If the answers are within us, what are the questions?

My questions has been - How do I find the answers? How do I discover the kingdom of God?

My questions have been – How do I find this peace?  How do I discover the kingdom of God?

I have always been sightly perplexed by those wise sayings that tell us not to seek the answers out in the world because they are inside us. How do I find them? What strategy or process do I use to discover these seemingly allusive answers was my constant refrain. I clearly wasn’t asking the right questions. In fact, I don’t think I knew to ask questions, let alone know which questions to ask.  So my big learning this week is: The questions are the key!

Several years ago I was introduced to the work of Byron Katie and used it extensively to overcome some truly debilitating, suffocating thought patterns.  Last weekend I had the privilege of immersing myself in her work again to gain some skills in facilitating ‘The Work’ for others. It was a wonderful weekend of self exploration, practising and facilitating.

One would hardly believe this self inquiry method called “The Work”, developed by Katie after a physical and mental collapse, would yield the deep and profound results it does because it is so very simple. Trust me; this is one of those times not to ‘judge a book by its cover’. Four simple questions can release years of angst associated with our own beliefs. A new found clarity and freedom, a release and lightness is felt after doing ‘The Work’. You come away with a new perspective on life.

The basis of Katie’s work are the four questions. However, as you ask yourself these questions you realise the truth in her teachings; that ‘when you believe in your thoughts you suffer’ and it is only by taking responsibility for your own beliefs and judgements that you have the power to change them.  Katie’s wisdom has flowed into my week guiding, supporting and challenging me:

When you argue with reality you only lose 100 percent of the time.

Everything happens for you, not to you

Suffering is optional

Wise words

Wise words –  Image courtesy of cake mag.com

This week I feel a greater sense of calm and a real peace I haven’t felt in a long time simply by remembering and using this simple tool. Simply by knowing which questions to ask I have created more space, allowing me to be who I am and not who I think I should be.

The peace within.

      The peace within.

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A Thai massage, an epiphany and my quest to surrender

I’ve been letting go of controlling every little thing in my life to allow space for new opportunities and possibilities to flood in. This slackening of the reins is part of a personal journey toward self improvement and fulfilment. Why did I feel I needed to let go you might ask? Well, it might help to give you an idea of what control looked like in my life – before.

Control used to look like having very strict structures and routines around everything – around what day and time the shopping would be done, the route I would take around the supermarket, the order cans would be stacked in the pantry, the order washing would be hung on the line – my clothes here, others there, black items all together, coloured clothes hung together then the whites. There were very particular ways items had to be folded before being put in wardrobes, drawers and the linen press.

Control was also about expectations – about expecting everyone else to behave in certain ways, to abide by my stringent rules, beliefs and timelines.  Needless to say I was bitterly disappointed on numerous occasions when these unspoken rules were not upheld or followed by others.

Control was about avoiding certain situations and events if I didn’t know exactly who and what to expect before I arrived. It was about not trying new things for fear of failure. Control was about doing everything myself, believing only I could do it the ‘right’ way.

Control, basically, was about never having fun for fear of dropping my guard.

This pervasive need to control my life developed out of fear. Fear of being oppressed, of being dominated, of being controlled by someone else. It was also a result of not trusting in others. For years this behaviour was my approach to life until, one day, I just got tired of fighting, of constantly being on alert and of swimming upstream that I started to let go.

Now, I will admit I still like a smidgen of order and structure but I’m not as mad crazy about making sure every little tiny thing is in place, done ‘on time’ and done by me – the right way.  Now, the grocery shopping gets done when I have time. I can actually follow different paths around the supermarket and I now visit other supermarkets and explore the products on the shelves rather than racing around for my predefined products. I can actually leave the house work and not stress that the floor needs a mop or the blinds need cleaning. If something unexpected comes up I’m not floored or put out as I once was.

I thought  I was doing a pretty good job of the whole letting go and surrendering thing until last week, while having a Thai massage, I painfully realised I was still holding on like crazy in some areas of my life.

Floored by a Thai massage

         Floored by a Thai massage

We humans are so very good at fooling ourselves into believing what we want to believe. Here I was, letting go, I was planning less, predicting less and generally being less of a control freak and I realised, while on the massage table, I was still holding on. The analogy between the massage and my life is a classic. Half way through the treatment I realised I wasn’t actually relaxing or enjoying the massage. While the therapist was working on my upper body, I was tensing my lower body, when she moved to massage my lower body I held tension in my upper body. I realised there was no benefit to be had if I didn’t let go, if I didn’t stop trying to hold on, if I didn’t surrender to the moment and enjoy the experience and the outcomes.

There I was, at my most vulnerable, having an epiphany. The metaphor was not lost on me. For the remainder of my massage I consciously practiced letting go. I identified the areas of my body I was controlling, holding tight. I breathed into those areas, breathed to relax and breathed to allow the muscles to soften. I had a few short moments of total surrender; a few short moments of joy; a few short moments of peace before I noticed the control coming back. Again, I’d relax, surrender, let go and again I’d experience being totally present. I realised I’d just learnt a valuable life lesson. That treatment allowed me to reflect on my life and how I was going in terms of my goal to loosen the reins. I walked out of that massage realising that change happens in stages, that sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking we are doing a better job than we really are.

All is not lost, however. I realise now I simply have a little further to go and a little more letting go to do. There is still much to celebrate. As a result of my efforts so far, life is more joyful and more peaceful. By ‘allowing’ rather than controlling I have more energy; I notice more synchronicity creeping in. I now view the world as a friendly place as opposed to the hostile place I once felt it to be. I am on the road to self fulfilment and I’m encouraged to keep going.

Learning to let go

               Learning to let go

I’d be keen to hear about unusual situations in which you’ve had a light bulb moment. Where has life has shown you a truth?

Gurus, Masters, Sages: Who are your greatest teachers?

My son finished his degree last year and his graduation ceremony was held this week. I can’t begin to tell you how very proud I am of him; he is a wonderful young man. Of course as his mother you’d expect me to say that. However, I am objective enough to realise the sun doesn’t rise and set with him; though he has been a shining light in my life and bought me great joy and taught me so very much.

This, event, Blair’s graduation, got me thinking about life and learning; about teachers and lessons; about relationships and growth. I reflected, not for the first time, how incredible it is to realise your own child is one of your most powerful teachers. It humbles me, delights me and gives me pause to realise that I have learnt more from my child than he from me.

Blair has always been independent, wise, witty, discerning and determined. From a young age he has set goals and achieved them. As a child Blair loved Lego. He would spend hours constructing intricate cities and machines. At seven he found a Lego set worth $300 that he liked. So he decided to save his birthday and Christmas money to purchase it and, over time, he did. This determination and patience was again displayed when, in grade 2, he declared he wanted to play the trumpet and was told he would have to wait until grade 6. His goal was always to play with James Morrison. So, he waited, auditioned and finally got to play the trumpet. He enjoyed playing in the school bands for several years and even got to play with James Morrison at a jazz festival. Today Blair still sets goals and quietly goes about achieving them. His tenacity, focus and perseverance have inspired me to do the same: to set my own goals, to be patient and to celebrate.

Blair’s love of learning, his quest for knowledge and inquisitive nature have encouraged me to continue exploring my own passion for learning and self development. He is a great advocate and is hugely encouraging. His measured approach to life, his quiet observations and acceptance of human differences have encouraged me to be less volatile, to calm and ease my inner volcano. He has, through example, instilled in me the ability to accept and love others (especially family members) without the need to change them. He recently taught me about unconditional positive regard.

There is so much more I could share. There is so much more that I have learnt from him. However, I am mindful that my son is an intensely private person and I know he will be cringing that his mother has been so public in sharing these few stories. Surely though graduation days are times of reflection and celebration! Can not a mother share her pride, her gratitude, her love?

I am extremely proud of my son and of the admirable young man he is. He brings me great joy, challenges me to be a better person, to think differently and to consider other perspectives. He is my teacher.

There is much to learn, I am sure, from sitting at the feet of great gurus and masters but sometimes the wisest sages are not to be found in some far flung exotic location across the world but are those closest to us.

Who are your nearest, dearest, wisest teachers?

A young, cheeky Blair with my mortarboard

A young, cheeky Blair with my mortarboard

If the world is a canvas – what do you see?

The purpose of art is washing the dust of everyday life off our souls.                                                   Pablo Picasso

I love art. It satisfies and soothes me. It fills me up and delights me.

I have spent hours in galleries all over the world admiring the works of the great masters as well as more contemporary, local artists. I am lucky enough to have acquired a small collection of original and unique pieces of art including paintings, drawings, screen prints on paper, glass art and beautiful pottery. My restlessness abates when I observe and appreciate all forms of art, design, and creativity. My life is made infinitely rich by the existence of art.

Great art, for me, does not exist simply in galleries and museums. Great art is all around us if we are open to seeing it. I delight in discovering the hidden beauty in our urban landscapes; be it street art, an old wooden door scarred with age, a small flower growing from the gutter of a building. Amid the hustle and bustle of our busy cities, suburban streets and the everyday there is a wealth of beauty, gorgeous form, divine design, stunning shape and mesmerising juxtaposition, partly hidden and in plain sight, to be absorbed, admired and appreciated. At times others don’t marvel as I do but it doesn’t detract from the satisfaction I feel at discovering these small works of art.

Recently a friend posted a photograph on Facebook of some Vietnamese fishermen riding bicycles laden with fish pots. It was life as art. It was pure beauty. The form, the shape, the background the pureness of the image – it was all there. It was magnificent.

Life imitates art

Life imitates art

As a keen hiker, I find art abounds in nature too. Often, on our hikes, my husband will turn back to find me snapping photographs of leaves, stones, whorls in trees. Years ago he puzzled at my behaviour; for him the reward came from completing the hike in the shortest time possible. Now he understands and appreciates that the journey is full of surprises and rewards. Now he too sees the beauty in the unexpected objects that are so easily passed by.

Colour and shape fascinate me - unexpected forms of art I have discovered in nature.

Colour and shape fascinate me – unexpected forms of art I have discovered in nature.

Art in nature - discovered on my many walks.

Art in nature – discovered on my many walks.

I cannot imagine a life without art. Since I can’t spend my entire life in galleries, the consummate dilettante, I look for the art around me each day. I enjoy the peaceful moments when satisfaction washes over me at having witnessed beauty in the world.

 

What is art for you? Where do you see art in the everyday?