Peace just snuck up on me

There is no secret ingredient. It’s just you.

Kung Fu Panda.

I’ve been mulling over an issue this week. Well, it’s not an issue as such, more an interesting insight.  A learning, an understanding and acknowledgement , if you will.

Over the course of several encounters in the last little while I have had a gentle realisation that things are shifting for me. That perhaps I’m growing and moving along my path with more grace and ease than I’d realised.

I’ve recently been contacted by several people from my past who, in the past, I have reacted badly to, for one reason or another. Feelings of bitterness, resentment, guardedness usually flare up and simmer for days on end, driving me crazy, souring my thoughts and clouding my heart.  Being in touch with these people, admittedly it hasn’t been face to face contact but contact nonetheless, has been quite pleasant. No resentment, no fight or flight, no anger or malice.  I noticed after each interaction I was actually quite compassionate toward them, not in a “I am a guru, better than you and will bless and forgive you” manner but in an “I am in a strong place and I no longer have to struggle with you” kind of way. Does that make sense?

Talking with a friend last night we came to the realisation that when we give up the struggle change happens.  Again, I’m no guru here. It drives me insane when people advise: stop struggling, let it go, just allow, don’t use force etc. Easier said than done I say. I didn’t just drop this stuff that happened between me and those others, I got so intent and focused on other things that the issues between us slipped away and became insignificant in light of what was going on around me.

Almost by accident this shift has occurred, though many say there are no accidents, and I’m inclined to agree. Quite simply, I shifted my focus onto what I wanted rather than what I didn’t and voila, peacefulness slipped in without fanfare, filling the empty spaces.

Again, I stress, this wasn’t an overnight decision to focus on the good stuff and turn my attention away from my troubles. It was a long and slow process of choosing small actions each day, ensuring each week I got out and did something that made me happy. It wasn’t big stuff. It was lots of small actions and choices that together made the difference.

This morning two quotes spurred me to communicate my small gain, the one at the top of this post and the following, I hope they resonate for you too.

You don’t have to respond to negativity with negativity. You don’t have to pick up that burden. You don’t have to throw the next stone, cutting your fingers open on the sharp edges in the process. You don’t have to prove you are strong by hitting back. Remember, you can simply choose to stay in your own peace. You like it there. And who  knows? Others may decide to join you.

Nanea Hoffman

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Six reassurances for living with a disproportionately large shadow

Vincent Mars

A man is whole only when he takes into account his shadow.”
Djuna Barnes

The shadow escapes from the body like an animal we had been sheltering.”
― Gilles Deleuze

“When we are aware of our weaknesses or negative tendencies, we open the opportunity to work on them.”
― Allan Lokos

I fell off my perch recently. I didn’t just slip or stumble, nor was it a little hiccough. I fell from grace in a spectacular fashion.  While it wasn’t a public shaming, it was ugly and vicious and intense.  I felt I’d let myself down.

It was sparked by an incident. Well, a series of ongoing incidents really. You see, few things get me as riled up as injustice. I can’t stand by and see someone, particularly someone I love and care for, treated poorly and unfairly.

Nothing annoys me more than people hiding behind the cloak of dogma, proclaiming how we must all adhere to said dogma, yet behave in anything but the same fashion they expect of others. Hypocrites annoy me. Weakness annoys me. Ignorance and stupidity annoy me.

I’m cranky. Can you tell?

I witnessed what I believe to be an injustice. A debasing of someone who is loving, giving and so very generous. I’ve seen this person’s love thrown back in their face. Their feelings ignored and trampled on. I have seen this incredible person devalued by the people who should love and support them the most.

This constant undermining attack on this loved one has been delivered by people who hide behind the veil of Christian virtue. Their behaviour has been anything but christian or virtuous. Their actions have been coloured and influenced by ill meaning advisors.  I loathe to see people manipulated, used as puppets for other people’s end game but I loathe even more the idiocy of those who are so weak-minded that they cannot rationally approach a situation and see what is clearly happening, as those looking in surely do.

You know those movies where the protagonist becomes so enraged they morph into some unrecognisable fire-breathing monster? Well, that’s what I became last week.  I literally felt like a red-eyed, raging, stampeding beast. The anger, the vile loathing, the deep-seated hankering for vengeance boiled inside me. I thought I would explode with it. I felt I would go mad with it.

I was tainted by and shocked by the venom within me.

image: shadow self sourced from lackofa

I then felt like a hypocrite, proclaiming peace and love yet feeling this ugliness. I decided to share my ugliness with friends so there would be witnesses to my darkness. Why? I wanted to ensured I maintained my integrity by being truthful about who I am. I didn’t want to hide this disgraceful behaviour.

My wise women friends offered some interesting insights and revealed the lessons in the situation for me. I share with you some of what they shared with me, not to justify my behaviour but because it might help you too, if you find yourself in a similar situation.

One wise friend told me that this was my truth. She thought my courage and honesty at sharing the ugliness was amazing. She assured me I wasn’t alone. That other people too have  really tough and intense dark sides. She had, herself, been ‘surfing the inland sea’ for several weeks. I wasn’t alone in my quest for vengeance. That hers had also thrown her into shame and despair.

Without justifying my behaviour or supporting my view-point I was tutored that life is prickly and sticky at times.

What startled me most, and bore into my brain slowly over the days to come, was that this incident, this turbulent inner battle, was progress on my path and a testament to how much work I had done, to not only feel but name what I was experiencing. I was encouraged not to judge my feelings, to just feel them intensely and release them.  I was encouraged to take care of myself and forgive myself.

Despite my despicable thoughts, the tempest, the rage and rantings, my wise women’s circle told me that I needed to know that I truly deserve kindness and love. But also, a parting lesson, that I am only responsible for my own happiness.

So, dear reader, please know, that if you are on a spiritual  path or simply trying to be more present and grateful and loving in life that:

1. it’s human to be angry, to be messy, prickly and sticky. LIfe happens and over time we get better at dealing with it. Ignoring your anger and emotions doesn’t help nor does wrapping yourself in bubble wrap to avoid life.

2. if you feel like you’ve slipped off your perch, mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally, you won’t be the only one. Climb back up.

3. we have to forgive ourselves. How can we ever move forward with the weight of self loathing dragging us down? Easier said than done. I know.   I also acknowledge that we must forgive others too. That might, in this situation, take me a little time to work through. But yes. There is huge relief and release in forgiveness, and it will come, in time.

4. as awkward as it might be, part of forgiving yourself and climbing back on your perch is deliberate self-care. Walking in nature, digging in the garden, floating, swimming, massage. Whatever nurtures you, heals you.

5. letting go isn’t condoning a situation or other people’s behaviour. Letting go and adjusting your attitude directly benefits your inner peace.  You can find peace amid the chaos, it’s a matter of choice.

6. you are only responsible for your own happiness. While we can be discouraged, enraged and moved by injustice; taking on issues for others, carrying around unresolved and destructive emotion isn’t helping anyone reach their happiness, nor does it help you with your own quest. I’m not saying don’t take meaningful and purposeful action where you can, just be aware of bottled up emotion and how it affects you and resolves nothing.

We all have a shadow side. Mine feels disproportionately huge. It’s ugly and misshapen. It fumes and steams and flares red hot. But, I’ve realised, it’s human to feel the darkness and to be in the darkness just as much as it is to revel in the light and bask in the warmth life has to offer.

Be gentle with your dear hearts. Remember, self-development and spiritual development are not events, but processes. Ongoing processes.

I send you love wherever you may be on your personal journey.

Shannyn

image

What’s your story?

Dada and Rodney

That’s my Dad on the left, as a young man, with his brother.

 

“Since storytelling is a dialogue, shared stories create more understanding; bring people closer together as a community;  and serve as a string that binds one heart to another.  (And I believe that the universe is made up of string.)”
Peninnah Schram

“Stories are at the very heart of being human; they talk about where we’re from, where we are, and where we’re going.  They’re like bread; you need to hear and tell them everyday.”
Bill Harley

We all have a story. Sometimes we live a false story and are victims of a self belief but that’s not the story I’m talking about. I’m talking about our own individual history kind of story. The really interesting stuff, the stuff that make us, well, us I guess.

I recently had dinner with my parents and I was moved by what I learned about my father. I was moved and intrigued by his stories; stories I didn’t know; stories of him I’d never imagined. Okay, he didn’t go hunting tigers or elephants  in the savannah or trek the arctic on a quest of find a long-lost artefacts. But he did do some pretty unique things.

My dad is an artist, a lover of art, race horses and fine wine. He is also a handy man and can fix just about anything. He has been married for near on 46 years, has three daughters, worked in retail as a manager and then went into insurance. He played squash and entered walks for charity when I was young. He loves the oceans and still, to this day, at the ripe old age of 73, goes for a body surf to relax and unwind. He is clever and kind and, well, you know, a dad.

A drawing my my father did as a child.

A drawing my my father did as a child.

Growing up I’d learnt a little of my father’s early life, life before me and my sisters, life even before my mum was in his picture. I gleaned these little snippets from my grandmother and some from passing comments he’d make at times, in relation to other things, never as a topic of conversation in and of themselves. So I knew my dad had attended boarding school, that he was a pretty good student, I’ve seen report cards. I knew too, that as a young man he had learnt and practiced Judo. I’d also seen photos of him in a rugby uniform while at school but I hadn’t realised he continued to play as a working adult. He also played hockey. For some reason I imagined he’d played ice hockey, why in Australia would I assume this?  I’m not sure. Too many movies I guess. Anyway, dad told me about the very rough grass court they’d play on, not a smooth manicured green as one might see today but a rough and tumble, bumpy lumpy piece of paddock. He loved it. He and a mate, from an outlying property near Gladstone, would play of a weekend. They’d also turn their hand to lawn bowls on occasion, to test their mettle in other ways.

Graeme felsch second row frist on left

Second row, first on the left.

The story that really blew my mind and had me gawping in amazement and horror was a tale involving a boat. I knew Dad had sailed in a Brisbane to Gladstone yacht race. If you are unaware, this yacht race is an icon of Queensland, the state in which I live. It’s a pretty high-profile race held every year over the Easter long weekend. It begins from Shorncliffe in Moreton Bay and follows a 308 nautical mile journey up to Gladstone.

Over dinner I discovered my father had sailed in, not one but, five Brisbane to Gladstone yacht races.  I learned how it came about that he was recruited as crew with no ocean-going experience,  just river sailing under his belt. The skipper, a very  colourful character, and his two sons, both teenagers, were making their maiden voyage and needed an extra hand. They took dad out for a day on the seas and he got the tick of approval.  Dad, in his twenties, loved the experience and became close friends with the family.  My parents are still friends, some 40 odd years later, with this family.  One year, after race was run and things were winding down, news that a cyclone was brewing set things back in motion.  Dad had to be back in Brisbane for work. Time was of the essence. To make it back in time and safely they had to leave immediately when normally they would rest and celebrate. Trouble was, one crew member, the older son, had left to make a rendezvous elsewhere and the skipper had retired to the bar, where he felt most at home. With a sense of urgency Dad and the youngest of the crew collected the skipper, poured him into his bunk and set sail for home.  As fate would have it the cyclone hit early and Dad singlehandedly, with some assistance from a young teenager, manned the boat through rough seas negotiating twenty to thirty metre waves.  They rode out the night, a very tense night I imagine, and sailed into calmer waters by dawn, safe and sound, surrounded by thick fog.

The skipper was rudely awakened from his slumber to navigate their whereabouts. Funnily enough, my Father had managed the boat through tremendous odds but had no navigational skills in the white out. I think that’s gorgeous. I was aware my jaw and eyes were wide open (not an elegant look in an upmarket restaurant) in amazement as I listened to this story and marvelled at the courage, skill and foolhardiness of my Father.  What an incredible experience.

How is it I never knew these things before?

I asked him why he’d never told me and he simply said he didn’t think they were worth telling, they were just things he’d done. From my wide-eyed stare and enthusiastic responses he said he guessed he should write some things done.  You bet you should DaddyO.

If we don’t tell our stories we are like ghosts on this planet. We appear to be but husks without our narrative to give essence and depth. Our stories are bridges; they deepen relationships, they inspire, and, through hearing them, they give us a greater connection to ourselves and our own sense of place in the world. That may sound a little odd but I walked away from that meal with my parents with a greater sense of who my father was but I also felt differently positioned in my own narrative as a result.

Whatever your story, share it. Nothing is too grand or too insignificant.  Sometimes it’s the most mundane scraps of information that feed the soul and mind of the listener.

What’s your story?

Graeme October 1959

Did I forget to mention he liked to swing a golf club as well as a hockey stick?

 

The power in simplicity

Have you ever had a time when those old adages  You can lead a horse to water …,
A watched pot never boils, A friend in need is a friend indeed – really make sense in the moment?

 

Recently, on several occasions, the wisdom in one such adage rang true for me and I realised ” the simple things in life are often the best”.
I was delighted one afternoon to find a personal letter for me in the letterbox of our new home. Enclosed was a card, a photograph and a flavoured tea bag sachet. The letter was from a very good friend, who I do not see often enough, and it was her way of wishing me well and great happiness in my new home. The power in that simple piece of correspondence, a few words written in a beautiful card, filled me with warmth and a sense of being well-loved and thought of. The photograph was of my friend on holiday in Spain and she looks happy and relaxed. That photograph is now on my refrigerator door and I look at it each day and am reminded of how blessed I am to have someone so wonderful in my life. Interestingly the warmth and love kept coming.  When I sat down several days later with a steaming cup of tea, brewed from the green tea and mint sachet I was sent, my thoughts again wandered to my friend and again I was filled with gratitude for her thoughtfulness.
 july
I remember many years ago when working in a large, busy high school this same friend ‘saved’ me with a kind word and a handful of delicious, flavoured teas. Each time I sipped on a tea from that small stash I was able, momentarily, to return to peace and remember everything would be okay. Such a simple but powerful gift that kept on giving.

 

My husband went on a business trip recently to Cairns. On is return he had several small gifts. I was absolutely delighted when he revealed in the palm of his hand a piece of coral and a sea shell he found on the beach for me. It was the perfect gift. I knew he had thought of me while away and I knew he understood how thrilled I would be with his gift. Each day I am reminded of his love in many ways but also when I see those small treasures as I potter in my kitchen.

 july2
I have to admit for me the small, thoughtful gifts have always been the most valued. Sometimes a small posy of flowers from a friend’s garden means more than a dozen red roses, someone dropping around and telling you to get dressed for lunch and whisking you away for an hour when they know you are feeling down, or a bag of home-grown bush lemons are the most powerful lasting gifts.

 

What are the simple things that have caught your attention lately?