As we get older we tend to become fixed in our routines and habits. In many ways we need routine and habit to be able to function in society however it can also limit how we experience life. Routine and familiarity means that we revert to living on autopilot. Getting up at the same time, going through our day following the same steps we took the day before and probably everyday, it means we don’t really have to be fully aware. This is precisely why it is important to take a break from routine.
Taking a Break from Routine
Taking a break doesn’t have to be a big deal, it doesn’t have to be expensive or even take you too far out of your comfort zone. To be able to start break your routines a little you have to give up some control, you have to be able to start living more in the moment, in the flow of life. It takes time to do that, especially if you are not used to doing things that you are not comfortable with.
Why is it Important to Break from Routine?
To fully experience life, to be in the moment, in the flow allows us to experience life in a much more authentic way. When we are being more than just spectators we awaken our senses and bring life into our life.
How many times have you looked back at your life and wondered where all the years went? It can be pretty scary to see just how fast life passes. But we can slow life down by paying attention to it, to being present in our experiences and to sometimes kick it up a bit. Do something different, do something uncomfortable, take chances and yes let it flow without actually knowing what might or might not happen.
When I worked in London, I’d try to change things even in the smallest way. Take a different route to work, try a different cafe for breakfast and anything small that allowed me to carry on fulfilling my daily responsibilities but still changed things up a little.
I wanted to share a short video of photos taken this weekend. I like to just do random things, sometimes with friends and sometimes alone. For me it is a vital part of feeling life, of expanding my experiences and taking in whatever may come without any preconceived expectations. So here’s a little snapshot of a short trip to Lille in France.
I want to inspire people. I love it when someone says to me “Because of you I didn’t give up” or “Because of you I made that change!” – Anna Zannides
So perhaps I can help you see that life is more than routines, habits and comfort zones. Of course in the end, we all have to make our own choices, I just hope to help you make better decisions for you.
Today I got an email from one of my tenants giving notice to terminate his contract. Nothing special about that, except that this forty year old man has been battling cancer for the last couple of years. Last month he was taken into hospital again but this time it was different, this time he was given the news that he was terminal. But inspite of this, he continued to pay his rent and say he was coming home. Until yesterday, finally given the news that he had two weeks to live, he has resigned himself to a peaceful ending. Sounds strange to be talking about this in the context of being happy right?
“It’s not impermanence that makes us suffer. What makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent when they are not” – Thich Nhat Han
It made me sad to think of this young man sitting in a hospital waiting for his life to end. However at the same time I felt an overwhelming gratitude for my own life. And in that instant I decided to just walk, go out into the fresh air, to smell the tree’s damp in the autumn climate, stand under the bright sun and soak it in and listen to the bird life right on my doorstep.
What’s the One Thing That Will Make You Happy in an Instant?
And in that instant I started to feel a little sorry for the people who can not see the miracle that is life, the privilege to be living and breathing. I felt sad for people who live in the darkness of their negative thinking. The one’s that chase more, more money, a bigger car, a bigger house, more, more stuff and all the while missing the essence of life. To be happy does not require any stuff, it requires a clear understanding that life is precious, this moment is precious and if we can just soak in the seriousness of this we are instantly happy.
It got me reflect on what maybe going through this young man’s mind right now, as he waits for his final hour. So I sat on the damp log in the middle of the local park, listened to the noises and tried to imagine what he may be going through right now. It takes great strength to come to terms with the ending, even though it is the one thing we are certain of. I took this video while I was sitting in the park, nature and peace through my eyes I guess. This is life.
And I made a promise to all those who are battling with illness, who lost their lives too soon and who are no longer with us:
I will live my life in respect for them, in respect for the moments they never got. I will live my life in honour of those that lost their lives too soon because that is the only way to live. When we do not take our life serious, when we do not love every moment we live, when we squander our life on meaningless things, we do not respect those who did not get the chance.
I apologise to those that find talking about death difficult but I guess for me it is vital to understand that death is what makes life so precious. To be happy we must savour every moment we are here to live.
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Have you ever sat to reflect on your life and come to realise that actually you don’t remember the whole story? What you actually remember are moments, your mind can only recall history in snip its. And then if you go further you come to understand that you have retained particular moments in your life, perhaps traumatic or perhaps joyful, none the less they are just moments in your life.
So if life is made up of moments, can we begin to accept the fundamental importance of being totally present in each moment? Because that moment is where you change your life, that moment is where you make a decision that has a direct impact on your future.
What is The Moment?
But what is this “moment” that everyone keeps talking about? To be able pay attention to your life in each moment you have to understand what “the moment” actually feels like. I would love to be able to describe it for you and perhaps I’ll attempt to do that at some time. But for now here’s a funny response given by the Dalai Lama. He is an example of someone who lives in the now because it’s the only way he knows how to live. His response is open, direct, honest and definitely in the moment. Unlike most of us who would first think it through, what should I say? Who maybe offended?
This Moment is A Significant Moment
Of course every moment is significant, the very fact that you are still breathing, still living is a significant moment. However often we miss significant moments, we don’t pay attention to our thoughts and we make decisions based on the past. As soon as we stop to “think” we are using our past experience to make what we think is a rational decision. To an extent this is absolutely necessary however what we don’t do is stop and feel.
Yes often we miss the moment because we are thinking, that is precisely the reason we go backwards and forwards with our thoughts, missing feeling, missing being and missing tasting the moment.
As soon as we understand how important being present in the moment actually is, we start to make better decisions, we start to be the master of our life because our decisions are aligned to our true self.
This might sound very soft or spiritual to some. To make decisions based on being in the moment is not our natural way. We have been taught to ignore our gut instinct, to listen to the mind more than the heart in favour of what is supposed to be logical. But this is not the case if our thoughts are a collection of moments we have acquired from the past. Simply put if we stop and listen to our heart, otherwise known as our gut instinct or feelings, then often we make far better choices.
Your heart knows things that your mind can’t explain – start listening!
Changing the Course of Your Life
So going back to why I started writing this post, I have a question to ask you. When you reflect on your life, do you see moments where you made decision and where not really present? I certainly see many moments in my life where I just went with the “supposed to do” or “it’s the right thing to do” rather than listening to my gut or feeling what was right.
Because when you listen to your feelings, often they will take of the beaten track and that can be a scary place to go.
Today I live my life very much based on what feels right, I rarely listen to my mind because it has betrayed me too often. Filled with stories from the past, filled with labels that serve to confine us to a limiting life. I’ve learnt to listen only lightly to the mind and much more to the heart. I’m still learning of course but at least now I’m aware.
Perhaps you can start to ask yourself who is running your life?
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It’s a real privilege to help people going through difficult and challenging times in their lives. I am humbled by the cancer patients I work with, they teach me the importance of living life now. However I see that even with such a life threatening disease they still don’t grasp the need to just live. In a recent session I asked the group “What are you waiting for?”
“I’m waiting for my children to grow up”
“I’m waiting to earn more”
“I’m waiting until ????”
What Are You Waiting For – When the Only Moment is Now?
Perhaps people have become so desensitised to the present moment that they can’t even recognise it? Perhaps we have become so accustomed to always doing, always looking forward or analyzing the past that we are never present in the moment?
Waiting for Permission
During our discussion it was evident that so many of us hold ourselves back, put things of and mostly ignore our own needs for others. We don’t want to upset others, we don’t want to let then down so we put others before ourselves. But surely self neglect is a serious matter? After all isn’t our main responsibility to make the most of this one precious life we have been given?
Society unfortunately has us believe that to look after ourselves we must be selfish. To put ourselves first is selfish but the that is the absolute opposite of the truth. We owe it to our loved ones to put ourselves first, so we are happy and healthy. Isn’t that what you would want for your loved ones, to be happy and healthy?
Or perhaps we are just good at making excuses to live a life less than amazing, maybe we’ve given up on the idea that life is more than what we experience it as?
I took the risk to ask the ladies at the cancer workshop if life would be better if we lived forever? Would we really be happier if we didn’t die? And all of them said no because the truth is that we do expire, it’s exactly knowing that life will end that should make us all realise the preciousness of life, every minute of it.
Next time you find yourself running into the past or the future, feeling a disconnect with life or looking for something better then try this:
STOP – BREATHE – SMELL THE AIR – AND JUST BE
Grasp that moment because the next breathe is a new moment which you never get back
In this video Sam Harris talks about living in the now as he says “we only have now and now and now”
I’ve been wanting to share my thoughts on the Law of Attraction for a long time but held back because of the staunch support it has. A few times when I’ve challenged people on the concept of the Law of Attraction, it has invoked some angry and defensive responses. So I’ve stayed away from the topic until now. I’ve seen the damage it can cause to people going through considerable difficulties in life to not speak some truths. So here I go.
Danger 1 – The Law of Attraction is Forward Thinking
I guess the most important aspect of the law of attraction that makes me uncomfortable is that it is completely focused on the future. There is nothing wrong with being positive about the future, why shouldn’t we be? However looking forward to better days means we miss the essence of now, the only moment that is real.
If all it took to make us happy was to think of better days to come, then surely we should all be jumping for joy right now? Let’s get real, that’s not the case. We only become peaceful and happy when we are present with the now.
Of course have dreams for the future, work hard for the future but don’t live in it and don’t let it consume your every thought. Not at the expense of missing life.
Danger 2 – You Never Learn to Live with Disappointment and Sadness
And here is the disease of modern society, the inability to live with anything negative, the inability to accept when things don’t turn out how you want them and worse the inability to accept you can’t always have things your own way.
The law of attraction promises you that if you think hard enough, if you really focus all your energy then you attract what it is you want. And if you don’t have what you want, it’s because you just haven’t focused your thoughts properly.
There is a certain element of truth in this of course. Determination and focus in life will get you where you want to be. Laser sharp focus and hard word work is more likely to equal success than doing nothing or being negative. That’s a given. But the danger of the law of attraction is that many see it as a science in that all you have to do is focus, think about it all the time and there you are the universe gives it to you. Like all science, there’s always a margin of error and there are no guarantees in life.
The more you refuse to accept that life is full of disappointment the unhappier you become. I’m not being a pessimist or negative here I am being a realist. Life is all about ups and downs, it is the very nature of life. The more you resist, the more you ignore, the more you become disconnected with life as it is now.
Danger 3 – There is No Gratitude for What We Have
I want to stress that I’m not advocating that we just give up and accept life without trying to better things for us and others. Actually living in the present moment, with complete awareness of your own thoughts, feelings, emotions and consequent actions is a powerful way to affect change.
However when all we do is look forward to better days and more things in our life, we stop appreciating what we have right now.
Gratitude is an amazing attitude.
Having the ability to be grateful for even the smallest thing brings peace into one’s life in an instant.
Why delay being at peace with life in the hope of a better future?
What happens if that future isn’t better?
What if now is perfect but we fail to see it until it’s too late?
Let’s savour Now and leave the future where it is.
I know that as adults we are supposed to be in charge, have all the answers and definitely know better than children, right?
However I think we are mistaken to think that children have nothing to teach us. If we stop, watch and listen maybe we can find a way back to what we already know.
How to Stay in the Present Moment
Children live in the present moment, they do not know past and future. I’m no child psychologist but I am a mother, grandmother, aunt and once was a teacher. As such I’ve watched many children growing up, they live in the now and they want what they want, now.
The problem is that we teach them that this is wrong, we instill fear for the future if they don’t behave in a certain way. It’s a sad day when you see a child lose that innocence and begin to contemplate what lies ahead, not with curiosity but with fear of failure.
Perhaps it’s time we looked at our children with an open mind, let them live without our fears and learn from them. After all they are correct, there is no other time than the present moment. The past and the future are just thinking, not real.
How to Make Friends and How to be a Friend
How many times do we hear children say “I don’t want to be her/his friends anymore, I don’t like them anymore”?
How many times do we watch children fight or argue and step in to tell them how to make up?
Of course as adults we can share our experience with a child who is having a problem with a friend. But why do we insist on telling children to cling on to friendships that may no longer serve them?
We find it uncomfortable to say the truth to others because it might hurt them. Children on the other hand lack diplomacy and usually just say it as it is. Who’s got it right here? I think perhaps it’s better to be honest with others, in the long run it’s far healthier.
What about arguments? We should never condone violence, it is our duty to teach children how to settle any argument in a peaceful way. But there is nothing wrong with children arguing, it’s life. Adults argue all the time, worse adults create wars and violence in the world. Perhaps we should be teaching our children how to have a good argument, without feeling bad about it and without the need to get angry, resentful and violent.
How to Love – Children Know What Adults Have Forgotten.
Watch a child in the presence of someone they feel safe with, someone that gives them love and attention. It’s the greatest lesson in love that we as adults will ever learn.
They trust, they give everything in return and they give love unconditionally. All they want is to feel safe and loved in return. They don’t judge you, they don’t look at your appearance, they just love you for who you are.
Children don’t try to change you, they are totally accepting and loving. Adults tend to go into a relationship then spend the rest of their lives trying to change their partner. Strange way to behave I’d say, don’t get me wrong I’ve been there and know it’s not healthy. Surely if your partner needs changing then they are not for you or you need to change your expectations.
So let’s watch our children more, let’s learn from them and maybe we can get back to loving life a bit more.
From my experience and from talking to people I work with, it’s clear how many of us find it hard to let go of the past. Our memories become our world, they keep us stuck, constantly going back to what if’s. Learning to let go of the past is an important part of moving forward in life. That doesn’t mean we don’t ever think of the past, or that we pretend something never happened. It simply means we don’t live in the past.
You maybe thinking but how? How do I let go of the past?
If you keep clinging to the past it will continue to cause you pain. So for your own sake it’s time to make a real effort to let go of the past, it really is only alive while you keep it alive.
Change How You Relate to the Past
See it for what it really was
You can make a difference to your life by changing how you relate to your past. If you start to be objective, without the added dramas, emotions and often unrealistic stories you tell, then your connection to the past starts to change too.
What you start to do is to be real, to not romanticise what was probably not so romantic. It takes courage to strip away the stories you have been telling yourself and start to see it for what it really was. You may have to accept the things you put up with and made excuses for just to keep everything together.
But it’s time to get real, see it for what it was. Then you can start to change how you relate to your past.
Let things be – If you can’t change it why waste time?
The truth is that it’s difficult to let go of the past, it is part of your life. All you really can do is begin to accept it and leave it be. You don’t have to live in the past, you can recognise when you get lost in the past and make sure you guide yourself back into the present.
In meditation we practice being the observer of our thoughts and as such we learn to just watch our thoughts pass by. That is a skill that takes time to learn, watching your thoughts, catching yourself when you get involved and moving your focus away from these thoughts. The more you practice, the easier it gets.
You don’t have to practice whilst sitting in meditation, you can practice during your day. When you notice that you have got lost in thoughts of the past, then stop for a few minutes. Catch yourself, adjust your thinking, bring yourself into the present and carry on with your day.
Learn to watch your thoughts, not be your thoughts.
For more on Letting go of the past, read the following post:
This weekend I was privileged enough to stay at Samye Ling a Buddhist monastery in a remote Scottish village. I’ve been there many times before but each time I see something new and different. This weekend I was there attending a Compassion in Action retreat organised by the Mindfulness Association.
The monastery is set in a beautiful landscape of quiet and stillness. A river runs along the back creating a natural barrier between this peaceful sanctuary and the outside world.
On the first morning I got up in time to take a mindful walk along the river, it helps to ground me in preparation for the day of teaching. Silence is practiced after 10pm every evening until after our first tea break, breakfast is taken in silence. You can tell who the newbies are because they say good morning or look uneasy at not talking. Silence is part of my daily routine it no longer phases me, so I continue my walk in silence.
The Mindful Walk
As I walk along the river I see a statue of a man practicing mindfulness, he is so still that it takes me a while to work out what it is. I don’t want to disturb him so I decide to stand still and watch the river flow. I listen to it, feel it and watch what it has to teach me, right there in that moment.
It flows naturally, it knows how to just flow with little effort. However when it hits the bed full of rocks it’s flow is disturbed. It pushes on, finding a way either over the rock, around the rock or even under it but it persists until it finds a way through.
The river doesn’t stop flowing, it continues to flow through the disturbance and when it finds another rocky bed it does exactly the same.
And once it gets through the rough, rocky patch it flows gently again. It’s calm, flowing without questioning the destination or even judging what it went through, it just flows.
Looking ahead I notice two things:
I see a point where the river meets a stream. The stream rushes downhill, charging to meet the calmer settled river below. And when the two hit there is turmoil. The two directions of flow meeting, the stream wanting to find it’s space in the river and the battle goes on until the stream settles into the flow of the river.
There is no other choice really, the stream has to become part of the river for the flow to continue and while it’s battles at the crossroads, going left and right, eventually it finds it’s way. It passes and settles.
The Bend in the River
My attention goes to the bend in the river further down. I can’t see past this point, there’s no evidence that the river continues further than my eyes can see. I’m assuming it does but that’s just my perception. Nevertheless, the river continues to flow.
It doesn’t stop flowing because it can’t see what might be around the corner nor does it hesitate in fear of what might be, it gently flows with complete trust and meets it’s destiny.
I see the similarity between this river and my life, I’m guessing it’s the same for most of us?
I’ve made a conscious decision to stop ignoring my inner voice, now I’m paying attention. This has sometimes taken me into unfamiliar territory and often out of my comfort zone.
I recently signed up to a memoir writing course in London, following my inner voice. It’s been challenging, pushing myself to open up and to share my story a bit more than I am used to.
This short story is my latest piece. Time to let go of any fear of being judged and just get it out. Hope you enjoy.
The boy in the photo
I don’t know his name; these visits to children’s homes are impersonal. I guess it’s a way of staying on track with the work that has to be done.
I look at this photograph from time to time and remember the day I met this little boy. We were told not to get too close to the children at the home, they were likely to be carrying lice, flees and whatever else is out there when you live in these conditions. We were warned that the conditions here were worse than the other homes we had visited.
It was my intention to just go with the group; stay focused on the plan and then move onto the next visit. I’m in Nepal dealing with the turmoil in my life and none of what is happening now was in the plan. One thing I have learnt recently is that not much in life goes according to plan and sometimes this is a gift in disguise. So here I am thousands of miles away from home, with a group of people I’ve just met going to another children’s home.
Today we are there to check the quality of the water and to check the overall health of the children. We are also here to teach the children about personal hygiene and to give them each a toothbrush, toothpaste and soap.
As we get closer to the home, I notice it has no windows, no doors, no lights and nothing but concrete floors and walls. The most memorable moment was the smell, it hit me as I walked in and then I realised that this time the home maybe just a little more shocking.
We walk up the stairs to be greeted by the “staff”. Same story, they are really happy to see us and willing to impress. But it’s important to not be distracted by the story they present and stay focused on the children because their eyes tell the real story.
The children are even more excited to see us. They spend their lives going unnoticed, who are they anyway? Most don’t even know their own name, let alone their date of birth. They have been prepped that’s for sure, I instantly noticed their uneasiness.
Then I see this beautiful little boy his hair shining from the dirt and grease. His clothes stained and in need of a wash. I can but see how perfect he is, those big dark eyes and smile showing his innocence. Although I don’t speak his language I approach him to give him his toothbrush, toothpaste and soap. I demonstrate how he should use them to wash, hoping he won’t try to eat the soap and toothpaste. We spend a few minutes in some kind of communication, I think he is happy that someone has given him some attention and probably even more excited about the free gifts he has been given.
I’m almost certain that this little boy has not been cuddled for a long time, if ever. The only thing I can give him is my attention to make him feel he is worthy of human affection. So I ignore the warnings and I cuddle him, hold him close like a mother should and give him just a little of what our children take for granted. He doesn’t pull back, he just accepts the cuddle as any child would and his eyes light up.
Right there and then I thought, “if I could take him home, give him a bath, some good food, clean clothes and a warm, safe bed to sleep in, that would change his life” and for a while I contemplated doing just that. But it’s never so straightforward.
As our day comes to an end I feel sad at leaving him behind, no idea what his life will turn out like, no idea if he will end up back on the streets.
What this little boy doesn’t know is that he gave me far more than I could have given him. My own problems seemed so insignificant. My struggles are so much easier to overcome now I see real suffering.
Yet when I look into his eyes all I see is the joy he got from the simple things he experienced on that day, in that moment. In the context of his life that’s the only way he can live, moment to moment. Perhaps that the lesson we should all learn.
Sometimes you will never know the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory
Last weekend I visited Stockholm in Sweden. I made a commitment to myself that I would visit new places as often as I could over the year, even if only for a few days. Sweden seemed a good place for a short trip, close by, relatively cheap to fly to and I’d always wanted to visit Scandinavia.
When I visit somewhere new I tend to have preconceived ideas of the place and people. I guess I went expecting everything to run smoothly, the Swedish have a reputation for being very efficient and that’s what I had anticipated.
Once a Year Go Someplace You’ve Never Been Before – The Dalai Lama
I’ve been to a few places in the last year or so, some new and some not so new. I find traveling exciting, even if just for a few days. I learn something new each time I go away, there is nothing more educating than seeing new places. It opens your eyes and opens your mind.
Of course my preconceived ideas were proved wrong, not everything went smoothly and guess what the Swedish make mistakes too. Things don’t run perfectly in Sweden, just like everywhere else in the world.
The more I see of the world, the more I see how small it really is
And I guess this is the most important lesson I learn from traveling. I see just how we are all the same, we may differ in how we look or how we dress, what we eat and other characteristics. But ultimately we are all the same.
And looking out of the window onto this amazing world we live in, makes me realise just how small it really is. Flying also makes me work on trusting the process and understanding that in life we have no control. In an airplane you are trusting your life to so much more than you could ever control and such is life.
The one thing everyone in the world is searching for – to be happy.
Wherever you go, into the deepest jungles in the Amazon, all people really want is to be happy. How we measure happiness or define it maybe different but in the end we are united by our desire to be happy.
Oh and a little bit about Stockholm:
Overall I loved the place, the people are lovely, maybe it helps that they speak such good English. Bad on my part to even expect that.
Stockholm is built on lot’s of small islands all connected by bridges, very interesting. They are very good at investing in improving the environment, like cleaning their waterways.
It was extremely cold, even though it was supposed to be mild. If I go back it will definitely be in Spring or Summer.
Another new experience. Now I know a little about life in Sweden.
Sometimes I struggle to understand why we take life for granted, how we can become so complacent and not appreciate this miracle of life that we have been given.
It might sound cliche or even soft but one thing I do know is that life is precious and the older I get the more I realise that I have already missed so much of my life.
This week two famous Brits died, leaving me feel even more aware of the fact that death is inevitable. If it can hit the likes of David Bowie and Alan Rickman, then there’s no hiding from death for any of us.
Perhaps then given that we don’t know when our lives will end, it’s time to accept the miracle of life and live every moment.
This video shows just how much of a miracle our own life is.
Just remember that you out of all the millions running to be created, you won!
Today I attended a short course, the theme being an Introduction to NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming) . It was a day full of interesting information about how we can model human excellence. I’m no expert on this so I won’t try to explain in detail except to share this brief definition of NLP
“Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is an approach to communication, personal development, and psychotherapy created by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in California, United States in the 1970s”
Usually at this type of workshop you are thrust into group activities that take you a little out of your comfort zone. Here you are with a group of people you have never met before sharing personal stuff, making you instantly a little vulnerable. But that’s the name of the game at these training events, you learn so much.
To the point, one of the group activities was to stand with three random strangers and ask a set of questions. The task was to watch for behavior patterns when the questions were being asked and to see how much of the information we could retain.
Who Are You?
The first question was simple Who Are You?
The common response is actually pretty straight forward, isn’t it? I am Anna. Full stop.
But that’s not true at all because Anna is just the label I was given at birth. When you start to really think about that question, Who Are You? it becomes a much deeper exploration.
If you take away all the labels you have attached to who you think you are, then you find the essence of who you are. Most of us came up with, I am a mother, a wife, a teacher, an athlete, an artist and the list goes on. But these words only describe roles we play in our life, they don’t really explain who we are at our core.
That got me thinking about another question. If we associate ourselves with the roles we play in life, what happens when that role changes or disappears altogether? What happens when you lose your job, you get older and can no longer be an athlete, your marriage ends and you are no longer a wife or husband? When that label you have identified yourself with for so long goes, then who are you?
When you lose your labels do you cease to exist? I doubt that very much because you are much more than the roles you play in life or the labels you attach to you. You are part of everything that exists and that is way more than a label.
This year I decided to do something different on New Year’s Eve seeing as my life is such a contrast to what it was. I have friends in Somerset so decided to visit them and to also have some quality time for myself. So I booked into a lovely remote bed and breakfast.
And this is where my three days of getting out of my comfort zone began.
Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone is Part of Growing
I push myself to get out of my comfort zone because after a while of being comfortable things stop feeling good or right. It feels like things become stagnant and I am no longer learning or growing. For me changing things up, putting myself through new experiences that are a little scary is vital.
Even on this short road trip I was able to learn so much about myself, just the fact that I was away from the familiar, the comfortable and the safe was enough to make me re-examine myself.
I think when you allow yourself to just be in that moment, a little insecure and a little scared then you reinforce your self belief.
Every time you work through a tricky situation alone, you get stronger as a person.
On one of the days I took a drive up to Cheddar, determined I would see the caves even if it was pouring down with rain and even if I was alone. Just because you are alone doesn’t mean you have to hide, there’s no shame in being alone. Actually quite the opposite. I find it so freeing to just get up, go where I want without having to consider someone else.
After my cave tour I went to get some lunch in a really cute little tea room. I’ve got used to going out to eat alone now, it doesn’t bother me at all. And the great thing about doing this is I always end up having great conversations with complete strangers.
I got talking to a couple sitting next to me. The man lived near me as a child, grew up pretty locally and was born in Cyprus where my family originate from. I am over 150 miles away from home and sitting next to someone I most probably passed on the street as a child. That is how small the world really is and that is just how connected to each other we really are.
How can you ever be alone when we are all so connected? We only think we are alone because we live in this closed off world of the people and things we are familiar with. Once you let go of that and open up to the reality of how we are all so connected, there is no such thing as being alone.
My drive home!
Oh I could go on forever about the small things that I learnt about myself in those three days. But the one I want to share the most is my long drive home. It was meant to be a 3 hour drive but turned out to be nearly 5. It was raining so hard at times I couldn’t see the road in front, so I had to stop a few times just to rest my eyes.
Stonehenge from my car
There’s something magical about being stuck in a car for hours on your own. You know the only one you have to rely on is yourself. Here you are, it’s down to you to get home safe and in one piece. And like my experience in Nepal, I did it. What’s more you can’t run either, here is a place where you have to sit with you and here is where you learn so much about yourself.
During one of my classes last week a lady in the group opened up and said that as she got older she felt invisible. She said that it was like she had no purpose anymore and that her very existence was insignificant. If she died tomorrow it would mean nothing.
She did not say it with anger or even particular sadness, just as a matter of fact. That got us all thinking about that feeling of being invisible. Personally I thought it was more to do with age, especially when you are living alone and suddenly without a partner.
Then another younger lady said she felt the same, her reasons were that she had suffered great loss in her life. Things had not turned out the way she had dreamed as a young girl. She never had her own children and somehow that made her feel less of a woman, at least she felt judged by others because of that.
Why Do We Feel “Invisible”?
I understand how you can start to feel invisible, I’ve felt that myself in the last couple of years. I was a mother and wife for so many years that when my main role changed I felt I had to recreate a whole new identity. This time based only on me, hard to do after so many years but absolutely necessary for my survival.
And I guess that’s what it is. We identify ourselves with a role and usually that role has something to do with others. Perhaps it’s our role in our family, relationship, society or work. It’s how you perceive yourself and how others see you. It’s your purpose in life and when you lose sight of that, suddenly you start to lose sight of who you are.
It’s like you don’t matter to anyone anymore and that can make you feel very insecure. As a mature woman I find it can also be about how others see you and your role in society. Dare I say it but in many people’s eyes you are passed it, a has-been as they say.
How to Start Feeling “Visible” Again.
The interesting point about feeling invisible is that most of us feel that way, at some point in our life. The first thing we can do is to accept that this feeling of insignificance and invisibility is just in our heads, it’s not real and so perhaps we can just let it be. We are all equal, status, appearance and whatever we measure ourselves against is all just man made.
Becoming aware of where this feeling stems from can help us to put it into context. To me it seems to come from the need to be validated by others. We want others to see us, approve of us so that we can make sure we don’t just disappear. But what if we just removed that need?
What would happen if we just let go of having to live through the eyes of others? That’s not to say we should live in isolation, without friends and family. But our relationship with others should not have to make us feel more than we are, we should feel whole, significant and beautiful without anyone else having to tell us that or make us feel it.
Easy to say I know. But if we can practice this everyday then we will feel whole and perhaps our relationship with ourselves and with others will be much healthier.
In our busy distracted lives we can often find that things become overwhelming. There are times that we can feel the stress levels building.
If you live in a busy city like London, the crowds, the pace and the distance can make it difficult to catch yourself throughout the day.
What happens is that we then start creating stories in our heads about people, things and situations. At work someone may say something that sparks a whole chain reaction of thoughts in your head. We don’t always read things they way they are, a lot will depend on how we are feeling, any previous interaction and the environment at the time. Here we are creating a whole story based on our interpretation and probably causing ourselves needless stress.
That’s how our day progresses, one irritating event to another. But what if we could take control, not get pulled into the stories and finally be a little happier throughout our day?
Becoming Mindful of Our Thoughts Can Help – Use the 3 Step Breathing Space
In the following video Jon Kabat Zinn guides the 3 Step Breathing Space method. Listen to how simple it is to bring yourself back from total involvement in thought throughout your day. A practice that can be incorporated into your life to help build awareness and a space to relax.
Give it a go, see how it can help you become more mindful during your day.
Every time I stop living in the now and revert to old patterns, I feel the impact on my life instantly. The more I try to control the people, events and things around me the more I lose control. I should know by now but old patterns are hard to break, even after all the work I’ve been doing with my mindfulness practice.
I’d be the first to admit that I’ve always been a bit of a control freak. It’s my way of protecting myself, putting up a wall between me and any potential pain from outside. However the more you try to protect yourself the more you hurt yourself. Protecting yourself means holding yourself back from experiencing life in it’s fullest and you stop yourself from having really deep meaningful relationships.
It’s become much easier for me to let go, live in the moment and really trust that life will give me exactly what I need at just the right time because it’s proved the best way to live.
It’s so important to live in the moment because:
Well fundamentally there is only this moment. At first I found this really difficult to grasp but actually if we really think about it there is no question about it. The past is definitely gone, not coming back and it only stays alive in our memory. The future is only alive in our thoughts, just as you wake up to tomorrow, it’s actually now again. You are never really in the future, right?
If we can only be in the now, why waste so much time thinking about the past and the future? It’s fruitless and changes nothing.
I know to an extent we need to be conscious of how today affects tomorrow. It’s common sense if you spend all your money today, then tomorrow you might have to do without. So living in the now does not mean being reckless it just means do what you must but then let it go.
Life is valuable, really valuable, there really isn’t any time to waste on useless thoughts. Don’t dwell on things, learn to let go of anything and everything, especially if it no longer serves you.
Now here’s a big one. As much as possible quit having expectations from others and situations. That’s hard to do but the more you practice dropping the expectations and actually trusting that what you get will be exactly what you need, the better things turn out. Might not seem like it at the time but it always turns out right in the end.
It doesn’t mean you will get what you want, it just means that you will get what you need at that time. Trust it.
I am constantly pushing myself out of my comfort zone and being open to all new experiences, so this week I set myself the challenge of going to the cinema on my own. Something I’ve never thought I could do because I had many judgments about people who do that and yes I know that’s just ignorant.
Today I went to a lovely cinema in Hampstead, London. Only me and two other people in the cinema, so it was almost like a private screening. Not bad. An experience I totally enjoyed after all the preconceived ideas!
James Dean and Me – we go back a long way (I wish)
When I was young I was fascinated by James Dean. I used to say I wanted to die by the age of 24, thankfully that never came true. I read every book, watched his films over and over, he represented youth, danger and a sense of excitement.
When I found out about the new film Life, I just had to see it. Overall I was impressed, there was this kind of moodiness about it that is James Dean. However I think it would be a very tall order for any actor to be able to capture his persona. So in that sense I was a little disappointed but still glad I saw the film.
What intrigued me about James Dean and what the film was able to show were two things:
We all resist what scares us most
The film highlights James Deans resistance and uneasiness with fame, his fear of change and letting go of the farm boy that he was. Perhaps it was also his fear of complicating his life, from the simple life he knew to the faster paced life of fame?
I found that resonated with me because I often feel resistance to things I know I am meant to do or be, it’s that feeling inside that says “just do it, go with it” but also that other voice in your head that just keeps telling you to stay the same, stay safe.
The difference is one is a feeling and the other is a thought. Which one do you think it best to listen to?
“You got to live life now, like there’s no time to waste”
There is a scene in the film where James Dean says “You got to live life now, like there’s no time to waste” how true for him, but also how true for us all.
James Dean died at 24, at the prime of his career. A true talent, gone in a split second.
I guess that is the message I take from the film, from his life and from my own life.
We really don’t know how long we have in this life, what if our time is shorter than we imagine?
Isn’t it strange that however much you work on yourself, somehow you never quite feel good enough?
The self development, self improvement industry has a lot to answer for. Everywhere you look people are selling you things to make you feel better, everywhere you look you are being told there is a better you out there, if only you would lose weight, put on some make up, dress up like the latest pop idol.
But wait a minute, does that mean you are not good enough now? Does that mean that you have to wait until you achieve all these ideal states before you can be truly happy? I say drop all that and start to just be who you are, with pride!
It is time for us to stop beating ourselves up for the sake of some make believe better person we will become. Every minute we waste on trying to achieve this future perfect person or state we miss the beauty that is now.
Perhaps if we keep the following in our minds as we go about our day, then we can start to feel better about ourselves:
Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. You are you, full stop. Honor your individuality in whatever form it comes. After all that is all you have.
Start to see the good things in you, the unique things you have that only you know about. And if you don’t know yourself well enough then get learning.
Let go of trying to control your future, live in the now and start to accept that now is the only moment that is worth focusing on.
Practice self compassion all the time. You can not be kind to others if you can’t be kind to yourself.
Practice self acceptance because you are who you are for a reason. Accept it and explore it, you never know what you might discover.
Give yourself a break. I bet you would never treat another the way you treat yourself? Get off your own case for a while and see what happens.
Have no expectations of others, that way you will feel less disappointment. Often that feeling of not being good enough is a reflection of the disappointment we feel towards others.
If someone treats you bad it causes you pain, of course that’s normal. But remember pain is part of life, suffering however is an option. People’s behavior is a reflection of their own insecurities, don’t let them play on you, let them go.
I know it’s easier said than done. But you can make an effort to change your thoughts to help you start feeling better about yourself today, one step at a time.
To live in the moment, you must first learn to “trust emergence”
“trust emergence” – a term used by Gregory Kramer in his work called Insight Dialogue. It sounds complicated but I will try to explain it from my own experience so you can apply it to your life.
Last week I attended a course held at a Buddhist monastery in a remote part of Scotland. Well remote for this old Londoner. I booked myself into a room for the two nights. Having stayed there before I was confident that the room would be within the monastery walls. (more…)
When I hit my fifties I started to panic, almost constantly that time was running out. I hadn’t paid of my mortgage yet, haven’t paid in enough money into my pension and who know’s what else I was thinking at the time.
Obviously after my life started to crash down around me I had to start thinking differently. I didn’t plan to divorce in my fifties, I didn’t dream it was ever possible. After all I thought I was with my life partner. How wrong was I?