If you often feel disconnected or wish for more peace or meaning in your life, it’s probably a good indicator that the life you are living is not aligned with the one you – the real you – wants.
There are two versions of you. There’s the real you, the one that you get glimpses of now and again, particularly on a relaxing holiday. Then there’s the cosseted, task focused version of you that operates day to day, lost so much in your thoughts that you are disconnected from both the real you and the living breathing world around you; I’m not talking about the ‘news’ here, I’m talking about life.
Take your regular route to work for example, do you pay much attention to it? For over 3 years I had the good fortune to commute into the city via ferry, a passage through the islands of the Hauraki Gulf that lead into Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour.
Sounds idyllic. Yet there I was, ‘device’ in hand, responding to email after email, doing the weekly online grocery shopping in between, or buying someone’s birthday present, or making an appointment, or following up on a bill, suddenly remembering five other things I had to do and scheduling them in. Sound familiar?
On the odd occasion the ferry captain would pull over so we could watch dolphins or whales and, suddenly, attention shifted, people came alive and momentarily connected as we all took our devices to the back of the boat to photograph these beautiful creatures and post how lucky we are in our various social media forums.
In contrast, before I started writing today, I took a walk around the neighbourhood. I no longer commute, so I make a conscious effort to go out and get some exercise and connect with the world I’m living in. It’s a calm day, with only a very light breeze, enough to bring the scent of flowers if your senses are tuned in. It’s the kind of day that lulls you into a slower pace just to still the rustling of your clothes and hear the birds twittering and tweeting to each other, a much gentler form of social media.
Before I took the walk, I had deliberately taken a short time out to still my mind using a breathing practice. If I hadn’t, the walk would probably have been more like my previous commutes because there’s always more to do than time permits.
Incorporating a period where you deliberately still your mind each day is critical to finding peace and connecting with the real you. Of course, what I’m talking about here is ‘consciously’ switching off as opposed to numbing your mind through that bottle of wine, beer or any other mind altering substance. I’m not saying don’t have those, your choice, but those aren’t what I’m recommending in pursuit of lasting inner peace and happiness.
At first it’s not easy to just switch out of your usual cosseted state, you need to make the conscious effort, it takes focus. Schedule it in, whatever ‘it’ means to you, any activity that allows you to consciously switch off. For me, it’s meditation, yoga or a walk; for my partner it’s a bike ride in the mountains, a swim or a spa. Whether it’s 15 minutes or an hour, just do it regularly and you will be amazed at the results that follow.
For those of you a bit more scientifically minded, thanks to my osteopath, I came across the work of Dr Rick Hansen in Hardwiring Happiness this week, he has some great tips for really helping you leverage your more positive experiences, making the feelings and state of wellbeing associated with them last - and explains the neuroscience behind it all.
As you practice stilling your mind regularly, you’ll notice more. You suddenly catch yourself in the midst of your usual daily whirlwind and you take a moment to notice the world around you. It might be the expression on someone’s face that you hadn’t really been watching, or the carpet in a corporate corridor, or the beauty of a tree outside. Then you notice your feelings on the inside begin to slow down, feel less frantic, less stressful. You wonder why you hadn’t prioritized regular time to still your mind long ago, how did you miss this simple step you wonder.
As I was reminded today by a wise man, in regularly stilling your mind, you won’t necessarily become powerful, famous or rich, but you will feel at peace and connected to everything around you – including the real you. In this state you feel happier, your true passions come to light, your inner knowing provides the answers you’ve been seeking and, in all honesty, you’ll be a much nicer person to be around in an amazingly enriched world.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.
You have a long list of goals and desires, you wish your life could be better, but... "I can't do it because..." or some version of this.
If only you were to realise that the power to dissolve your fears is a power you hold within you. It's a battle between the mind and the inner self. People tell me I’m showing great courage in sharing and following what's in my heart, they are sure I will be successful. But I believe courage is not the opposite of fear, surrender is.
You only need to look at the examples in your life where you really wanted something; it might be a new home, or taking a relationship to the next step, or ending a relationship. Your mind will have had many questions, fear will have arisen. Despite that, something in you knew it was the right thing to do. You've never looked back and, of course, it all worked out.
The converse is true too. You will have examples of decisions you've made where you just knew it wasn't the right thing for you, but you could rationalise in your mind why you were making that decision. Inevitably, on some level of your wellbeing, it won't have worked out so well.
For years now I’ve harvested a desire to follow a more fulfilling path. If I buy into the stories my mind concocts, the "what if..." stories, yes, it takes courage. If I trust my inner voice and trust it will all work out, if I surrender to that, it will.
A friend told me yesterday, when she talked of painting her deck, her bones and muscles ached but she felt fulfilled. In Who Are You Not? - Strip Away What Is Not Real we talked about signs and signals that arise from your wellbeing when you are not being authentic, or true to your own nature.
You wouldn’t mistake the aching my friend described as a signal that she wasn’t in alignment with her inner self; because she was fulfilling her deeper desires of tending the home she’s lovingly created, her haven. We inherently understand fulfillment as an excellent indicator that, at our deepest level of wellbeing, we are being true to ourselves.
Having been around the same old circuit so many times in my work life, waking up in the morning and then being spat out at the end of each day; empty and unfulfilled, I really know the contrast with how I want to feel. No experience is wasted, the negative ones are providing us with both an example of what we don't want and the motivation to go after what we do want.
Yes, if I can rid myself of aching muscles that would be wonderful, but ultimately I ache to feel fulfilled. To feel fulfilled you simply need to be yourself.
When I look at the 'achievements' in my life so far, moving to the other side of the world was a move that took a lot of focus and energy, birthing my children was much the same. Both rank among my most fulfilling achievements. The other things you see on my profile, not so much.
It's not that the roles I've been doing aren't worthy roles. Those roles, filled by someone being true to their own nature, would be fulfilling. Fulfilled people are happier. more passionate people. Imagine that, a workplace filled with happy, fulfilled people. Productivity would sky rocket!
Fear of the unknown is what stops us. Our wonderful, practical minds step in with the “what if..” questions, fear arises and the feeling of it stops us in our tracks.
On cusp of change now, having surrendered to the deeper knowing within that I must, absolutely must, let the real me emerge, the 'what if' questions creep in when I let them. Writing a post, I momentarily fear, “who will read it? If they read it, what will they think?” Then people read it, great! But then only few comment because they in turn also fear “what will others think?” And yet, in writing this and in reading this we are all in the process of becoming more aware of who we really are.
When fear arises, change gear, deliberately do something different that will make you feel good - listen to music, dance, walk, cycle, stroke the cat, whatever makes you feel good. Let go of all thought and still the mind. Only then, ask the question, am I on the right path?
The answers deeper within are the true answers. You must seek those answers. Then you can be who you are, the person born with gifts, talents and traits that, if fulfilled, will bring you joy, and in turn you will bring that joy to the world.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.
As you begin to understand more about who you are not, your true self will begin to emerge.
Layer by layer as we scrutinise the perceptions we hold about ourselves, and start to make a deliberate effort to shed some that are no longer useful, you are likely to feel uncomfortable or even lost for a while. At first, you will have less of a sense of self.
Instead you might slowly (rather than instantly) stop attracting situations in which you’d use that old armory. Old beliefs about yourself can be difficult to shake and we might have to reason them out in many facets of our life. In emotional terms, despair turns to anger which turns to frustration and finally you have apathy. Apathy is your turning point.
It’s also a vulnerable point, because you feel empty. Understand though, it is necessary for something to be emptied to allow another thing to emerge. Try to be patient and use the many signals around you, the reflections of ourselves that life presents back, to discover who you truly are.
It can be confusing; the world is sending us many signals at any one time. The most important thing you can do is be aware of how your wellbeing is responding to what the world reflects in its mirror.
Only you can know whether something is right for you. We live in a world of contrast. Without that contrast you wouldn’t experience the strength of feeling joy or happiness can bring without having first felt the contrasting negative emotions.
There is no rush, but you might feel compelled to rush, to fill the void in you that has opened up. Shedding the layers of who you’ve become is revealing if you let it be, but it also makes us feel exposed.
Realising that life is meant to be easy might be a challenge. Many of us resist the idea because we’ve been taught the exact opposite. We chalk up our negative physical, mental, emotional or spiritual experiences to the necessary 'cost' of success.
Life will be full of contrasting experiences, yes, but it’s the ones that make you feel good (in all aspects of your wellbeing) that are a reflection of the real you. There is no cost you have to keep paying. If something isn't working for you, work on letting it go.
Look around you for the reflections of who you are. Listening to others, or asking for their help, can sometimes be a really smart way to try and figure out your true nature under those layers.
Other people, assuming they are objective, can more clearly see who we are being. Every day we interact with people in a world that can tell us so much about who we are, if we listen. Our children are a very rich source for this, though we might not always like what we hear – or see.
A personal coach, or even a counselor, can be invaluable. Our life is a mirror, it reflects back to us who we are being, but you can often struggle to see the wood from the trees; particularly if you have little time or headspace.
One exercise, that is quite powerful, is to write a list of all the people you admire and what you admire about them. This will give you a list of traits that live, to some extent, within yourself.
A journal is another way of unwinding some of your thoughts on this. For more practical tips on the process, I really like Dr Robin Smith's Rediscover Who You Are series on Oprah.com.
There are many pointers to your authentic self, listen to those, and then listen within to discern what is right for you.
While discovering who you really are is a lifelong journey, I encourage you to start. A world filled with people being who they really are, is a much better world than the one we live in today, for everyone, It starts with you.
This article was originally Published on LinkedIn.
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” Imagine a life where mostly every aspect of it was positive? It can be if you listen - to yourself, the inner voice that is trying to be heard.
I have this quote on a little granite plaque in my kitchen, having been drawn to it a couple of years ago. It’s credited to Churchill, though there is apparently no known connection between him and the quote. Regardless, these are wise words.
Previously I’ve talked about the concept of being who you are in the sense of being the person with the traits, gifts and talents you were born with, rather than the person you’ve become (nature versus nurture) layer by layer. When you are acting from your own true nature, you’re happier, more passionate about the things you do, and great to be around – inspiring even!
As we take on other people’s beliefs and perceptions – you’re loud, you’re quiet, you’re good at football, you’re no good at football, you’re destructive, you’re constructive, you’re a fighter, you’re timid, you like seafood, you don’t like seafood, you are messy, you are tidy, you are ugly, you are good looking; on and on - finding out who you are, the true you before you took on all that other stuff, takes a conscious effort.
The signs that you’re acting more from nurture than nature, are pretty easy to spot, should you choose to recognize them. They appear at all levels of your wellbeing; physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. You have aches and pains, you have trouble concentrating, you crave time to do more of the things you love, and you may feel angry, or weepy, or depressed. The point is, there’s more negative than positive regardless of how it shows up.
Most of us put up with that in many aspects of our lives, and it’s only when the balance tips to mainly negative that we are driven to do something about it.
In So Who Are You? I mentioned there were many ways to strip off the layers that are keeping you in a negative space. First you have to recognize them for what they are. Is your wellbeing suffering? If the answer is yes, it’s a layer you’d be better shedding. This layer may have served you once, but it is now holding you back.
Now you have a choice, either do something about it, or go around the circuit again, attracting more circumstances or people into your life to reinforce the negative ways you feel. This is what we do, unconsciously. This is your default future.
What if you want to change that? You want to discover who that person is beneath that layer or that belief about yourself that you’ve been holding onto? Fear might hold you back.
I’ve mentioned that I’ve seen myself as a fighter, a defender of perceived injustice, for most of my life. Yet, all the signs were there that I don’t actually like to fight – the knots in my tummy, the sleepless nights, the obsessive thinking through of every detail, turning it over and over in my mind. But what was the alternative? To let ‘those people’ win? ‘Those people’ could of course be anyone from my partner or my mum to a lawyer or institution. If I perceived there was injustice I’d take them on regardless, no one was going to diminish me, nor anyone I cared about.
So to peel back this layer was a scary thought. Was I going to become some sucker who let everyone walk all over me? I can think of countless examples of situations I’ve faced where I’ve been proud to have ‘stood my ground’, to speak up or speak out; it’s been part of my identity, one I’ve been rewarded for in many ways. What was I going to do if those situations arose again?
Did I have enough confidence I’d been drawing those situations in because I believed myself to be a fighter? And others, in turn, had seen me speak out thus were more drawn to me when in need? The short answer to this is yes. But it wasn’t a quick answer to get to, and it’s a question that still plagues me from time to time if I let my mind get in the way too much.
Our mind is a wonderful tool, but we’ve let it become the thing that defines us – “I think, therefore I am” said Descartes. It can really help us successfully navigate the daily practicalities of life, but it also makes up wonderful stories that keep us in fear of ever acting in our own best interest. The ‘what if’ stories. My “what if I become a sucker” story.
Yes, I could see that these situations were affecting my wellbeing. But was I attracting them? And did that mean I could reverse the trend and not attract them?
My 4-year-old daughter is a master of simply paying no attention – I mean zero – to the things she doesn’t want. Try getting an answer to “would you like an apple?” if she’s not hungry, or “shall we read this book?” if she’s busy doing something more interesting.
The law of attraction is a concept that has had a lot of attention in recent years, most widely in the Rhonda Byrne book The Secret. Certainly as a competitive swimmer I understood the power of the mind and the part it played in winning, but I hadn’t really thought about it in relation to other aspects of my life that tended to unfold unconsciously. I liked it, because it meant I could determine more of my own future.
So was I willing to take a risk that I might get ‘walked over’, be diminished, if I shed this fighter layer of mine? Were there other ways to stand my ground without fighting? Or would I simply stop attracting challenging situations that made this necessary? The answer to my question was there, when I listened.
Only you can decide if you’re ready to strip back unhelpful layers. What I’m encouraging is that you listen to your true inner voice rather than the voice of fear in your head. Your inner voice - or intuition - will help you decide if something is right for you.
We all have different ways of listening to our inner voice, our true nature, but they all involve stilling our mind. For some people the way to this is through a sport or activity they enjoy, for others it’s in the day to day chores – like cooking – that require little thinking, for others it’s simply meditation. We all know our own answers when it comes to what’s best for us, the trick is to trust that inner voice more than the ‘what if’ stories your mind creates when you give it too much attention.
So while I trusted that shedding this ‘fighter’ layer was in my best interest, I still needed some help to work through some past scenarios to still that ‘what if’ voice in my mind, and not just once, because under stress we default to ingrained behaviours and it takes a while to ingrain new ones.
Understanding who we are not - what is a layer versus what is our true nature – is one thing, understanding what our true nature beneath is another; one I’ll expand on more next time.
The principles here are simple, the reality can be a bit more tricky as I’ll continue to share. But it is worth it. A world full of happy, passionate people in positions of influence and power – that is all of us – is the surely the world we want to live in?
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.
By signing up you will only receive emails from shonakeachie.com and you can unsubscribe at any time. This is a two-step process, you will have to verify your subscription by clicking the link in the email you should receive after clicking this 'Subscribe' button. If you do not receive the email please check your Junk mail, thank you.
Please note if you are using the Google Chrome browser and want to subscribe to the RSS Feed you will first need to get an RSS plugin from the Chrome Store.