Tuesday 29 June 2010

No Unreasonable Dreams at 40

Life can creep past us so quickly that we don't even realise it's been... and gone!  I believe that aging happens, it's inevitable, so bemoaning it is to fight reality - and we all know, reality always wins! 

But if I have regrets, if I have simply existed, rather than savoured life, then it will inevitably be tinged with sadness and regret.

My 40th is a exactly a month away, as my younger brother emailed to tell me today!  Perhaps now is as good a time as any to take stock.  What are my regrets?  And what are my deliciously, unreasonable dreams? 

Who would I like to be when I look back in a decade?

I once read that "there are no unreasonable dreams - just unreasonable timeframes".

I love that!  It does mean that anything is possible, if we persevere.  Edison and Abraham Lincoln must be two of the greatest examples of perseverance ever.

I also read a quote from Anthony Robbins who said,“Most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year – and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade!”

Who would I like to be?  What experiences would I like to have had?  If I have no vision to guide my actions, I'm much less likely to have those experiences and become that person...  Good job I've a month to think this through!

Monday 28 June 2010

Seasons of the Soul

For me, Being and Doing are seasons of the Soul.  One is not better than they other, just as winter is not better than summer. 

They are part of a dance, a Universal balance that, when we recognise and respect it, can bring us unexpected gifts. 

I know the seasons well.  There are moments when, no matter what I try to do, it doesn't work.  I'm still learning that this means I'm in the "Being Season".  I know when this season is over because, almost like magic, the opportunities that I was trying to create magically unfurl before me. 

And in the "Doing Season", the tasks seem much easier, much lighter and more fun than when I was trying to force through them previously. 

I have no idea how long these seasons last.  Sometimes it feels as though they are months long, at other times, they seem to last just days. 

I suspect that each day has its own flow too.  Moments when our actions flow beautifully, and moments when it's best to step back, to reflect, to take stock about what we are doing.

Our society prides itself on constant activity, being 'on' 24/7... but frenetic activity without any balance, without time to observe... to reflect... to create... to innovate... is what creates an empty culture, devoid of meaning and deeper relationships.  Balancing doing with space, with some stillness, enriches our actions, ensures that our doing is not empty but refines what went before and enriches what follows after.  Surely this must benefit us all.

Thursday 24 June 2010

There are always answers

Sometimes, I feel as though I don't get answers to my questions.  But it's more likely that I'm overlooking the answers that I am given.  The Universe provides answers but they are seldom written in the sky: it is more subtle than that... Even if I'm not!

Over the past few days I've happened to read the same thought in different articles. The essence of the idea is this: there will always be those who disagree and who say it can't be done... Do it anyway.

Despite what we may see around us, I believe that we live in a fundamentally benevolent universe. Such coincidences, or synchronicities, are messages to support us, to bring us new understanding and support when we need it most.

If I didn't require some reassurance at present, I wouldn't even notice that message. I'd read it and forget it immediately.

We are struck most deeply by our own thoughts mirrored outside by the words and actions of others.

Wednesday 23 June 2010

Chocolate Cheese Cake and our Divine Interconnection

Spiritual disciplines around the world, teach that we are all interconnected.  That's easy to see when we look at a shoal of fish or a swarm of birds, moving in harmony.  Our intimate interconnection with each other is much harder to experience.

This Sunday Dirk and I got some Chocolate Cheese Cake ... and had a very healthy portion each!  Three hours later, Dirk felt nauseous from the sugar overload and I was only slightly better, but then, I eat chocolate, so I've trained more!

What shocked me was the effect the sugar had on the baby.  While this baby loves to kick, s/he went into overdrive on Sunday evening.  Although it seems obvious in retrospect, I hadn't realise that one slice of cheesecake would affect her/him so deeply.

It is one of the paradoxes of pregnancy that although the baby grows inside me, s/he is most definitely not me.  They are their own being.  Experiencing the direct affect of a thoughtless, almost inconsequential, action on another being had quite an impact on me. 

It reminded me that we are all interconnected, and that interconnection is most clearly understood in the case of pregnancy.

It reminded me why Care and Attention towards others is so important to me: I may not always be as aware of our interconnection as I was during that hour, but the memory remains, washing through me, along with that intimate knowing that honouring and respecting others is a meaningful contribution towards making the world a better place.

On marriage and boundaries

A wise man said, "Relationships are work".  Not necessarily hard work, but they do require some degree of conscious effort if we want to use them as vehicles of personal growth.

But exactly how do they require effort: what triggers the need for conscious effort?

It strikes me, from observing myself in marriage, that I have boundaries.  My boundaries are my ideas: "this is right" (read: I like this), "that is wrong", (read: I don't like that).  Equally, Dirk has his own ideas.

When we both agree on what is 'right' and 'wrong', love and peace flow!  But when we disagree, that's when I can get irritated or withdraw.  That's when I have to start looking at my idea: is it really 'right'?  And, perhaps even more importantly, 'is holding on to that idea really more important to me than finding a compromise with Dirk?'

Some couples never talk about the "swamp land" where they sink into disagreement.  They ignore it, or they fight about it and then pull away, but neither person emerges with any greater understanding or compassion.

I think that where relationships become 'work' is the point at which I choose to make a conscious effort to come out from behind the walls of my ideas to discuss and explore them together: to drop the assumption that 'I'm right'.  For me, it's the moment when I try either to understand Dirk's perspective a little better or try to see how I can expand my belief, so that the argument is not an 'either/or', 'win/lose' scenario.

Now, I will be the first person to admit, that's not easy.  Dirk and I have incredibly different views on just about every subject under the sun: but it was the fascination of the journey of learning to compromise, learning to see the world another way, that brought us together.  And even with that intention explicit between us, we still struggle with it!

Isn't funny that was should like our ideas more than we like finding understanding and common ground with each other?!

Over our three years together, I have developed some wisdom on our little dance.  I now believe that Love (and by this I mean Divine Love) will always find a way to be inclusive.  Divine Love is simple: it is uncomplicated.  It dissolves walls, it does not build walls.  So I try to expand my idea to the point where it could include his idea.

When that doesn't work, I remember the question, "Is it better to be right, or kind?"  In most cases, I opt for kindness.  Thank goodness, so too does Dirk. 

Walking a Different Path for the Next Generation

I don't have a job at present.  My last project has wound down for the time being.  Nor do I have an income.  People aren't cueing up to hire 5-month pregnant women, especially in this market!

The experience of having no socially approved role has really tested me.  So too has the experience of having no income.  I've been self-employed for six years and this is the first time I have not been able to pay my own way.  It leaves me feeling raw, unproductive and, to be frank, a burden.

As I've grappled with this over the past few weeks, every mention of money at home has increased my inner drama of failure and panic.  I've wished Dirk would tell me I'm not a burden daily... even hourly, if  he would.  I thought he could reassure me.  I thought if he soothed and consoled me enough, I'd feel it was ok... that I'd find some sort of peace with it.

I've come to realise two things.  First, it's not his job (or anyone else's) to make me feel better.  Second, I must heal myself.  The words of others may soothe me temporarily... they may ease my feeling of failure and embarrassement in the short term.  But they are just band-aids.  The opinions and comfort offered by others can not heal my sore points.  That is my work. 

I don't know how to heal this permanently.  But I know the first step: change my attitude towards it.  Instead of falling back into shame and guilt, I can accept it.  I can decide not to follow my normal train of thoughts that lead me down into those dingy halls of shame and guilt. 

I can practice not judging myself, but accept that this is a phase.  It is a moment in time.  It is also a very different experience: it offers me the opportunity to accept gracefully, to grow beyond my idea of financial self-sufficiency, to begin re-balancing an inner belief that says I'm only valuable when I'm earning.

Just as babies have to learn to self-comfort, so too do adults.  I find it takes strength and self-discipline to do this: it would be so much easier to ask Dirk to say things to make me feel better.  But this is my journey, my responsibility and, ultimately, my rewards. 

Ultimately, in my quest to heal myself (as much as we ever can!) so that I pass on a little less of my shadow side - my fears and anxieties - to our baby, it is another small step along the path.

There are many ways we can make the world a better place for the next generation.  For me, creating a home and family environment that is as free from fear and anxiety as possible, is my current path. 

Tuesday 22 June 2010

The Strength in Vulnerability

One of the most profound Lessons in Life that I have ever learnt has been this: Our vulnerability is powerful.

I don't even remember how Peter taught me this, but I do know that it has stayed with me ever since.  Having seen it's power in action, I remain committed to this principle.

We are programmed by western society to look strong, to know the answers, or to pretend we know the answers, to blame others, to bluff if we have to, to lie if we need to...  We are almost obliged to save face, to show no weakness, to make no mistakes...

In fact, that need is so strong - especially within the business world, though it spills over to every other aspect of life - that it grips us fiercely, almost like a collective, unconscious terror.

It is for this very reason that honesty takes us so completely by surprise.  When someone has the courage to say, "I made a mistake," or "I don't know how to do this", or "Help me, I don't know how to fix this", we are almost blown away.

This is partly because we've become so used to the lies people hide behind on a daily basis and partly because it takes enormous courage to go beyond telling lies: to expose ourselves.  And not just expose the parts that are easily admirable, but to expose a weakness, to expose the soft underbelly of our vulnerability.

Whenever I have experienced this level of honesty, it has almost invariably been meet by a collective sigh of relief.  I suspect this is because that person has just expressed the unmentionable fears and weaknesses of many others in the room.

By speaking from their Truth, rather than from behind a mask, these Truth-speakers implicitly allow the rest of us to take ownership of the aspects of ourselves that scare us: simply because someone else had the courage to own their weakness and vulnerability. 

The irony is that the person who spoke out is often the stronger, more powerful person.  They didn't hide.  They didn't pretend.  They were who they were.  It is the fearful who hide behind lies.

How often do we courageously stand in who are?  We can hide behind anger, sarcasm and even humour, but how often do we speak with honesty about our limits or our fears?  How often do we share our vulnerability?

NOTE: In writing this, I'm not suggesting sharing those intimate parts of ourselves recklessly or stupidly.  What I am saying is that this level of honesty - with those we love and care for - can increase the levels of intimacy and trust in our closest, deepest relationships.  Being honesty can free us and those around us from the impossible, unachievable burden of being perfect.

Monday 21 June 2010

Finding our Rose Garden

Years ago, a dear friend suggested to me that I "plant a rose garden."

"You're like a gardener", he said, "who has a beautiful cottage garden.  Each day you tend to your garden.  You grow all different kinds of flowers.  And, each day, people pass by and say, 'What beautiful azaleas!'.
"'Ah but,' you reply, 'have you seen my roses?  Aren't they beautiful?'
"Or they comment on your honeysuckle.  And you say, 'Ah, but have you seen my roses, aren't they beautiful?'

"You invest your talents in flowers that you don't really love.  But you adore your rose garden, so why don't you specialise in roses?"

We live a world that can be both frantic and volatile: a world where we try to please too many people, but forget to nourish ourselves.  And when we are running on empty, what do we have left to give? 

Sometimes, rather than spreading ourselves too thinly, it's worthwhile identifying our true passion and focusing on that - whether as a career or a hobby.  As we make time for our true passion, we begin to feel lighter and freer, more loving and more tolerant. 

We can never be every thing to everyone.  We can, however, be utterly ourselves.  We can be passionately, vibrantly, zestfully ourselves.  Nurturing ourselves is single most generous act we can perform because it feeds us emotionally, mentally and spiritually.  And when we are full, we have so much more to offer.

Two steps forward...

In the immortal words of Homer (Simpson), "Doh!". 

No sooner had I published the post on my mediation on ancestral healing than an article on that very topic landed in my In Box.  "Aha!" I thought, "I must be on the right track, if the same unusual subject matter is suddenly appearing in my world." 

Then I read it.

Hmmm! This lady basically says that it is no one's obligation or responsiblity to undertake the healing of others and, indeed, if we choose to do so, we rob them of the wisdom and insight that emerges when we heal: when we forgive past pains, when we release judgements, when we are compassionate to the failings of ourselves and others. 

"Doh!  I'm on the wrong track!" I thought. 

But as I thought about it more deeply over the weekend, two insights emerged.  The first insight is a reminder that we are all different and so, what is one person's meat is aonther person's poison.  A tool that works for one person, may not be appropriate for another.  For this reason, it's always best to follow our internal wisdom, our deeper sense of 'knowing'.  And if we don't know, then allowing ourselves the luxury of patience until we do know, is a wise move.

The second insight was that this woman was doing the healing on behalf of her ancestors.  In the meditation that unfolded for me, I was simply sitting alongside the ancestors and inviting them to let go of ideas and thoughts that no longer served them or subsequent generations.  I was a witness to them forgiving themselves and others, I didn't do it for them.

Doing something for someone and supporting them while they do it, are very different processes with very different outcomes.  Doing something for someone can rob them of the opportunity to develop wisdom, insight and independence.  It implies that we know better than they do - but who are we to judge what is right for another person, even if it is a loved one?

Supporting someone as they take action, being their witness, allows them to make their own mistakes (just as we make our mistakes) and these can be a valuable lesson.  I'm not saying we become passive, or step back from sharing our opinions, but that we honour their right to choose: their right to learn in their own way. 

The universe is far more subtle, complex and balanced than our human brains can comprehend.  And just because salty sea water is the perfect lifestyle choice for one fish, does not mean that it's the perfect environment for a freshwater fish.  It would, in fact, slowly kill the fresh water fish.

Thursday 17 June 2010

Healing Through Time

Yesterday morning I decided to try a different meditation, in my current quest to heal as many of the limitations and blockages as I can, before our child is born.

In almost every family I believe that there are divisions and fractures: relationships that were unable to expand to embrace difference, whether they were differences in nationality, politics, religion, or even personality type. 

Here's what happened as I went into a mediation with the intention of healing previous divisions.

As the meditation deepened, I decided to invite the forebearers of our family around a camp fire.  Once I had done this, I hoped that when they were all 'present', the process would evolve naturally, and I could simply observe.  What happened next simply evolved, it was not choreographed by me...

It was pitch black, with just the light from the campfire.  I saw figures emerge from two different sides and sit in a circle around the fire.  There were two very clear 'sides'.  Opposite me sat a figure that was bathed in light, that glowed in the darkness.  I explained that I had called them forth so that we could all release any anger or resentment that was holding us back from seeing others in our family with love and compassion.  I asked if they were willing to participate and  it seemed that they were. 

I extended my right arm to the person to the left of me and my left arm to the person on my right hand side.  As we interlaced arms around the group, light began to flow out in both directions through the figure opposite me and through me.  It circled around the group several times and then extended outwards and upwards, above the campfire, coming into a point and then, seemingly, exploding out into the space around us. 

Suddenly everyone was on their feet, walking over to those on the 'other side' of the circle and embracing them. The air was filled with laughter, warmth and peace.  After many hugs and laughs, they slowly, sat down in a circle again, but this time the two sides had merged.  The feeling around the group now was light, open and free.

The next thing I 'saw' was myself.  It was daylight and I was sitting on an enormous cream stone step.  I was struck by how easy it felt to breathe and how light my shoulders felt....  With that realisation, I became self-aware again and my consciousness shifted back to the room in which I was sitting...

Did this really happen?  Who knows.  Did I imagine it?  Dream it?  Wish it to be?  I don't know.  But it does provide a story, and stories are how we make meaning and sense of the world. 

Even if it was just a daydream, it indicates to me that I am on the right track, that our intention to heal old wounds can have transformative effects because - even if nothing else - I felt lighter after that mediation.  I felt as though I had released some old legacy that no longer served me. 

And, in the best case scenario, perhaps that will ripple out to others across the family, and across the generations.

The Present in the Brown Paper Bag

In the West, we like happy endings, shiny new things and we like our presents wrapped with bows.  But not all presents are obvious.  Some are very discrete, to the point that they don't look like presents at all.  But that doesn't mean they aren't presents.

At the beginning of this pregnancy I really felt depressed.  Not just down or blue, I felt as though I had lost the will to live, the energy to get me through the day and the optimism to smile.  I felt very isolated and I cried a lot.  Daily.

Eventually, I sought help.  I didn't feel that I had the skills to help myself, even if I am normally pretty self-sufficient and self-aware.  One of the people I was referred to by the midwife was a counsellor, Annie.* 

Now, in retrospect, that feeling of depression was an amazing gift.  If I hadn't felt so completely incapable and alone, I would have struggled through on my own.  Going to counselling has revealed a new dimension to motherhood that I never knew existed and, to be honest, I'd never even heard mentioned by others.

Annie helped me to understand that as well as the preparation for the birth of the baby, women also go through what is called, 'The Birth of the Mother'.  This phenomenon changes how women interact with the world and how they feel and, even, how they think: it can bring with it reduced ambition, decreased focus and drive, and an increased desire to almost 'bury down'.... I started baking and making jam, I even want to knit... It was disconcerting to experience so much psychological, mental and emotional change for which I was completely unprepared. I naively thought it was just physical change!

Another idea we've been exploring is the idea that, just as we inherit physical characteristics from pervious generations, we also inherit emotional and psychological traits, of which we are often much less aware, as they are more subtle.  Now, I've begun to notice how those traits have moved moved through the generations of my family and how they have limited us in different ways. 

It is my deepest commitment to - as far as possible - cut the cords to those limiting beliefs in myself, so that they stop here: with my generation; so that our child is not unconsciously burdened with the limiting beliefs of previous generations.

Awareness of these issues - the challenges and themes - that repeat themselves through the generations is one thing.  Healing and transforming those issues is a lot harder.  So I've begun asking the therapists I know, "How do you transform a limiting belief?"  "How do you heal generational pain?"

There are no easy answers.  Becoming aware of the issues I repeatedly stumble upon (low self esteem has been one constant in my life) is a start.  Consciously trying to do things that push me where I would rather not go, for fear of failure, is another step in the process.  Some say that the intention to heal and transform, is a potent transformation agent in and of itself.  I also believe meditation helps too.  But more on that in a later blog.

Not everyone experiences pregnancy in the same way.  This is just my journey and I share it with two aims: the first is to help others going through similar experiences.  It has helped me to read of other women who have experienced pregnancy in a similar way and reassured me that I'm not 'over-reacting or being over-sensitive'.  The second reason is more general.  It's to highlight the fact that, sometimes, events that seem traumatic, challenging and unwanted can have profoundly positive impacts on our lives, if we are willing to see them in a different light.

*Not her real name.

Wednesday 16 June 2010

The compass and the egg timer

Luke, my worldly yet wise 26 year old brother is visiting.  And with him, comes his unique wisdom and insight.

We've been discussing life - my life in particular, as I (belatedly!) realise that I'm about to turn 40 and have probably lived over half my life.  Now there's a sombering thought!

I've always maintained that aging is not an issue if you have no regrets.  At different stages in life, we explore different themes - motherhood, career, success, study, sexuality, domesticity, spirituality, physical attractiveness... to name but a few.

Luke's point is that, as we explore each theme, it becomes our compass... a guiding star, our 'true north'.  However, he pointed out, when setting out northwards from London, we can pass through Scotland, Norway, and the Arctic Circle and, if we keep on going, we eventually start going southwards!

So, how do we know when we've gone far enough? How do we avoid over-shooting our aim?  How do we know when we have explored a theme as fully as we need to, at that point in time?

Enter the Egg Timer!  Luke believes that creating measurable goals helps us know when we've reached our North Pole.  He reminded me of a mutual friend who has a very clear inner compass but, he never seems happy.  It's because he, being in competition with himself, there is never enough.  He can never sit back and see his achievements, and savour them, because he's always searching for more... and more... and more.

Sometimes, it's helpful to say, "Enough".  To relish the journey and to enjoy the outcomes - whether they are enhanced wisdom, greater understanding, more money, a better figure, greater peace... We can always come back to the theme again... explore it in new ways... play with it from a different perspective.

Having a direction can be helpful.  And, having a destination - whether it's the ultimate destination or just a pit stop along the way - lends our journey focus, cohesion, structure... and a vantage point from which to look back, even as we move on.

Friday 11 June 2010

Blessing the challenge

I have to be honest here: I sometimes feel as though I've had more than my fair share of problems and challenges.  But then, I imagine everyone does.  Just as the mundane is part of life, so too are challenges.  And every single time something doesn't work out as I had planned, hoped and dreamt, I feel a sense of failure.

However, I'm learning to reframe that idea.  Challenges are indeed a part of life.  The blessing inherent in challenges is that they invite us to grow.  They demand that we ask questions we could never have imagined prior to the challenge; they allow us to access new wisdom, new ideas and new actions. 

Challenges also soften us: when we have walked through our fears and doubts, we develop more compassion for others as they face their fears and doubts.  We begin to understand that, although our experiences are unique to us, others share similar stories. 

Challenges ask us to shed an old skin, just like snakes do (4-8 times a year!).  We are offered the opportunity to expand, to open up and to experience beingness more richly than before. 

Of course, we can back away.  We can try gluing the old skin back on, even as it desperately tries to free itself and allow the new to emerge.  The result?  Even bigger challenges emerge, for we cannot remain stagnant.  Growth and development is as inevitable for us as it is for the acorn that grows to a sappling and then to an oak.

By reframing challenges, by seeing them not in human terms as fail or succeed, but by imagining them as opportunities to experience life more fully, I find a gentle comfort.  I'm no longer in the fail/succeed bind, which always stops me short, as I fear the shame attached to failure. 

Reframing challenges allows me to experience the moment, rather than judge the outcome.

How to hear your Inner Voice

Here's a beauty!  How do we hear our inner voice? 

How do we access our Innate Wisdom? Actually, for 'we' read 'I', as this is very much a part of my personal search.

I know it's in there, but how do I know what's my ego and what's my Inner Voice?  I've got one step closer to disentangling my mind and Ego's voices from that of my Inner Voice. 

What I have noticed recently is that that my mind/Ego has two characteristics:  First, it nearly always speaks in words.  And those words have two very common themes: either fear or ego.  It says I'll either be crushed or rule the world (!) as a result of the action I'm considering.  It's not very balanced!

The second characteristic is that is it loud.  I can't fail to hear it.  In fact, I can only hear it because it shouts to ensure no other voice is heard.  My ego wants to help me, to keep me safe, but sadly, it's ground rules for "Keeping Jennifer Safe", were formed when I was a child, and most of them are no longer appropriate.  They don't support an adult who is growing, challenging, developing and eager to experience the richness of simply being.  You can see a tension arising here, can't you?!

My Inner Voice, on the other hand, has the exact opposite characteristics.  First, it doesn't speak in words, which makes hearing it a much more subtle process of awareness.  It is very delicate and discrete: it comes in the form of ideas, feelings and, sometimes, images.  It seldom 'speaks' in the way my mind/Ego speaks; it leaves a light trail of impressions.  I experience it as a very delicate pull, a sense of the direction in which to go or the 'rightness' of a particular action.

Second, its advice is not based on the fear/ego dynamic.  Instead, it feels its way towards expansion and growth, towards experiencing greater beingness.  It could be described as a 'knowingness' or even a day dream... a quiet vision that persistently, yet gently, calls to my heart, not to my mind.

Because it is so subtle, and often what it says is the exact opposite of what my mind/Ego thinks it should be doing, makes it quite difficult to discern.  I'm still in the process of getting to know it and trusting its quiet wisdom.

The Zen of Housework

I'm paraphrasing here, but bare with me:  There is a Zen saying that basically translates as "Before enlightenment, clean the house, make the meals, wash the clothes: After Enlightenment, clean the house, make the meals, wash the clothes."

Ok! So that's not the exact translation, but you may get my point... The spiritual path used to be about seeking and gaining enlightenment.  It was pursued within the cloisters of a religious group where, frequently, the washing, cooking and cleaning, was either minimal or - if you were deemed enlightened - probably done by others.

That is no longer the case.  Today, many of us pursue spiritual paths alongside the banal daily activities of washing the floor, cleaning the toilet, making someone else's coffee, fighting to get on the bus/train/tube/plane.  I used to get very frustrated by housework.  It seemed so unfair: how come my husband would assume it was ok for me to clean and cook, when we both had jobs?  Why??!

I spent a long time searching for a way to 'ok' with something that I couldn't change (he does, after all, work 14 hours a day!).  For me the solution came, not from looking at it on the human plane, but trying to see this as part of the soul journey.

I believe that our soul chooses our incarnation and sets up challenges for us to overcome at the human level, so that the soul can grow and develop.  So, in effect, incarnating as a woman was a choice I made at another level.  While I may not be conscious of that choice now, the idea that I had the power to choose this gave me a greater sense of freedom.  When the banal was no longer meaningless, but had a sense of purpose - a challenge for my mind and a new experience for my soul - I felt less resentful.  This was no longer about fairness, it was about my soul's adventure and the challenges that presented to my human self.

The go back to my original point, there will always be mundane, boring tasks.  We need to find ways to be 'ok' with the tasks we find boring, mundane and perhaps even deadening.  For me, finding a meaning that is bigger than the banal helps me create a new meaning and lifts me out of resentment, fear and resentment and takes me a small step closer to moments of peaceful acceptance.

Monday 7 June 2010

Detachment - the first step in forgiveness

Forgiveness can be a tricky subject.  It's a nice theory, but the practice can be a bit sticky - at least in my experience.

There have been times when I simply felt unable to forgive, because I thought it meant that I would accepting or condoning an event that had left me wounded.  And, in a few circumstances, that has been unthinkable.

However, I recently read that the root of the word "To Forgive" is the Greek word meaning "To Detach".  What a massive insight that was for me.

Detachment has nothing to do with the event or the person involved. It is about our relationship to the wounding experience in our own lives.  When we are wounded our tendency (and here, I should probably say, my tendency) is to hold on to that event: emotionally, mentally and even physically.  It is as though I weave the grief and pain it causes me through every cell of my being.  It becomes a part of me; for a time, it may even become the largest, most clearly defined part of me.  Because I am utterly attached to it.  There is no space.

In the worst circumstances, the wrong-doing may live on, but I suffocate underneath it.  'It' lives more than I do.  And that is precisely why it is necessary to detach... to introduce some space between me and my wound... Yes, it's a part of me.  But it's not all of me.

Creating space allows me to move forward, rather than loop endlessly through an old cycle of thoughts and feelings that, really, don't serve me.

Sometimes, forgiveness is too big a step.  But detaching... creating some space... that is more doable. And it's the crucial first step.  Setting me free to move on.

.... You may also be interested in a previous post, Forgiveness is a Decision

Why care and attention matter

We've just been away on holidays for a few days in Rome.  One night, we went to restaurant that had been recommended on a website, Life.  There, the staff were welcoming - they were warm and friendly, exuding care and attention - the waiters were interested in where we were from and found connections between their lives and our life in London.  Needless to say, we went back there again!

This is in sharp contrast to the hotel we stayed in.  There, the staff either ignored us (I stood by the concierge desk for 15 minutes while the concierge sat at her desk, hiding behind her computer), or answered every question with "No".  We won't be going back!

It's easy to say that care and attention matter because they bring repeat business.  But, to my mind, the reason care and attention matter is because they are the embodiment of our heart and soul in what we do.  Whether it is our jobs, our friendships, our relationship or our pass times, when we invest ourselves - heart and soul - in any action, it shows.  There is an underlying authenticity and integrity in what we do that shines through to others. 

It's worth noticing where we find it easier to invest our heart and soul.  The people we care for so easily that it is not a burden; the activities that are so easy and graceful that we enjoy them, rather than labour under them; the thoughts that warm us.  These are the signposts to our Best Selves - where our heart and soul shine through effortlessly, where we are 'in the flow'. 

Our peacock above, was never born to soar like an eagle.  In fact, for most birds, being almost bound to the earth would be a distinct disadvantage!  However, by putting its heart and soul into its innate gifts, it is amazing in its own splendid way.  Equally, forcing ourselves to be what we are not is as productive as a peacock learning to fly!  So the more we can be in our Best Self, the richer and more rewarding our lives can become.  Not just for us, but for everyone we interact with, whether colleagues, friends or tourists!