Monday 29 June 2009

Day 8: Care creates quality

I'm not a fan of washing up. I see its purpose, but I don't enjoy. So I rush it to get through it as quickly as possible.

Last night, as I rushed through yet another pile of washing up, I suddenly remembered 'Care and Attention'. And, as if by magic, I started to slow down... to relax...

I've noticed this happening a few times during the week. I think what happens lies at the heart of the word 'care'. Whenever I do something with care, I notice that I go a little slower, I don't cut corners, I ensure that it looks well, that there is some indefinable essence of quality to it. Care creates quality. It really does transform the mundane - the mud, if you will! - into something that has been done from my heart. And that heart-felt quality is tangible, even if only to me. But I suspect others notice it too.

So as I stood in my pink rubber gloves, elbow-high in suds, I stopped rushing. I started to pay attention to what I was doing, to wrap care around this loath-some taks, and I felt different. I felt like I was caring for myself, because I wasn't standing there resenting and rushing the job. It wasn't even being fully attentive that made the difference. It was care. Care for the task somehow became care for myself.

Thursday 25 June 2009

Day 4: reality creeps in....

Yes, reality is raising its ugly head and upsetting my equanimity: but that's its job! I am probably busier at the moment than I have been in a very long time, as I've some part-time work that requires a lot of travel. Life has become a balancing act that requires more finesse!

Yesterday, I was able to focus on 'care and attention' during stressful moments, however today I found I forgot it for long periods of time. And when I did remember, I couldn't always find that calm feeling that the thought brought me yesterday.

It was a different story yesterday, when I remembered to think of 'care and attention', I found myself automatically relax a little, as though I was gently observing the situations I was in rather than thrashing around in it.

Tomorrow is another day. But I haven't given up on today. Yet! And I most definitely haven't given up on this journey. Unexpectedly, I feel as though some deeper wisdom is awakening through this process. It almost feels as though, deep within my heart, a flower bud that I never knew existed is beginning to unfurl its petals.

And I love nothing more than a good adventure in consciousness!

Wednesday 24 June 2009

Day 3 - Receiving care and attention

Have you ever been on the receiving end of care and attention? How did it feel?

I have and it feels wonderful. We have so many flat, banal encounters in our average day that someone who listens with care and attention can feel like a cool spring in a dusty landscape. The quality of their attention brings a little magic to the conversation. A few sparkles come into being where there was just 'sameness'.

At our local Tesco checkouts the assistants are frequently so tired and bored that they barely notice the people passing their tills. So I always make a point of saying 'Hello' with a smile and making eye-contact. It's purely selfish really, because when they respond in the same way, I have to say it really does feel good. But either way, I believe it is because, in that moment, we fleetingly shared care and attention.

One of my friends, Georgeanne Lamont, embodies these characteristics in a way I have rarely experienced. Anything she has ever done for me is imbued with what can only be described as grace. She puts such care and attention into every single thing that she does that even the most mundane things take on the essence of tiny crafted gifts, as if they were transformed by her deep thoughtfulness.

Am I closer to my life purpose? I can honestly say that in the past three days I have lived more richly, with a deeper sense of quality, than I would have thought possible. If creating a richer life is part of my life purpose, then I think I've started walking on the road.

Tuesday 23 June 2009

Finding my purpose - Day 2

This is actually proving rather interesting. Throughout the day I have been reminding myself of 'Care and Attention'. Just thinking of those two words...

And I've noticed two things so far:

1. it helps me to focus on what I'm doing at that exact moment, so I stop worrying about the other things I'm meant to be doing, so I am doing things with more 'quality' than I did before

2. there is something very gentle and almost loving about those two words, 'Care and Attention'. As a result, I feel like even the mundane things I'm doing are touched with a little care. They aren't rushed off unthinkingly, they are done with care and I wonder if that will somehow rub off on the recipients of my actions (even if it's something as banal as photocopying forms for people I'll never meet).

After just one day, I really do find that this is helping me. I feel as though everything I am doing is done to a slightly higher standard and that leaves me feeling better about myself.

Monday 22 June 2009

Finding my purpose - Day 1

As you may have guessed by now, I am fascinated by how we can tap into the Infinite, the Divine, in our daily lives. And I think I’ve found it… Well, technically I have read it! I will only have ‘found’ it, when I can live it.

I’m what I once saw ignoblely labelled as a “spiritual magpie”, people who go around finding idea after idea, but never really practicing any of them. Well, that changes today.

Eckhart Tolle (A New Earth), talks about an inner and an outer purpose. The outer purpose is the result of the inner purpose. The inner purpose is to bring greater awareness to the planet. I have spent almost three decades attempting to find my purpose, and bringing awareness to the planet aligns beautifully with my vague flashes of insight.

But what does that mean in daily life? Should I change job (well, in my case, find a specific type of job, rather than ‘any’ job)? Should I move to India? Or give up alcohol? It’s far easier than that, Tolle says. So here it is…

Bring care and attention to everything you do.

That’s too simple – which is precisely why I think it will work. The simplest things always have the most profound impact. And they are frequently the hardest things to do.

So I have decided to do an urban retreat… For the next month I am going to practice living this one sentence. I’ve chosen a month because I’ve noticed in the past that if I focus on changing any aspect of my life, I can generally manage it in one month.

I have strategically placed posters of this sentence around the flat (poor Dirk will think I’ve lost it – again!) to remind me of my intention and I’ll log my progress on the blog.

What excites me is that this allows me to stand out of my own way and give Infinite Creativity a channel through which it can express itself. What happens when I set the intention to allow the Divine to infuse every moment, every thought and every action? What does this change in my life? Does it increase synchronicity? Does it change my relationships? Bring clarity of thought? How does living out my Inner Purpose affect my Outer Purpose (the doing, actions, jobs etc)?

What an exciting journey!

Friday 19 June 2009

Patience - and the gentle art of breadmaking

I was talking to someone recently who was desperate for a situation to resolve itself. But this was not a situation that could be resolved overnight. It was a delicate issue that required time to evolve.

She, however, wanted to know the end result. Now! Patience was over-rated, she reckoned.

What helped her see it differently was the idea that there are some things that require time, that require patience. If we try to take the bread out of the oven too soon, it's just dough. Who wants to eat that?!

Sometimes, hard though it may be, it's best to allow a situation to mature. If we rush, we may force an issue too soon. If we can wait, the situation may unfold gracefully before us, with outcomes that we could never have predicted...

Relationships - a warm bath or a cold shower

Diana says it's possible to characterise relationships in two ways:

1. the warm bath relationship - in this relationship you feel so cosy, so comfortable and sooo relaxed. There is harmony in your interests, tastes, philosophies and beliefs.

If it were a dance, it would be a waltz, the embodiment of grace and ease. To me, the gift of this relationship type is love and increased self-esteem, as you feel as though you have 'come home'. The possible challenge is that you become so comfortable, you are no longer stretched and may even assume that others do - or should - think as you and your partner think.

2. the cold shower relationship - this relationship is bracing to say the least! You both have very different characters, temperments, beliefs and expectations. Rather than fall asleep in the cosiness, here you are both stretched to understand the world in new ways, to see the limits of your own thoughts and character.

If it were a dance, it would be a tango: where each partner seems to be following their own individual dance, yet they always come back to eachother. The gift of this relationship can be increased awareness of oneself and others. One possible challenges can include too much compromise for one or other partner.

I've had both relationship types and both have brought different gifts with them. And different challenges! One is neither good nor bad. Nor are they immutable: they change and evolve as we change within the relationship.

Perhaps it's a cliche, but they may be like the sea: sometimes calm with golden sunsets, sometimes blustery with choppy waves... In my experience, it's when I've gone through the blustery and the calm, time and again, that the relationship starts to get new depth and richness, as I learn to trust my partner - and he learns to trust me - in all weathers.

Tuesday 16 June 2009

The Miracles of Silence: Part 1

I was working with Stuart a few mornings ago. After 45 minutes of trying to follow an agenda, we were still unfocused and unproductive. Then I remembered 'silence'...

So I sat back! I stopped speaking, chasing the agenda, filling the silences... and I started to listen. I kept on listening, even when Stuart said nothing. It always seems easier to say something to fill those silences, but this time I decided to simply accept the silence: to embrace the adventure it brought.

And silence does bring an adventure! At first, it's awkward being silent. There is a desire to burble into the silence, to mask it, to pretend we're not self-conscious... It did take some courage to sit together without speaking to fill the gap. Words without purpose, with little meaning... just filling the space.

And then the miracle occured... for a minute, two at most, we just sat in silence. Nature hates a vacuum, and in popped an idea. We had been so busy chattering, the idea had had no space before that. But in the silence, Stuart heard it and we were off!

It was our best session ever, funnily enough!

Friday 12 June 2009

Beyond failure and disappointment

We live in a world that can be harsh and cruel, where the nuances of life are obliterated; where the subtlety of life is mangled into right and wrong, black and white, win or lose. It's not win and lose, it's 'win or lose', a noteworthy point in an of itself…

And yet nothing is ever so simple, so clear cut. Someone may not win a race, but because they have put everything they can into it, they have, in fact, experienced a victory.

It will happen that we fail to achieve a goal, that we are disappointed, or we disappoint ourselves. It strikes me that so much of the pain in life is caused by the condemnation of failure: the shaming that is implicit in it, that excruciating sense of feeling our inner self wither in a corner, fearful and angry at our own inadequacy.

Yet getting past this experience of loss, failure or disappointment receives fairly little attention. So here's what I think about it...!

What defines us as human beings is how we handle the disappointments of life (as much as its successes). In both areas - as well as the in-between times - it is compassion that brings sanity. Compassion with ourselves is often the hardest form of compassion. But the fruits of compassion are kindness and gentleness.

We could use a little more kindness and gentleness on this planet. We are quick to judge, lest we be contaminated by someone else’s failure; but how often do we stop criticising and evoke compassion, a willingness to see another side?

In my own case, not often enough: and even when I see the other side, I can still fail to act in a compassionate manner. Perhaps that is a failing! And an indication that I have lots more compassion to practice!

Thursday 11 June 2009

The long run makes the short run easier

I met this really inspiring man yesterday. Having lost everything, including his business and his family, he re-evaluated his whole life. This ultimately led him to set up a charity and business to help others, to which he is now 110% committed.

What he said really struck a cord with me, "The more I know I'm never going to give up, the easier it gets to climb every hurdle in the way."

This is as true about business as it is about relationships, bringing up children, studying for a qualification or any other human endeavour.

I realised that until I have embraced anything completely, every hurdle gave me an opportunity to reconsider my 'exit strategies'. In those areas of my life where I am completely committed, the hurdles may be an inconvenience, but they never leave me thinking about quiting.

In fact, it's the opposite: I have found that those hurdles have brought depth to my relationships, taught me new skills, and even opened up new career opportunities to me.

Monday 8 June 2009


I got up this morning and put on my gym clothes. It was too early to walk down to the gym, so I sat and waited.

Then I got up, took off my gym clothes and went back to bed.

It's probably the first time I've done that. No, the second....

But there's something to this: having proudly announced my self-discipline a mere week ago, I am now falling on my own sword. Hari-Kari isn't really my thing. I perfer to be more moderated in my opinions because one of the few things I have learnt over time is that my opinion changes! Or perhaps I'm just leaving myself Wiggle-Room!

On my way home this evening, I searched for some insight that would redeem what one of my puritanical Subpersonality sees as a failure.

There is nothing so grand. There is just this: a naked human being. I espouse values and principles, and there are times when I simply fail to live up to them.

There is something raw about admitting that I fail to meet my own standards. But I realise that this 'rawness', this sense of being naked, actually is helps me from falling on my sword more often. Arrogence alienates: I would rather opt for humility. And this has been a reminder of the power of humility.

Sunday 7 June 2009

Your Infinite Divinity

Consider this...

The Infinite... all the Universes, infinite energy, potential...

Focus in on our universe...

On our Solar System...

On our Planet...

On your own Body...

On the cells in your body...

On one cell in your body...

Go inside the cell - the spinning electrons, the core of the atom, the nucleus with its protons and neutons...

Go into the nucleus, see the protons and neutrons are made up of even tinier particles that appear and disappear...

These tiny packets of energy are solid particles one second... and break down into a wave of infinite energy in the next, and then back to a particle again...

At the point they become waves, they merge with the infinite energy of the universe... and then they harness their energy back into a little bundle of energy and become particles again.

All that is happening inside us... all the time... Our atoms are constantly popping in and out... from the universe to our bodies. We are a part of that Inifinite Universe and human beings at the same time.

This is the paradox - the infinite is in the tiniest particle

What enormous unknown potential we have ... It is both humbling and liberating...

Beauty: the ultimate definition?

"Beauty is how beautiful others feel when they are in your presence"

It's a humbling definition that takes the focus off the mundane, the superficial and - perhaps most importantly - the self.

For me, this lifts the bar on Beauty and elevates any conversation on the topic to a higher level.

Thursday 4 June 2009

The Mud Bath

I’m still grappling with the purpose of this blog. What am I doing here? What am I hoping to learn from doing this? At Stratford tube station, it got a little clearer: perhaps it’s the Olympic spirit that now pervades the place!

I’m using this space to trace my inner journey, to explore and understand it. The reason for this inner journey is that I believe that we can, in some limited way, find ‘Heaven’ on Earth.

It’s not necessary to die to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, as we were taught in Catholic Ireland. The journey is far more subtle. It’s about turning within ourselves in order to reconnect with our spirit, our soul, so that it may infuse our actions, our thoughts, and our emotions with its essence of love and peace.

Hence, ‘From mud to miracles’: the mud of life is the everyday stresses and strains: the miracles are those moments when that mud is no longer dark and sticky, but is transformed into something light and translucent … when an upset is no longer an upset, but simply an event.

So this blog follows my [inner] journey, as I grapple with the mud and attempt to transform it, so that it is infused with the divinity inherent in the soul.

Mostly it’s a mud bath, and what glorious fun that can be! But there are also times when – for a moment – the mud disappears and the sheer beauty of a moment sparkles like a rainbow.

Wednesday 3 June 2009

My Daily Miracle

A few months ago, I started a new practice: My Daily Miracle.

Each night, before I go to sleep, I review my day and look for a miracle. And the funny thing is, most days I find one!

It doesn’t have to be an earth-shattering miracle. It can be quite mundane. It frequently is! But it is the amazing almost every day I find something totally unexpected happens. A raise I didn’t expect… A woman offering me the last trolley in Tesco… A moment when, rather than snap at my husband, I choose to be kind rather than ‘right’. Suddenly understanding that being ‘right’ is just an illusion anyway!

The unexpected benefit of this practice has been that it has expanded my expectations, my assumptions of what may or may not be possible.

Perhaps the only reason others don’t have daily miracles is simply because they aren’t looking for them. They’re always there…

Tuesday 2 June 2009

In search of community

Over the bank holiday we went to Antwerp. On the way back to the Channel Tunnel, we left an hour early, and just as well; an accident had brought traffic to a standstill and we spent an hour and a half in a motorway jam.

We watched as other drivers, frustrated and impatient, started to use the road more ‘creatively’. They whizzed past us, down the hard shoulder creating another bottleneck and blocking the emergency service vehicles getting to the scene. I don’t know if that caused lives to be lost or not.

I couldn’t help wondering: what would have happened if, rather than thinking, ‘how do I get out of this quickly?’, people had thought, ‘how do we solve this quickly?’

I appreciate I’m at risk of turning into a pre-maturely grumpy old woman now! Perhaps it is because there is a part of me that yearns for a society that is a little gentler, a little more tolerant, and a little more community-oriented.

And I suspect I’m not alone in this: a credit card company is organising national street parties here in the UK this month to encourage us to meet our neighbours and develop a sense of community. For the cynical, there is richly ironic fodder. Yet the very existence of this event indicates that there is a growing desire for a sense of community.

We live in a highly fragmented society, where many extended – and even nuclear – families are crumbling. We may relish some of the freedom that this brings, but the downside has been an unconscious loss of connection to a wider group, perhaps even to a place and a community. Where the old has disintegrated, new possiblities open up - we can choose where we create our community ... and even how.

I’m living in London six years now and it gave me a real thrill when the mechanic in the local garage waved at me recently! It was a whisper of belonging to this community.

Monday 1 June 2009

From pleasure to happiness

A weekend morning… The eternal dilemma: turn over for another hour or go to the gym. I decided the gym was the better option because it reflected my commitment to myself to stay in shape, or moderately fit at the very least! There’s no doubt about it - it was harder to go out than lounge over a cup of coffee – now that is pleasure!

But the thing about pleasure is that it can be quite superficial and short-lived. While the pleasure and happiness undoubtedly overlap, there is a deeper sense of vibrancy and fullness that comes with happiness.

For me, happiness is deeper and more complex. It emerges when I stretch myself and I extend myself, not when I ‘give in’ or treat myself, as every second advert tells me that ‘I’m worth it’. While pleasure is seductive, I am beginning to find that when it is not connected a deeper happiness, it is a ‘thin’ emotion.

It’s a little like a perfume; the top note may include pleasure, but this can fade quickly. Only then do I notice the base note, this is where the richness and depth of the scent lives, uncurling after the pleasure has evaporated, for it is ultimately stronger and more resilient.

Nor does pleasure infuse others with its joy and delight. Happiness, on the other hand, lingers within and rubs off on others, simply because it is alive in us.

That was a bit of a leap starting with my gym torture but, to be honest, I’d never really seen it in those terms before writing this blog. It has presented me with an interesting lens through which to view other activities in my life: do they bring me fleeting pleasure or do they bring me more sustained happiness?