And what has already occurred is perfect too. I surrender.

A sense of calm settles around me like a blanket of sunbeams. I feel cleansed. I really am okay. I’m whole and open and connected.

I take a chance on an unknown direction and it brings me to where I’m meant to be.

favim.com

favim.com

The Dancer

As part of the Life Coaching course I’m doing, I have to attend a professional Life Coach. In my most recent session, I was telling the coach about how I sometimes think unkind thoughts about myself.

He asked me to describe how I feel when I do this. I told him it was overwhelming. I moved my hands frantically in an attempt to explain. It was difficult to put into words.

He asked me where I feel it and if it has a shape. I told him that it’s in my chest, it has sharp edges and it wants to get out. He asked if it has a voice. “Yes,” I replied. “It’s saying, Let me out!”

I realised in that powerful moment that the feeling I believed to be negative is actually a part of me trying to give myself a message. It is an energy, so big and fizzing that just wants to be expressed. For as long as I can remember, I have been trying to suppress it, to abolish it. It feels so constrictive when all I want is to be free.

I sat there, full of excitement. I wanted to scream and roar and rage and beat my fists against something. I had had enough. I was like a child having been admonished by a strict parent. And this child just wanted to say Fuck off and go outside and play and sprint and front crawl through the ocean.

A recent experience came to mind. A few weekends ago, I took part in a dance workshop. As part of the day, we had to form triads. One of us took on the role of the dancer, one was the witness, while the other was the writer.

I was elected to be the dancer. The music began to play as I self-consciously walked into the centre of the room. I stood and faced my group. Then I started to move slowly. When I closed my eyes, I was able to get into the music. I could hear violins and African beats. I twirled and swayed and stamped my feet. Strong emotions moved through me and, for the first time, I understood what it was to express myself through dance.

Every so often, I’d remember that I was being watched but I was determined not to spoil my experience. I took a deep breath and gave myself the space to own this moment. I deserved it. I haven’t enjoyed something so much for a very long time.

camihlira.tumblr.com

camihlira.tumblr.com

As I relayed this story to my coach, I likened it to the times when I’ve had a few drinks. When my inhibitions relax, and I feel that lively, fun-loving spark. And right now, I was feeling a similar urgency to let go, to be free, and to embark on a wonderful new adventure.

This “bad” feeling I’ve been trying to get rid of is actually presenting me with an opportunity to transform into who I really am. It is showing me what I’m no longer willing to put up with. The feeling that once seemed anxious and overwhelming is, in fact, a taste of the magnificent burst of energy that I have been reining in with my self-criticism. This energy is full of creativity and strength and passion. And it’s there for me whenever I choose to access it.

As we finished the session, the coach suggested that the next time I think a mean thought about myself, I should tell it to “fuck off” just like the child in the image I had mentioned. I laughed and thanked him for what he had done. He told me that I had done the work, he had just been the witness. I sang the whole way home.

i-knew-youd-never-fly.tumblr.com

i-knew-youd-never-fly.tumblr.com

Freewheelin’

I went for a cycle this morning. The sun was shining but the wind was strong. As I struggled against the wind, I thought: It’s amazing how something invisible can exert so much force, how something I can’t see can hinder me from going where I want to go.

Then it struck me. Our thoughts are a lot like the wind. They’re intangible and we can’t physically look at them. But they can stop us in our tracks as we attempt to battle against them.

Last night, as I flicked through a friend’s Coaching manual from Executive Coaching SolutionsI came across a section on Common Cognitive Distortions (CCDs), otherwise known as ‘thinking traps’. This is the type of distorted thinking that causes us to feel negative emotions.

Examples of CCDs include All or Nothing thinking, Disqualifying the Positive, Jumping to Conclusions (suddenly we become really talented mind readers and fortune tellers), Approval Seeking, Comparison, and Woe is Me thoughts.

I know I’ve engaged all of the above on many the occasion. The trick here is to be aware of the style of thinking you’re employing and to question it. Question the validity of your statements, check the facts, and see if you can turn it around into something more useful, more positive. I’m a big fan of Byron Katie’s work. Read more about how to question your thoughts and turn them around here.

Now, back to the bike. As the wind blew, I had to stand up and pedal harder. The sun blinded me as it reflected up off the wet ground. Then, I spotted a man walking his horse. When they heard me approach, the horse bucked. I waited for it to settle before moving on.

Today’s cycle threw up a few obstacles. At least with the things I could physically see, I was able to manoeuvre them. I squinted and averted my eyes from the glare of the sun. I stopped until the man had his horse under control before passing with caution. But there was nothing I could do about the wind. Well, I could get off the bike and walk but I was determined to keep riding.

Moments later, I turned a corner. I got in front of the wind and freewheeled down a hill. I felt exhilarated. By the time I got to a flat surface, the wind had died down and I cycled the rest of the way home with ease.

Your thoughts are much like the wind as you balance precariously atop the saddle on your exciting journey through life. Sometimes your thoughts will come thick and fast and you’ll have to decide whether to ride on or get off the bike. Other times, your thoughts will die down and you’ll flow through your days with ease. But you’re human and so thoughts will always come. It’s up to you whether you make them work for or against you. It’s your choice. Labour against the wind or ride with it!

favim.com

favim.com

Read my latest article on tiny buddha

So, I was super excited this bank holiday Monday morning to discover that an article I wrote has been published on inspiring website tiny buddha.

Have a read here if you’re struggling with a decision regarding ending or staying in a romantic relationship.

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Gone fishin’

Online dating is becoming more widespread and accepted. If you’re single, you will no doubt be advised to set up an online profile. I’ve heard (and experienced) many heartwarming, hilarious and outrageous stories about the wild, weird and wonderful world of the online dater.

Online dating can be fun and exciting. But it can also be fickle and disappointing. The thing about popular dating website Plenty of Fish is that there are, quite literally, plenty of fish floating around cyberspace. And all these little fishies are hoping to fall hook, line and sinker (sorry, I couldn’t resist) in love or, for many, in lust.

The frustrating and often confusing aspect to online dating is that you could be exchanging flirty emails with a potential partner when he/she suddenly stops replying. You may have even arranged a date only to receive a last-minute cancellation text.

On the upside, there’s so much choice. The flip side is that you have no idea how many other fishies your charmer is chatting up and even simultaneously dating.

If you’re dabbling in online dating and are feeling fed up and let down, why not change tactics? Take all the good stuff on offer and use it to your advantage. Follow these seven tips to make the most of your online experience:

1. Be grateful that there are many interesting, attractive people out there who are single and oh-so-ready to mingle.

Also, give gratitude for t’internet. What a quick, easy way to meet new people. You’ll save yourself time, money and manys the hangover using this method of finding someone.

2. Have fun on your trawling expeditions. Think of your browsing sessions as shopping sprees. And if you happen to make a special connection with somebody, then happy days!

3. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. It’s not just men who feel the pressure to follow up and settle down. First dates with a stranger can be nerve-racking. Will you fancy them? If not, should you give them a chance anyway? Will they want to meet you again? What if they try to kiss you or attempt to get you into bed? How will your in-laws get on? [Yes. Your mind manages to reach crazy levels of hypothesising if left unchecked.]

Take the pressure and expectation down a notch by mailing lots of different users and going on dozens of dates. It does get easier. And, even if you do like your date, it doesn’t mean you have to marry them. Now’s the time to enjoy and get to know one another. There’ll be plenty of time to get serious.

4. Enjoy meeting new and interesting people. If you stay present on your dates, you’ll see (and enjoy) how magnificent the situation is. Regale your friends and family with hilarious stories. Heck, write a book about it and make some moolah!

5. Give yourself a good pep talk. Eleanor Roosevelt said: “What other people think of me is none of my business.” It really isn’t you, it’s all about them. It only becomes about you when you react a certain way. They don’t know you so they can’t reject you. They may have met someone else more suitable to their current taste. Or you may just not be their type. We all have different preferences, thankfully. It doesn’t mean that you’re not gorgeous, loveable or perfect for your perfect partner. Also, if you think about the big picture, this perceived rejection could have spared you a terrible date or left you open for something better to come your way.

The other day, I had to stand in a long queue. Two toddlers met for the first time. Loudly and excitedly, they shared scooters and hugs and told one another that they were best friends. When one had to part, they cried and wailed. One minute later, a new toddler joined the line. The other child stopped crying, walked right up to the new kid and asked: “Will you be my best fwend?” Moments later, they were playing and laughing enthusiastically. We could learn a lot from kids, eh?

6. And finally, keep living and looking offline too. You could still meet the love of your life in a sweaty nightclub or in the café you’d always daydreamed about. Just because he/she isn’t carrying a banner including their stats and an ‘About Me’ section doesn’t mean they’re not available. Be sociable, live life and have fun. You’re most attractive when you’re happy with your life and who you are. So keep smiling.

weheartit.com

weheartit.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.

From black and white to technicolour

Good fucken fuqballs, I’m writing at 5am again! I blame Jeannette Walls’ gripping account of her exciting, albeit difficult, childhood in The Glass Castle. Only moments earlier, I had to hold the book away for a good five minutes as I sobbed.

Walls’ honest depiction of life as the resilient daughter of an irresponsible but irresistible drunkard, and a refreshingly free-spirited but inexcusably selfish artist, is as heart-warming as it is heart-breaking.

This captivating memoir teaches us that we mustn’t view things, or people, in black and white. Jeannette paints her unique story, mixing muted shades of sepia and charcoal with delightful streaks of vibrant colour.

Everybody is doing the best they can with what they’ve got. We are all simply trying to survive. Even the most despicable of villains have another (better, softer, more vulnerable) side. Lord Voldemort lived a loveless childhood and suffered a pathological fear of death. The Joker was grieving the loss of his wife and unborn child. In 102 Dalmations, Cruella de Vil dedicates her life to saving animals. And Simon Cowell still goes to bed with his blankie. (Poetic license here, folks. Work with me.)

So, the next time you want to curse (or plot the untimely demise of) your unreasonable boss or critical co-worker, take a deep breath. Recognise that they wouldn’t be behaving this way if they were content with their lot.

On his days off, that bad-tempered librarian volunteers to help children with special needs. The self-centred ladies’ man cries himself to sleep each night. The rude motorist who cut in front of you this morning was preoccupied with meeting his new-born son for the first time. The irritable shop keeper doesn’t hate you. She hates her job. Or her husband. Or herself. The town drunk you cross the road to avoid tried to clean himself up several times before he lost his wife, his kids, and his battle with this unrelenting illness.

Insert gratuitous Leo pic here.

I’m not advocating that you accept bad behaviour. I just want to promote compassion and understanding. Everyone has their story, their baggage, their reasons. Everybody longs for happiness. For love. Everyone breathes the same breath of life and dreams of a better future.

Somewhere between the stormy blacks and calm whites of judgement and acceptance appears an uncontrollable rainbow of regret and determination, sorrow and hope, anger and forgiveness. Because that is what it is to be human.

Images: http://www.thew2o.net/; http://favim.com/image/125933/;

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Fear of rejection: being burned by the fire of desire

Have you ever wanted something so bad but been too afraid to go for it? Have you allowed opportunities pass you by as you looked on helplessly? I’ve cried tears of sadness, confusion and frustration over things I haven’t had the courage or the confidence to pursue.

For me, a fear of rejection has always paralysed me. I would grieve someone before confessing my feelings for them. I ‘ve struggled with a lifelong delusion of not being wanted or loved. I doubted my right to happiness, fulfilment and even a space on this planet.

In my early twenties, if I was in a busy café and there were people waiting to be seated, I would become agitated and hurry my coffee because I clearly thought that I didn’t deserve a place as much as these strangers did.

"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." Anaïs Nin

I assumed that I’d never be lucky enough to experience true love or enter into a functional relationship. I had obviously come to the conclusion that I wasn’t worthy.

I remember a time not so long ago when I was talking to someone I was interested in romantically. As he spoke, I just wanted to reach out and touch him. But I didn’t want to scare him away or make myself vulnerable. So I just smiled and nodded and slapped back the desire, turning it into something that had to be suppressed, a flame that had to be quenched for fear of burning myself.

I could never let a guy know that I was interested in him as the fear of rejection was too great. I couldn’t handle another confirmation that I was unlovable. And so I was left with all these feelings and nowhere to vent them. It was a lose-lose situation. I was either denying myself the pleasure of getting with a wonderful man or losing myself in a fantasy world of misinterpreted hope, where it was possible that, one day, I’d ride into the sunset with a man who had absolutely no interest in me, sunsets or riding.

I often marvelled at the courage of some of my friends who were confident enough to ask men out. One friend told me that, on a night out, she simply grabbed a guy’s face and kissed him. I delighted in her story but the thought of doing something similar caused me to shut down in terror.

I would rather wait to be asked out. However, I recently realised that this meant giving my power and freedom of choice away. I neglected the possibility of selecting whom I wanted to date. I have to admit that this is an area I still need to bring awareness to. I don’t know if I’ll be shoving my face into a man’s any time soon but I’m working on it.

This process begins by noticing the magnificent light that shines brightly within me. I’m awakening to my life’s purpose. I now appreciate my talents and quirks and I’m finally recognising that I am fun and interesting and lovable.

If you are full of desire for something but are too terrified to pursue it, ask yourself why. What is it that you want? What are you afraid of? Sit with the answers you give yourself and the emotions that this will bring up.
You may even realise that you’ve built the person/state of being/trip/job up so much that the reality of acquiring said item would be a lot different from the scenario your imagination is creating. The thing you want shimmers before your parched soul like a spectacular mirage.
 

"Without awareness of bodily feeling and attitude, a person becomes split into a disembodied spirit and a disenchanted body." Alexander Lowen

 

You may also identify that you’re feeling starved of affection, approval, success or enjoyment. Try giving yourself these things. You don’t have to wait until you’ve got a promotion/date with Mr I-think-is-Right/airline tickets for an African safari. Embrace the wondrous nature that is right on your doorstep if you would just open your eyes. Treat yourself to some self-love, understanding and compassion. Talk to yourself. Become your new best friend. Respect the inner strength that has taken you to this point in your life. You are a survivor. You don’t need to be wearing a power suit or a wedding ring before you can deem yourself worthwhile. Delight in the miracle of your very existence.

That’s not to say don’t go for what you want out of life. Set up your own business. Ask your crush out. Plan an exciting trip for your upcoming holidays, be it backpacking around Southeast Asia or rediscovering Ireland’s coastline.

And if you get knocked back, be gentle with yourself. Then congratulate yourself on your courage and determination. Recognise that this particular path is not going to take you to your desired destination and simply change direction. As you release the fear, the baggage you’re carrying on your journey will become lighter. And when you no longer have to lug that heavy weight across your shoulders, you’ll be free to look up and notice the magnificence of your surroundings.

This song resonates with me as I can’t imagine being able to vocalise these lyrics to someone I cared about. Yet…

Images: ninjabetic.com; briandunlop.com; amazingdata.com