Wednesday 28 October 2009

Delight creates light

Today I decided to change the tempo. The reason is simple: I have a very privilaged life and, just like everyone else, there are areas that I would like to improve. By focusing on just those areas, I lose sight of what adds zing to life - the small things that make us laugh, the things that used to thrill us when we were children.

So I have a challenge - do something that delights you today. It can be anything, it just needs to be simple and free.

So here's what I did - it's gloriously unremarkable but I couldn't stop laughing... I danced to Christmas songs whilst wearing my pink washing up gloves and cleaning the kitchen! And, to share the delight I'm going to post 'I love you' post-its across the front door for Dirk!

We are programmed by society to focus on life's problems and challenges. Stepping outside our normal thinking refreshes and renews us. And the after-glow lasts longer than you think; I'll never look at those gloves in the same way again!

Tuesday 27 October 2009

Waiting for dawn...

I feel as though I’m lost at sea… at night… in a rowing boat. I have no idea where the sun will rise or when. So, in the meantime, I just have to be patient and believe that any moment now, dawn will break…

It's an odd experience, keeping hope alive but having nothing on which to 'hang’ it. It is, quite simply, hope for its own sake.

It's a test of my strength of character: and I'm not sure that I'm passing with flying colours but I'm scrapping my way through. Or at least I hope I am!

There are days and periods that test my ability to persevere and find a silver lining, much less the light of dawn! This is one such moment: work is going through a slump, finding a job seems impossible and, yet another month shows that babies and a home still elude us. And while I may talk about these events (or non-events!) with some degree of humour, the truth is that they do cut deep, not least of all the desire to have a child.

So I have to walk my talk: if I say that I believe that every event is an opportunity if we choose to think of it in that way, I need to find that in myself when my back is against the wall. I believe that my life is created by the stories I tell about my experiences: I can either be the hero or the victim, the villain or the knight. The knack is to find a positive perspective, a deeper wisdom in the seemingly random events of life.

And so I am the knight…! I imagine that this is an opportunity to prove to myself that I believe in the best, even when all the props and crutches are taken away. For me, that builds some degree of authenticity and integrity.

So, every time I feel confused and deflated - about 2-4 times an hour at last count! - I remind myself that, ultimately, this too will change. The dawn is coming... I wonder what new horizons it will bring with it!

Friday 23 October 2009

Take what nourishes, leave what doesn't

Every moment, every happening, every event carries a richness within it, but we don’t always know what that will be.

Sometimes what we thought was a curse becomes a blessing. And the blessing we thought we had received becomes a curse.

In the infinite mystery of life, it can be hard to discern what is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad’. What is 'true' and what is 'illusion'.

I wonder if it would make life a little easier if we allowed ourselves to gently leave the ‘bad’ behind, as much as is possible, and focus on what nourishes us, what makes us come alive, what brings out the deeper magnificence of who we really are.

Thursday 22 October 2009

The Wealth Within

I have recently realised part of my purpose - in so far as I can recognise it! Drum roll please, the lady has woken up....!

Like so many others, I have read a lot of spiritual/self help books over the years, but somehow they always left me feeling a little hungry. It's a bit like (I imagine) using drugs to create a high, but being unable to repeat the experience without external stimulants. The books would help me connect to something richer and deeper within, but that feeling was temporary.

Unconsciously, I got fed up of looking outside myself to feel connected to something deeper, something more transcendent... I wanted to create that feeling within myself. I wanted to discover the hidden wealth of my own life: the joys; the insights; the connections; the beauty, harmony and synchronicity that runs through my own life.

That hunger sent me on a search: a search for myself I suppose, but a deeper experience of myself. We're so programmed to hurry, to create stress in our lives, to focus on what isn't working and to value external achievements over internal peace, that we miss the magic in the mundane moments, those transformational moments...

The point of this blog is, in essence, a search for my inner wealth, my inner connection; for my intimate connection to the magic in my own life. The reason it's a blog and not a diary is because I hope that when you touch on this blog, you touch into your wealth within...

Tuesday 20 October 2009

The architect's design

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, lived a man who decided to build a house. He went out and collected wheelbarrows full of stones to make his house. When he had collected all the stone he needed, he started building the house.

This man laboured day and night, but the house was never finished… he changed his plans frequently, walls fell down as soon as they were built, the windows wouldn’t fit, he even forgot to leave enough space for the front door…

The problem was, he had never stopped to imagine what kind of house he would like to create. He had no vision, no design to guide his actions...

I have a tendency to go through life like this builder. I have an impulse and I go with it. I don’t take the time to really create a vision of the metaphorical home I choose to build, of where the windows and doors will go, of where the sunlight can enter most brightly…

I just do. I forget the importance of thinking, or more accurately, of visioning what I would like to create.

How will I ever know I’ve created something if I don’t have any idea what I’m working towards?

How will I ever know what works and what doesn’t work?

Starting with a vision is such a fundamental, self-evident foundation stone that I overlook it frequently. Simple isn’t easy! I’m not talking about a step by step plan, but taking the time to clarify what I choose to create in my life, the experiences I wish to have, the connections I wish to make with others, the depths I wish to reach in my relationship with Dirk.

Plans can be inflexible. But visions, they can adapt and change while still proving a guiding light, drawing us to what we choose to create.

Visions are our thought-anchors: they give us a centre, a focus. They help us make decisions and move towards living the life of our dreams. They inspire us, they raise our thoughts out of murky waters of fear and self-doubt, they guide us towards our dreams. They even provide us food for thought, because we start to daydream about our visions, our life designs… and then, lo and behold, we suddenly get insights into how to create these visions, how to move them on to the next phase.

Without a vision, I simply react to life as it bumps into me. I have no centre, no anchor. With a vision, I find a focus for my thoughts, my decisions, my actions and reactions. I can respond with a sense of knowing, with a deep, vibrant sense of creation and possibility.

Monday 19 October 2009

Thoughts are our anchors

Alan is a really competent young man; he’s bright, capable, has a lovely personality and huge potential. I’m always impressed when I see him work because he genuinely cares about the work he does.

Recently I happened to hear two more senior colleagues urging him to own his authority, to help his colleagues raise their game to a new level, a level he is already operating at. They wanted him to do it, they believed in him, but… and it’s a big but… he didn’t believe in himself.

The opportunity he was given on a silver tray was rejected because he couldn’t see what they saw.

His thoughts had literally put a cage around him. They had limited what he would do and who he could be. Even though someone else was holding the door open, he was insisting on staying inside in his cage.

How often do we do that? How often do I do it? Answer: toooooo often.

Our thoughts create anchors, for better or for worse. They can liberate us or they can bind us. Alan’s thoughts bound him. They weren’t based one perception of reality; they were based on his past experiences, his accumulated fears. They were not based on the reality of his colleagues. A perception that tired to give him the courage to believe the future can be different from the past, or the faith that others demonstrated they had in him.

While I understand that we are conditioned by our past experience, we focus far too often on the failures, pains and lessons. So we create more failures, pains and lessons, because that’s our unconscious anchor. Well, I say ‘we’ but let me say ME. I know I have those very same limiting beliefs.

I also know there are others who don’t have those limiting beliefs. Their thoughts are not cages. Their thoughts are the scaffolding they use to create amazing experiences in life.

I am blessed: I have huge potential to improve the quality of my thoughts! (Hee hee, that could have been a negative, but there’s a silver lining to everything!) I am lazy in my thinking: there is a lot of opportunity to think more creatively, positively and proactively in my life. There are also hundreds of books out there, many of which I’ve read! and practiced for 5 days, only to fall back into my old patterns.

I think it’s time for me to be more proactive, to retrain my thinking, after all I go to the gym to train my muscles, training my mind would even more powerful.

Friday 16 October 2009

The limits of fear

I was in the gym this morning when I was literally blind-sided with fear. I suddenly ‘got’ how different my life would be if we were lucky enough to have a child.

It’s so easy to become comfortable and settled in my life; my daily rituals, my preferences, my time… heck, even my sleep! The realisation of what it would be like to lose my grove, to lose everything that is familiar and reassuring, hit me full on: I felt myself panic, as though I were being choked by a black cloud.

Now this is an irony – how can I fear something that I would consider such an honour, that I pray for with such earnestness? It got me thinking about fear.

We assume fear is evoked because we are afraid losing something we value, but we can as easily be afraid of gaining something that we value. The underlying issue is not loss or gain, it is change. As human beings, we appear to be hard-wired to resist change at all costs. Yet this makes very little sense to me rationally because our own experience shows us that change is the only constant factor in our lives. Nothing stays the same; not our waistlines, not our careers, not our families, not our homes, not even our finances. We age, we develop, we make mistakes, we learn, we travel, we dare… our lives are jam-packed with changes. Whether a change is ‘good’ or ‘bad’, we never know with any degree of certainty in advance. Change is not aberrational, change is the norm.

Control is another critical factor intimately linked with change and fear. We like to feel a sense of progression in our changes, that we are giving up something we value less for something we value more. But the simple fact remains that if we value something (even if it’s not something that really serves us) we can experience some anxiety at the thought of losing it because the loss will leave a space, a fuzzy area outside of our control. And our ability to deal with loss of control may be even worse than our ability to deal with change!

So how do we deal with this? I’m over this morning’s panic attack – thank goodness! – but here is a basic outline of my thought process.

Step 1 – Freak out
Step 2 – realise I’m freaking out
Step 3 – start prodding the fear with a very long stick to see what’s beneath it
Step 4 – ah ha: “I’m afraid I’ll lose my free time, that I won’t know how to cope with a small being and that I’ll lose my life as I know it”
Step 5 – “Yes, that is scary. And others do this, so it’s doable. I’ve faced challenges before, I’ve come through them and getting through my fear gave me an enormous sense of achievement, made me somehow more myself…. Hmmm….”

I think Step 5 is really about owning that fear and acknowledging it. Some may say that I’m rationalising it, but I think it’s more about building my confidence that I can cope with my own fears.

All the fears I’ve known so far have been markers, defining the edges of my comfort zone. My ego is very happy inside that zone, but my soul likes to push me further, to stretch me; and when I succeed in passing the edge of that zone, whether I succeed or fail (see the Water-skiing blog!) I always have an enormous sense of mySelf, of my ability to create my own world beyond the narrow confines of my comfort zone.

Thursday 15 October 2009

Learning to flow

Perhaps I have mentioned this before, but this has been a particularly hard time for me. I don't want to sound grandiose, just simply to acknowledge an inner struggle that I have been facing, and I'm sure I'm not alone for we all struggle with different areas of our lives.

I returned from honeymoon convinced that life was about to change enormously, it felt as if something was growing, building… Perhaps it's my impatience, but it didn't! In fact, all the things we are trying to achieve appear to be completely blocked, from finding a home to getting pregnant or writing a book... Nothing seems to be working. Given my vast age (hey, 39 is old for making babies!) I have been left with a real sense of failure, of being off in some backwater of life and utterly unable to find the tributary that will bring us back into the flow of life.

I've read that this is a period of rest and dramatic change; so life is, as ever, full of paradoxes! So I went on strike yesterday! I had an insight that I was trying too hard to grasp at what I wanted and this desire was actually closing down opportunities.

I was forcing, not flowing.

So I refused to do anything - I watched romcoms and ate chocolate! But the interesting thing that happened is that as I fell asleep, I had some book ideas and they clarified this morning. I have a sense of purpose. I don't know how long that will last, but if this is a period of dramatic change, then I'm up for it! Perhaps this is a moment when life will grow bigger; I've seen it happen for some of my friends, so why not me?

But the experience does highlight a deeper insight: there is a difference between forcing and flowing (part of yesterday's blog, ironically enough). This is not an overnight process…

I've battled with this for years. I've wanted to write a book for years, not since yesterday. It has taken 100s of pages of writing, sometimes forced, sometimes flowing, but always in the hope that I’m at least taking steps towards my goal, even if I have to ditch all those pages.

I've been down this road before – an idea that burns up in the light of day – but I know that one day it will happen, because I really do feel it in my bones. When we feel something in our bones with such conviction, it really is just a question of time, I believe. They say there are no unreasonable dreams, just unreasonable timeframes!

Wednesday 14 October 2009

Simple spirit

The search to create meaning in life is almost universal. It's why we have philosophers and poets, popstars and fairytales. It is an innate desire to understand what we are experiencing and why we are having that experience.

In my own life, I search for meaning constantly. Like a frustrated gold digger who's just missed the latest gold rush, I pan through my thoughts obsessively in an endless search for understanding, for clarity, for direction. And I'm willing to admit that this compulsion is, quite possibly, not the most productive use of mental energy.

So what exactly am I searching for? I want to understand if we are victims of fate or agents of free will; if life is pre-scripted or we have choice…

To be honest, my question is this: must I push myself relentlessly, day in day out, in order to live the life of my dreams, or if I follow the flow of my intuition (even on the days that intuition says 'Sit down and watch a comedy') I will achieve the same outcome...

Exactly how much are we supposed to struggle? And how much are we supposed to be in the 'flow'?

I simply have no idea - hence the frantic pan-handling! For some, not knowing is ok. For me, not knowing is ok, but not having a philosophy – a story, if you will – that I believe in, is intolerable.

I suspect that the search for knowledge and understanding is really a search for control, for security.

True masters can live surrendering to the present moment, releasing control and trusting that they are safe. I just have the odd moment when I come into the present moment.

Will the achievements I wish to experience by-pass me because, although I have the ideas, I lack the will to act on them in the present moment… Then again, that is just this present moment in which I lack the will to act, to do... In another present moment, I may choose to go all out to create those experiences.

I've rambled on, but that meander through my inner cast of characters, the 'Do-don't-Be OverPerformer' and the 'In-the-now Zen Monk', I feel as though I'm gaining some clarity...

Right now (!) the Zen perspective resonates more deeply. It is about a deeper ability to feel into the rhythm and flow of my own life, to sense which dreams and ideas are creating the pulse that inspires me. And then it is also about action, both doing and being. And these follow a cycle, like the seasons; at some points there is more action, in other moments there is more being. Different dreams will move from the ‘being’ into the doing - into different project – at their own time; they will move through those cycles at their own pace.

Perhaps the story that I draw from this is that life is not about being or doing; it is about sensing the deeper whisper of wisdom that guides us towards the appropriate amount of being and doing at any given moment.

Tuesday 13 October 2009

Ugly ducklings just need bigger ponds

It is my belief, and I may be mistaken, that every one of us an inner ugly duckling! A little part of ourselves that doesn't feel as good as everyone else, as capable or as competent as those around us.

I grew up with four brothers. It was a very male house - not that I was aware of that when I was growing up. I just never felt really at ease. It may be a stereotype, but my brothers were much more into fighting each other, cars, soccer, football, rugby, and just about any other sport you care to mention.

The way they spoke was different as well: they were very sharp and often very witty, but the comments sometimes felt like barbed wire. Mistakes were treated with mockery and derision. And they were critical thinkers - I was in my mid-twenties before I felt capable of thinking sharply enough to have an argument with them.

None of this was malicious, it was just a different vibe, more cut and thrust than soft and nurturing.

Indeed, I only recognised what it meant to be a female when I was eighteen and arrived in Italy on an exchange, Lisa. Her house was dominated by women. I remember the first night the extended family had dinner together; I suddenly felt a completely different way of being and understood why I felt I didn't fit in at home!

I finally saw that the reason I felt different, ugly, incapable and out of sync was because I wasn't in my natural environment. My lake wasn't big enough! There was nothing wrong with me, I just had too small a frame of reference!

As my dear friend Roger pointed out, that experience is probably true for us all: the parts of ourselves that seem odd and out of sync may not be character flaws, they are probably parts that thrive beyond the environment we currently inhabit. There are others who will really get our 'Ugly Duck parts' and see how swan-like we really are! So don't give up, it's just a question of finding the right lake where that part of us can thrive.

Wednesday 7 October 2009

Swimming with wild dolphins

Now that I've found a photo, I can tell the story!

One of the highlights on our honeymoon was swimming with wild dolphins. We were up at 5am for the 1 hour, 35 minute bus and boat ride to their sleeping grounds. While there were a lot of very subdued people on the bus at that hour, I have greater respect for the dolphins who continue to try to sleep in the same location knowing that boatloads of humans come to play with them early every morning!

We had read before we went on this excursion that we would probably spend an hour in boat chasing 4 or 5 dolphins. That could not have been further from the truth: we found a pod of 40-50 dolphins!

The first time we dived in we didn’t' have much luck. They all swam off in a different direction. We (along with 5 or 6 other boats) duly followed! Although it was 6.30am the water was very warm, so diving in again was a pleasure, even for a cold-blooded Irish woman!

It was then that the most amazing thing happened; the pod changed direction and swam directly towards us. Suddenly the sea was alive with the sound of their clicks. I put my face under the water and, as the sunlight streamed through, I saw four dolphins just in front of us. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I realised that there were dolphins all around us. If there is a legal high, that is it…

I can't quite describe how it felt, but I now understand why many people report cures and healings after swimming with dolphins. I experienced a deep feeling of being honoured to be in their presence, as well as a profound sense of joy and humility, combined with awe at simply being alive.

I can only smile when I remember that moment as the joy of the moment floods through me again. Someone once suggested that we create mental scrap books of moments that bring us joy, to lift us up when we are feeling low. This moment goes in my Premium Edition!

Tuesday 6 October 2009

Our present

Within each person, lies a unique genius. An essence that we were born to contribute to the planet.

Some forget that role. Some fear that they have forgotten it. And some fear that they have not done enough.

But what if you were already living that genius?

What if our own genius is ourselves?

The way we show up each day. The glint in our eyes. The sparkle in our ‘Hello!’. The love in our smile. The softness of our touch.

What if our genius is in the moment we feel lost? The moment we are filled with regret. The moment we doubt. The moment we despair. The moment we lose.

The moment we breathe.

What if everything is already perfect?

What if there is nothing to search for, because nothing is hidden?

What if we have already arrived in our perfection?

Good and bad are judgement calls. And any judgement can be both right or wrong. There are no guarantees.

The perfection lies within the present moment.

In this breath in is our genius.

In this breath out is our genius.

Monday 5 October 2009

Thank you

My gorgeous husband is quite a shy man.

But if I could, I would shout from the top of the Empire State Building, to say 'Thank you' to him for being one of the most generous, caring, compassionate men I know. And he can listen better than most men too!

This is my Empire State Building, so I'm putting it here!

Thank you for being you, honey. My world is a better place because you are in it.

The present

Have you ever had a dream that is bigger than you are?

I don't know why I'm asking the question - perhaps because I have a huge dream. Now here's the rub: I don't exactly know what that dream is... I can identify some of the elements: love, transformation, care, kindness, joy, laughter, embrace...

As I write this, I realise that the biggest dream of all is surely life itself... Not what we do with it, but who we be with it... so to speak!

I'm always looking for what I ‘should’ do with my life. Indeed, I have twisted myself into some impressive knots worrying about what I have done, am doing and will do with my life... And in the process, I miss the love, transformation, care, kindness, joy, laughter, and embrace in the present moment.

It's so simple and I keep forgetting it, choosing instead to worry about something I cannot control rather than embracing what is; instead of trusting the journey I am on, I want someone else's journey... far away hills and all that...

The magnificence of my life... The magnificence of your life...

How often do we ignore it and lose what is most precious?

Yet another Memo to myself!

Thursday 1 October 2009

Life's about the journey, not the outcome

This morning a feather floated past my window. I love signs. Whenever I see rainbows or white feathers, I take notice because I feel they are blessings. To me they are signs that I am not alone and that good luck is coming my way. I’ve never seen a white floating feather before, normally I find them in strange places so this is a Super Sign!

It's normal to feel a bit down after holidays, especially when it was a great holiday. So I'm normal! I came back and found that several projects I'd been working on which I had thought would evolve hadn't changed at all.

Sometimes it feels so frustrating to put in the time and effort and still fail to get the breaks. And I know I'm not alone with this. We all have those moments.

So last night I went to bed early. I'd had enough! As I lay there annoying the Universe with my 'Why? Why? Why?' questions I had a moment of insight. I wanted things to work at my speed but my impatience is actually getting in the way because it is constricting the flow of life, of energy and of passion.

I'm looking for outcomes, I'm not living the journey.

Enjoy this time
was the message I got. Have fun! Just live it and trust the results will manifest at the right moment rather than my moment. And there’s a big difference between those two moments!

So that helps … to some degree. And there's also a big difference between understanding and doing. Or even understanding and being…

Goal-oriented 'grown ups' in our society are trained out of having fun, out of enjoying the process. So I'm willing to grow back down again! To see the fun in my projects rather than the outcomes: I'm sure I remember how to have fun…!

PS Just to be clear, it was just a small feather and not a white peacock that floated past the window!