I believe it was Rev Leroy Allison that said “We spend too much time living in the ‘what if’ and need to learn to live in the ‘what is.’ Accepting our present reality seems to be hard for us as an adult. Our emotional state usually arises from the internal protesting towards it.
In fact we get so wrapped up in this internal battle, we lose months of our time, years even, between moments when we ponder our life a bit more and resolve to make changes. Most people don’t take regular time to relax and still the mind a little, there’s just too much ‘to do’.
This week I have been contemplating the topic more than usual, my little grey tabby didn’t survive her kidney disease and so we begrudgingly said farewell. In a detached way, I wondered whether this experience of death would be different from previous experiences I've had given all my pontificating about living in the moment.
I cried, even though I believe we are all connected, in life and in life after life, but I can no longer reach out and stroke her fur, I can no longer hear her chirpy little meow talk that greeted me every time we were near. Nothing I think or feel can change the fact that she's not physically here. However, what I think can change my experience of it.
Only last week I wrote about leaning into the curve balls, living in the present, and so life decided to throw me another.
When close ones die, it gets us thinking about the life we are living. Those who face dying tell us they wish they had listened less to others and lived a life more aligned with their own desires.
How many times each day do you waste time rebelling against ‘what is’ in your mind? The toilet seat that has been left up, the person next to you on the train with garlic breath, the kids squabbling with each other, the friend that never calls, the boss expecting you to just go along with some silly protocol, the fact that you even have to go to work at all?
One of the reasons we love children and animals so much is they seem to revel in the present moment far more than we, they still see magic all around them. We, however, chew things over in our minds and create magnificent stories within seconds. Generally we tell ourselves fabulous tales of how others have done things deliberately to us, and so we feel the persecution and sink further into our misery.
We also experience others doing this to themselves, friends or loved ones unload, which just adds to the bad vibes. So what can we do about all these thoughts and feelings we experience that are just slowing us down, creating a fog around ‘what is’?
Change what you can, accept what you can’t.
It comes down to neutralizing the effects. In the moment, if you feel especially upset, it’s better to remove yourself and get moving, burn some of that negative energy off, walk off some steam. Once you’re there, or if you’ve started at a less extreme state of emotion, start to generalise your thoughts, replay the story from another perspective, one that doesn’t put you at the centre of the drama.
Most importantly, be yourself. I reflected this week how animals have their own personalities, even their own baggage. My older cat has always been wary, if approached from her peripheral vision she’ll turn and swipe, if challenged by another cat she’ll valiantly stand her ground.
In contrast, that little grey tabby was a resounding example of simple presence and love. Not once did she fight, bite or swipe. Nothing ever fazed her; she just ignored any challenge and carried right on with her affectionate ways. What an amazing gift in my life, and beautiful memory.
Taking regular time for yourself to get absorbed in activities that help you tune out to the ‘stuff’ and tune into who you are is a necessity, it’s certainly not an indulgence.
As I watch my children grow up, I’m acutely aware of all the expectations that get put upon them, ‘rules’ that they are supposed to follow. When I think of the layers and layers of these that get added over the years, it’s no wonder we get stuck in a bit of a fog about who we really are.
Accepting this, start to delayer. Spend more time in ‘what is’, you will soon notice more of what you are feeling towards things, ideas, or people. Use this as a guide to getting to know the real you. Accept what comes up, you may not be the person you think you are.
There is only now, this moment, this body, this life, this experience. Accepting the moment doesn’t mean you accept a future made up of the same moments – use now to guide you to what you do want, then action it. Even if that action is only becoming aware of what you don’t want.
Once you look at your life through different lenses you can't undo it, awareness is created. Inspiration follows, you start to notice more of who you really are, what you really want, act on your inspiration.
The fact you’re reading this article shows you already have some level of awareness that something is out of whack in your life. I’m not going to pretend it’s easy to strip away all those layers you’ve gathered over the years, you won’t suddenly wake up tomorrow with a childlike innocence about the world. But as you work on it, piece by piece, peace returns, exuberance returns, and – most importantly - you return.
Living ‘what is’, choosing this moment, aware of who you truly are and what you truly want, is a life worth living.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/40883175@N06/14331575962">Highline Elation</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">(license)</a>
Life can throw you curve balls, we all know this - the question is how you respond when it happens. Who you are - how you respond to life's challenges - will determine the quality of your own experience and those around you. Many philosophers and teachers have pointed out that now, this present moment, is all we have. Yet many of us live in the past or live for the future.
Learning to live life in the now doesn’t mean life won’t throw you challenges. It’s more related to the perspective you have on those challenges, Erkhart Tolle teaches that optimally you want to still the mind and become an observer who is unattached to the outcome. At first I wondered what the point was of anything if I was unattached to it, isn’t that part of this human experience, that we feel things in response to the life around us?
As I began to explore the idea more, I realised that being unattached to the outcome didn’t mean I no longer cared about anything. It’s about the futility of trying to change things that already are. That is not to say you don’t take a different course in the future. As Reinhold Neibuhr famously said “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”.
Of course this is easier said than done. I often catch my own responses to the challenges of life, and muse at what an imperfect being I am. So I learn from the experience and recommit to living life in the now.
Whether it’s an unexpected result at the clinic, or in a performance review, or a redundancy at work, an illness in the family, or a loved one deciding to take their life in a different direction – how we respond makes a huge difference to the quality of our own wellbeing.
This week as we have been settling into our new home in a new city, it became apparent our youngest cat was very sick. Pre-children, our cats were like our kids, and I have to confess in the mayhem that ensues from having little ones born into your life, the cats took somewhat of a back seat. I had noticed that she was a bit depressed and somewhat underweight in recent months, but I had put it down to upset over the move.
As it turns out, she has irreversible kidney damage. At only 6 years old, we’d been expecting her to be around for another 10 years or more, and we just weren’t ready to let her go. Neither did we want her to suffer. Through my tears there came a point when I suddenly realised that, no matter how much I wanted her to stay, it wasn’t my decision; it was hers. She would either decide her time is up and leave, or she’d choose to stay a bit longer. I couldn’t impose my will, I could only support her in her choice.
Although she has bounced back a little from death’s door and is now home, her prognosis isn’t wonderful. However, I am grateful for this time we have now and are making sure to feed her a specific diet that will improve the quality of whatever life she has remaining. Controlling the things we can.
That lack of control is the curve ball. As humans we have a tendency to try and control everything that happens in our life, but we can’t. Everyone has their own free will, and, no matter how much you may want something of someone, you might not get it.
I used to see that in the office a lot where a manager would simply tell people to do something without any real discussion, understanding or (crucially) buy in. As a result the culture was not one of lasting positive change but rather one of fear.
While the Lego movie epitomizes this in a really humorous way, it’s a rather sad indication of the all too prevalent modus operandi, certainly in the western world. Frequently I’d watch managers physically or metaphorically scratch their heads when challenged by their superiors about a poor outcome, saying “but I told them”.
Not all curve balls are negative of course, some are amazing, a long awaited pregnancy when all hope had been lost, a marriage proposal, a promotion or a lotto win. Regardless of what they are, the essence of a curve ball is the unexpected nature, at least in your mind. On some level you will probably have recognized what was occurring, just as I can now see signs I had noticed with my cat in hindsight.
It can be hard to accept that our mind plays such a huge part in the quality of our life, that it’s not what happens but how we respond. You can choose to be a victim, or you can accept that you are the creator of your own reality. Either way, you’re right.
However, if you are a leader of people or want to be, and want to be successful in doing that, not only do you have to master this, you also have to learn to teach it to others, pointing out what’s in it for them as you bring them on the journey.
Change is the norm in this modern world, and the cultures that are deliberately cultivated and supported around this are the ones that thrive. Imagine a world where people deal with change in a healthy way as the norm, how amazing would that be?
It starts with you, who you are in these moments. Is your mind battling against what is, or have you let go of the futility of such thoughts? Start with the easy things, the queue at the traffic lights, the unanswered call, the colleague who is endlessly talking, the appointment that is already late.
Taking control of curve balls, ironically, is simply about accepting the things you can't change in the moment. Choose to accept the moment and it will surprise you how things start to turn around rather than spiral. Focus on the things you can control and you'll build such positive momentum you'll be knocking challenges out of the park.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.
A thought is a curious thing, once observed, if it’s negative it loses its power; its grip on you. The energy dissipates because your inner knowing sees it in the context of that bigger picture of your life. However, if the thought is positive – aligned with what you truly want out of life – let it snowball, it creates a positive momentum and great results if you’ll let it.
This last week we have been continuing to settle in our new home, new city. When I say settling, I mean, continuing to get things out of boxes, continuing to take two steps forward and one step backwards with electrics, plumbing and a kitchen renovation, kids starting at their new kindergarten and childcare, cats still locked in to get them used to their new environment (and not enjoying being locked in with little kids).
Amid the stresses and strains I catch myself being someone I don’t like, letting negative thoughts take over. As we take a small backward step with our kitchen, perhaps a handle missing, or a cabinet maker who forgot to turn up, I lose perspective and start to grumble to my partner.
Here's the start of a bad snowball, I say one thing, he plays devil’s advocate and tries to smooth it out; vice versa. Suddenly the story is growing and it’s not about a scheduling error at the kitchen company, I‘ve jumped from there to the kind of person my partner is, his character and the choices I’ve made in choosing him as a life partner. Sound familiar?
Of course, things cool off and you gain a little more perspective and life moves on. However, in the process, look at all that bad energy created, bad vibes. Of course, children are very sensitive to all of these things, as are animals. They are not in the specifics, they are just picking up on the energy, suddenly they are tuning in at a lower frequency – squabbling starts, and it snowballs further.
If you accept the premise that everything is energy, and our thoughts and feelings emit energy, what if that energy – once created – hangs around like an invisible bubble? If all energy vibrates at a different frequency (like radio waves, great analogy Esther Hicks), you begin to realise that if you are tuned to the wrong frequency you can pick up on a lot of ‘stuff’ hanging around out there.
Controversially Erkhart Tolle talks specifically about premenstrual women, whose mood – if not caught at the outset and recognised for what it is – picks up on the energy of persecution of women through the ages and snowballs.
Being a woman myself, I admit to first feeling a little outraged at this. Woe betide men who make derisory comments on this topic (“oh, that explains it; it’s that time again"). Of course, when I let this cogitate with my inner knowing, I have to admit it makes more than a little sense.
Play out these scenarios in your own life, they happens every day at home and at work. Think of how often a comment in a meeting suddenly leads to an attack (at least in your own mind) on your character, or a colleague’s character. It can be overwhelming when you start looking at life through these lenses.
When you think of all the bad energy you create and pick up on, not just of other people you are currently interacting with, but generations passed who have inhabited the same space, it starts to feel like a futile situation. It’s not, it’s really simple, you just need to tune in at a different frequency.
It's not that we are trying to never have a negative thought or experience. If negative thought exists as a result of bad experiences – and bad experiences result from negative thought – we don’t want to dwell there long. We do want to use these experiences as a contrast though, to let us know what we do want. Therefore if you aim to spend 80% of your time on the positive thoughts and experiences, that would seem like a good balance.
Easy to say and – I know – harder to live, especially when you’ve spent years out of balance, stuck more often than you’d like in a quagmire of negative thought and bad energy. There is much advice and information available on the how, but the ones I like best are:
The mind is a wonderful thing when applied to creating and growing more of what you really want, but if you are finding yourself trapped in a spiral of negative thoughts and feelings, be deliberate about moving in the direction of what you do want, it will change the momentum of your life.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/56044438@N00/3266544581">freedom</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">(license)</a>
Our mind is a magnificent machine, but as I’ve said before, it’s akin to the computer that thinks it’s human. Many believe they are their mind.
Yet there is a deeper knowing within each of us that we can tend to ignore. Instead of quieting the chaos in our head, we dwell on things, amplify them, and they grow like a snowball. When we fixate on the thoughts in our mind, we can never be present, we are stuck in the past or in the future, but we are not really here, now, this moment.
There’s a term that has been coined for a new movement, mindfulness, which is interesting as it describes the root cause it’s designed to tackle rather than the practice itself, the illness rather than the cure so to speak; an oxymoron. Mindfulness’ practices have of course been around as long as humans, but lost respectability among the masses. In its more modern naming the masses are taking note; the masses of stressed out, frazzled people who would otherwise have rejected meditation as a bit hippy or new age. Anything that brings us to our senses has to be a good thing.
It’s amazing how many phrases we commonly use, like ‘bring us to our senses’ that contradict what people often express as their more cynical viewpoint about life and it’s deeper meaning, and the way others might go about connecting with that. Our senses are many, yet we rely on our 'rational' mind to try and interpret them. In truth, there’s a part of you that interprets the world around you and it’s congruence to the path in life you truly want to take far quicker.
If you wake up in the morning and take some time for contemplation before you leap out of bed and into the frenetic flow of the day, you will connect far more easily with the things that are really important to you and those you want to achieve. This is the time in the day to set your intentions, start with the big picture in mind, rather than the inevitable endless stream of emails that will surely be waiting.
It’s easy to make excuses about why it’s not possible to do that. I know, I’ve spent the last few years of my life being woken through the night by my daughters and feeling like I’m experiencing some sort of sleep deprivation torture. But I’ve been taking time lately to make sure I hit the reset button.
I have a choice when I'm awoken - resistance or acceptance. Often I get woken and think “no, no, no, it can’t be time to get up already”. Then I catch myself, I stop the thought before it starts to grow like a snowball. In the past I’d have been thinking “If she starts whining for milk I’ll scream” or “Why can’t he get his lazy butt out of bed for once instead of pretending to still be asleep” or worse.
Caught unaware and called from our sleep most of us are less than congenial. Lately I’ve started to be more ‘mindful’ and hear Kim Eng’s voice (I regularly do her yoga class on DVD) “accept the is-ness of this moment”. Then I quickly follow that with my intention for the day of “unconditional love”. I’ve been amazed at how these quick flashes of thought in the morning have reset the tone for the day. The unthought-of ruminations that had started to appear like shadows in my mind suddenly recede and the sun comes out. Well, maybe not the sun, but certainly not the raincloud and lightening thunderstorms of yesteryear.
When we get trapped in our head, and negative thought patterns start to kick in, it’s important for your wellbeing to catch them quickly and move on. My daughter tripped and hurt her arm this week, taking the top layer of skin off, resulting in some antiseptic being applied at bedtime. As it started to sting, she felt pain and began to cry. She was so tired that I kept thinking she’d fall asleep, but instead she was fighting it, fixated on the pain. After much crying and attempts to sooth her I said “you’re stuck in your head, thinking about it is making it a lot worse”. She said miserably “I am?”
I started to distract her by retelling the stories about when she was a baby, a topic I know she loves, and then a thought crossed my mind. She wasn’t going to sleep anytime soon, so I asked her whether she’d like to get up and look at her baby book. We had a wonderful time looking through it together. At last she was ready for bed, distracted enough that she no longer felt the pain.
When you start to get trapped in your head, anywhere, anytime, make a point of breaking the hold the thought has. Until you do you’ve lost your perspective. And that perspective is the one of the bigger picture for your life. Most of you can’t articulate what that is, but you know it deep inside. You feel good when you’re in tune with it, and bad when you’re not. So if you’re stuck in some vortex of self destruction, deliberately break out.
The best thing you can do for your wellbeing and your success in life is to regularly and proactively go out of your mind. I mean this in a healthy way of course. Whether it's ‘Mindfulness’, meditation, or simply an activity you really enjoy that lets you relax, it’s important for you to tune in, turn on and get the best of you each day.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.
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