Friday 15 October 2010

Life's little dress rehearsals

Life is not as random as we may imagine, I realise.  Nor are we as unprepared for its twists and turns as we think we are.

As I reflected on yesterday's blog, I realised that life is constantly preparing us for the next stage.  It is constantly providing us with new experiences and the opportunity to learn the skills that will enable us to deal with the next life stage... and the next... and the next...

As I said yesterday, realising that I have no control over when the baby decides to arrive is a lesson in acceptance and surrender... and we adults do like to have control over our lives.  But having children demands more acceptance and surrender than we normally experience as non-parents.

Equally, as a first time mother, the idea of caring for another human being sometimes overwhelms me, but I realise that, when I was single, I used to wonder about the limitations of being in a relationship.  Yet when I was in a relationship, I realised that what I had perceived as limitations previously actually didn't bother me; there was a deeper joy to be had in sharing life and love with someone.  Caring for a child has many of the same qualities I developed through relationships, it's just taking them a step further and providing me with an even deeper experience of caring.

At work we are often presented with challenges that seem just that bit bigger than we feel comfortable negotiating.  I remember flying to Toronto a few years ago to present my research findings to an international group of business executives - and I remember my anxiety before that presentation!  But what I forget is that most of these challenges simply build on smaller challenges that I have successfully navigated in the past: I forgot all my presentational experience prior to that!  This was just a slightly different twist on a well-known theme in my life.

As I reflect on my life, I see that I am never as deskilled or incapable as I imagine. Nor am I ever as abandoned by life as I imagine.  I already have building blocks in place to help me cope with each new challenge as and when it arises.

Life is kind, I believe, and it is always providing me with little dress rehearsals and then inviting me to apply what I have learnt in a slightly new or more dynamic way.  It would be more accurate to admit that I am just reluctant to grow sometimes: and it helps to remember that I already have the latent ability to surf the waves of life.

Thursday 14 October 2010

Notes to my unborn child: Excellence

Many people think of Excellence as a goal.  For others, it is a methodology.  I believe Excellence is an outcome.

Excellence is not something to pursue, in and of its own right.  It is the natural outcome when our actions are aligned with our passion and purpose, when what we do flows from the very essence of who we are.

What I have learnt about Excellence
There is no doubt that Excellence requires determination, hard work, passion, persistence and dedication.  In my experience, it's hard to sustain these characteristics for very long if we are operating on will power alone.  The effort becomes too great and either the task crushes us or find we have to leave it go.

The great insight for me has been the discovery that all those characteristics can actually flow from us lightly and gracefully, when we are engaged in tasks that we love, and when we are deeply committed to something that aligns with our sense of passion and purpose. 

It never ceases to amaze me that so much of life is about our attitude to what we are doing and who we are in that moment.  Excellence shows just how true that is...

My wish for you
My wish for you is so simple - that you be You, that you do what you love, what lights you up, what inspires you... then Excellence will flow through every aspect of your life simply because it is the inevitable outcome of living a life of joy and passion.

Wednesday 13 October 2010

Due date ... plus one

The count down is over and there's not a lot to do but wait.  I'm struck by the fact that this requires impressive use of surrender and acceptance: both of which I assume are prerequisites for parenthood, so this is good practice!

As adults we're so used to establishing timetables and deadlines that we sometimes forget that not everything runs according to our plans.  And this couldn't be more true for children - another example of pregnancy preparing us for parenthood!

It's funny, but there are so many examples of 'life imitating parenthood' during pregnancy.  Another one is lack of sleep.  I know very few pregnant women, but of those I do know, none of them can sleep more than a few hours a night... we're already adapting to life with less sleep!

So, I'm making the most of the last few days (fingers crossed!) of feeling the baby moving inside.  And looking forward to regaining full use of my body - I'll be able to bend again!

Notes to my unborn child: Wisdom

I realise writing this blog that I know so little about the essence of wisdom that I am scarcely a good guide on this subject.  These few thoughts seem utterly inadequate to capture the depth and complexity of this subject, but hopefully they will point you in the right direction and then, one day, you can explain wisdom to me...

Wisdom is understanding the world through the eyes of the soul.  It is an understanding that is far more subtle than knowledge.  Knowledge is facts and figures.  Wisdom encompass knowledge, but it goes much further.  Wisdom sees through to the underlying truth of the universe.

What I have learnt about Wisdom
For me, Wisdom is the soul's knowing.  I think it is a divine gift but not everyone accesses it.  I  believe that we gain greater access to wisdom by standing back from knowledge and opinions, and becoming more reflective.  The less crowded our own minds are, the more space there is to connect with the Soul and to receive its wisdom.

Experiences can help us understand the world, though many just chase the experience and fail to allow its inner wisdom to unfold to them. 
Opinions are frequently open to change and challenge.  They are often loud and showy, and, at worst, they can be dangerous. 
Knowledge is more stable, but that too changes as we understand the world in new ways. 

For me, the hallmarks of wisdom are its grace, sensitivity, endurance, moderation and balance. 

What I wish for you
Wisdom is, I believe, one of the fruits of reflection and meditation.  Not that we even have to meditate actively; being open to hearing the soul's whispers is often enough.  It takes a while to learn to tune into this silent knowing, but it definitely worthwhile, as it will guide you far more gracefully through life than any decisions based on knowledge.

My wish for you is that you become aware of and listen to that 'little voice' inside, the hunches that may not make sense, but that roar in your belly.  These are just some of the ways you can connect to your soul's wisdom. 

And my greatest dream for you would be that you could live in that wisdom, that it is your inner guiding star through life, for it is the most eternal of truths.

Monday 11 October 2010

Don't be afraid of fear

It's an odd thought, but it's true.  We are afraid of fear.  We are also afraid of pain.  Perhaps it's cultural or perhaps it's part of being human.  I'm not sure which. 

Since the Braxton Hicks (B-H) contractions started three weeks ago, I've noticed my own fear of pain rising.  It closes me down - the fear of the unknown and the fear of the pain, much less the experience of the pain itself!  My muscles lock.  My mind freezes.  I start into avoidance tactics. 

But the beauty of these blessed contractions, is that I've had the opportunity to face that part of myself that seems to unconsciously believe that fear (of the unknown) and pain, will somehow anihilate me.  That I won't make it through to the other side.  The tensing up seems to be an almost primal reaction to brace myself and to deflect the fear (denial!) and pain (paracetamol!), if possible.

What I have learnt is that I don't actually need to seize up in the face of fear or pain.  There is a way of softening to it, by noticing my unconscious reaction and then breathing out; by acknowledging that I'm scared and knowing I can get through to the other side, and by acknowledging the discomfort of the sensations, and knowing that they too will end.

In my mind, the metaphor is a surfer.  Massive waves are scary, as they can drown us.  And for most of us, I imagine we would panic upon seeing a wave towering above us.  It is not the wave that can annihilate us so much as our own panic.  Alternatively, we can be like the surfer, and channel the immense power of the wave.  We can ride it.  We can use its amazing power to experience the world anew. 

Giving birth for the first time is, in my experience, a challenge - the fear of the unknown, the pain, the horror stories... I could panic (and have done frequently!).  But I'm learning to surrender to its energy with each B-H series, I'm learning to let that energy flow through me rather than tensing when I encounter it.  And maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to ride it to the end and experience the high I get when I go beyond my limits and achieve what I thought was possible.

Friday 8 October 2010

Control is the mind outside: Peace is our inner home

We love to have control.  Indeed we are obsessed with it.  We imagine it will bring us freedom.  We imagine it will bring us Peace.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Imagine a hurricane (this could be emotional as much as mental or physical).  The chaos that is caused by such personal 'hurricanes' is often due to our attachment as to how things 'should be'. 

In other words, the mind: it wants control over others, over events, over life.  It seeks to impose itself and its order.  It looks outside for control.  And this is the crucial element: control can never be found outside.  It is a distortion, it is a poor substitute for Peace, which is what our soul is really craving in times of chaos, stress, confusion and over-stimulation.

Peace, on the other hand is found inside.  It's not external.  It is personal.  No one else can create our peace.  We expand into peace.  And that peace gives us the strength to stay centred during hurricanes, to accept the decisions and actions of others, knowing that they too are on their own path (not the ones we think they should be on - and that's a big difference!).

So, how do we create Peace?  There are a couple of basic things we can do to facilitate and increase our sense of peace.

The First Step is letting go of the mental story - 'how it should be'.  This is an illusion, a story created by our mind, and it has no reality beyond the reality it has in our thoughts.

The Second Step is to accept what is... surrender to it.  We can fight What Is, but What Is always wins!  It's far wiser to allow What Is to move around us, rather like the wind stretching and bending reeds.  When we can flow with What Is, we create less resistance and less resistance creates less distortion.  Acceptance and surrender ultimately allow us to generate more ease and grace in life, and less chaos, strife and striving.  Acceptance and surrender also allow others to find their own inner balance more quickly and easily than if we tell them how they 'should be'.

The Third Step is harnessing the physical mechanism to root that experience of peace within - and it couldn't be simpler.  It's our breath!  
We breathe in peace.  
We breathe out acceptance. 
And Out. 
Our breath refocuses us on the present moment.  On the essence of life itself.  And away for the mental 'story' we would otherwise be tempted to impose on the world around us.
As with so much of life, it's often harder to remember the easy steps!  And yet, as I sometimes panic and worry about the huge life change approaching, I am grateful for the opportunity to remember to surrender.  To remember to Breathe.  I am grateful for the understanding that I have a choice in how I choose to respond to my fears and fantasies.  I can soften into acceptance.  I can surrender control and embrace peace.  One breath at a time!

Wednesday 6 October 2010

Notes to my unborn child: Light

If you open the door from a room in darkness into a room bathed in light, the darkness does not rush in and absorb the light.  Rather, the light saturates the darkness, transforming it.

Prehistoric monuments, from the pyramids to Stonehenge, even the ancient science of astronomy, show just how much attention we humans have lavished on following and understanding light.  Our relationship to light is as primal and as instinctive as our relationship to air.

One of the interesting complexities of the concept of light is that has often been associated with the divine, across civiliations, cultures and time.  The age in which we live, and into which you are coming, is no different.  We are still fascinated by the concept and complexity of light.

What I have learnt about light
For most of my life, I have had a preference for focusing on the light - or that which is positive and redeeming - in any happening.  It took me many years to understand that light and darkness co-exist and that we need to acknowledge the darkness, what is muddy, murky and unpleasant in life, before we can let it go and embrace the light.  Simply bouncing in and looking for the light is not enough for most people - we need to acknowledge the shadow consciously, in order to release it and move on.

I've also discovered that people need varying amounts of time in the shadow.  For some, the simple acknowledgement that it is there is enough.  Others feel the need to submerge themselves in the shadows.  Yet we all find our way to the light, somehow.

There is a dance between light and shadow.  I used to be afraid of the shadows, of darkness, but I fear it less now.

What I wish for you
My wish for you is that you can acknowledge the shadows, but set your compass by the light.  Although unpleasant things may occur in life, I hope that you will be able to move swiftly and gracefully through them, by looking for the emerging potential, the possible good, the Light, in any situation. 

I hope that you will, from a young age, understand that much of life's darkness is simply created by our thoughts, and we are free to choose where we put our focus - Do we dwell on the darkness?  Or do we embrace the light and move towards the joy and love, the divine essence, of being human?

Monday 4 October 2010

The heart's secret door

After nine months, we have arrived.  This is week 39, and we only have one week to go.  Indeed, the midwife thinks this will be an early baby, so it could happen any day.

This weekend we had what may be our last weekend as a couple, before we become a family.  Moments of transition often have a surreal quality, I find.  They are utterly 'normal', because they flow naturally from how my daily life, yet those mundane moments also seem more intense because - although the actions may be mundane and may be repeated - they will have an almost subtly different quality to them because the very fabric of my life has shifted and evolved. 

And so it was with this weekend.  We did our weekend chores, we ate, we slept (as much as large bumps allow!) and we looked out to the future, wondering how it would be... We can't imagine what it will be like to be responsible for a child.  A deep blessing, a challenge, a joy...

The most beautiful description I have heard of having a child comes from Fre, who will be the baby's Godfather. 

He described fatherhood like this, "You love your parents, you love your wife, but when you have a child, it is as though a secret door in your heart opens and a love you never imagined you could feel pours forth."

And so, we wait, knowing that each moment brings us closer to experiencing these new depths of love.