Category: New Writer Thoughts

‘The main thing is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live.’

Auguste Rodin

This quote is so simple and beautiful I wanted to share it. It is a reminder to be present not bystanders in our lives.

Our lives are always see-sawing, trying to balance, to find equilibrium and sometimes we manage to achieve it. So, if your mind and body are in a good place it is important to make the most of it. There are many people who would like to be living differently but for various reasons are unable to.

If things are going well we have an opportunity to celebrate life and give back to it. These moments are rare. Happiness, joy and simplicity are precious, fleeting gifts which should never be wasted. By embracing love, hope and the moments which move us we are truly living.

 

‘Why not you?’

My brother told me about a conversation he had with my niece. She wants to enter a fiercely competitive field, full of people who seem so much more qualified and suitable for it than her. He stopped her as she talked herself out of it, mid-sentence of self-doubt, mid flourish of the tendency to accept failure before we even begin. And simply said to her, ‘Why not you?’

Of course he then went on to list all the reasons why she should try, why she was as competent as the next person and so on. But it was those three words which struck me.

Most people I meet are a lot more talented, creative, hard-working and loving than they give themselves credit for. We are pretty realistic too, so often the things we aspire to are not way out of reach. If we can just make the leap of faith to try, or in some cases feel we are worthy, then who knows where we might end up.

To believe in ourselves enough to attempt the things we want is tough. There is absolutely no guarantee of ease and success. Rejection and failure happen and are good reasons not to put yourself out there. Sometimes the things we seek are not realistic but isn’t hanging onto what we can’t achieve a way to avoid what we can. Yes, the trip could be a disaster, the relationship awful and bruised with regrets, even the career you’ve worked so hard for may be full of disappointment.

But what if it wasn’t?

Want to feel that sparkle not the dread of the unknown? The glow of satisfaction that your hard work is paying off. The promise of possibility and optimism which brings us to life. The readiness to make a difference? In which case, ‘Why not you?’

The Lotus Effect

Recently I was lucky enough to travel to Cambodia. A long-held dream to visit Angkor Wat and the mighty temple complexes was realised. I came away with my head full of images and stories and truths of a civilisation so sophisticated it staggered me. Along the way I was also swept up in local tours and attractions but the one which truly struck a chord was a lotus flower farm.

The lotus flower is a sacred symbol for Buddhists and Hindus and flourishes across South East Asia. On the edges of Tonle Sap, a huge fresh water lake, our guide took us to a lotus farm. Like a paddy field, raised muddy walkways surrounded huge ponds, thick with rubbery lotus leaves, buds and pink flowers. Right on cue the afternoon monsoon rain arrived. Huge warm drops, splashing onto the plants and churning the pond water.

I had never really looked at lotus leaves but in the down pour I watched them. Water gathers on the leaves and it moves like balls of mercury. Sometimes they collide with each other and sometimes they roll and cascade over the edge. The self-cleaning properties of a lotus leaf cause water droplets to scoop up dirt and stop it sticking to the leaf. Of course the science is fascinating. How amazing for something to be able to self-clean and like butterfly wings the lotus leaf is the subject of much investigation. But more than that was the way the droplets moved. Totally at the mercy of the pond or the crash of a rain drop.

Our guide came and stood beside me. ‘You know,’ he said. ‘I think of my life like the water on the leaves.’ We watched as a small drop joined with a bigger one. Others scattered and shifted across the leaf, all on different paths. The pond rippled and our big drop rolled closer to the edge. As a wave hit the leaf it tumbled overboard. He smiled, ‘See, like life. You never know when you are going to live or die.’

The image of that pond, in the rain, in Cambodia, stays with me. The lotus effect is not only a scientific breakthrough but a powerful lesson in acceptance.

‘A smile is the beginning of peace.’ Mother Teresa

Are you feeling turbulent? Out of sorts. Not at ease.

We all go through those hours, days, weeks or even longer when we just feel like we can’t get it together. No matter how hard we try our tummies churn and our minds leap between self-doubt and disaster. For many years I’ve tried to fight against the inner turmoil. Tried my best to think my way out of the negative feelings which can grip me. But the struggle leaves me exhausted and often the thoughts which overrun me are still lurking.

So I’m trying a different approach. Accepting that my worries are a part of me. Instead of catastrophizing the big picture I’m trying –and please note I say trying!- to look at my intrusive thoughts with more impartiality. Acknowledge and accept they are there but not buy into the emotional responses which accompany them. Sometimes I can only manage this distraction for a minute or so but sometimes hours pass before they re-occur. The more time between the thought and my emotional reaction to it the better.

There are many wonderful resources to support us with retraining our thinking. And one thing I do now, when my mind runs away, is to try to breathe deeper and smile. Even though the smile may be awkward and forced it does promote a mind-body kinship which helps my thoughts feel more peaceful. What are some of the things which work for you?

The Dangers of Busy Work

“Procrastination is the thief of time.” Edward Young

Procrastination is a sneaky thing and you can find yourself doing it without even realising. We all have things we are putting off and I’m giving myself a bit of a shake down because I know I’m procrastinating.

When I got my first teaching contract the class teacher I took over from told me the children had a busy book. I wasn’t sure what that was but on closer examination it was a book where children could work on tasks when other work was finished. After a few days I realised the busy book was a great distraction and that busy work was a great way to avoid harder more demanding activities. I think we are all a bit guilty of doing busy work which often mimics the things that need doing. We are doing something but if we’re honest it’s not always the stuff we should be.

So if like me you’re using busy work to delay a job, task or project it’s probably time to break down why.

Worried about outside influences and opinions. This is a very real reason for procrastinating. No matter how much intrinsic motivation we have most of us do care a bit about what others think. We may not want to offend, we may be worried about criticism, or we simply don’t want to put ourselves out there. Sometimes doing nothing is easier than facing the hard stuff. But in the long wrong are we only putting off the inevitable.

Not knowing where to start. You’re staring up at a mountain with no idea how to climb it. So you can either run back to the chalet or just begin. I’ve decided not to look at the top because that’s way too overwhelming but instead gaze a little bit higher than where I am standing. A different perspective does make things more achievable and I’m more inclined to try.

Not quite ready for the hard work. Doing something challenging is not easy and often the things we procrastinate about are difficult for us. They may be so close to our hearts we don’t want to try in case we fail. But if this is the case than the not doing can be even more soul-destroying as a bad outcome. If we don’t try we can be on the slippery slope to self-sabotaging and no one wants to go there.

By honestly breaking down the reasons why we are procrastinating we can address them. Busy work is more than happy to get in the way of tackling something important or necessary. But by starting on the things we’ve been putting out off we are beginning our escape from the avoidance trap. And it feels so much better…

Trust Yourself

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You know recently I’ve been second guessing my decisions and worrying over choices I’ve made. From big things to small things that annoying voice of doubt is getting a bit too loud for my liking. And while the inner critic can keep you in check it is not the boss. We are capable people but every so often we lose our way and it is at this point we need to reaffirm trust in ourselves.

Sleep is nature’s restorer and if I’m honest I haven’t been getting enough. There is nothing more invigorating than waking from a good night’s rest. Your head is clearer, your body feels fresher, and if you’re a night-time worrier everything seems better in the daylight! Making a concerted effort to nurture ourselves through sleep is a practical way to empower and ease tension.

Sometimes we lose trust in ourselves because we take on too many other people’s opinions and desires. Their energy and voice can leave us struggling to find our own. So if this is the reason you’re floundering respect your own wants and needs. If choices and decisions are our own we are much more likely to believe in them.

Feeling out of sorts about choices we are making can come from being out of touch with our own core values. It is often this mismatch between the actions we take, which do not reflect who we are, that can leave us second guessing. If we are making choices that do not reflect what we believe or stand for it can leave us in a state of turmoil.

Or maybe our self-confidence has taken off for a while. Without self belief we are more prone to question and doubt and that leaves us unsettled. If your confidence has taken a bit of a hit recently and you have lost trust in your decision-making, regaining self-confidence can be a powerful remedy. As our belief in ourselves grows so does our capacity to trust the choices we make.

Go to bed earlier, be around people who validate who you are and what you stand for, and be firm with doubt.

“Trust your own instinct. Your mistakes might as well be your own, instead of someone else’s.” Billy Wilder.

Share the love

 

Celebrate the people you love because who knows when things might change?

We can’t help ourselves pushing forward with our own wants and desires but we have to make time for love. Love for partners, family, and friends. Whoever makes your heart crack when you think about missing them.

Without giving our love we are just bystanders in life, not really committing, and if you’re not present then you do miss out. So if you’ve been forgetting to tell the people you care about how much and why you love them, do it today. Every day is an opportunity to acknowledge and be grateful for all the love in our lives.

Perspective

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I was at a party on the weekend and was desperate for a glass of water. A lady was standing by the sink sipping on a cocktail and as I turned on the tap she asked me, “What are you doing?”

“Having a glass of water. Would you like one?”

“Hell no! Have you seen what that stuff does to ships!”

We laughed and in a way she was right, what may be good for my inner organs certainly rusts out a lot of other stuff. It got me thinking about perspective. For me the water made sense but for her not so much. And it wasn’t the water itself but the different attitudes we brought to it.

So, here’s the thing, we cannot help but bring our own perspective to anything. And that’s okay because it’s these things which make us who we are. But the problems set in when we hang onto them so tight that they become big giant monsters of self-righteousness, huffing around in an I’m right, you’re wrong corner.

The stand-off differing perspectives causes can be exhausting. And whether it’s with family members, partners or out in the wider community unresolved issues are unhealthy. If we keep spending all that energy on feeling misunderstood we’re not doing ourselves any favours because we may be missing solutions only a tiny side step away from what we think.

So we have choices we can accept the other person’s perspective, reconcile it and move on. Happy days. But sometimes no matter how hard we try we cannot accept it and then we have to let go of the indignation and call a friend! No seriously after the call we do need to try and move on. We can listen to their point of view and if we don’t agree it can be a buffer, clarify a situation, or maybe even be a call to action. Sometimes we don’t like their perspective because it challenges our sense of self but no matter how much we want people to see things our way the truth is they may not. The only thing we can do then is manage our response.

Sometimes I really struggle looking past my own interpretation of situations but when I can it’s a bit like climbing a hill. We don’t just look one way when we reach the top we look in every direction, take in every view. We do look a little longer at the view we like best but at least we do see the whole panorama. As Wayne Dyer says, “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.” Hard but worth a try?

Old Cat

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I have a friend who has a cat, Morris. She has had that cat for twenty two years. You’d think he’d be some sort of world record holder but in fact that belongs to Crème Puff who died in Austin, Texas, aged thirty eight! When I went to see her last week I was stuck by Morris and his longevity. With the average cat life expectancy around fifteen years he’s doing pretty well.

I asked her why she thought Morris was still with us and there were a few reasons. He keeps an even temperature. Most of his day is spent lying near a heater if it’s cold, or near an air conditioner if it’s hot. He eats well. Yes, no expense is spared, he dines on cat food garnished in parsley and unidentifiable greens. And lastly he keeps his stress levels down. No frenzied mice hunting for Morris, he’s locked inside at night and his cat flap secured so no strays or uninvited felines can bother him.

This seems like a longevity recipe for all of us.

Don’t stress.

Eat well.

And keep your home environment perfect for you.

Thank you Morris and I hope one day you can snatch that world record from Crème Puff.

 

Feeling Overwhelmed

IMG_0968 (2)It was funny, I hadn’t realised I wasn’t coping until I went to my weekly yoga class and just burst into tears. Nothing awful had happened, nothing tragic or life threatening had occurred only that my mind and body were allowed to stop. All the pent up frustration and stress I’d been hanging onto just flooded out. I was embarrassed and almost ran out but I was glad I stayed. My yoga teacher had seen my distress and as we were lying in relaxation she came over and wordlessly placed her hands on me, relaxing and easing the tension in my head, neck and spirit. It was such a simple yet powerful gesture that acknowledged it’s actually okay not to have it all together and that we are part of something bigger.

I was so grateful for her touch which allowed me to put the brakes on but it did get me wondering how I’d got myself into such a state in the first place. If I can put it in one word I was overwhelmed, like a king tide all the individual stressors had surged together and swamped me.

The family or community we live in is part of our identity but can also be a source of stress. If bad feelings and unresolved emotions go unchecked they can balloon into something too big for us to handle. So if you feel yourself coiled like a spring its time to stop and take a step back because a massive meltdown is not good for home or relationship harmony. Try and deal with one thing at a time. I’m not even looking at the big picture.

No matter what work you do if you don’t apply boundaries bit by bit it will take more of you. If you’re fine with that no matter but if you find yourself thinking about work, playing the what if scenarios, worrying, then like me you may need to clarify your role and expectations. After all work is only a part of us and we don’t want it consuming our down time.

But sometimes it isn’t family or work which overwhelms us it is our own selves. Our own dreams and desires are not being met, our expectations of ourselves are not being realised. I like this quote from Antonio Banderas, “Expectation is the mother of all frustration.” By pulling back on unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others we can actually say no; at work, at home and to our inner voice and so ease our tension.

I’ve realised I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed. It is something we all experience at different times and in different places. So if you know somebody teetering on the edge perhaps we could all be like my yoga teacher; acknowledge their discomfort, be kind and give them the chance to stop.