(A Thought for the Week)
"Worry is like a rocking chair - it gives you something to do but it doesn't get you anywhere." ~ Unknown
"Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy." ~ Leo F. Buscaglia
(A Thought for the Week)
A Thought for the Week
"Most people think the heart is mushy and sentimental. But it's not. The heart is intuitve, it's holistic, it's contextual, it's relational. It doesn't have a win-lose orientation. . . At times it may not even seem rational, but the heart has a computing ability that is far more accurate and far more precise than anything within the limits of rational thought." ~ Deepak Chopra
"No man can tell whether he is rich or poor by turning to his ledger. It is the heart that makes a man rich. He is rich or poor according to what he is, not according to what he has." ~ Henry Ward Beecher
"Follow your heart, but be quiet for a while first. Ask questions, then feel the answer. Learn to trust your heart." ~ Unknown
Forgiveness is letting go of angry and resentful thoughts and feelings. It is a key element of happiness, because if you continue to think about the “wrong” somebody did you, you are fuelling unhappy emotions.
When somebody hurts you badly, it can be extremely difficult to let go of your anger towards them and forgive. A lot of the time it’s difficult because you actually don’t want to forgive them - you don't think they deserve it! In order to protect yourself, you hold onto your anger. This is all very understandable, but regrettable too, as in harbouring these feelings, the person you’re hurting most is yourself. In hanging onto these feelings you’re affecting your own energy, and not to your benefit. Forgive, if not for the sake of the person “who done you wrong”, then for your own sake.
Every action that anybody takes is, at its unconscious root, motivated either by love or fear. When somebody treats you badly, the unconscious reason for that was their own fear. Bear this in mind, and it may help you to feel compassion rather than anger, or at least to let go of your resentment.
Forgiveness does not have to mean you pick up the pieces of your broken relationship with the person you feel betrayed or let you down. You can let go of the friendship if that’s what feels right, but the essential thing is that you do let go of your feelings of anger, betrayal and resentment. It can take time to get there, but if you resolve to move on for your own sake it becomes easier to let go of the angry thoughts when they do come to the fore.
It is just as critical to your health and well-being to forgive yourself for past mistakes, as it is to forgive others. In fact, learning to forgive yourself will increase your sense of compassion towards others and make the act of forgiveness easier whenever the need arises.
When it comes to self-forgiveness, ask yourself what good do you do yourself, or anybody else, by beating yourself up? It will not help you to move forward. In fact, it will stunt your ability to grow from whatever "mistake" you made.
Growth is about accepting what happened, identifying what you can learn from it and how you can do better in the future, then letting it go. and in order to be happy in the present, you need to stop focussing on the past. It's over and done with, you cannot change that. If there's a way you can make things somewhat better, then do so. Then decide to do better in future and move on.
Treat yourself with the same compassion you need to treat others in order to forgive them. Understand that you acted from a place of fear, and set the intention to go forwards living, as much as possible, from a place of love.
Letting go of Fear
Easier said than done, I know, but fear is a giant stumbling block to your personal happiness. Strictly the domain of the ego (your Spirit knows only Love), fear is an emotion that arises to protect us, but in doing so it often limits us.
Fear is the opposite of love, and in the coaching world it's used as an acronym for False Events Appearing Real. When you feel fear rise up inside you, ask yourself if that could possibly be the case. Because sometimes fear is associated with a very real threat and serves us well. But most of the time, our fear is around the anticipation of some uncomfortable outcome that may or may not actually arise.
And what's more, fear - like love - is a powerful energy, and we attract into our lives those things we love and fear the most, because those are the areas where we focus most of our attention.
To live your very best life, you need to learn to let go of fear. Otherwise you will not push yourself to do that which scares you. And it's fine not to do something because you don't want to. But to not do something because you're scared is a shame.
I know it's not easy. For most of my life I was a coward and would avoid anything that meant overcoming a fear, be that for my physical, pyschological or emotional safety. Eventhough I longed to do more, I would sit on the sidelines and watch rather than take risks. But over the last decade I've slowly pushed myself, stretching my comfort zone a little at a time. When I look back now I can hardly believe what I'm willing to do compared to how I used to be.
It starts with the decision: I'm not going to let fear hold me back. To borrow Susan Jeffer's term, to live your very best life, you need to feel the fear and do it anyway. And reading that book would actually be a very good starting point ;-)
Freedom is a sense of being, rather than a reflection of your life situation. You don't have to be footloose and fancy-free to feel free. It's about choice, or to be more accurate, feeling as though what you do in life is a choice.
And in fact, you always have a choice. You may not be able to control every situation in your life, but you always have a choice about how you respond to anything that occurs. And therein lies your freedom.
When you recognise this freedom to choose your response, you will find yourself more accepting of what is. You won't need to struggle with life, because you know that even if things aren't how you wish they are right now, you can choose how to view it, and how to deal with it. You can choose to look for lessons instead of feeling sorry for yourself. You can choose to find a way to use your situation to help others deal with similar circumstances. You can choose to remember that everything is temporary and this too will pass.
You can choose to feel free (and you can choose to be happy!)
But of course! You're allowed to have fun. In fact, many of the most enlightened souls on the planet are very light-hearted with it. So lighten up. Make a list of the things that make your heart sing and do at least one item on the list every day.
A desire quietly evolved over the last number of months: to leave Dublin and move to the West of Ireland.
It's a subset of my Big Dream: to buy a big georgian country house and run a retreat centre from it. I can't afford that dream yet, but as Mike Dooley says "The secret to living the life of your dreams is to start living it, at once, to any degree you possibly can."
And I can move west without the big country house. And I can rent a house there for less money than I'm paying for my one-bed apartment in Dublin. And I might even be able to dedicate a room in that house for teaching meditation.
And so it formulated... And I set up alerts for houses available to rent in a number of counties in the West of Ireland. I kinda felt drawn to Sligo, but didn't want to become too attached, so remained open to what might come up elsewhere. I felt that if this was the right thing for me to do, then I would find the perfect space in the perfect place, and I was determined not to force that to happen, but to allow it to unfold easily.
And what emerged was that the place that felt really right, that I was very drawn to, was in Mayo, not Sligo. The lovely Westport, I decided, would become my new home.
But again, I didn't want to become too attached to the idea - I know from experience that attachment thwarts my desires. Detachment helps them to manifest or keeps me open to even better things emerging than I originally planned for. So, I decided that now I'd found the perfect space, I would not actually make the move until I found the perfect place, eventhough a friend living 20 minutes from that town invited me to stay with her till I'd found somewhere of my own to live.
That felt like it might be forcing the issue a bit. The move will be very big logistically (not to mention emotionally as I'm leaving behind the life I've built over the last 16 years to begin a new one) and I believed if it was really right then everything would fall into place. I just needed to patiently allow that to happen.
But at the same time I also took some action - doing my bit to let the Universe know I'm serious about this plan ;-)
So, I did my homework. What were the people like (seriously friendly); how easy would it be to make new friends (very easy, I was assured); could I engage in leisure activities I enjoy (kayaking and hill-walking clubs - check; great surf nearby - time to finally learn to stand up on the board); were the people in the vicinity open to holistic practices (oh my God, yes!!).
And I looked at places to live. That was less encouraging. Most were damp and dingy. They definitely didn't feel like home. I started to wonder if it was meant to be. Maybe it wasn't. I surrendered.
And then more places came up to view, and one of them just felt So Right - yay! There were a couple of issues to be ironed out, and cheaper rent to be negotiated, but that all worked out too. I was all set to head to Westport last Wednesday to sign the lease and pay my deposit. And then the night before it all fell through. The house now won't be available till Christmas at the earliest.
I was really disappointed. I had become attached to that house! And I knew immediately that it just wasn't meant to be, but it still sucked having to let it go. It offered so much space, aesthetically it was to my taste, and its location in the town was just perfect. How would I possibly find another place as good?
But I also knew that if I'm meant to move there, then I will find the perfect place, and that house just wasn't meant to be.
The next morning I read this post on surrender by Megan, guest posting on The Jungle Of Life. How perfect! It got me to wondering if I'm simply too attached to the idea of moving to Westport. Maybe that's what's not meant to be. Maybe I'm meant to stay here in Dublin after all.
But I don't want to stay in Dublin. I want to make the move, I think the time is right for that.
I need to surrender again. Maybe what I want isn't what I need right now... I need to release my attachment to this particular dream and allow it to evolve to perfectly reflect what I really and truly, deeply desire at a level I may not yet be aware of.
So I'm shifting into wondering instead. I'm still hoping to make the move to Westport, but instead of being attached to it happening, I'm curiously wondering if it will. It's a much better place to be in :-)
What about you? What have you been attached to in the past that you now realise wasn't meant to be? And are you all the happier for it not coming about?
A Thought for the Week
At the end of the day, it's all about energy. You and I, and everything else that exists in the physical universe may appear to have solid form. But it's all an illusion. We are all masses of energy vibrating at different frequencies.
Moods, feelings, emotions, states of being are all energy forms as well. And the energy of happiness is a high vibration, while the energy of sadness, despair and depression are low vibrations. So, in order to be happy we need to raise our energetic vibration and keep it in a high place.
Essentially, everything being discussed in this series is a tool to help you do just that. But if I were to pick out one single action that will exponentially increase your energetic vibration, it's meditation. That will, of course, be dealt with in more detail in M is for . . . - but we are kind of a long way from there yet, so in the meantime why not check out my series on the benefits of meditation.
When we meditate, we raise our energetic vibration. When we practice meditation on a daily basis, we incrementally increase our vibration so that over time we find ourselves to be in a happier place within, no matter what is going on without.
As with anything, the only way to know this for sure is to give it a go yourself (the final post in the series mentioned above talks about getting started).
Ease and Effortlessness
One of the secrets to being happy is to stop struggling with life. To allow things to unfold as they will. That is not to say you can't want certain things - of course you can. But you don't always have to bust a gut to achieve those things (and of course you can still be happy even if you don't achieve them - see D is for... Detach from your Desires)
A better way is to set the intention for what you want, be open to all sorts of ways of that coming about, and then take inspired action.
There's a difference between inspired action and hard work. And it has nothing to do with laziness. In fact, somebody who's taking inspired action to achieve their goals could be working quite had indeed. But, if it's inspired, and coming from the power of intention, it usually doesn't feel like hard work. There's pleasure in the process.
Hard work, by my definition, is work for the sake of the end goal. It's when enjoying the journey doesn't figure much, becuase the destination is the real focus. I know it's important to have a destination in mind - otherwise we could wander around aimlessly for years. But we don't know how long we're here for, we're not guaranteed to arrive at our destination, therefore to experience joy along the way we need to focus more on the journey.
Besides, as Lance recently discussed in Detours on the Path of Life, we're all going to encounter detours along the way. If we're too focused on the end game, we get upset, frustrated, anxious about those detours - states that detract from our happiness. And besides that, sometimes they lead to a new - and even better - destination than where we were originally headed.
Least Effort is one of Deepak Chopra's Seven Spiritual Laws of Success:
"Least effort is expended when your actions are motivated by love, because nature is held together by the energy of love... when your actions are motivated by love, there is no waste of energy. When your actions are motivated by love, your energy multiplies and accumulates."
According to Chopra, miracles are the expression of this law, and he recommends the following practices to apply it:
Acceptance. Accept things (people, situations, circumstances, events) as they are in this moment, rather than focussing on how you wish they were.
Responsibility. This is actually not about blaming yourself (or anyone else), but about focusing on your ability to choose your response. It's about recognising that every "problem" in your life presents you with an opportunity for growth. It's about choosing to remain alert to those opportunities and transforming the situation into something of greater benefit, for yourself and for others.
Defenselessness. Let go of your desire to be right, to be viewed by others as being right, or smart, or wise. Be open to other points of view, be open to changing your mind, and be unconcerned about how others perceive your thinking.
Least effort is the path of non-resistance. And resistance is a seed for unhappiness. Let it go. Allow life to unfold as it will, and roll with it. Even if you don't like what's happening in the moment, your overall wellbeing will be enhanced by the lack of struggle.
Image part of Red Silk Alphabet series by geishaboy500
As discussed in the first post in this series, the Subtle Body is composed of the mind, the intellect and the ego and all three aspects are tightly interwoven.
The mind is the domain of our thoughts, desires and emotions. The intellect is the aspect of ourselves that analyses all information that passes through the mind. And how this information is interpreted is influenced by the outlook of the ego - the image we hold of ourselves and what we project into the world.
Negative thoughts and feelings - or mental and emotional dis-ease - comes about when our ego is rooted in fear. However, it is quite normal for the ego to be fear-centred because it is our self-image, and not our true self (that is our spirit, to be discussed more in the next post in the series).
The ego has forgotten who we truly are, and is living under an illusion that each of us is separate from all else in existence (while the truth is that everything is connected). This illusion of separation gives rise to fear. The ego worries about how others perceive us, and works hard to present an image to the world that it believes will be loved and accepted.
The ego also tends to have fixed ideas about what it needs in order to be happy, and becomes attached to the idea that life has to work in a particular way in order for it to be good. This attachment generates more fear - either that things won't work out as desired, or that it will lose what it has already achieved and wants to hold onto.
In order to let go of the energy of fear, to feel at peace, release anxiety, and love and accept ourselves and others exactly as we are, we need to integrate the energy of love into our daily lives. And this is where meditation can help us release mental and emotional distress.
During meditation, as the mind becomes ever quieter, we move in and out of a place called The Gap. This is the space between our thoughts. It can be a teeny tiny space - especially when our minds are frantically busy - but it does exist. The thoughts in our mind are like the frames on a film strip - while we perceive a seamlessly fluid movie, it is actually the composition of a series of stills.
The Gap is a field of pure stillness, and we are never aware of being in it (though you may - or may not - have an inkling immediately afterwards that you were there). We weave in and out of the gap throughout the meditation process, and in doing so we bring some of the qualities of that stillness back with us into our everday life.
The effect is become less reactive to situtations that previously would have worried or upset us. When practiced regularly, we come to realise that we have a calmer, more peaceful way of being in the world. We find this new way of being helps us to better deal with any crisis that crops up - cos they still will. Meditation doesn't eliminate difficult situations from your life, but it does enable you to experience them differently.
You'll find you don't struggle with situations as much. You may resist them initially (oh yeah, I still don't like to see trouble or strife coming my way), but with a regular meditation practice acceptance of the situation comes more quickly. And with acceptance comes peace and a greater ability to cope with whatever obstacle needs to be overcome.
You may read alot about the possibility of being happy in the moment no matter what crap may be going on in your life. You may even accept that possibility in theory. But if you have yet to experience it for yourself, then I recommend giving meditation a go.
Don't expect to instantly be cured of all fears, anxieties and frustrations - you wouldn't expect a flat tummy from your first session of sit-ups, would you? Meditation is like exercise - you need to do it regularly to see and maintain the results. But once you find the right technique for you, making it a daily practice will be a joy in itself - and the physical, mental and emotional benefits will be an added bonus :-)
Not to mention the spiritual gains - to be discussed soon....
Previous posts in this series:
Mediation: the spiritual benefits
A Thought for the Week
"Nobody succeeds beyond his or her wildest expectations unless he or she begins with some wild expectations." ~ Ralph Charell
"Set your sights high, the higher the better. Expect the most wonderful things to happen, not in the future but right now. Realize that nothing is too good. Allow absolutely nothing to hamper you or hold you up in any way." ~ Eileen Caddy
"Expect the best and a funny thing happens. You often get it." ~ Unknown
Seeing as I have recently begun to teach meditation, I thought it was high time that I wrote in more detail about the benefits I frequently allude to in other posts.
Originally, I was going to post the title Meditation: the solution to everything! But then I figured that’s a really strong statement, and it might alienate some readers. So I rephrased it as a question. However, I happen to believe that meditation is the solution to everything that can be perceived as a problem.
I hope to outline enough reasons to at least persuade you of this potential, if not convince you of this truth! However, if I were to attempt to do this in the detail I want in one go, it would turn into a mammoth post. So, I've decided to do it as a series of shorter posts.
This first one though is not so short. I'll discuss what meditation is and give a general overview of the benefits to be gained from a regular practice. In follow up posts I will look at the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual benefits in more detail.
In the last post I will outline how to get started with a meditation practice and give recommendations on how to integrate it into your daily life.
So, lets get started . . .
What is meditation?
Meditation is a process whereby we quieten the mind, which is normally very busily engaged with thoughts about the future or memories (more thoughts) of the past.
Through quieting the mind, we enable ourselves to rest more easily in the present moment, which is the only place that actually exists in physical reality. When we are busy thinking of the past or future, we are not fully grounded in the “real” * world. We have at least one foot in a world that either exists no longer, or doesn’t exist yet - and may never come to exist at all.
(* all of reality is perception and is uniquely different for each one of us – but that’s for another post)
Meditation is meant to be easy and comfortable to practice - not a test of mental or physical endurance.
Although we quieten the mind during meditation, the mind is not always quiet during the process! It is perfectly normal to experience many thoughts during meditation. If you don't achieve a completely still mind, don't dismiss your meditation as not being effective. Eventhough it might feel like your mind is continually active, you do still quieten it down throughout the process.
During meditation, using whatever your point of focus is (that differs according to whatever meditation technique you practice), you continually interrupt your busy stream of thoughts and in doing so take your mind to quieter and quieter levels. Over time, though you may still experience thoughts, the thoughts become quieter themselves, more abstract, less compelling to the thinking mind.
Many people, when they begin meditating, think they need to banish all thoughts from their mind. This puts the mind under a great deal of pressure, and can also lead to tortuous mental boredom throughout the process. When you let go of that pressure, and accept that whatever crops up in your thoughts is just fine – as long as you remember to just let them go rather than engage with them – then meditation turns into a relaxing and peaceful time that you will enjoy.
Physically, meditation is also meant to be comfortable. The traditional image of a meditation posture is something like this:
In fact, this is not at all required. It is absolutely fine to sit in a lotus position – if you can do so comfortably. If it would be uncomfortable for you (as it is for me), then sit upright in a comfortable chair. If the body is uncomfortable the mind will be engaged with this thought, making it difficult to settle and quieten down.
Comfort is key – then you can forget about your physical body and relax your mind.
Why bother meditating?
Meditation originated in eastern cultures as a spiritual practice. It enables you to connect with your soul, and to integrate the qualities of your soul into your daily life.
In the west, however, it has grown in popularity due to the recognition of its immense power to manage stress and reverse the ill-effects of stress on both the mind and body.
The benefits of meditating regularly cannot be overstated. The practice will positively affect you on every level: physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. Not only that, but we postively affect those around us too.
Layers of Life
Above is a diagram of the model of the human form that was developed by Adi Shankara, one of the great Vedic sages and philosophers of India. He identified three dimensions to the human body: physical, subtle and causal.
The physical body is not limited to the personal body we recognise and identify with, but also includes the unseen energy body - the prana or chi that provides us with vital life force - and also the extended body, otherwise known as our environment.
When we meditate we raise the vibration of our energy, which improves the health and well-being of the physical body and impacts the energy field around us, thereby affecting the energy of others we come in contact with.
The subtle body also has three aspects: the mind (thoughts, desires and emotions), the intellect (the part which is always analysing and interpreting information), and the ego (self-image). By quieting the mind during meditation we reduce mental and emotional turbulence and increase our sense of inner peace.
The causal body refers to our consiousness, and again there are three levels involved: the personal soul, the collective soul and universal soul. As well as being connected to universal consiousness, each of our souls is connected to a group of other personal souls, and the story of the collective influences each of our pesonal life stories.
Through regular meditation we become more attuned to our soul intentions, and make choices in life that are aligned with the highest good and not just driven by ego desires. When our desires come from the level of the soul, the whole universe conspires to manifest them. How wonderful is that! :-)
Overall, when we meditate regularly we find purpose in our lives and experience greater peace, happiness and overall well-being.
So, how does that translate into the solution to all problems?
Ok, I started with a question, and answered with an audacious claim. To get the full picture on this you will need to read the follow up posts that go into more detail about how meditation can benefit every aspect of our lives.
Although the posts on the physical and subtle benefits will address more practical issues, the post that addresses the spiritual benefits will deal with the big picture, and hopefully will tie it all together. That is the post where I hope you will be persuaded that mediation can be the solution to everything ;-)
Meditation: the spirtual benefits
Meditation: getting started with your practice