Today while engaged in the routine cleaning of the house a great opportunity presented itself to me - the opportunity to practise being grateful. Rather than mindlessly doing my chores in my normal, half hearted way I found myself slowing down and being mindful of all the thing that I had to be grateful. Rather than being a little (or a lot!) resentful of the fact that I had to do the cleaning in the first place I began to find that I was expressing gratitude for the simple fact that I had a house to attend to.
As I moved my familiar ornaments and pictures in order dust and polish my furniture I found that my heart was opening to the memories of so many people whose presence in my life had enriched it in so many ways.
There was the plant bought for me by my friend Edna, the photo frame my niece bought for me on my wedding day, the little african bowl that was given to me as a thank you present by my neighbours daughter, the painting of Durham cathedral and the associations of home, prayer and sanctuary which it offers me, the mother's day cards lovingly picked and given to me by my two daughters, the family photographs scattered around the place.
Rather than just simply letting myself be reminded of these people and places today I made time to stand in stillness for a while and to feel from the heart the energy of their presence in my life and to offer a silent "Thank you" to them. This doesn't have to take too long - a few seconds can be enough to make a difference.
By actually savouring and enjoying the routine task of cleaning rather than rushing through it in order to get on to the next, possibly more pleasurable task, today I actually found that my chores had uplifted me rather than drained me.
Taking time to be appreciative ( to remind ourselves of the preciousness of life) is definitely beneficial to us and a practise worth cultivating.
Who knows perhaps we may be able to find it within us to become grateful and appreciative for the simple fact that we are alive and living.For surely we don't have to wait for things to materialise for us before we say "Thank you" for them. We can after all simply say "Thank you" for the generous gift of life itself.
This post should have been published last year, following the birth of my first grandchild however due to a busy schedule I forgot all about it and only found it in my archives yesterday! It seems fitting to post it now as my grandson is approaching his first birthday....how time flies!
Recently I have had the most wonderful of experiences, that of being present for the birth pf my first grandchild. I was thrilled when my daughter Sarah asked me if I would be her birthing partner along with her husband but I was totally unprepared for the profound way it would affect me.
Watching my daughter give birth birthed something in me too - it birthed a deep and lasting impression about life that I want to share with you now.
We are perhaps all familiar with the old saying 'no pain, no gain' and whereas there is a certain truth in this I know now that in order to reach the gain we have to feel that pain in the depth of our being, not just know about it superficially or have a general awareness of it, but actually feel it fully, in its entirety so that our whole body can respond to it.
At one point during my daughter's labour the doctor gave her some advice that I feel is crucial advice for us all. As my daughter was crying out in pain the doctor told her to stop shouting out loud, which he said was just pushing energy away from her when she needed the energy to aid her in giving birth. Instead the doctor told Sarah to use the energy of the pain to help her deliver her child.
This simple piece of advice has not left me since and I have been unable to stop thinking about it. How often do we cry out in pain, in frustration, in disbelief, in anger? How often do we give vent to our feelings rather than feel them? When we do this we are actually pushing away energy that we could use more creatively - energy that could be used to help us birth a new experience for example.
How many of us long for the world to be different? How many of us long for an end to war and terror and hatred and revenge? These longings are born from the heart, from the place of feeling within us that informs us of how life should be.
Birthing a brave new world needs courage. The word courage has its roots in the Latin word cor which means heart. Literally courage means the age of the heart. A brave new world will be born when we have the courage then to live from the heart, when we let the heart inform our thinking and not the other way around. We have created a topsy turvy world where rational and logical thinking have replaced heart knowledge. We worship intellect over intuition; thought over feeling; mind over body.
But this is not as it is meant to be.
The energy of life is essentially good. It is bold, vibrant, passionate, full of life, creative, powerful, supportive and pleasing. The energy of life is full of intent to create, to give life, to birth life, to expand and grow. It is generous in nature. When we feel truly alive we feel all these things, in fact we are all these things and precisely because of this we experience the world as beautiful. At times like this life appears to be perfect and we wouldn’t change a thing! If you doubt this think back to a time when you were in love and life felt wonderful – for a time.
However times like these can be few and far between. Mostly we live with, at best, a low level of dismay at the way the world is and more often than not with a full blown irritation/anger at the evil we see and have reported to us on a daily basis.
It’s interesting to note that the word ‘live’ when spelt backwards is ‘evil’.
It’s my belief that when we align ourselves with the true energy of life then we get to experience life as it should be. We thrive and we 'live' in harmony and at peace with the world. However when we refuse to be in harmony with the principles of life then we engage in 'evil 'and ‘wrongdoing’. In other words we become sinners! I hesitate to use words like sin and evil knowing that they are full of religious overtones and can fuel shame, blame, judgement and guilt.
Yet they are fitting words.
The word sin is misunderstood. It owes its origins to an archery term where to sin meant to miss the mark. In other words to sin means to miss the point of life. We sin when we no longer live our lives in tune with our own aliveness and our feelings of being 'alive' choosing instead to be governed by our thoughts and thinking. We sin when we no longer 'live' but think about living instead. We do 'evil' when we no longer sing the tune in our heart; the faithful tune of life, when we no longer allow ourselves to feel the full extent of our common humanity.
What is needed is for the human race to choose to sing a new song; to revert back to the original tune of life that birthed us. To do this we need to repent. To repent doesn’t mean to say we’re sorry and then go our own merry way without changing anything. No! To repent is a verb. It is a doing word. To repent means that we actively start to live differently. To repent means to turn around and backtrack towards that which is true and life giving, refusing to live any longer with that which is false. Literally when we repent we turn 'evil 'around so that the letters in the word ‘evil’ begin to spell 'live' again! To repent means to begin to 'live' again rather than to merely exist. To repent means to experience a new birth.
But how do we do this?
Well, logically if we are to sing a new song then we need to listen to a new tune.
Before we can listen to a new tune we need to make sure that we can truly identify the tune that we are currently listening to. If we don’t do this then how will we be able to distinguish it from any other tune? If we are not fully conscious of the tune we are currently hearing then it may just reappear disguised as a new tune when all the while it is the same old tune just sung in a different key!
In trying to identify the tune that plays incessantly in the background of your life and which unconsciously shapes your days try asking yourself some questions.
Do I hold any entrenched views on life?
Do I have any habitual ways of behaving?
What are my habitual thought patterns?
What do I spend most of my days thinking about?
What are my reading habits/eating habits/TV habits?
What, if anything, has a hold on me?
What drives me?
How am I stuck in my ways?
Where am I most resistant to change?
Life is what we make it....if we don’t like what we have made then we have the power to change it.
It’s that simple BUT it’s not easy because our habits have an energy and a life all of their own and they will hang onto that life with all their might, not submitting readily to change. We’ve all heard the old saying ‘Old habits die hard!’ and it’s true. Our habits have a hold on us and even if this hold is at times stifling and restrictive it at least feels secure and safe; it is the devil we know and often we would rather stay with it than reach for the uncomfortable realms of new possibilities. But that will not birth a brave new world – only the energy of change can do this.
The vibrant energy of life is within u, always faithful to its intent to birth new life. However to be fully effective this energy needs room to move. When we stay stuck in old patterns of thinking, being and doing we stifle the life giving energy and hinder its effectiveness.
Staying stuck keeps ‘evil’ firmly in the place where ‘live’ should be. It keeps judgement where compassion should be; it keeps fear where love should be; it keeps separation where connection should be; it keeps our hearts longing for life when they should be experiencing it; it fuels the chase for more rather than the feeling of being fulfilled and it keeps us striving and not thriving.
Learning to rearrange our lives in accordance with the energy that allows us to 'live' asks us to be brave and bold, to feel, to give, to be willing to change, to accept everything with a courageous heart and to believe that it is our birthright to 'live' free from the stranglehold of 'evil'.
We already have within us all we need to make the necessary switch. the ability to 'live' is hard wired into our DNA. The letters/code is already there - in fact we do not have to change anything about ourselves only be willing to begin the process of rearranging the letters, unscrambling the code and reordering our lives in accordance with what we know at the deepest level of our heart to be true.
This is the pathway to a brave new world. It is the road less travelled but it is all the more beautiful because of this. Others have gone before us and laid a trail all we have to do now is to decide if we are willing to follow them?
Do you ever long to blossom into the fullness of yourself, to feel the scent of your own beauty and smile your inner radiance to the world? I know I do.
However I find that the more I experience life the more I come to the conclusion beauty is not perhaps what I have been taught to believe it is. Traditionally I have seen the beauty of the rose as being attributed to its petals, the blossom, the flower and its sweet smell while the less desirable parts of the plant – the roots, stem, leaves and thorns seem to have no place in my concept of beauty at all!
Today though I am beginning to realise (that is to make real in my own life) the truth that beauty is not just about the so called 'nice' things but is more about experiencing wholeness (holiness).
We cannot know our own beauty (holiness) with being whole, without embracing all aspects of the flowering life. In classical psychology this is referred to as integrating our shadow self. The shadow self is everything that we have deemed to be unacceptable about ourselves – it can include so called positive attributes of self (light shadows) as well as the so called negative (dark shadows). We humans have a tendency to want to run from the things we don’t like, to hide from them, to deny them, avoid them or at the very least minimise them. But the truth is we can never run from, or escape our shadows because our true nature is light and where there is light there is always a shadow – at least on this earthly plane! OUr shadows will follow us wherever we go so doesn't it make sense to at least try to make friends with them?
Jesus the Christ advised us to love our enemies yet learning to love that which we hate is a tall order. Returning to the idea of the rose again we might like to take note of the fact that a rose cannot blossom into its own fullness without the dark, messiness of the soil in which it is planted. It is the nutrients in the soil that feed the rose while the sunlight and water nurture and encourage its growth too. Without soil the plant cannot grow; without the sunlight it cannot grow either. Both are needed in order for the full beauty of the rose to be seen and experienced. So too it is for us. We need light and dark in order to shine. Look at the night sky – without the darkness how would we know the beauty of the stars?
If we want to shine, or blossom then we have to find a way to be open to the darkness of the soil. Being open means we are free to feel the soil around us and so take from it that which will nourish our own growth and maturation as human beings. If we close down then the soil becomes hard and compacted and we cannot feel our way through it. The organ of feeling is the heart so we need to cultivate an open heart – a heart that is fully functioning will allow itself to feel the full array of emotions available to us as human beings. When we are open we feel all our emotions, not just some of them, not just the ones that we have deemed acceptable.
All emotions are fuel and fodder for our own growth. Once we have felt them and taken from them what we need to take from them then they are free to move through us and pass away. Feelings, emotions are just energy (E) in motion; they are meant to come and go. When we don’t feel them, when we don’t give them room to be, then they hang around inside us. They become our unresolved issues. They fester and solidify in us. Our hearts harden in accordance with this and our growth is stunted. What we resist persists within us until we find the courage to soften our hearts enough to begin the feeling process. There is no way round this. We cannot know our own beauty without knowing our own ugliness. We cannot know our own divinity without knowing our humanity too. This is just the way it is – we are spirit beings (divine beings) that have chosen to become earthly, human (from humus/soil/earth) beings in order that we may experience our own nature. We need to live and breathe and grow in a world of relativity if we are to know ourselves at all. Accepting the limitations of being human without succumbing to them is the true meaning of being humble.
If we refuse to accept our own divinity them we flounder in a false humility. If we reach only for the divinity and what we deem to be good then we fall into arrogance and false pride. If we seek the light without the dark or vice versa we will never grow into the fullness of ourselves. Our growth will always be limited, partial and incomplete and based on very shaky foundations.
If we want to grow we must follow the middle way where both light and dark influence us. The middle way is not an easy path and it is not for the faint hearted. it seems that many are called to it but few choose to follow it! However if we don’t want to stay stuck in outdated modes of thinking, in traditions that no longer serve us, in beliefs that we no longer feel to be true, in jobs that no longer satisfy us, in relationships that no longer nurture us or in bodies that no longer work for us then we must reach deep into the pain and uncomfortable parts of our lives and reclaim what we find there.
There is no need to fear the dark - remember how the bible promised us that the darkness would never overcome the light? If we think about this we know it to be true. Shadows cannot exist without the light that created them – so darkness is always secondary to light. Darkness is our second nature; light our first nature. Knowing this we can learn to feel our way through the darkness like a blind person feels their way through life, trusting that the light is still there even if we can't see it at this particular time (just as we know that the sun is still shining even when it is obscured from our sight by clouds!). When we allow to feel without judging the feeling then we open ourselves to feel/sense/intuit/ and respond to the light that is always present within, around and before us.
Feeling the darkness rather than reacting to it enables us to respond to the light and when we respond to both we are whole and our own holiness blossoms as a radiant beauty for all to see.
Do you ever long to just be left alone? Do you ever find yourself saying I just need some space? Does the phrase ‘Stop the world I just want to get off’ ever resonate with you?
I know I answer a deep heartfelt ‘Yes!’ to all of these questions.
I get over whelmed easily if my social diary gets too full, if the days are too busy, if I spend too much time with other people at the expense of time on my own and yet it is not easy to admit to the need for my own company, my need for time out from the routines of life, my need for space.
Time out for good behaviour.
We are all familiar with this saying. The idea behind it is that we reward ourselves with our much longed for, precious ‘time out’ ONLY when we have completed all, or the majority, of the things on our seemingly endless list of things that must be done. ‘Time out’ is seen as a reward for good behaviour. But what if our usage of this saying is all wrong and we’ve actually got it all back to front?
What if time out for good behaviour actually means that we need first and foremost to experience ‘time out’ in order to allow ourselves time to behave in ways that are different to our normal ways of behaving? This might mean having ‘time out’ for quiet reflection, to catch our breath, for meditation or just to relax and be still. In this way time out for good behaviour isn’t a reward for being good but a crucial and important way to connect with our own innate goodness, our own inner ‘good/god’ self.
I believe that our need for ‘time out’ is so much more than a need to withdraw from people. It is a need to connect with our own inner spaciousness. The word alone is often misunderstood - it is actually two words ( all one ) rolled into one. To be alone means to be in the place where we are all one, to be whole and reconciled to the Oneness at the heart of life.
We need space because we are space.
Scientists tell us that we are composed of 99.9% space. There is so much more to us than meets the eye. We are all energetic beings and at any one time we are composed both of energy that is unseen (i.e. empty of matter) and energy that appears as solid matter. The energy that is unseen is our spirit energy. Spirit energy is our own inner spaciousness, it is the non-material aspect of our being, the life that we are as opposed to the life that we have. When we can connect with this spacious part of ourselves we find that our lives are enriched with some wonderful qualities - gentleness, peace, joy, love, calmness, kindness and an enduring capacity for inner contentment. These qualities of spirit are vital to our health and well being and yet many of us still find it hard take the ‘time out’ that is necessary in order for us to experience these qualities on a regular basis.
Why is this?
Imagine this. I have in front of me a large sheet of white paper on which I have drawn a black dot in the middle. I show it you and ask, “What do you see?”
What do you think would be your reply?
Chances are you would say – “I see a black dot.”
Why is it that we see the black dot but not the white paper?
News only becomes news because it is out of the ordinary – it is the black dot in the middle of the white page.
War and violence are only worth commenting on because our normal state of living is peaceful.
Crime only makes the headlines because most of us live upright and law abiding lives.
Corruption and dishonesty only makes the news because most of us live honest lives.
Bad news is only news because so much of life is good.
It is the extraordinary that captivates us not the ordinary. Because of this we end up giving large amounts of our attention to what is wrong in the world while paying very little attention to what is good.Many of us have literally become hooked on drama and are unable to function with it!
What we give our attention to becomes our reality because our thoughts are powerful magnets that attract into our lives whatever we are placing our focus on. By the energetic law of attraction the universe relays back to us the things that we focus most intently on.
If we concentrate on the black dot then we will see a world that is black. If we concentrate on the bad news we will see a world that is bad. If we focus on terror then we shouldn't be surprised when we experience terror in our live's in the form of fear, unease, distress etc.
And it’s not just the news that portrays the black spot. Reality TV, soap operas and drama all play their part too. In fact it never ceases to amaze me how we can be enthralled by violence on the big screen and yet abhor it when it turns up in our own back yard! Still we somehow manage to stubbornly refuse to see the connection.
Even adverts have a power all of their own – they give out the message that there is something that we need in order to be happy, healthier, richer, more popular etc. Adverts focus on lack and greed and so have the power to attract these into our lives. Much of popular TV works on our desires for more – more money, more experiences, a new home, a better home, a home in the sun, a better body, a new romance....it goes on and on!
It's a great marketing tool – but we need to be aware of which market we are buying into!
Rather than push the darkness away what would life look like if we embraced it the ways stars embrace the night sky?
Rather than trying to fix our pain what would life look like if we softened to feel it?
If we stopped fighting our pain, our worries, our discontentment, our fears and our disappointments would we find that rather than them engulfing us and destroying us, as we fear they will, we come to see that we are more than them?
Let us think about this for a moment.
Because we are aware of our emotional scars, our physical ailments, our thoughts, our worries, our concerns and our judgements means that there is a part of us that is not them. There is a part of us that is purely aware (conscious) of these things. This part of us that is aware is slightly removed from all of these things; it holds them but it is not them – it is the part of us that is perhaps best described as our spirit, the part of us that witnesses our life but is not affected by it; the part of us that remains pure and untainted by anything that goes on in the physical plane of life.
This is good news because it means that there is apart of us that is always free from judgement, pain, distress, unhappiness, worry and worldly concerns. There is a part that of us that is always unconditionally accepting life without judgement, without fear, without the need to change ALL or ANY of our life’s experiences.
Everything that our minds and bodies experience is held in the gaze of this loving field of awareness. This part of us extends nothing but love (total unconditional acceptance) to ourselves and others without the need for things to be different. The beautiful thing is that when we are able to be in touch with this place and engage in living from this place we find that many of the things we experience as difficult are experienced differently – or at least we perceive and understand them differently. We are able to hold them differently and feel them differently. We are able to live and breathe with them rather than needing to be free from them.
All our pain needs is to be attended to from this place; to be held in love and in being held to be healed. To be healed means to be whole. We cannot be healed if we are ignoring or pushing away even the smallest part of our life’s experiences.
What springs to mind when you think of sparkling things? If you were to make a list I’m pretty sure that diamonds would be somewhere on that list.
Why is it that diamonds sparkle so beautifully when they catch the light?
1. Because of the density of their mass they have the ability to slow down the speed of light –slowing it down to 80,000 miles per second as opposed to 180,000 miles per second for light passing through air.
2. The atoms in diamond molecules are arranged in a tetrahedral shape – this gives them their multi-faceted appearance. Examine closely a faceted diamond and you will see that it absorbs white light and breaks it apart like a prism, dispersing it into a rainbow of colours. Diamonds sparkle and dance with coloured light as each of its facets produces its own dazzling display.
What if we were made to shine like diamonds? What would we need for this sparkle to manifest in our own lives?
Let’s play with this metaphor for a while.
Surely the first requirement would be to allow light to enter us. By light here I mean the Qi energy or Spirit that is always present (pre- sent to us) and which supports our very existence. Our egos will tend to want to block this out with fearful thinking so if we are to sparkle with light then we must be vigilant seeking it out, noticing it and allowing it room to live in us. We must be open to the light and present to it as it appears to us in the moment. We need to stop crowding out the light with our sceptical and cynical thoughts that would be-little the idea of us shining like diamonds. I repeat “We are made to shine.”
Secondly in our bid to shine we must learn to slow light down so that its components – the seven colours of the rainbow (or the seven faces of love) – can be seen and then refracted through us.
Now we have to stretch our imaginations a little here. Obviously we don’t look like diamonds - we don’t have the multi-faceted surface appearance of a diamond that is necessary to refract the light.
However we are multi faceted beings composed of body, mind, spirit, thoughts, emotions, feelings, ideas, beliefs, habits, speech, personality, imagination and intuition and we have the ability to hear, taste, smell, see and touch – all these facets of our humanness have the ability to help us refract light or not. We have a choice here but we can only exercise that choice if we are aware that we have it!
Often our habitual lives run so much on automatic pilot that we forget we can override this by using our free will. It is up to us to discern how to use the many facets of our humanity to help us sparkle and shine and spread the light that is at the core of our existence.
What lights us up? Do we even know any longer? What lights other people up? Do we care enough to find out?
By observing the impact of our lives on ourselves and on others we can begin to discern what is needed to help us spread the light. For example when I express rage, or anger by shouting and hurling abuse at others does this light me up? Does it make the people on the receiving end light up? If I express tenderness and love does this light me up? Do those that receive it light up?
To truly observe ourselves without judgement is the key here. I say without judgement because as soon as our mind brings judgement into the equation then this will weaken our ability to shine. Self inquiry without judgement requires us to slow down so that we can take time to notice what is actually going on for us in the present moment. Slowing down helps us to observe and feel the effects of light within us or the effects of its absence.
There are many tools that can help us with this slowing down and noticing: focusing, meditation, T’ai Chi, yoga, mindfulness, contemplation, relaxation, poetry, chanting. Don’t be afraid to explore them and find out what suits you best. You will know which ones are for you by the way you feel – when you light up like a Christmas tree you can be sure that you are well on the way to being a sparkling diamond in the world.
By the way there’s one more thing you should know about diamonds.
In their raw, uncut state they are quite ordinary in appearance and lack the beauty of the shop sold gemstones that we are most familiar with.
Raw diamonds need attention if they are to be transformed into things of beauty.
So it is for us too. When we attend to that which we consider to be ordinary and mundane within us we are capable of transforming our base humanity into something divinely beautiful.
Wishing you a sparkle filled day!
We can spend so much of our lives sleep walking through life...lost in day dreams, worrying about the future, wondering what we can do to 'save the planet' or improve the lot of mankind that it is no wonder that many of us bemoan the passing of time with a sigh saying 'Where have all the years gone?'
In truth our days pass by in a flash while all too often we are too busy with our thoughts to notice them!
We function much of the time on automatic pilot.Driving, eating, washing the dishes, hanging out the laundry, ironing
surfing the internet,washing, dressing.....all these habitual things we do without the need to even think about them, which leaves our minds free to think about the next thing we might do on our never ending list of things to get through before the end of the day/week/month/year.
This is how we miss so much of life and this is what led WH Davies to write his very famous poem 'Leisure' which I'm sure many of us can identify with.
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?
No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
If only we could get into the habit of saying, periodically to ourselves throughout the day 'STOP!' (Stop Tuning Out the Present moment)
STOP and breathe
STOP and notice
STOP and feel
STOP and appreciate
STOP and be thankful
STOP and look with seeing eyes
STOP and just BE for a moment.
What wonders might we notice if we were more present to what was actually happening now! What would we see? What would we feel? What would we notice that before we had simply taken for granted? Even stuff we would rather avoid seeing or thinking about can be experienced differently if we just stop and notice it rather than judge it or condemn it.
Einstein once had this to say about life.
'There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other as though everything is a miracle.'
Perhaps if we just 'STOP' for a moment and slow down we may see miracles all around us whereas before we were too lost in our own thoughts to notice them.
I hope you all have a day filled with miracles!
The opinions I express here are my own. However I offer them with the word 'syat' next to them. 'Syat' is a word used by the Jain Tribe in India which means 'To the best of my knowledge SO FAR.' In the spirit of openness I invite comments from anyone whether you agree with my point of view or not. In this way we can all learn and grow together. Thank you.