Tag Archives: stress

The Work Tools

Something happened recently that disappointed me. However, part of me insisted that it wasn’t a big deal, that I was overreacting and that I should get over it and move on. And I did. I mentally high-fived the new easy-going me.

In a conversation this evening, the same issue resurfaces. I receive new information that triggers me all over again.

I end the chat as quickly as I can. I’m just home after a very busy day and I’m starving but I’m too upset to eat.  So I fly up to my room and mutate into a wailing, thumping, tantrumming child.

I’m surprised to see that I’m angry. Anger is an uncomfortable emotion for me. I tell myself that I need to calm down.

I put my phone on silent, sit on my meditation cushion and tap on how I’m feeling (click here for more on EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique).

The anger pours out, as does the hurt. I allow the ego to have its say. What it says and how it speaks sounds so petty and silly that I start laughing. Then the tears return. As does the rage.

Even as I write this, it sounds overdramatic. I don’t want to worry family and friends over something so “trivial”.

That stern, no-nonsense part of me wants to assure you that it really isn’t a big thing. But what message would I be sending my sobbing inner child if I silenced her like that? And so I continue.

google.com

google.com

The tapping uncovers deeper feelings of not being important or special enough. Of being a “psycho”.

I should pretend that I’m fine because if I reveal my real feelings, if I ask for what want, I will surely and immediately become unloved and abandoned. And if that happens, I’ll feel so bad that everything else will be ruined.

With these imaginations, I’ve catapulted myself from a meditation cushion on a fine Friday evening to a near future of doom and failure. I may need another tool…

So I turn to Byron Katie’s transformative process The Work. The first step of The Work is to come up with a statement which is making me feel bad.

The statement I go for is: I’m overreacting. 

I then ask four questions.

The first question is: Is it true? Is it true that I’m overreacting?

Yes, I answer resolutely. Because nothing anyone does should make me feel bad. Only I can make myself bad. So I am overreacting. I should be zen at all times.

The second question is: Can you absolutely know that it’s true?

Again I respond with a Yes because “I should know better than to react this way”. However, I also know that a No to this question would move The Work along nicely.

Once I give myself permission to say that No, maybe I’m not overreacting, the reasons for why I’m feeling this way become clear. No wonder you’re upset, I comfort my poor inner child. There, there.

Then for question number three: How do you react, what happens when you believe that thought?

When I believe that I’m overreacting, I reject myself. I tell myself that I shouldn’t feel the way I’m feeling. I don’t have a right to speak up. My needs aren’t as important as the needs of others. And if I act like they are, those other people will become angry and leave.

The fourth question is: Who would you be without the thought?

If I didn’t have the thought I’m overreacting, if I couldn’t have it, I wouldn’t doubt myself so much. I’d be clearer about my needs. I’d know what I want and what I deserve. I wouldn’t beat up on myself and I wouldn’t feel bad for feeling bad. I’d love myself.

This year, I promised myself something powerful, something life-changing:

I will not abandon myself any more.

This evening, in spite of the pain, I refuse to turn my back on myself. I give myself some much-needed, much-appreciated love.

Regarding the situation, I don’t know yet what the next step is. But maybe acknowledging how I’m feeling, getting to the root of these emotions, seeing that I’m as deserving as anyone else, and loving myself throughout is enough.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Advertisements

Flow

Tonight at an Amber Run gig, I watch as the band becomes immersed in playing. There’s something riveting about witnessing other people express their creativity and passion. It’s exciting to be invited to share the experience.

The vibration of the music pulses through my body. The beat of the drums pulls me in and spurs me on. My hips begin to sway. I raise my arms and close my eyes.

The music moves in me and expresses itself through me. I’m not thinking about how I should dance. And I’m not looking at what other people around me are doing. I’m perfectly happy with myself in the enjoyment of this moment.

Suddenly, I realise that the same concept holds true for life. When we’re present to the now, we’re in the flow. We don’t have to worry about how a thing will unfold. Because when we let go and allow, unfold it will. Beautifully so.

We are the instruments through which life happens. We are the consciousness that sees life happening. And we are life.

A bombshell of awareness and connection implodes and explodes and ripples into infinity. I stand for a while in blissful understanding. Then I smile and rejoin the dance.

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.

favim.com

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

Whirlwind

The last couple of months have been challenging. A whirlwind of emotion has been spinning forcefully within me. The intensity of these feelings has scared me. I’ve fumed with anger, cracked under pressure, retreated in fear, and battled against exhaustion.

Today, a dear friend sent me this passage written by spiritual teacher and author Jeff Foster:

Your feelings, the energies alive in your body right now, were not ’caused’ by anyone else, and nobody else can take them away.

Nobody else is responsible for your feelings. This realisation can end the blame game once and for all, and leave you standing in your true place of power – the present moment.

Making others responsible for how we feel is the beginning of all violence, both internal and external, all conflict between people, and ultimately all wars between nations.

Let others off the hook. Honour what is alive in you right now. Learn to hold your own feelings like beloved children, however intensely they burn and scream for attention. Celebrate the aliveness in your hurt, the vibrancy of your disappointment, the electricity of your sadness. Kneel before the power in your anger, honour its burning creativity.

From this place of deep acceptance, you do not become weak and passive. Quite the opposite. You simply enter the world from a place of nonviolence, and therefore immense creative power, and you are open to the possibility of deep listening, honest dialogue, and unexpected change.

In suffering you become small. In love, anything is possible.

Of course, I knew these words were true. But I also felt strangely annoyed by them. Because I can’t hold anybody else responsible for how I’m feeling. I am not a victim.

Blaming other people or situations may seem like the easy option. It can be comforting to be able to vent to a friend. And it can feel nice to have somebody take your side, bestow you with sympathy, and agree that the other person is wrong. After all, the ego loves to be right.

I had convinced myself that I can’t be at peace until this problem is resolved. That I can’t be happy unless he/she changes. And that I can’t go after what I want in life when I’m trapped by this situation. Hip-high in resistance, I’ve been wading against the flow of life.

However, today’s message has hit home for me. I’ve realised that if I keep raging and complaining, I’ll only be stoking the fires of this energy. I’ll become a casualty of my ego. A slave to circumstance.

Tonight, as I lay my head on the pillow, thoughts of my current predicament come to mind. A swirl of emotion begins to rise up in me. Then, I remember Jeff Foster’s words. Blame nobody.

There may be a whirlwind howling right outside my door. But I am not the whirlwind. And I am not in the whirlwind. I can see it and hear it and it scares me senseless on occasion. But it’s not to blame. It’s a whirlwind. And whirlwinds do as whirlwinds do.

And when the whirlwind spins a destructive path across my world, I’ll join the dance. When it rips things apart and flings them aside, I’ll bow down in gratitude. Because those things to which I’ve formed deep attachments actually need to be destroyed.

So I close my eyes and listen to it howl.

weheartit,com

weheartit.com

Practising Presence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

zdravoslovnohranene.com

zdravoslovnohranene.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

quoteswave.com

quoteswave.com

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