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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We tend to live our lives according to the stories we tell ourselves. These stories become ingrained in us as children, starting from our parents and then our teachers, our peers, our siblings and others close to us.
I’ve just enrolled onto a writing course because I really want to improve my writing skills. Years ago I would never have thought it even possible to write, let alone share my writing with others. As a child I was always told by my teachers that I wasn’t bright enough. I avoided reading at school and wasn’t allowed to use a pen until a lot later than most of the children in my class.
The most damaging comment from a teacher was in my last year at school. He wrote “Anna should not go to university, she should consider an admin job!!”. I still have this report, actually it’s served it’s purpose, it has been in the back of my mind pushing me to do better. The sad truth is that this teacher never knew me, he always slept through our classes. How irresponsible. Oh and the fact that I was bilingual didn’t even figure in their assessment.
I went to university in my late thirties and achieved a first class honours degree, post graduate and a Masters. I read my first full book after leaving school, I think I was around 18 at the time. This was no simple book, “The Zen of Motorcycle Maintenance”. I’d say it takes a pretty intelligent young person to read this book.
Then there were the comments from my parents “oh you are the clever one and your sister is the pretty one!” Wow how ignorant was that? So here you are a young child being told at school that you are not clever enough and then at home being told you are not pretty enough. Lucky for me, I used most of these negative comments to create a new voice for myself and I told myself a different story.
In the end, it’s the story you tell yourself that matters.
Of course as a child you don’t understand and take everything your parents say as the truth. As adults it’s our job to tell our children stories about how wonderful they are, how their lives can be wonderful and how you as their parent will always be there for them whatever happens. They are not naughty, they are children, they are not bad, they are children.
But somewhere along the line we must create our own stories, we must drop the stories others have been telling us and see the truth of who we are and who we are capable of being. We do not need to be limited by the limitations others have of us. Not even those of our parents and definitely not those of our teachers.
So here I go embarking on a writing course, Miss who wasn’t clever enough! Let’s see where that takes me.
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.
Christmas is just around the corner, ready to spring on us with all it that it brings with it. Of course it’s a special time for many of us. We have time to spend with our friends and family. Nothing more rewarding than spending quality time with loved one’s.
Christmas can also be a stressful time. There’s the run up to Christmas, the presents, the shopping, the crowded shops and all the preparation for the special day. For some it can cause money worries, how to afford to buy the presents, to host the dinner and all the extra expense.
All of this can make us irritable and emotional. Throw in a difficult person and tensions can get high. We all have one or two of these people in our lives. In normal situations we deal with them in a healthy way, sometimes we may just choose to ignore their behaviour but when we are feeling stressed, it’s not always possible to be as calm.
Before I continue, let me just remind you that if you do react out of character be kind to yourself, don’t beat yourself up and just let it be.
Catch Our Emotions Before They Catch Us
I guess the most important thing we can do is to catch our emotions before they catch us. As a Mindfulness Practitioner this is where being totally aware of your own thoughts, feelings and emotions comes in. With all the fussing, noise and running around we can lose sight of what is going on in our own minds, then we let our emotions run the show.
If you feel that you are getting lost in your emotions perhaps you could find a space to practice the 3 step breathing space. Or simply take yourself away from the situation for a few minutes, breathe and take stock of your own mind.
In reality people only appear difficult to us because they don’t meet our expectations. We expect them to act in a certain way, to say things we would like them to say and when they don’t we are let down. But how realistic are these expectations?
Perhaps we should realign our expectations. It would be even better to try to completely remove any expectations we have of others. Sounds impossible? Maybe it is, but the less we expect from others the more chance we have of not being let down.
Being Aware of Our Ego
And here is the big one, our ego. We need to be right, recognised or listened to. Whatever it is that is eating at us is often what causes us to react in certain ways towards others.
That doesn’t mean that other people are not difficult or challenging. What it does mean is that we can only be in charge of our own reaction to others, we can not control their behaviour only our own.
We can let anger take over and create negative energy, causing the situation to be worse. Or we can try to show compassion towards the other person, try to see what is causing them to act in that way. This creates a much more positive energy for everyone.
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.
Throughout our lives we are faced with situations that make us have to stop to decide which direction to take.
Sometimes the choice is easy and makes little difference to our life in general. But when we are at a crossroads that will have a dramatic impact on us, how do we cope?
Should I turn Left or Right? – Decisions, Decisions
The one thing life has taught me is that being in my head is not always the best place to be when making important decisions. Usually thinking too long about something can lead you in the wrong direction.
I went through many years ignoring my heart, ignoring my gut instinct and ignoring feelings. Always opting for the sensible, the measured and the right thing to do.Usually it was just to please others, to keep things as they were and always because I was acting from my head.
What to do when you are at a crossroads:
Listen to your heart. It sends you subtle signs, it’s quiet because you’ve covered it up over the years and it struggles to have a voice. But it’s there still and just needs you to stop and listen.
Dig deep to connect with your gut. Similar to your heart but louder. It’s that feeling in the background always there sending us signals but usually we ignore it. But it’s there for a reason, maybe it’s time to start paying attention?
We don’t give instinct enough credit. Our instinct is there as a guide but how often do we actually take notice of it? Instinct is our natural inbuilt alarm system, if something feels wrong it usually is and it if feels right, why ignore it?
Trust yourself. If you are anything like me, you will ask the whole world for their opinion before making a decision. Only you can make the decision because you know yourself the best. Asking too many people or even any at all can just over complicate things.
Get out of your head and into your heart, it is more reliable and tells the truth
Be flexible but not indecisive. Just because you said you were going to do something doesn’t mean you can’t adapt it. But don’t spend forever deciding and changing, make a decision and go for it.
You really don’t know what’s going to happen, either way. Your mind goes through all these scenarios. If I do that, this will happen or that will happen but who says and who knows? Your mind will say many things out of fear or because it thinks it knows but it has no clue. Don’t get too involved in your thoughts.
Yes you may make a mistake. You will live with it and mistakes are our best teachers. Relish in the opportunity to learn something new.
Meditate. You will be surprised by what a short time in complete stillness can do, especially when you have a tough decision to make.
Your worst enemy can not harm you as much as your unguarded thoughts – Buddha
Are you having a difficult day?
It’s hard to find a good reason to be positive when you are going through traumatic changes in your life. You may find days where you are happy and things feel like they are going just as you want. Then all of a sudden your mind skips back to a less positive event in your life, something someone said to you, the pain of loss, the difficulties you are going through and suddenly you just can’t find anything positive to get you through the day. These are dangerous moments because if you are not careful they can suck you into a whole story that becomes your reality.