Tuesday 23 February 2010

Communication: the last great adventure?

As a civilisation, we do enjoy an adventure: from the so-called 'wild' West, to the top of Everest, to the face of the moon and the furthest reaches of the Hubble telescope, we love to explore the new!

The result can be that we get a bit jaded and cynical.  It takes epic proportions to impress us!  And, that being the case, we forget the simple adventures we can have in daily life.  And genuine communication - openness and honesty - strike me as one of the greatest, and possibly scariest, adventures we can have in our daily lives.

This came back to me quite forcefully yesterday.  My business partner, Stuart, and I, often communciate via email and skype because I work from home and he has a full time job outside our business.  This occasionally leads to misunderstanding and confusion.  Yesterday was such a day.  By the end of the day, I felt frustrated and alone. 

"I could tell him...  I should tell him... but he might get angry... he might not like me anymore... he might fall out with me for insulting his commitment..." the imagined nightmares rolled through my head. 

Honestly relating our feelings to the other person , especially when they challenge us,  is one of the greatest adventures we can have.  It really does force us to grow, to become courageous, to learn to speak our truth gracefully, to accept that there are other points of view in which we are not blame-less...

Taking this adventure has left me with no lasso and crushed compasses in the past!  I've learnt to be courageous and graceful the very hard way.  But it is worth it, because we never know what we will find when we walk into this new land called honesty.*  Today dawned: Stuart and I spoke, and our partnership is all the better for it now. 

It takes courage to expose ourselves, to trust another... but the rewards can be deep and rich.

*I'm in no way implying that we go out and be honest just to make ourselves feel good, regardless of the consequences for the other person.  I'm talking about the courage to be honest when we feel a relationship is suffering because there is something simmering below the surface, a misunderstanding, a mistaken assumption, a careless comment...  For me, this process is about carefully creating deeper relationships, not destroying relationships carelessly.

Monday 22 February 2010

The Blank Canvas

Life is so full of ideas, deadlines, meetings, and so many other events that our brains are fully occupied.  That may not be such a good thing!  Being fully occupied means I'm normally just dealing with the day-to-day issues of life.  And that is a pretty responsive place to be.  It's not creative.  It's not stretching the bounds of who I am and how I interact with life.

To be completely honest, it leaves me pretty cold.  After an 11 hour day, I'm not always full of sparkle, joy and passion for life.  For that very reason, I need blank canvases in life!  My friend Gary suggested this to me today.

Gary's idea is that we should imagine life as a blank canvas, and only draw onto that canvas scenarios that are loving, inspiring, fun and uplifting.  While we draw on our blank canvas, experiencing those emotions will embed these visions more deeply into our unconscious minds, thereby increasing the likelihood that we create these wonderful scenes.

I love any creative idea that helps us play with life, that re-infuses it with its own innate joie de vivre.  Life is not about the 'to do' list.  We can squeeze it that small if we wish, but there's so much more to be experienced, every time we remember to get off the 'to do' treadmill and notice the intricate delicacies of life all around us.

Thursday 18 February 2010

Surrender...and the art of transformation

Have you ever seen someone learn to ride a bike?  They're very shaky at first because they are trying to consciously balance their body.  And then they fall over!  Quite simply, they are trying too hard.  They don’t trust their body to find its own centre.

Life is much like that: we keep getting in our own way because we believe we need to control everything to assure our desired outcome.  Quite the opposite is true.  We need to let go more.  If we can trust, if we can surrender, we open our lives up to the possibility of a greater power whooshing in and aligning all things for the highest good.

So do we become passive, I hear you ask?  On the contrary!  I believe that the secret is to do what we wish to do for the joy of doing it.  And then to release.  To surrender.  To hand over control of the outcome to a far wiser, deeper knowing than our conscious minds are capable of.

If we plant a garden, all the fretting and worrying will not speed up the growth of the plants.  They move to the sound of an altogether more subtle drum beat.  Shouting at the ground won't make them grow faster!

I'm still learning to apply this principle in my own life.  But I like the relief it brings.  If I believe I have responsibility for all outcomes, there's a subtle arrogance in that!  It denies others their autonomy, it denies the planet its natural flow.

What's true of nature is true of humans.  We do not control the growth of a sapling oak any more than we control the outcome of our greatest actions.  But we can point our actions in the direction of our dreams and undertake those actions with joy.  The outcome is beyond our control and the more readily we surrender, the more space we leave for the divine to work its magic on our behalf.

Monday 15 February 2010

Inspiration is all around

Did you know that Inspire is derived from 'inspirare', meaning 'to breathe in'?  So Inspiration is the act of breathing in...

Isn't that an amazing idea?  Inspiration is all around us.

It's not so remote, abstract concept, but something that is as innate to us as the very act of breathing itself.

We are born to be inspired and to inspire. This cycle of inspiration is our birthright as human beings.  It is our legacy; our natural flow.  We may have been cut off from it for far too long, but that does not mean that this ability is dead; it is simply dormant, patiently awaiting our time and attention.

So how do we begin playing with inspiration again?  How do we befriend it?  How do we become so intimately entwined with it that infuses our daily lives?

It's so simple.   As simple as all the truly wonderful aspects of life....

We become aware of our daydreams.  We begin to notice the little thoughts that whisper at the back of our mind.  These tiny little signs are the murmurs of our spirit, letting us know that it is always present, always waiting for us to reconnect with ourselves, with our spiritual essence.

Inspiration is the language of our spirit.  Respectfully, like the wise woman who only speaks when the seeker is ready to ask the question, it does not intrude on our lives, but faithfully remains in the background.  It waits for us to remember our ineffable gift, the language of the soul.  And as soon as we do, it steps forward to meet us, gently revealing itself in slow, graceful increments.

What is your inspiration whispering to you today?

Tuesday 9 February 2010


It is a cliche, but every day is a new day, a new beginning, a re-birth.  And sometimes cliches are true: that's how they reached the pre-eminent status of cliches!

But what could 'birth' mean, if we were to be born again every morning as we awaken?  To me there is a spectrum of 'birth', ranging from complete reinvention of ourselves to gentle care, affection and nourishment. 

The most radical form or rebirth is when we totally reinvent who we are.  This happens very seldom in our lifetime, perhaps once or twice, and is usually the result of either desperation or inspiration.  It happens when we are pushed to the limits of who we thought we were and decide that this is not who we wish to be.  There is more to us than who we are in that moment.  And so a profound shift occurs, often overnight, as we begin to realign with a greater vision of who can be.

At the more subtle end of the spectrum, is what happens when we get out of bed on the wrong side.  It's not a disaster, but we are simply not living through the best of who we are.  We are grouching, snappy, sarcastic, hot-tempered...  Most of us simply tolerate these days and wait for them to end.  But what if we did something different? What if nurtured ourselves?  If we did something to care for ourselves that would nourish and uplift us?  What if we gave to ourselves as we would care for a beloved child?  If we lavished some of that care and attention onto ourselves? 

There are many ways to do that: giving ourselves permission to take 10 minutes to do some freewriting on blank sheets of paper, with the intention that, at the end of the 10 minutes, we would have poured out our frustration and have a clearer idea of the root cause.  We could do something small that pleases us, like having cup of filter coffee instead of using instant coffee.  Or we could reach out and ask for some love and support, whether it's an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on, or arms to give us a hug (or 12!).

And then, there are great days, when the sun shines, the bees buzz and all is well with the world.  On these days we have the energy to nurture others effortlessly.  It's a cycle, as is all of life.  There are moments when we give and moments when we taken, moments when we are joyful and moments when we retreat. 

Why should nurturing be a quality that is reserved for new born babies and children?  Why is it now a quality that we live and share throughout each day, just sharing this quality with our loved ones would be make this a gentler, softer and more caring society.

Monday 8 February 2010

Pushing the edges

As soon as we begin on any path of self awareness and self discovery, we begin to move out of our comfort zones.  We start to push up against the limits of who we thought we were.  It is as though we must look at ourselves without the safety of our rose-tinted glasses.

I have noticed this so many times over the past twenty years since I began this path.  And I still keep bumping into my own limits!

I work from home so my life is often far calmer and more flexible than the lives of my friends.  This evening I was hungry at 5pm so I sat down to have early dinner.  As I sat there, I had a sharp pang of guilt.  I 'shouldn't' be enjoying this luxury.  In the real world (where is that, again?!), responsible adults are still at work at 5pm.  It's not appropriate to take a break then, much less finish work at that time.

It's disappointing after all these years, to note how many limiting beliefs I still hold about how the world 'should' be.  Ideas and beliefs that all stem back to that Protestant work-ethic where work must be hard and badly paid in order for us to be worthy.

It was one small step for Jennifer Crokaert-kind, but I stayed and finished my food.  I didn't give into the feeling of guilt and apprehension that I was somehow failing because I wasn't suffering enough.  Isn't that ironic, feeling guilty because I wasn't suffering!

It's my belief that I come from - I hope - the last generation to be so thoroughly embedded with generational and religious messages of shame, guilt, fear and unworthiness.  I do believe that the waning power of religions has brought at least one social good in its wake: increased freedom from beliefs that give rise to such negative feelings.  Younger generations seem much freer of these subtle constraints - yippee for that!

As for the rest of us, as we bump up against our limiting beliefs, it pays to acknowledge their existence and believe in ourselves enough to persevere in our chosen actions, in spite of these wee thought-goblins!  I've decided if I think of those thoughts as koalas, they're far less intimidating and much easier to release...

Friday 5 February 2010

Enriching life

If I think back 150 years ago, I imagine that most human beings lived simply.  They were alive and they got on with life.  For many, I believe their lives were so hard that they had to endure life.  They did what they had to do and they accepted that life.

Among them, were some who experienced life.  Rather than letting it pass them by, they focused in on the process of living; what life may mean; how life feels; where humans may fit into some greater scheme, given the vastness of the universe around them.  The very act of observation is a relatively passive act (I know physicists and many others may disagree and rightly so!).

We have now come into a time where we are being invited to create life: to consciously imagine what we would like to experience in life.  This is a massive shift in direction, from passive to active creators of our lives. We move from sitting in the back passenger seat to creating the road on which the car travels. 

We are now invited to participate alongside the co-creative forces of the universe.  My mind still boggles at the thought...

Wednesday 3 February 2010

From healing to creative joy

I was daydreaming this morning - my technical word for meditating! - thinking about healing and the need for healing in so many areas of the world, and in so many areas of our lives.

The image that came was that 'healing' is the equivalent of looking over our shoulder as we walk down the path of life. Healing involves looking backwards. Moreover, it focuses on what is 'broken', what is 'wrong', and what is out of alignment.

'Creative joy', the word that sprang into my mind as the opposite of healing, looks forward. It focuses on what is whole, what is desirable, what brings us joy and delight in life.

At first the idea seemed a little too facile, what about the pain? What about the suffering? What about the wounds? But as I thought about it more, I realised that focusing on what inspires us create healing, almost as a by-product.

When we are working towards something we 'ought' to do, it involves a lot of discipline, motivation and a big ‘push’. When we have an idea that inspires us, the same tasks becomes so very easy. This came home to me very clearly when I was studying for my Leaving Cert (the Irish equivalent of A Levels).

I dreamt of becoming an airline pilot (really!). I was utterly inspired by the dream and consumed by airplanes. Moreover, I believed it was possible. So I worked incredibly hard that year. Over the Christmas holidays, when everyone else was watching movies, I amazed even myself by leaving the warmth of the sitting room to go upstairs and study.  To others it seemed hard, but to me it wasn't a burden, it was my path.

I did very well in my exams but I didn't get through the application process. Although I was very disappointed at the time, life carried on. However, the lesson I took from it, even then, was when we are deeply inspired, what others see as effort becomes tolerable, it becomes easy, it's doable.

And so it is when we seek to live our greatest joy: rather than focusing on what didn't work in the past, if we can look to the future that we do wish to create and take action in that direction, it is not an effort. It becomes doable.

And it’s a lot more fun than doing anything that we don’t believe in.