For peace of mind, focus on the small spaces in-between

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The simple things bring lasting pleasure

Notice the small things. The rewards are inversely proportional.
Liz Vassey

Pausing the monkey mind was once a major priority for me. The constant chatter was deafening and debilitating. A wise woman shared with me a strategy; focus on the silence between the Oms in meditation.  It worked.  Those tiny spaces, for a breath, between the rhythmic chanting allowed my mind to rest and I eventually turned down and tuned out the monkey mind.

Today I see a great need to soothe nervous tension and anxiety, whether caused by work related stress or the result of too many responsibilities and expectations.  A great many people are being pulled into the eddy of chronic psychological dis-ease. Without discounting the support of professionals there may be a way we can help ourselves to resurface and recreate a more joyful life, using a similar strategy as described above. Instead, the attention would be on the small moments of joy between the larger grey periods.  Leader in the field of positive-psychology Marty Seligman, found that by consciously focusing our attention on what we want more of in life we increase our chance of getting it.  So turn your attention away from what you don’t want and see the things you do.  This is tough when you feel overwhelmed, on edge, lacking energy or can’t leave the house. So start small.

A posy of home-grown flowers from a friend, watching birds and animals in the wild (substitute garden), the soft ache of used muscles at the end of a long walk. These things bring me joy. As do following the path of a balloon as it rises into the sky until it is no longer visible or spotting a brightly coloured bush flower in a sea of green undergrowth as well as taking a moment to appreciate the magic of a giant tree soaring overhead while feeling the texture of its bark.  Filling the house with warm and soothing aromas on a cold, wet afternoon while baking cookies and brewing chai tea, the sound of a child’s laughter,  a smile from a stranger. These are the pauses in between.

Peace can be ours. We can rebuild joyful lives and it need cost nothing. Harmony can be restored. These things can be ours if we appreciate the many small moments in life. The first step is to notice. Notice where you focus most of your attention and refocus it if necessary.

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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

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

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How twenty minutes of meditation changed my life.

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So things heated up around here this week and I’m not talking about the weather either. My days went from relaxed quiet pottering to scheduled, busy deadline filled activity.  It has been a zero to one hundred week, in the blink of an eye.

But something interesting happened. I began the week with a positive frame of mind and resolved to remain positive and I watched as slowly the jobs, expectations and commitments rose. I watched too as the road blocks were laid down – such as no working air con, computer access issues and a myriad of other little stumbling blocks and challenges that popped up left, right and centre.

I was tired out and began to feel an all too familiar anxious stirring in my gut. Yet, at the same time, I still felt a sense of calm sitting behind it all.  I realised I was noticing my reactions to what was going on without grabbing hold of them or letting them grab hold of me. I was being the silent witness as we are taught in meditation.

This was a truly surreal experience for me. I can easily go from calm to overwhelm in next to no time but I realised I was not buying into that. Things have changed and I owe it to my twenty minute morning and evening meditation.

I’ve meditated for some time now with varying degrees of success but it wasn’t until the end of last year that I committed to sitting twice a day. Right now twenty minutes morning and evening is perfect for me. It allows me to centre myself for the day and to let go and return to centre of an evening. Instead of begrudgingly making time or skipping meditation, using tiredness as an excuse as I have in the past,  I now relish this time for myself and I haven’t missed a session since I began. I knew this simple commitment was having a great effect on me but I hadn’t realised just how powerful until I witnessed the change in my behaviour to the busy, full throttle week I’ve had.

Meditation, and my yoga practice, have been my safety nets. They have bolstered and buoyed me, they have nourished and nurtured me and they have helped me to retain my centre, my poise, my ‘self’ when it could have, as it indeed has in the past, so easily been snapped away in a whirlwind.

To meditate means to go home to yourself. Then you know how to take care of the things that are happening inside you, and you know how to take care of the things happening around you.             Thich Nhat Hanh

Blessings of peace and calm to you this week. May you return ‘home’.

Shannyn

Strong foundations

When travelling in Europe I revel in the beauty of the built environment. The architecture is stunning but more than that I marvel at how long these buildngs have been standing.

Taking in the awesome sights of ancient structures such as the Colosseum, the Pantheon and The Roman Forum as well as more ‘recent’ buildings like St Peter’s Basilica, the Basilica of Santa Maria Minerva and a wealth of others has me thinking about the importance of strong foundations.

A great deal of work goes into the foundations of a building that will last the test of time and withstand the elements. If we hope to have rich and meaningful lives we have to consider on what foundations are we building. Do we have a set of moral values that guide us, do we focus on building strong and lasting relationships, have we considered what we want our legacy to the world to be?

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What will we leave behind? Certainly there won’t be any gorgeous edifice erected in my name and I’m pretty sure I won’t go down in any history books but if I can leave behind a legacy of love, of joy, of tolerance and acceptance. If I can leave behind a legacy of gratitude, of self belief, creativity and a willingness to seek the truth and beauty in the world, in those I love, I’d be happy with that.

What are the foundations you are building your life on?

values1

Strong foundations

When travelling in Europe I revel in the beauty of the built environment. The architecture is stunning but more than that I marvel at how long these buildngs have been standing.

Taking in the awesome sights of ancient structures such as the Colosseum, the Pantheon and The Roman Forum as well as more ‘recent’ buildings like St Peter’s Basilica, the Basilica of Santa Maria Minerva and a wealth of others has me thinking about the importance of strong foundations.

A great deal of work goes into the foundations of a building that will last the test of time and withstand the elements. If we hope to have rich and meaningful lives we have to consider on what foundations are we building. Do we have a set of moral values that guide us, do we focus on building strong and lasting relationships, have we considered what we want our legacy to the world to be?

values4

What will we leave behind? Certainly there won’t be any gorgeous edifice erected in my name and I’m pretty sure I won’t go down in any history books but if I can leave behind a legacy of love, of joy, of tolerance and acceptance. If I can leave behind a legacy of gratitude, of self belief, creativity and a willingness to seek the truth and beauty in the world, in those I love, I’d be happy with that.

What are the foundations you are building your life on?

values1

Choosing non-violent interactions

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Have you ever caught yourself defending your position, arguing a point, trying to convince someone else your idea, thought, belief is the right one?

According to Eckhart Tolle the need to be right is a form of violence. It is forcefully compulsive and deeply unconscious.

Let’s be conscious of our impact on others, let’s be conscious of our footprint in the world. Are we unconsciously creating harm, are we leaving behind us a wake of unintended violence or are we maintaining peace?

Is it important to always be right? Is it important to convince and enrol others? Tolle’s words have helped me become more aware of my own actions and motivations. The idea of honouring the other person and allowing them peace is much more important to me now than needing to be right in trivial matters. I’m not saying it’s easy but I’m working on it.

Let’s transform the world one small act at a time.

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