Balancing light and dark

Autumn is here in the northern hemisphere. Mabon to the pagans.

We have arrived at the moment of the year where night and day are poised in equilibrium – and from where night will gradually encroach more and more upon our waking hours.

Nature provides us with so many metaphors at this time of the year. Produce is plentiful so we can celebrate abundance. The trees shedding their leaves show us how to release what is no longer needed and simplify our life. And as the nights draw in and we go within we have time to reflect on our own light in the darkness.

It’s a rich time.

So whether you celebrate or not at this point of the year you can always think about whether you are typically ‘light’ or ‘dark’.

Are your actions, beliefs and thought patterns based in love or fear? How does the darkness serve you? And how can you use the season for inspiration?

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under inspiration, Reflection, Seasons;

What’s your brand of love?

I am often disappointed that we’ve only got one word for love in English. Or rather that that word is expected, in our language, to embrace all manner of  ways of loving.

The Greeks had seven or eight concepts of love – each given its own label. In the same way Inuits have dozens of words for snow. Strikes me that the more a people think about something, the more vocabulary they give it.

So what does our only having one word for love say about how we think about it? Does it affect the way we feel? How we talk about it?

Do we even talk about it?

Is it true that by limiting the language, we also limit the concept and its permissibility?

I certainly feel that in the society in which I live the concept of love is rather biased to the side of the romantic or the erotic. And if for whatever reason people don’t feel that way inclined, then love starts being treated either as something a bit pink and fluffy and light-weight;  or a bit shameful.

This doesn’t feel good to me at all.

Of course we love our families and our children and our friends. But how often do we tell them? Are we talking about love in the right places?

And what about in our public lives? Do we act with love in our businesses, with our acquaintances, our colleagues, in our everyday life?

How easy is it for you to love the white van man who’s cut you up on the roundabout? And how do you show love to the sick and the needy?

And the real million dollar question is how well we love ourselves. How well do you know what love feels like to you? What are the physical sensations that you experience? What activities are you engaged in when you feel them?

Personally I think that understanding our own brand of love is one of the most important priorities of our age. We need to be able to talk with greater eloquence about what love would do in a wider range of scenarios than simply the romantic.

Journal-writing is an act of self-love. Paying attention to our inner voice in our journals is an important step towards cultivating love for ourselves. After all we are the most important person in our life. The better the relationship we have with ourselves, the better our relationships with others will be.

So – is it time to expand your experience of love? Pick up your journal and reflect on some of the questions here. Slowly but surely you will begin to identify and recognise your own particular brand of love.

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Compassion fatigue?

I don’t think I’ve properly understood what compassion is before this year.

Do you know what it is? And how to practice it?

All the gurus and spiritual teachers from the Dalai Lama to Mother Teresa either talk about or practice compassion – yet to the intellectual mind it’s just another word or concept that’s open to a lot of misinterpretation.

For example, how do you feel when you watch Children in Need?

Until recently I would typically sit and sob, or leave the room, or conveniently forget that it’s on in the first place so I don’t have to put myself through the self-flagellating guilt and shame that others are suffering sooo damn much and all I can do is pledge a paltry donation. Surely compassion is more than a conscience-salving monetary promise?

And when I encounter  people huddled on the street and hear that quiet plea “Got any change love?” my whole system is sent into a momentary crisis, helpless in front of the injustice and the uncertainty over what might be the right and ethical thing to do. Finding a way that feels proper to me is still a work in progress. And giving a sympathetic, conciliatory smile along with a pound coin doesn’t feel proper at all.

One day I heard a thud against the picture window in the kitchen. My heart flipped: I recognised the sound of a bird’s doom. I found the stricken gold-crest quivering on the ground by the window. I almost couldn’t confront the animal’s pain. I almost left it to its fate.

But something within me gave me courage. I remembered that keeping stunned birds warm while they recover will save them. So I gingerly, shakily scooped up the small life and held it. Tears flowed. And then joy as after about ten minutes the little creature shook itself off and flew away.

I admit that I have been woefully ill-equipped to deal with heartbreak and suffering. But maybe there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Because this year, maybe inspired by the gold-crest, I’ve taken a different view. You might say I’ve understood how to turn the question of compassion on its head and I have gained a new, less exhausting perspective.

Seems that ‘compassion’ is not the effort required to put myself in someone else’s shoes and feel their pain, with an added dose of self-berating over my own comparative good fortune.

No. Beating ourselves up and trying to ‘feel for’ those struggling, or try and feel what they’re feeling is actually impossible.

We can’t feel what others feel. We cannot step into another person’s reality and experience. It’s arrogant to think we can. And trying to adopt another’s suffering as our own is phony and ineffective and knackering. It’s what leads to so much virtue-signalling and hypocrisy.

And if we try hard to make ourselves suffer in the face of someone else’s pain all we do is introduce more suffering. It doesn’t help anyone and it totally depletes us, making us less available to the person or creature who needs us.

The neat alternative I’ve learned to this is to “feel with” instead.

This means allowing ourselves to feel whatever is going on within us, without judging or analysing or interpreting; and allowing the emotion or the tension to move through our own system until we become neutral again. When we are calm we can be more resourceful, and we can tap into our own source of wisdom to discover the next right step.

This takes a certain degree of self-knowledge and self-awareness. We need to learn how to feel what we feel and to love ourselves through our own pain. We also need to acknowledge that calm neutrality and wisdom are constantly, albeit very quietly, available to us. We have to quieten our mind to hear it.

Journaling can help with this, but we also need to do some body work to accompany it, and perhaps some meditation. Reflective writing ought to draw on mind, body and spirit as the resources to achieve neutrality, calmness and inner peace. Then the next right step will present itself. And the gold-crest will survive.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Compassion

Think for yourself

“The moment you begin to write…you are making a declaration of independence, determining to think for yourself..”

This quote by Irish writer Dermot Bolger is how I open The Journal Writer’s Handbook. It appears in bold lettering ahead of the preface. It is the reason I write, and the reason I wrote the Handbook.

Independence of thought and knowing how to think for ourselves are increasingly important. We live in various social media driven echo chambers, where  group-think is all too prevalent, pressuring us to adopt an “acceptable” point of view that will neither offend nor incite any kind of “wrong” action or belief.

What we read in the media is increasingly untrustworthy. More than ever we have to rely on our own judgments, and our own research, in order to understand what is really going on in the world.

So we need to deepen our discernment. We need to know our own minds. We need to be able to recognise the subtle intuitive nudges that hint to us when things are “off”. We need to feel our own truth in order to then identify the Truth around us.

Independence has always been a theme in my life. I went to private school outside the comprehensive state system; as a young woman I travelled and worked abroad and learned self-sufficiency and how to fend for myself in tricky circumstances; in middle-age I like to buck convention and create opportunities for myself.

Maybe I was too independent. I was stubborn with it, so I was often alone, choosing to be on my own in the things I did rather than rely too heavily on others.

It was at these junctures that writing became central to my experience of my life. Keeping a journal or writing letters home helped me express myself when there was noone else around to hear, and it also helped me get clear on the page about who I am and what I think.

Acclaimed academic, author and commentator Jordan Peterson is now advocating the same kind of idea – that we take some time to write things down about our lives and aspirations. His online self-authoring programme is a guided process to documenting one’s thoughts and opinions – and DANG I wish I’d thought of it.

Of course writing isn’t the only way to learn to think for yourself. Good quality, open and curious conversations help too, but you have to be a lot less stubborn than I was to make these work! Meditation practice is also conducive – funny that sometimes it’s better to quiet the mind to know the mind.

Whatever approach you take do it. Learn to think for yourself. The world needs your view.

Leave a comment

Filed under Journal Writing, Self-Awareness

To lead or to follow?

As you dance through life are you aware of whether you tend to lead or follow? What’s the distinction for you? How do you know you are leading or following? How does it feel?

Yesterday I danced 5 Rhythms. It was a baking hot afternoon; the sweat was pouring and the beats were smoking.

And in the middle of it all I found myself dancing with another. We smiled. We felt the joy in our dance. I was dancing. She was dancing. We were dancing with each other. Mirroring. Leading and following.

We didn’t realise until later that we were sharing the lead. Sometimes her; sometimes me. It was fluid. There were no edges to it. We didn’t have to make a decision. It just happened. And it felt like fun. Playful and light.

And then we had to choose to lead or to follow, one or the other.

First I led.

It felt pressurised. I felt responsible. I needed to build her trust to follow, to feel safe. I felt bad when she resisted. Though I did shield her from two collisions, taking the full force of them myself!

But when she allowed herself to move according to my lead it felt great – as long as she was smiling. If it felt like I was forcing her I felt clumsy and sorry.

Next it was my turn to follow.

This felt easier for me. I was very comfortable in my trust. She had a great way of steering me away from danger – grabbing my index fingers and pulling! I felt safe.

However later she told me that sometimes I would want to go my own way, that I seemed determined to go in a particular direction. And like a good leader she allowed me my freedom.

How we dance is how we live, how we conduct ourselves. Yesterday I learned that whether leading or following the art is in allowing; and remembering that we are both.

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Leadership, Reflection

Putting the HAP in Happy

Yesterday I found myself writing about how to create our own luck. Is it about being in the right place at the right time? Or is there something more deliberate going on?

These days the world is full of people who consider themselves to be ‘conscious creators’ and ‘deliberate manifesters’. We all want what we want. We all want to know how to get it.

Chatting to a friend about what it takes to manifest things we’d mentioned the importance of not being in denial, of not resisting and of being consistent. And as I pondered, the words Honesty, Allowing and Practice came to my mind.

Nerdy word-smith that I am I immediately made them into an acronym: H.A.P, and then a word all of its own: ‘hap’.

Following a quick bit of in-depth research (!) I discovered that the Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘hap’, an archaic word from Norse, as a random piece of good fortune.

Certainly from my observations it appears that the luckiest people are also the hap-piest. That is, they are genuinely full of hap. As opposed to being hap-less.

But how do we make it less random? What if the degree to which we can be honest, allow and practice whatever brings us satisfaction really is the vehicle by which to bring us endless luck and good fortune?

When we are honest with ourselves about what we want, when we are clear and not confused or torn, then the truth and power of our desire crystallises. Until that moment, until we can honestly declare what we’re about, we stay small and ineffectual on our quest.

Writing a journal is a good place to stretch our honesty wings. It’s a place where we can state our desires even if we haven’t yet managed to articulate them to another pair of ears. Where our desires do not have the specificity of words, images are just as good, as these tend to evoke the feelings we are reaching for. And the more we can honestly feel the closer we get to the truth of what we want.

It’s tricky to allow ourselves to acknowledge something we’re in denial about. If someone is bugging us it’s easier for us to push against their behaviour than consider that we might also be resisting that same thing in ourselves. So an angry person might make us stuff our own anger deeper down, rather than allowing it to come to the surface and burn off.

Again journaling helps us to allow our emotions to come to the forefront. We can rant on the page and then allow the feeling to move through our bodies. We can allow our fantasies, our secrets, our fears or our irritations out, and then we can see how they inform our desires.

As for practice it makes sense that if we want to get closer to our goal then we need to  consistently do what will take us there. So often a regular practice like daily exercise can feel like a chore; but recently I’ve learned to think of it more as an act of self-love. A slight change in perception has helped me find the exercise I truly enjoy, so I needn’t bother with anything I think I should do just because other people are doing it!

Of course the practice of journal writing is a good example, taking a few minutes to be with ourselves and allow our creativity to flow.

Putting the HAP into happy may or may not be the key to creating our own luck. But it definitely is the key to more deliberate hap-piness.

Leave a comment

Filed under Law of Attraction, Self-Care

It’s a jungle out there

“Il faut cultiver votre propre jardin” roughly translated “You must tend to your own garden” is a maxim I learned from Voltaire during my French degree – and one which has prodded me from the other side of my mental fence throughout my life.

I take it to mean Mind your own business, Look after your own, Find and maintain your own places of rest, retreat and beauty, or Take personal responsibility for your own growth.

But as spring creeps uncharacteristically upon us, rather than doing its usual bursting into life thing, my mind is taking a more literal meaning.

Because it really is time to clear and weed and tend and nurture the garden outside my door.

The therapeutic effects of gardening are well known. The joy that comes from a bright border or a sumptuous setting of healthy plants is hard to beat.

So why have I resisted creating this in my own garden for so long?

If my real garden were a metaphor for my life it would convey a pretty chaotic and neglected picture: weeds, unkempt off-shoots, plants popping up where they weren’t intended, including a tree that literally walked, snook under the fence, from next door.

Sometimes I imagine the neighbours sniffing at the evidence of my non-existent garden routine. I can hear them muttering about how my garden besmirches the fineness of the surrounding suburban gardens, shimmering in smugness.

It’s tempting to beat myself up.

Yet in my kinder moments I persuade myself that manicured control can be less bountiful than untended wildness. I imagine that my garden has become a gentle harbour in the storm of gardening competitiveness; where happy primroses erupt in the lawn, where hedgehogs and bumble bees hibernate under discarded pots and where trees trek for shelter. Despite its messy outward appearance, there is great opportunity here for unexpected life, joy, and sustenance.

I suppose part of tending to your own garden includes a sense that you have to tend it in your own way and your own time. And allowing this means the whole undertaking can become more joyful. Now rather than closing the door on the jungle outside I’m finding ways to join the crazy party!

How’s your garden a metaphor for your experience?

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Reflection