Archives for posts with tag: healing

The last few weeks – the last few days especially – I’ve struggled with the challenges of writer’s block, of the perils of falling in to the ‘Busy Trap’, and the associated exhaustion, imbalance and familiar wafts of depression which come with these conditions. How strange then, that a moment of clarity should come at the end of a long and tiring day, when I’d been feeling hot and bothered, rather than appreciative and joyful, from the heat wave we’re having. Or maybe not so strange, now I’ve started to wind down after a cool bath, fifteen minutes of mindfulness in my room and some time in the garden watching the sprinkler glide its way from the fuschias and snapdragons to the green grass and herbs.

Since arriving back from Kenya my life seems to have accelerated at such a rapid pace that I struggle to find time to check in with myself, to be alone, or simply to relax. A busy final week in Nairobi, interviewing slum-dwellers at risk of eviction whilst trying to control the amoebiasis – a common hazard of eating contaminated food in Kenya – in my stomach, was followed by an equally busy week in London. On day three of my return my mother contracted a similar infection which, unlike me, put her out of action for two weeks and in need of help and support, and on day four I was thrown back in to the internal politics, mounting bureaucracy and low staff morale of my organisation’s London office. Working in East Africa for two months may have been tough, with the continuous stories of fear and despair I heard and documented from victims of human rights abuses and the related feelings I went through daily of self-doubt and hopelessness; but being back in London suddenly seemed a whole lot harder, with more pressures, and less time to breathe or to take stock. So out went my blog, and any time for reflection or relaxation.

Then yesterday I heard some sad news of a personal nature. My old home of four years was also subjected to its own form of eviction. An entire squatting community in Brixton, some of whom had been there for years, were given their marching orders and police were on hand to make sure they really did leave. Unlike what I witnessed in the Nairobi slums, the procedure adopted here was most probably legal; in other words, notice will have been given, it would not have been carried out under cover of darkness, and efforts will have been made – however inadequate – to suggest alternative accommodation. But the heartbreak felt by the residents – and also me, as a former resident – remains. The scene will not have been pretty; there will have been resistance from those who could not bear to leave their homes, and heavy-handedness from a menacing contingent of bailiffs and police.

I am lucky that I had another home to go to, long before these evictions took place. My time in the squat in Brixton may be in the past, but the memories are still alive – of all its colourful, unique and often damaged characters, of weekend-long parties and the Monday dregs and debris of the guests and gatecrashers; of managing to complete my Master’s degree despite these distractions; of discussions on art, philosophy, or simply how we could survive living in crack alley in the heart of a suburb that never sleeps. I certainly had my moments of frustration and wondering what the hell I was doing, living in a place with no natural light and no central heating. But it was home for me for four years, and to see it now being emptied so forcefully to make way for a new, homogenised community, fills me with no small measure of sadness.

This may not be on the scale of the daily tragedies that the poor and destitute experience across the world, and some may even argue that the struggles of a privileged middle-class white girl are self-indulgent and petty in comparison.   But we all inhabit our own realities, our own dark moments and periods of grief, as well as our own moments of joy and happiness. We all have our own stories to tell, that will resonate succinctly for some and grate or be misinterpreted by others. If we feel it is within us to tell our stories, then we should, as it is one way of fostering understanding, empathy and compassion.  And so, as I recover from my writer’s block, I will finish off this piece with these words….

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.

Martha Graham, dancer and choreographer, 1894-1991

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I have a week left in Kenya. So many thoughts and emotions have passed through me in the time I’ve been in East Africa. There are times when the expectations and requirements of this job have seemed totally overwhelming; where I’ve had no time to stop and digest what I have seen or heard, and I’ve had to push on with writing, researching, asking further questions, whilst often lacking the confidence that what I’m doing will actually make a difference.

Humanitarian work, human rights work, development work. All them giveth, and they taketh away. An average day can feel exhilerating, hopeful, frustrating, desperate. It takes a certain amount of strength to face some of the stark and difficult realities of poverty and injustice; to challenge the authorities even when you know that they may well ignore you and continue to sit back as another crime or violation is committed under their watch; to walk away after interviewing a victim of human rights abuse without being able to offer any immediate assistance. We have to remain confident that doing something – raising awareness at international level, lobbying politicians and demanding accountability from State authorities – is better than doing nothing at all.

A Kenyan woman sits in the rubble of her home after being forcibly evicted from a slum in Nairobi

A Kenyan woman sits in the rubble of her home after being forcibly evicted from a slum in Nairobi

On a bad day I feel guilty and hopeless about all that I have seen and can do little about. I feel angry with the State official who lies to my face, denying that a forced eviction has taken place and that hundreds have been made homeless; or worse stll, refuses to even discuss such matters. I feel ashamed that a victim of human rights violations will be hoping for so much more from me than what I can provide. When I’ve had quiet meditative moments, I’ve contemplated forgiveness; forgiving myself for any action which I feel was not really in my character, or may have offended or disappointed others. I can only hope that in consciously keeping my heart open that I can connect with people beyond the expectations of what I can and cannot give. The same applies to dealing with the authorities. I have worked to release the anger I’ve often felt towards them, and try and understand them and the situation on a deeper level; to have compassion even for those I disagree with, and to continue to connect with the pure light that shines in each and every one of us but is so often darkened by psychological and environmental factors.

And on a good day I feel nothing but gratitude. Gratitude for finding myself back in East Africa, a place that gives me inspiration and fulfillment. Gratitude for having a space to myself to explore ideas and emotions away from the familiarity and distractions of home. Gratitude for the nice weather (most of the time) – the huge African skies and the gentle heat on my pale skin. Gratitude to the people I meet, for welcoming me and increasing my respect for different cultures and customs. Gratitude for every new lesson I learn from my work and from the conversations I have with friends and colleagues. Gratitude that no matter what challenges I experience, there is always a quiet place to retreat inside myself, to reflect and regain some peace.

The view of the valley from where I'm staying in Nairobi

The view of the valley from where I’m staying in Nairobi

I’m looking forward to going home. But I am also looking forward to reflecting on all that I have seen and done here, and finding the inspiration to use these experiences in constructive ways that not only seek to help victims of human rights abuses, but also the aid workers themselves. Self-care is essential in this line of work, and I see this journey I’ve made as an opportunity to recognise and put into practice the tools that are necessary to hold these powerful concepts of compassion, forgiveness and gratitude in our hearts no matter what the circumstances.

This blog post comes from a fellow blogger who I admire very much, and who shared these words from Charlie Chaplin on a day when I was letting the ego’s voice get the better of me. I read this and felt so much better!

Lagniappe: Charlie Chaplin: As I Began to Love Myself | Streams of Consciousness.

If last year was my year of growth and acceptance, 2013 is turning out to be my year of gratitude and forgiveness. A lot of my thoughts and meditations have been directed towards these goals. There’s been 2012 to deal with – the rejected job applications, loneliness, uncertainty, heartbreaks and family crises. But then there is also a whole lifetime, from the moment I was born to where I am today, which is worthy of a pause for thought and consideration.

Why? Because no matter how much we wish to avoid it, our past is part of us – it’s what makes us who we are today. We try to shut out and forget the situations in our past which hurt us, when actually it may be possible to recognise them as positive influences that have shaped us, or which have taught us something.

Acceptance of the past is an exercise of the heart, or if I am to be more prosaic, the soul; as we accept all that has gone before, we can learn to love who we are – all our qualities, including those we’d rather not speak about. When we achieve self-love, we are ready to cross that rainbow bridge situated in the fourth chakra – the heart – which transports us to a state of higher consciousness, where we can see our inherent and natural beauty that overrides our ego’s quest for perfection in the eyes of others.

Anahata chakra symbolizes the consciousness of...

Anahata chakra symbolizes the consciousness of love, empathy, selflessness and devotion. On the psychic level, this center of force inspires the human being to love, be compassionate, altruistic, devoted and to accept the things that happen in a divine way. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To connect more with our heart, and with our soul, may well require a major letting go of all that we thought defined us, of all that we thought was familiar and acceptable in our life. This is often where depression sets in; our soul is crying out but we are resisting the call, not wishing to let go of our youth, of old habits and beliefs – even those darker ones that have developed through unpleasant incidents in our past. And this is where acceptance, gratitude and forgiveness are essential. We are letting go, but we are also recognising and showing respect for all that has defined us and got us to where we’re at today.

This process inevitably implies a journey deep into the past – particularly to childhood, where so much of what happens can determine how we approach our life in adulthood. For me, as I’m sure for others, this is far from easy. Those years between around 5 and 15 were on balance the worst in my life. But in examining them during my meditations, I made a discovery about my heart – the seat of creativity, of desire and intimacy and all those obscure emotions, feelings and processes that cannot be explained through the rational mind. As a child, my heart was open – meaning I was creative, I loved to dance and sing and write. I wrote poems and short stories, and I imagined myself as a famous, glamorous actress or, in my younger years, as a beautiful and agile fox (my favourite animal). And I wished to be friends with everybody – to give and to receive love unconditionally.

But I lost my connection to these qualities of the heart when I was subjected to bullying from the age of 8 to 16. During this period I felt isolated and hurt by the malicious words of my classmates. When they weren’t purposefully excluding me from friendship circles and group outings, they were laughing at me for wearing the wrong clothes, or reading the wrong book, or saying the wrong thing. It is no surprise then that during that time I also developed an eating disorder. medium_331146387And there were other clear ramifications of having a closed heart. It meant for many years after that, as I grew up into a young woman, I let my head lead the way – rightly or wrongly – in so many decisions. To have listened to my heart at this stage would have been to surrender to something far less rational and more fragile and uncertain – and I couldn’t open myself up to such vulnerability. All I wanted to do was prove my strength, coolness and level-headedness whatever life threw at me. I channelled my energies into achievements and maintaining a specific image – activities of the ego.

These are habits and behaviours I have been slowly letting go of. I see the value now of returning to the heart/soul dynamic of our existence:

The soul presents images that are not immediately intelligible to the reasoning mind. It insinuates, offers fleeting impressions, persuades more with desire than with reasonableness. In order to tap the soul’s power, one has to be conversant with its style, and watchful.

Thomas Moore

What has this got to do with gratitude and forgiveness? In order for us to tap into emotional qualities of the heart and soul, we have to understand what may have shut down those qualities in the first place. And although a childhood trauma may have had negative consequences, it is only by accepting it as part of our life that we can gently let go of our obsessions of acting or being a certain way, and instead listen to the subtle voice within.

The parts of us that get ignored or outwardly rejected retreat to the realm of the unconscious. They become part of the shadow, split off from the persona. The persona is made of aspects that bring us love, while the shadow, those that seem unacceptable. As adults, part of our fourth chakra work is to reunite the persona with the rejected shadow for the purpose of balance and wholeness.

Anodea Judith 

I can now see the important qualities and experiences which have emerged from my troubled childhood. Isolation and loneliness gave me a warmth and compassion for others less fortunate and a determination to speak up for people whose voices were not being heard. A lack of nourishing relationships with people my own age was made up for with a deeper connection with grown-ups; and to this day I feel a natural closeness to people more mature than me. And ultimately, it is often through the bad times that we are most creative – these times are a license for us to be as imaginative and irrational as we like. And by unleashing our creativity we bring ourseves closer to our true nature – one that seeks a gentle balance between head and heart. medium_2245436130

 

 

 

 

Following on from my previous blog post about exercising gratitude, even for difficult situations – here are some useful guidelines on how to embrace the good and the bad and create lasting happiness in your life, courtesy of the Qi healing centre, Innersound:

Innersound Harmony | 5 Highly effective practices for creating lasting happiness.

Last night I stepped on to the Rainbow Bridge. In laymen’s terms, I let go of what no longer serves me, what keeps me stuck and fearful and manifested a deeper connection with myself, with the universe and with the love and compassion which binds us together. Yes, it was 12.12.12 and this was something worth marking, with a special ceremony of meditation, chanting, dance and sound in Brixton. How fitting that this should take place in a former nightclub that I frequented on a regular basis in my early twenties. This time round I didn’t need drink or drugs to get me dancing, nor to reach that euphoria and feeling of oneness and clarity. And today rather than having a hangover I woke with a feeling of power and purpose. 21.12.12 – the so-called End of the World – bring it on! I’ve stepped onto the Rainbow Bridge and I’m ready for whatever comes.

This picture depicts the seven major Chakras w...

This picture depicts the seven major Chakras with descriptions. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had learned about the Rainbow Bridge only the day before, whilst reading Eastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System as a Path to the Self by Anodea Judith. I was engrossed in the chapter on the Third Chakra, situated in the solar plexus. We cross the bridge when we move from individual to universal existence, from connecting with our deeper energy to the energy which surrounds us. In order to do this, we need to be stable and grounded in our first three chakras. The third chakra is the portal, which gives us the inner strength to take a quantum leap into the middle of the Rainbow Bridge, where the individual and the universal meet in perfect balance. This inner strength emerges when we break away from old patterns and habits that we have previously defined ourselves by – what Carl Jung calls ‘individuation’. In Anodea Judith’s words, individuation ‘is about daring to be unique, risking disapproval for the integrity of your own truth…Individuation is the unfolding of our unique destiny, the unfolding of the soul’.

I’ve realised that the third Chakra – symbolised by the Fire element, and associated with energy, autonomy, self-esteem and power – is where most of my blockages have been in recent years. A blockage in this area manifests itself through low self-esteem, emotional coldness, passivity, attraction to stimulants and a victim mentality. Those with weakened third Chakras struggle to identify their inner truth, and define themselves by what they think others expect. They operate with a great degree of self-control; those with third Chakra issues are often called ‘Endurers’, because they may be hurt by what they see or experience in their daily lives and interactions with others, but they consciously or unconsciously keep a strong and steady demeanour.  They refuse to let go of anger or grief, instead choosing to bottle it up inside, often leading to pain in the stomach or bowel area. Rather than act on instinct, they obey the will of others. But, as Anodea Judith remarks, ‘As natural instincts can never be fully repressed, they periodically erupt in shadow forms that only incrase the shadow and inadequacy. When we misbehave, lose our temper, fall apart, or have lapses in our vigilant self-control, we are driven to deeper shame’. Shame is the demon of the third chakra; we are quick to blame and punish ourselves when we lose self-control, when actually what we should be doing is laughing at ourselves, admitting our mistakes and learning from them.

I recognise this behaviour well, and have certainly been in situations where I’m in battle with my ego over what I really want, at times leading to mistakes and excess – usually involving drugs and alcohol, followed by a period of shame and regret. Overcoming the feelings of shame and low self-esteem requires a genuine leap of faith and, most significantly for me, a transition from our thoughts and concerns about those around us into our inner, deeper self. Stabilising the third chakra is all about feeling the transformative power within us and not being afraid to let our inner spirit, rather than our peers, be our guide. Once we regain that power we are ready to cross the Rainbow Bridge which connects us to the deeper love and compassion that lights up our world.

For many spiritual seekers, yesterday – 12.12.12 – signified the gateway or portal to the 5th dimension; the end of our current age, marked in the Mayan Calendar as 21st December, and the beginning of a whole new spiritual realm here on this Earth. It will be characterised by the letting go of grief, anger and hatred, and the birth of positive energies manifested through our upper chakras which have the power to transform our planet and manifest love, unity, balance and harmony.

What does this all mean? I’m beginning to realise that there is little point in trying to understand or intellectualise what is said and written about 2012. Ultimately, we either feel something or we don’t. And if we are willing to go deep inside ourselves, feel our transformative power and take a brave step forward and away from old habits which damage us and our universe, perhaps we can indeed be part of a shift for the greater good of this planet.

Yesterday was my birthday….another day closer to death, as one spiritualist once said to me.  How else to approach this momentous day which none of us can avoid in our lifetimes?

By Joey Gannon from Pittsburgh, PA (Candles) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Well, I’m also one day closer to 40, one day less in my ticking biological clock whose alarm likes to sound every now and again, reminding me my time is running out whether I want children or not. One year older without a stable career or income or family or a house I can call my own. Harumph!

But there is always another way. And that is the way I took yesterday as I woke up at my parents’ place. I thought about this time last year….a time when I was newly returned from Palestine, heartbroken, lost and jobless. I didn’t want to celebrate my birthday and I didn’t want to see anyone. I was vulnerable to stroppy and self-pitying outbursts with very little prompting. And all I could think about was how to leave my parents’ place and find some space for myself, and preferably a good job to go with it.

With hindsight, I see that this was the first phase of my transition. I was about to embark on a major new journey of the spirit – a word that didn’t really feature in my vocabulary this time last year – and the resistance was strong. This wasn’t about finding a new job or adding something to my CV, this was about surrendering totally to the unknown; digging deep into my personal reality….and, ultimately, gaining far more than just another job or a new home.

At this point I must echo the words of Steve Nobel, a life coach and writer who I discovered last week, who gives talks on and writes about big transitions (he also has a great blog, the Writers Salon, for those wishing to use writing as their healing practice for their transition).  One doesn’t need to be spiritual or into New Age practices to feel touched by what this guy has to say. From  his own tumultuous journey over the years, he has experienced and observed the key stages which transitioners will go through. At stage 1 of our transition we may feel the dream, but the resistance is huge, as it means letting go of an old life that we have grown used to. Our heart or our soul may be pulling us in one direction, but our head will be saying something else: Why do you want to leave that job, are you crazy? You’ll never succeed if you take such risks. What will your friends/family think? 

The resistance may last for months or even years. But one day something will come along – a catalyst – which will shake up your whole life. This tends to come once the intention for change is rooted within us, and before we know it everything seems to be turned upside down. All our old assumptions, direction, identity seems lost and we no longer know what or who to rely on. We are scared, uncertain, fearful. Perhaps at this stage we will experience what is termed a Dark Night of the Soul. I had never heard this term before last week but I recognised it straight away – that night of utter loss and despair, where you appear to be left at sea without a paddle, and in the worst possible storm too. It is indeed a frightening place to be.

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But such moments are an indicator that a profound change is taking place, that goes beyond mere career or lifestyle progression. For me, this signalled the real start of the transition, because it was in grieving for and letting go of all that I had been holding on to that I could truly surrender to the unknown. And the unknown, once we’ve shed these old habits and anxieties and fears, is actually a place of lightness and learning. Each day brings a new lesson, or an unexpected moment of clarity and assurance. The journey becomes the important and vital factor, not the destination.

And so when I think about my birthday I am reminded of this journey that I have taken, and how much I have learned along the way. I also think of all my teachers in the last year – and I’m not talking about academic ones. Healers, writers, artists, fellow transitioners, friends, acquaintances, even strangers – so many have touched me in the last year in unimaginable ways, and in ways that would not have been possible a year ago when my heart and spirit remained locked and my mind and body resistant to change. Indeed, as I mark being a year older, a year wiser, I have a lot to be grateful for.

Today I want to write about singing. After avoiding such bold use of my vocal chords for pushing 20 years – except in karaoke where it’s never really taken very seriously – it has now become a major feature of my life. Now I spend 20 minutes, twice a week, chanting what are called ‘cosmic sounds’ in the centre I attend for Qi classes and treatments. The words don’t make any sense in any language, but they’re meant to be the sounds that are closest to the universe’s natural vibration. We sing the words to calm any fluttering within us and tune in to a more natural state of clarity and peacefulness.

When I first attended one of these chanting sessions, which form part of a one hour class dedicated to sound, gentle movement and stretches and meditation, it was pretty daunting – especially since as a beginner I’m expected to continue chanting for an extra 10 minutes or so after the more advanced trainees have stopped. It also seems harder to be chanting words that I don’t even recognise, each requiring a specific pronunciation, pitch, and length of time for holding the note.

But now, several sessions in, I quite enjoy this part of the class. By the end of the chanting, I feel noticeably calmer, and my mind is clearer. I’ve even started going to the classes which are solely dedicated to 45 minutes of chanting. Again, the words coming out of my mouth make no sense, but somehow they manage to have a balancing effect; dissipating all the background noise we carry around with us in our day to day lives and replacing it with a stillness and inner tranquility.

An image of the goddess Gayatri, whose mantra is sung to encourage wisdom and enlightenment

It is the same when I come out of my monthy rehearsal with the Shakti Choir I’ve joined. The fact I’ve even joined a  choir has come as a surprise to my friends, most of whom have never seen me sing, let alone one that is dedicated to the world’s sacred goddesses. In the three hour rehearsal we take time to breathe deeply, to be present and to listen, tuning ourselves into our own group frequency. And then we sing our hearts out – men and women, of all ages and talents – in a capella harmonies. The sound is quite magical. At the end I come out feeling alive and alert. And amazed – I’ve just sung in harmony, and in tune (most of the time), and yet I haven’t sung for years.

I used to sing quite a lot – didn’t we all when we were children? From the age of seven or eight I was singing the numbers from musicals such as

Singin’ in the Rain, West Side Story or the Sound of Music. And I had an obsession with Judy Garland – I would record each and every film of hers when it was broadcast on television, and I had particular favourites which I would play over and over again, losing myself in the hope and glory depicted in Meet Me in St. Louis or A Star is Born.To this day, I cannot help but be totally entranced and captivated when I watch Judy belting out ‘The Man that Got Away’ or ‘Over the Rainbow’, particularly in her later years when her passion and her pain can be seen and felt with every word.

I wanted to be like Judy when I was a child – to sing, and dance, and act. And then what happened? As children, we so often get put off by our peers, or our parents, or our teachers. We might also be just plain shy and lack the confidence to step up onto that stage. I tried for a while, attending drama groups where we would put on shows that our parents and the locals in the area would come and see. Yet by the age of 18 other interests had taken over, and I’d decided I didn’t really want to be an actress after all…I wanted to save the world instead!I had equated my artistic talents with my chosen career, and so when my career interests changed, the singing, dancing and acting died.

Yet in the last few months the singing has been unexpectedly resurrected. When I’m not at the Qi classes or at choir practice, I find myself singing – even the ‘cosmic sounds’ which make no sense. The sounds from those sessions spent in the Qi centre or in the rehearsals stay with me for the rest of the day, or week, like soothing and reassuring mantras. The experience of singing again has become more than just some new hobby to fill the time; it is a healing exercise – one that nurtures me, connects me with my inner core and lights up each part of my body.

I don’t pretend I’m particularly good at it. We forget that we don’t sing purely to show our talent; we sing for joy, because a song is in our hearts or minds and it needs to be expressed. We all have singing voices – as our choir leader likes to remind us – we just need the inner strength to let our voices fly and flow over each note and chord. And as we listen, to ourselves and to those singing around us, we learn how to connect with the peace and clarity we always wish for.

It’s been over a year since I returned from Palestine, and almost a year of official unemployment. My parents look at me with deep concern in their eyes; I feel that some of my friends are intentionally avoiding the thorny issue of my continuing joblessness. Sure, from the outside the situation looks pretty dire: in my thirties, living with my parents, no money saved for a rainy day, seemingly unable to get a job that I actually want or that I would find rewarding. Single with no sign of romance on the horizon.

And yet this transition is turning into a long journey of self-discovery. I haven’t been working in a job, but I’ve been working on myself – getting to the bottom of what makes me happy, what makes me sad or insecure. Once the journey starts, you have no idea where it will take you; all you can do is give in to the uncertainty. It has in fact only been in the last few weeks that I’ve seen the value in this time, when before I was always thinking I should be doing something else. It turns out that I shouldn’t – I needed to be right here, with myself. This is my year of growth, and the gestation period is not yet over.

Transitions take time – we can’t expect to put one chapter of our lives behind us and move on to a new one straight away. Just learning to accept that certain aspects of my life, certain habits, need to change or stop altogether has been a process in itself. Each time I’ve thought I’d reached some acceptance about moving on from my previous career there’d be a new job advertised to try and suck me back in. It is really only in the last month or so that I’ve truly learned to say no to these temptations. I know my boundaries – what I’m willing to do, and what I know I shouldn’t do because it will hurt me or set me on a backward path. But it has taken time to reach this point. And so the transition is by no means over – actually it has only just begun, and the next chapter of my life is yet to unfold.

This is a transitioner’s biggest challenge – having the patience to let the journey and strength not to force our future but to go with the flow. People use this term all the time, but how often do we really put it into practice? We like to think that we are spontaneous and relaxed about what comes our way, but I’ve realised that actually I’ve spent much of my life trying to control what happens. We do this as a defensive measure, to avoid disappointments or having to face an unpleasant truth about ourselves. It is only when we truly stop what we’re doing to be still and present, that we can begin to understand what is meant by ‘the flow’ – the wave of different emotions and feelings that arise from slowing down and focusing on ourselves instead of what surrounds us. To go with the flow means letting go, surrendering, and understanding that we cannot force the answers. Transitions by their very nature imply an element of uncertainty, and all we can really do is embrace that and wonder at the surprises that reveal themselves once we stop trying to control our trajectory. This can mean that some days there appear to be an abundance of opportunities, but other days nothing seems quite right. Progress can be shoddy; two steps forward, one step back. I have to remind myself each time I feel dissatisfied and full of self-doubt – and these occasions do certainly still occur though not as often, thankfully – that I also have moments of great excitement and anticipation, where I feel like Tony in West Side Story singing ‘Something’s coming’.

Could be!
Who knows?
There’s something due any day;
I will know right away,
Soon as it shows.
It may come cannonballing down through the sky,
Gleam in its eye,
Bright as a rose!

Who knows?
It’s only just out of reach,
Down the block, on a beach,
Under a tree.
I got a feeling there’s a miracle due,
Gonna come true,
Coming to me!

Could it be? Yes, it could.
Something’s coming, something good,
If I can wait!
Something’s coming, I don’t know what it is,
But it is
Gonna be great!

I can’t expect to experience growth and expansion every day. But I’m learning to regard each difficult experience or emotion as something to learn from, rather than something to avoid or be afraid of. And so when I had some acupressure treatment which left me crying every day for four weeks, I ultimately chose to embrace that experience – confront it head on, rather than run away from it, and understand that the hurt I felt from it was a form of healing, of letting go. Now I go to the centre every week for meditation and Qi Gong classes, and it’s a profound experience each and every time. I’ve become more aware of my fragilities, that I’m not the tough person I thought I was. I’m more like a precious object (we all are) that needs to be handled gently, by myself and by others. This discovery has inevitably resulted in me having to avoid certain social situations; there is no longer any payoff for placing myself in environments which are destructive for my sense of wellbeing.  Of course, recognising what those situations are is not always easy, and on several occasions I’ve misjudged it, resulting in a sad and lonely end to the day. But soon after that I’ve picked myself up again, brushed myself off and said to myself, ‘OK, so today’s lesson is…’ Every lesson is a blessing, good or bad – they help us find our inner truth. It is only once we go through some kind of shedding process that our true selves can really emerge.

Now I find myself hunting out those things I know will nurture me and give me confidence, which in my case is increasingly linked to creative interests. A year ago I certainly wouldn’t have guessed that I would be blogging, or singing in a choir (which I recently joined after not having sung for at least 15 years), or going to meditation classes where I do 20 minutes of chanting followed by 20 minutes of ‘Heaven and Earth’ movements. I doubt I would have done any of these things if I was back in a 9 to 5 job.

What I realise now is that this time is an opportunity to try new things, but also to pursue any interests that have for some time been lying dormant. I’m reminded of what one of the Qi Masters said to me last week. She was referring to a true story by George Ritchie, who died for nine minutes and was then brought back to life. In those nine minutes, he literally saw his life flashing before his eyes. The biggest lesson he learned from the experience is that if there is something in your life you want to do, then you must go and do it; you don’t know what tomorrow will bring, and your last breath should be one of fulfilment, not of disappointment. I haven’t yet read the book but it’s next on my reading list. I’ve become a junky for anything that inspires me right now, including true stories and self-help books. They’ve replaced my obsession with reading the newspapers and Human Rights Watch reports – no bad thing for me right now, if you read my previous blog post on burnout.

So a final word on my transition so far? I’m still in the gestation period. Maybe one day in the next month, or the next year, I’ll be ready to emerge from my cocoon of self-inquiry and healing – radiant, confident and ready to fly.

I was meant to be writing about burnout this week. Well, actually, I have been writing about burnout, for the last two weeks. It’s taken up most of my day, and my thoughts and energy, as I wade through books and articles detailing the whys and hows of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion. I’m applying to do a Phd on the very topic, which requires me to get to know my subject, before I’ve even started studying it in the academic sense. And in getting to know it, I’m also confronting it head on, accepting it into my life as a personal experience that I am living.

But before I stray too much into the subject, which I have no doubt I’ll be returning to, I will mentally drag myself back to this present moment. Today I’m having a break from burnout, and I’ve taken a walk in the local park. And as I was walking, I was reminding myself of the importance of attention – of forgetting about what I was doing or thinking yesterday, what I read this morning or what I’ll be doing tonight – and taking in my surroundings.

And there, suddenly, I remembered it was Autumn. Had I not noticed before? Sure I had, but there’s little recognition or appreciation when you’re locked up in a room typing or reading off a computer all day. Beautiful, colourful, glowing Autumn – that brief period that only lasts a month or so, when the trees are rich in vibrant colours of green, orange, yellow and red; when the leaves literally burst out at you, vying for attention. All the seasons are playful in some way, and allow us to remember our childhoods as if they are now. In the case of Autumn, it is the crunch of the leaves under your feet, or the look and feel of a soft, mahogany conker, which prove particularly satisfying.

Getting out of the house and walking around the park is a healing process because amid all the chaos, the busy lives, the self-doubts and fears, it’s a space to breathe. I’ve felt blocked the last few weeks, struggling to write or to find the words to express myself. The thought of returning to more writing on burnout was also too difficult, and too painful. It encourages me to be stuck in my own mind and thoughts, when actually it’s just as powerful and inspiring to see what’s outside myself. The beauty of Autumn doesn’t last long. In fact, the large globules of rain which are now pouring down, smattering against the windows, are a reminder that we have to snatch those moments of pleasure outdoors when we can. So go on, pay attention to the Autumn!

Develop interest in life as you see it; in people, things, literature, music – the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself.

Henry Miller

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An Irish Mindfulness Meditation Blog: Self-care, resilience, meaning and personal development.