Archive for the 'learning' Category

On travelling solo.

No one can say that my life has not been interesting.  From the very beginning it appears I was destined to live a life full of challenges interspersed with an occasional adventure.

It all began in Singapore where my mother, just twenty-one, fell pregnant with her second child.  She had married my father, a slim and charming Irish airforce man at nineteen and their first posting had been to Singapore.  A couple of years later we returned to England and within a year or so we were off to Germany where I began my schooling. I distinctly remember being dragged to school through the snow… not eager to leave the warmth of our top floor flat and the sweet stories of ‘Listen to mother’ on the radio.  Three years later I had to leave my first best friend Gillian and return to England.  I cried for a week and experienced my first broken heart.

Back in England it felt like we moved incessantly.  House after house and school after school.  I became a bookworm.  The corner of the school library and a soft cushion became my friend. The books I read being familiar faces no matter where I found myself.  It was during these years that I discovered the value of knowing how to be alone and I remember my mother telling me how important it is to know how to do this.  To being easy in your own company.  To savour the very sweetness that is solitude.

Finally in my teenage years when my father left the airforce and started his own company we started to settle and yet life began to fall apart.  My father, a typical irishman was a drinker and the more money he made the more he drank.  During his airforce years he had never really been home and I was probably to young to be aware of his addiction.  Now it was glaringly obvious and his indifference to me became a thorn in my side but, at the same time, I developed a deep friendship with my mother that lasted until the day she died.

A week after my seventeenth birthday, having been dumped unkindly by my first boyfriend, I hopped on a plane and went stateside to escape yet another broken broken heart and my father.  I stood at Atlanta airport feeling tiny, afraid and incredibly vulnerable.  All I could think was ‘how am I going to survive this’….but I did.  I ended up in South Carolina and spent a year exploring life, making friendships that are still alive today, learning to stand on my own two feet and the art of ‘conversation with a stranger’.

A year or so later I returned to England and instantly regretted the decision.  Driving through the grey, damp streets on a foggy November morning I longed for the sunny skies of the carolinas, the friends I had made there and once again to be far away from my father and the shit storm that surrounded him.  Just eighteen I sat in my parents little house in England and felt lost, alone and once again incredibly vulnerable.  No plan and no idea where to start. My parents marriage a mere pile of rubble and his love affair with the bottle all the stronger.

Now so many years later I am so grateful for those early adventures.  I am eternally grateful for those early life lessons of savouring solitude and travelling solo.  Of learning to talk to strangers and of reading anything and everything.  Of knowing that broken hearts do mend and that there is power in vulnerability.  Of knowing that you don’t have to tolerate other people’s stuff no mater who they are.

Today I savour my solitude and that little armchair at the back of the bookstore is still my friend.  I have more books than clothes and still love ‘conversations with strangers’.  To hear snippets of their stories and exchange friendly smiles.   I am alone, a little lost and once again feeling incredible vulnerable…..but it feels like home.

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Don’t be co-dependent on your story.

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We all have our story.  Pages and pages of stuff we travel with.  Baggage we hold on to.   Each of us with our own piteous little pieces of our past.  Your father walked out when you were little or your boyfriend cheated on you once upon a time.  You never got that promotion you always thought you deserved or  your school marks didn’t reflect how hard you worked.  You were not chosen for the A team so gave up sport. That guy never asked you out and then dated your best friend.  He left you.  She left you.  Little traumas.  Notches in the bark of our souls that make us who we are. We are filled to the brim with them.  Overflowing with them.  You can’t get to adulthood without bags of the stuff.  We carry it around and blame our messy lives on it.

I am guilty.  A father who was indifferent to me at best and drunk a lot of the time.  A shabby english comprehensive that, were it not for the daily register, would not have noticed I was there.  My father’s job that made us move every few years resulting in no roots anywhere,  no sense of belonging, no real home.  These are just aspects of my childhood.  I would not dare to tread publicly into my teen years let alone all the diatribe that followed.  I would not dare to go on pulling out the relentless garbage of my life and laying it out and telling you ‘see….that’s why’. That’s why I can’t. That’s why I’m too scared. I couldn’t possibly because….

Here I am in my very adult years trying to lay down that heavy load of history.  The mountainous pile of the former me that I have dragged around year after year. The relentless hurt that the last few years delivered in breathtaking quantities.  I am trying, in tiny daily steps, to release any co-dependency on my past.  To believe that ‘I can’ despite a life of believing that ‘I can’t’.

It’s not easy.  We are comfortable in our co-dependency.  It’s a beautiful excuse.  It’s a beautiful excuse to stay in our sweet co-dependent state. It’s a reason to not.  A reason to not write that book or start that business or take up that sport.  It’s a reason to not be easy in that relationship.  It’s a reason to not open our hearts to all the incredible possibilities.

As safe and comfortable as this co-dependency is you are not all that has been.  It’s done. It happened but now is now. It’s not who you are in this moment.  Place all those bags of stuff gently down and move on. Let your heart gently open to all the promise and wonder of what life can offer.

You are not what happened to you.

There is so much to come.

Grief does not know of time.

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Grief is an disobedient entity.  It does not know of boundaries or timelines.  It does not care for working days or weekends.  It does not arrive at the prescribed time, waiting its few mandatory days after shock and despair to enter stealthily through the door.  It does not wrap you in its dark cape for the allotted or subscribed time you might have read about and so think ‘oh yes so now you are here and in x number of days you will be gone and I can move on’.  It does not come when you are expecting it.  It does not always come with death. We have many reasons to grieve and most of them we ignore.

Grief.  It comes in the middle of the most perfect day.  You have just taken a deep breath of pleasure, the sun is out and you can hear the delightful laughter of small children.  What ever it was that was the cause of your grief was months, even years ago.  Long forgotten.  Dealt with, you thought, in the most efficient of ways.  Packed down tightly, taped up and placed in a long forgotten corner of a cupboard never opened.  Then there you are standing in line at the grocery store perched somewhere between the pretty little packets of nuts and the magazines depicting perfect homes and deliciously robust bodies and suddenly you hear a voice, or smell a scent and it hits you like a freight train.  Right there, out of the blue it hits you.  It was there all along.  A tiny ember barely alight somewhere deep within you glowing so quietly you could not even hear it’s whisper.  Then a memory, a sight or sound opens the door just enough to provide oxygen to that tiny cinder.  You feel the heat rise up within you.  Rushing and enveloping you.  Overwhelming you. You are in the middle of the line at the supermarket and all of a sudden you feel your world fall apart.

It comes in a dream and when you wake the day does not caress you with it’s normal sweet and charming hello.  You open your eyes to crashing waves of every unwanted and unwelcome emotion.  Immediate thoughts of ‘I cannot do this day’ engulf your both your mind and every pore from the tips of your toes to the top of your head.  We are who we are though and we get up and tape down that box and carry on.  We shut the door and hope the cinder dies down.  No oxygen, no fire.

Then there you are in line at the supermarket and the heat rises and your eyes fill with tears.   You cry at the checkout and you wipe your eyes at the parking exit.  You stop your car in a random spot in some side street and are engulfed in great heaving sobs that tear you apart.  Once it comes its unstoppable and the pain it seems is unbearable.  That fire will burn and the only thing to eventually put it out will be your own tears.  You can’t can keep closing that door and trying to put out the flames, it will never work.  It will come again and again at all those unexpected times until you finally deal with it.

Thats grief.  It’s unexplainable and although it is not always related to the death of a person it usually involves loss of some kind.  There are many reasons to grieve.  It can be the loss of a place.  The breakdown of a friendship.  The deep hurt from betrayal.  The pain of something that never was when you so desperately wanted it to be.  The bottomless despair that comes with the realisation that things are not how you thought they would be.  The loss of a future you thought you would have.

When it comes it might be because of all these things.  There is nothing to do but go with it.  Pull over at the side of that road and cry those tears.  Stay in bed and refuse to do the day. Open the door and let out that whole lifetime of piled up emotion. Maybe, just maybe then you can start to heal.

Life will break you..but..

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In all my work I am incredibly privileged.  I get to meet and spend time with an amazing variety of people.   With my camera in hand I meet newborn babies and happy people.  I get to photograph people doing what they love with the people they love.  There is often laughter,  there is often joy and I get to capture it and give it back to them so that they can look at it forever.  Life however is not just filled with happy smiling moments.

There is laughter in my yoga classes too.  Lots of it.  There is laughter and joy but there are also tears.  There are tears and great moments of fear.  There is anxiety and anger and for some reason yoga brings it all out.  People come to class for all sorts of reasons.  The come in search of something, often not knowing what that thing is.  They come thinking they want to do a few asanas, touch their toes and sit in relaxation.  This happens, oh yes this happens, but shit happens too.  Last week a student touched her toes for the first time in her life and along with that moment came floods of tears.  Tears of joy.  Tears of release. Tears of achievement.  In that same class a student who could not find her balance instead found floods of tears in savasana (relaxation).  I held her head as her body shook with the weight of it all.  I watch as people release deep sighs in meditation.  I get to be part of their process of peeling back the layers of themselves.  I get to witness their ahh-aha moments.  I get to be part of their journey and it’s beautiful.

A while back I was asked if I would spend some time doing relaxation and meditation with a lady who was terminally ill.  The sweet, kind, beautiful person was understandably very anxious about the road that lay ahead of her. Once a week I would go to her apartment and for an hour we would talk and then we would sit in quiet meditation with me guiding her to find just a few moments of complete peace.  We would talk of life and death, of fear and trying to really live in the few moments she had left.  I witnessed her sorrow and pain.  I held her hand when she cried and helped her breathe through moments of unease.  I was witness to her most intimate fears.  I heard her stories and sat with her when she needed to find space in those stories and it was a beautiful thing.

Life will break you.  We come into the world devoid of fear or judgement, but life will break you.  Along our journey we bump headfirst into heartache and pain.  We suffer intolerable sickness.  We loose people we love and are brought to our knees by uncertainty.  We fix ourselves with pretend plasters and glue.  We hold it all together with imaginary layers that we think will keep out all the pain….but it won’t.  Life will break you.

I had the incredibly privilege of getting to know a person intimately in the last months of her life.  During our hours together I got to ask about living.  I got to ask her where her breaks had been and where she had built her walls.  I got to see where she had put her plasters and glue and I got to see her layers peel away.

At the end of the day all those layers of ours will come undone.  In the last days of your life each and everyone of those plasters will come unstuck and the glue will melt.  We put them there because we don’t want anyone else to see our pain.  We don’t want to be vulnerable.  We want others to only see the happy pretty parts of ourselves.  What people don’t realise is that underneath all the pretend fixing is where all the real beauty is.

When I see the layers fall and the personal first aid fail I smile.  When I watch in class as the quiet person in the corner finally lets go, I smile.  I smile because the real beauty of a person is in their vulnerability.  The real beauty of the human race is in our connection and when we are vulnerable we connect deeply.  Our beauty is in the layers of who we are.  It’s in our stories and not just the good ones.

It’s hard though.  Taking off the plasters is hard and it hurts.  Something happens though when we do.  When we show another person our pain we free them up to do the same.  When we gut vulnerable we let them get vulnerable too.

Here is the best part of it all.  Like a baby or a person in their last hours where there is a serenity and grace that is breathtaking, a person without all their plasters and glue is the most beautiful thing.

 

 

Traits of conscious living

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I recently saw an article in which were words written by the actor Keanu Reeves. Keanu had written about how he did not like living in a world where people did not seem to value either themselves or each other. I agree.  The fact that millions are obsessed with the inane daily existence of a family that seem to pride themselves on the size of their butts rather than the depth in their hearts breaks my own into a million pieces.   Where is our deep commitment to the human race, our planet and everything that resides in our environment?  Why the desire to hurt and why the ludicrous obsession with things that have no meaning or depth.

His article reminded me of notes I had written in the back of an old journal and so I rummaged around until I located those tired scribbles. There in my tatty moleskin I found the list I had made some time ago on what I believe are the traits of people who live a conscious life.

They are dedicated to personal growth. 

By this I mean that they put effort into being a better person that they were yesterday.  The seek to expand their minds and are open to constant learning.  They understand that there is always room for improvement and are willing to work on the space between who they are and who they want to be.

They understand that they are more than a physical body.

Our physical body is home for our soul.  Perhaps we will never understand just what our soul is but we do get that it is vital to who we are.  Both our body and our soul are energy.  Our body vibrating atoms of energy and soul the deep conscious energy that makes us who we are.  They understand this about themselves and equally of others.  They are prepared to meet others on both levels and are respectful of another’s journey here on our planet.

They take care of themselves

Living a conscious life means taking care of the home their soul resides in. Attending to all the physical needs of the body.  Making time for exercise, drinking lots of water, eating quality food and avoiding the perils of sugar, alcohol and drugs. It means taking care of your own emotional needs and stepping out into the world knowing that if you take good care of yourself you have more to offer others.

Embracing their beauty

This really boils down to being comfortable in their own skin.   Taking the time to love themselves, who they are and what they offer to the world.  This is no mean feat. Even liking ourselves seems impossibly difficult in a world that tells us we are not enough.  Conscious people tune out from the media perception of beauty, physical or otherwise and embrace all that they are.

Care for others

Conscious people understand that we are all connected.  That we are all part of this universe and that we are all made up of the same energy at a deep cellular level. This understanding guides them to treat others as they would treat themselves.

Care for the earth

It is pretty obvious isn’t it that if you have conscience at all you are driven to treat this plant with the utmost care.  Reducing your consumption and lowering your carbon footprint are just the tip of the iceberg.  Care for the earth means caring for our environment and everything in it.

Emotionally mature

This doesn’t come easy to some but it starts out by engaging in personal growth.  All the work done there provides the basis for emotional stability and maturity.  This has nothing to do with physical age.  I know young people who’s emotional maturity knocks the socks of people twice their age.

Lives with integrity and doesn’t settle

A conscious person approaches all that they do with grace.  They are true to their word and uphold their own code ethics and morals.  They know their boundaries and expect others to treat them with the same honour as they themselves treat others.

Opens even when it hurts

It is not easy to stay soft and open in a society that wants to beat you with it’s own brand of harshness but this one is essential.  Staying open means not closing down ones heart.  It means understand that the energy of love really is what gives meaning to our lives. It means being tender even in the moments when it is hardest to do so.

Receives elegantly

I struggle with this.  I find myself very uncomfortable with the process of receiving gifts but to not receive with grace denies the other person all the joy of giving.  Of course it is not always a gift from another person.  Receiving also means accepting and loving your talents and anything else that makes you special.  It is understanding that you are deserving of this and being brave enough to go out into the world with that knowledge.

Is brave and courageous.

In the words of Gandhi ‘Be truthful, gentle and fearless’.  Being brave and courages does not denote being hard.  It means be courageous enough to be gentle and be brave enough to stay open.  Stand sweetly in your own power and respect that others do the same.  Move fearlessly out of your comfort zone when required and help others in their quest for growth.  There is a beautiful sanskrit word ‘Shraddha’.  It means learning to rest in complete uncertainty without moving into fear.  For me that just sums up beautiful the ability to be brave and courageous.

I truly believe that we all have the ability to be highly conscious people.  That every single person on this planet has the depth and character to do the work required, and just imagine if they all did.  What a wonderful world it would be.

On love….

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I find that themes seem to run through the weeks of our lives.  I overhear one person talk on a topic, then another will mention that same thing in class, then yet another will approach me for advice….and so it goes.  Commonality between us.  Shared energy that bounces from one to another invoking all sorts of stories within us.  A collective energy that brings issues to the surface alerting us to the fact that we are not alone in dealing with them.

It seems that the shops are filled with red.  Red hearts and cute white bunnies with red heart shaped ears.  Red negligees that are made from whispers of material and heart shaped chocolates that wink at you as you walk past.  Desperate reminders of love.  All these commercial trinkets, pretty as they are, remind us only to love others.  They sell us the story that we will be complete once we have a person to love.  That we will be whole when we can fill our shopping basket with all things red and sweet waiting to be passed on to another.  The flaw in all this is that we have forgotten to love ourselves.  Somewhere along the path of our lives we stop loving who we are.  I am not sure where and when it happens but I do know that we do not come into this world full of self criticism.  We are not born thinking our legs are too fat or our hair the wrong colour.  We do not stand as children in front of the mirror and inhale deep breaths of self loathing.

So here we find our common theme.  I can no longer count the number of times a client has told me that they do not like themselves but over the past few weeks this issue has risen to the surface like bubbles in a pot of porridge.  One after the other I hear their words and feel their anger.  A vast number of them living in a state of perpetual self disappointment.   Awash with self loathing they pour their love into others and hide their inner neglect behind layers of denial.  I hear the words echo around the studio.  I can’t…. I will never be able…. I am no good at…. I am no good… I am too short… I am too tall…. I am to weak….I don’t like myself.  Oh so many ‘I don’t like myselfs’.  I see the ‘help me’ in their eyes and I feel the ache of sadness in their hearts.  At the end of class I ask them to think of things they are grateful for and then I ask question ‘did you put yourself on the list’?

I see it when they stand before my lens.  I look terrible in photos they say…. I am so ugly… I hate my hair…. I am so fat… I hear an endless diatribe of I am not good enough, I’m not pretty enough, I am just plain not enough utterances.  Kilos of criticism and hearts heavy with the weight of it all.

Stop being so hard on yourself.  Just stop.  You are all beautiful.  Every single last one of you is beautiful.  How do you expect anyone else to love you if you do not love yourself.  Stop hating your arms that you believe are imperfect.  If they can hold and hug then they are good enough.  Stop hating your legs that you believe are not long enough or thin enough. They carry you where you want to go…thank them and be grateful for them.  So when people ask me how to stop hating themselves I say this.  Stop standing in front of that mirror and criticising everything you see.  Start by liking one thing.  Be thankful for that, whatever it may be and how ever insignificant you think it is.  Then tomorrow find another thing. If you can’t find something to like then just find something to be grateful for.  You may not love your eyes but you can be grateful that they enable you to see.  You may not love your feet but you can be grateful that they carry you where you want to go.  Keep doing this and one day the dislikes will turn into likes and the you will slowly start to see all the beauty that others find so endearing.

I am not suggesting for one moment that we don’t all have room for growth and improvement.  Without doubt we all have areas we need to work on be it in the physical, mental, emotional or spiritual planes of our lives.  There is always work to be done but you can start by being kinder to yourselves.  Get over that initial hurdle and then start working on the things you can change and gradually accepting the things you can’t.  Go back to being that kid in front of the mirror.  The one who believes in his reflection. The one who believes he is invincible and strong and just perfect the way he is.

Loving someone else will never make up for not loving ourselves.

 

 

 

On the art of letting go.

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‘How do I let go of stuff’.  This is a question I have been asked time and time again over the last few weeks.  I have been asked by students after class, by friends and even by people I hardly know.  All of these people weighty with emotional baggage that we as humans tend to carry around.  Heavy loads of history.  Perhaps it is the new year that makes us want to shed these carry on cases.  Maybe we want to step into this new year without all the stuff we carried with us last year and all the years before.  We talk a lot in yoga class of letting go.  Of opening up our bodies, minds and hearts.  We work hard at making space in our bodies.  We work hard at opening up our joints and in doing so we work hard at releasing all the tension and stuff stored there.

Most of the time we are hardly aware that we have stored this garbage away in our emotional piggy bank.  We don’t open the doors there much.  We don’t really like to look into that dark and dusty cupboard overflowing with souvenirs from past relationships.  We save trashy emotional memento’s from events not worthy of remembering and allow them to settle somewhere within us.  We invite them in and let them stay.  We make room for them.  They take up space within us.  Space that could be open and inviting for new and beautiful things.  Yet here we are, storing old things and carrying them around trying desperately not to look at them or even to remember that they are there.

We store them all over our bodies.  Our hips and solar plexus are the usual willing victims.  Our hips get tight and our lower backs suffer under the weight of all the gritty garbage.  There are other places though.  We are ever so adept at making space for all this stuff.  Our whole bodies can be used for storage.  No part of us can escape this dusty trail.

So how do we let it all go?  How do we brave the opening of those dusty doors?  How do we pull out those unwanted emotional trophies one by one and toss them away forever?  After all its going to hurt isn’t it?  There is only one way to let it out and that is through the heart.  Thats the way it came in and that’s the way to let it out.

Here is how you do it.  You open one door at a time.  You find that memento.  Take a look at it.  You are carrying it around with you, all day, every day.  Its heavy and dirty. You don’t want it and you know that if you toss it aside you will have space. Beautiful fresh open space.  For some reason this is the point where we get fearful.  We are nervous of that space.  We are used to the weight of it and there is a comfort in that.  It’s what we know.  It’s who we are.  It hurts to look at it.  Our chest tightens and our heart starts to close.  Don’t let it.  Right at this point take a deep breath and open the heart and let it go.  Get behind the pain and throw that thing away.  Release it with one big beautiful breath.

Yes it will hurt for a moment but then that moment is over and it is gone.  Surely that is far better than carrying it around for another few years.  That is all you have to do. Open your heart and let it go.  It will hurt for just a few moments and then it will be gone.  Surely that is far better than the pain of carrying it around forever.  So why don’t we do this.  Why do we insist on holding on to this detritus.  Why to we litter our bodies with the leftovers of our own personal history.  For one reason only and that it is because it is what we know and what we know feels safe.  It keeps us in our comfort zone and we are spectacularly bad at moving out of that.

So go ahead and drag that stuff out of those dark and dismal corners.  Let it go and move on.  You will be richly rewarded in ways you can only begin to imagine.  Just breathe and let it go.

 

 

On dishonesty….

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I had a friend who was really dishonest with me.  Decidedly and alarmingly dishonest. Monumentally dishonest.  Perhaps then I should accept that they were never a friend in the first place. There is no place for dishonesty in friendship.  Not in my world.

I will admit that when I found out I was stunned as I had always thought I was a really good judge of character.  I have always relied upon my intuition and this is the first time it had failed me.  My goodness I did not see it coming.  Not in the slightest. Despite the rather massive surprise I got by way of a phone call, I attempted to deal with it in a graceful and delicate way.  I hope a managed, but I have my doubts. Since then I have spent a rather inordinate amount of time beating myself up for not seeing the spaces in his stories.  I totally trusted him as I trusted myself.

I trusted him with my own stories and told those stories with all the soft open honesty I believe is beautiful and essential.  Honesty for me is crucial.  It’s fundamental to who I am as a person.  I don’t think we can connect as humans without good old fashioned open honesty.  I believe it is a huge part of being an evolved and conscious human.  Ultimately I think if you are not honest with others then you are not honest with yourself.  If you are not honest with yourself you are in serious trouble and best you start spending some time alone to sort out that mess.

If you google the word honesty you are more than likely to find this: ‘Honesty refers to a facet of moral character and connotes positive and virtuous attributes such as integrity, truthfulness, and straightforwardness, including straightforwardness of conduct, along with the absence of lying, cheating, theft, etc. Furthermore, honesty means being trustworthy, loyal, fair, and sincere’.

That is pretty much how I saw him.  I liked what seemed to be a straightforward way of talking.  I liked the pauses in his stories.  Those stories of his that appeared to be so full of integrity.  I listened to each and every one with an open mind and soft heart.  I liked what appeared to be a sincere interest in my own silly stores.  How could I have misjudged this one so badly!

Perhaps in a another year I might have seen things differently but this came in a year when I been monumentally disappointed in a lot of people. People I trusted.  People I loved.  Perhaps they too are disappointed in me but at least I can say that I was never, ever dishonest.

In a year of big lessons this was just another one.

He does of course have options.  He could step up and email or message me and explain.  I will not email or message back.  I am not interested in having the last word, but it would be nice to know why.  He could call but that would take courage and I now doubt that he has that.  If he had any moral fibre at all he would sit down with me and share this particular story over a cup of tea.  He would tell me why and he would say he was sorry.  I promise to be compassionate and listen with a gentle heart.

Sadly I doubt that he will ever read this.  I doubt that he has the integrity to apologise and explain.  I doubt he has the courage to face me over that cup of tea.

Why do I want him to do this?  So that I can trust that I was not so totally wrong about him.  That I did not misjudge it all so badly.  That he really is the person I thought.  So that I am not so terribly disappointed.   So that I can start to believe again.

I don’t want to be disappointed in people.  I really really want to believe that we are all good and that we all understand that we are connected.  I just want people to be nice to one another.  To be truthful with one another.  To not disappoint when not having to is an option.  We are all struggling to get from one end to the other.  Please can we just do it with kindness and honesty.

As in the words of Gandhi: Be truthful, gentle, fearless.

On life and loss…..

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This year has been hard.  Unbelievably hard.  Excruciatingly hard.  I have lost so much of what I once held dear and found myself feeling more vulnerable than I ever thought possible.

My year began with divorce. Divorce from a marriage of twenty seven years.  A painful separation with all that I had known for my whole adult life. Nothing can prepare you for the loss.  With divorce there is always loss.  Huge, huge amounts of seemingly unbearable loss.  Loss of what you thought would be.  Loss of a future you once imagined.  Loss of friends and on occasion, loss of hope. For me the greatest of those losses, apart from the obvious, was my beloved ramshackle house in the bush. This was the place I called home.  Where my heart and soul felt the most peace. Where I took all my deep breaths and made all my big decisions.  The place I went when life became overwhelming.  So in the most overwhelming time in my life I could not go to that place that I knew.  I could no longer sit in that place where I normally sat.  In essence, even my decision making process had to change.

Life was, in fact, to became more overwhelming than I could possibly imagine. Nothing it seemed, bar my name, could stay the same.  I moved house, changed my car, changed my bank accounts, changed phone accounts and wifi providers, became a yoga instructor and took on photography work I had previously shied away from. It was hard. Seriously hard and I was physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted.  I had to claw and fight my way back to creating a life that was sustainable, even if it was temporary.

Then just when I thought I could catch my breath the universe dealt another massive blow.  It took from me my mother in a bizarre set of circumstances.  Nothing could possibly prepare me for the month that was to follow.

Last week I sat in her little home in the cold autumn of England and tried once again to catch my breath.  I could not seem to find it.  It was not amongst the all letters she had saved.  Letters that I had written to her when I was still a teenager and living in America.  It was not amongst the clothes that she wore, nor was it in the cupboards of china that she loved so much.  I could not find it in the garden she had tended so carefully or in the boxes of photographs I rummaged through.  It was not in the cards that arrived nor the quiet ticking of the clock in the night hours where I lay awake in a bed that had once been hers.  Surely I would find it somewhere.

I have yet to find that breath but in amongst all this terrible loss here is what I have found.  I have found open hearts and incredible compassion.  In my vulnerable moments I have seen people step forward to comfort me.  People I did not know well. People who were merely on the fringes of my friend zone.  They have opened their hands and hearts to me.  They offered kind words that I have re-read again and again in those dark hours listening to that ticking clock. They gave me heartwarming hugs.  Hugs that gave me strength when I felt depleted.  They have taken me into their circles and protected me.  They have listened when I needed an ear.  I have made new friends.  New friends that have bought me meals and found ways to make me laugh and smile on the darkest and wettest days….you know who you all are.

I have found strength.  I have found that I am made of more than I thought.  I have found that I have strength to cope with a whole lot more than I ever imagined.

I have found calmness.  Yes, in amongst the whirlwind of trauma I have gone deep into myself to find a place of calm.  Now that I know where it is I know that I can go there whenever I need to.  Perhaps it was not there in the bush, perhaps it was just inside of me all the time.  I just didn’t know how to find it.

We are all just journeying from one end of life to the other.  Life is just about experience.  Big experiences and small.  Sometimes those big experiences are spaced out with long gaps in-between.  Sometimes they come all at once.

I have had a year of big experiences and big loss.  Big discoveries and monumental growth.  I hope the universe thinks that I have done enough growing for a while.  I hope it gives me time to catch my breath.

Practicing non attachment

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A confidence crisis is not confined to an artist.  However, anyone who practices any kind of art will at some point or another face some sort of wobble in their confidence at some point during their creative life.  Probably several actually, and if they are anything like me then they will have them on a regular basis.  They will doubt their technical knowledge.  They will wonder if their creative pool has dried up and they might even want to sell all their kit convinced their last ever piece of create work has long since been produced.

Recently whilst standing before a class of eager and expectant faces I wondered what it is that gives us confidence.  What gives me the confidence to go before people and teach despite the fact that I still have so much to learn? What gives me the confidence to write these words that may will be shunned with hefty giggles and dismissive vocabulary? How do we take confidence into our hearts and lives.

For me confidence simply comes from non attachment to the outcome.  When I first stood on my mat before my very first yoga class I had to overcome a moment of anxiety.  Could I teach? Would they like me? Would they come back?  I reminded myself that every person there that day would have a different opinion of me.  Some would like me and some would not.  Some would eagerly return for the next class and some would go on a search for another teacher who resonated more with them. I let go of the outcome.  I reminded myself that it did not matter what each of their individual opinions were and that it was more important to teach in a way that resonated fully with me.

I believe our education system has to take a great deal of the blame for the collective confidence of the human race.  Imagine, if you will, the young child who stands before her parents and siblings in full confidence singing out a tuneless nursery rhyme.  She has no attachment to the outcome and is glorious in her unadulterated joy.  Fast forward a few years and put her in front of her class where she now has to recite a poem or speak on some inane subject she has no interest in.  Now she is told very clearly there will be a rating attached to her performance.  She simply has to be attached to the outcome.  She is taught to be attached to the outcome.  Each and every day, in everything she does she is learning attachment to the outcome.  In the words of Buddha ‘the root of suffering is attachment’.  She spends twelve years in education being taught to be attached to the outcome of everything she does. She is doomed until she has spent an enormous amount of time working on herself and unlearning this very thing.

There are seven billion of us on this madly spinning planet.  Each and every one of us has a different perception and reality.  If you are creating something every single person that views that work will have a different reality of it and if you attach yourself to the outcome of each of those realities you will end up at the very root of suffering.  Create what resonates with you.  Detach yourself from the outcome.  Write the words that sit pretty on the page before you.  Take the photograph that is breathtaking in your eyes alone.  Paint on that canvas in the way that feels exquisitely beautiful to you.  Run the way that you want to run.  Move the way you want to move.  Sing the way you want to sing.  Detaching your self from the outcome allows you to do and say things that you otherwise might be reluctant to do or say. It frees you from your comfort zone and somewhere out of your comfort zone is where all the good stuff lies.

Try it for a day.  Detach yourself from the outcome of every single thing in your day and see how it feels.  Learning to detach yourself from the outcome is an incredibly liberating thing.  It frees you up to be your true self in all your magnificent glory.  It gives you incredible confidence.  It brings you back to yourself and in that place is all the joy and happiness you could ever want.

 

 



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