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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Recently someone asked me the question “is it better to love or to loved?” . I don’t think I ever really gave this much thought before. Then it got me thinking about what would I feel more regret about when I reflect on my life sometime in the future? And I came to the conclusion that for me it is far more meaningful to give real deep love than it is to receive it. I would feel a real sense of emptiness if I never experienced what it is to feel deeply for someone else. At the same time I came to the conclusion that this does not have to be one “special” person or even someone you make a commitment to be with for the rest of your life.
How to Measure Love
I guess measuring love is a little bit difficult but for me the words that come to mind are, needing, wanting, expectations, warmth, attachment, connection and pain.
To really know what it is to feel a deep sense of love for someone you must be able to continue loving them even if they do not meet your expectations. The more the expectations, the more volatile the relationship becomes. So if say you would rather be loved than to love, then there it is already an expectation in place. There is nothing wrong with wanting a special person to share your life with, what causes the problems are the preconceived notions that you take into this relationship.
For me I guess the only love I can see that can be selfless and unshakable is that of a mother towards her child.
A Mother’s Love
I am fortunate enough to be a mother, three times over. To me being a mother is the deepest relationship I have in my life. It is giving without needing or wanting anything in return. There are no expectations, it is the only real selfless love. I’m not saying it is always the case, of course there are plenty of women who’s role as a mother is not loving.
I’m also privileged to be a grandmother, another level of mothering love but without the daily responsibilities that can add a little stress to the mother child relationship. Being a grandmother is a true gift.
Of course not everyone has the chance to experience being a parent or grandparent, not everyone wants to. It’s a personal choice and often not even a choice. I am only using my own experience here.
I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble about this notion of “romantic love” with the one and only but I have to say that this is probably the least fulfilling loving relationship. I’ll take a step back here and try to elaborate without me coming across as a non believer. Of course finding romantic love in life, that special person you can connect with, get close to and share “special” moments with is absolutely fundamental in life.
To go through life never experiencing this type of connection is sad. What is sadder however is watching people lose themselves in these romantic love relationships. Watching people searching with a sense of desperation for that “special one” And then watching people tear each other apart in dysfunctional relationships that long lost their magic and romance. This sense of clinging and attachment is clearly at the heart of so much pain in our lives, yet it is so much easier for some to just let it become their life than it is to let it go and move on.
And the proof for me that romantic love is less fulfilling than other types of love is that it all rests on what we get from it and the other person fulfilling our expectations. This is what makes it so difficult to maintain, we change, our needs change and our expectations change. How can one person be the giver of all that?
Is Romantic Love Dead?
It may sound like I’m saying there’s not such thing as romantic love. Actually I am saying the opposite. I’m saying it does exist but like most things in life it doesn’t last forever.
We have to be willing to see that love comes and goes. You find it in the most unexpected places, it can last days, weeks, months and years but it will change and it will end. Let’s not confuse real deep romantic, intimate love with long lasting relationships, they are rarely based on the love that perhaps was there at the beginning. These long lasting relationships are about evolving as a couple. Something for another discussion.
The Two Most Powerful Love’s
In order to live a life based on love, to give without an expectation of receiving anything in return is to realise that self love and love for humanity are the two most purest forms of love, yet we struggle with them the most.
Don’t forget to fall in love with yourself first
Going back to the original question “is it better to love or to be loved?” and looking at it in the way I’ve been discussing here, it is clear that finding a way to share your love is far more rewarding,than searching for someone to give you what you need.
In order to give pure love without expectations you must first love yourself
And this is where the problem lies. We struggle to give ourselves the love we expect from others. Instead we search for that special person to give us what we think we do not deserve to give ourselves.
And finally we must find love for humanity. We must feel compassion for the human race, for the other living beings that share this planet with us and we must find peace for this planet we live on. We can not restrict our love to one special person and neglect this amazing universe we live in. It is a fruitless pursuit this search for one person to share our love with when there is a whole world that needs our complete devotion.
Self discovery seems to take up a lot of time in our life. There seems to be an assumption that you must search for you because you do not know who you are. So you go along this journey you call life collecting various labels to attach to in order to gain a sense of identity, a sense of who you are. I am a woman, a mother, a grandmother. I am intelligent because I have a degree. I am Greek, I am British and whatever else I have identified myself with over the course of the years.
What happens when one of these labels no longer fits? Well from my experience, you lose a sense of who you are. You then try to find new labels, new ways of gaining an understanding of who you are. But what if you just stopped for a minute and paid attention to who you are, what if you removed all the labels and looked at yourself authentically.
What if you stopped asking who am I and just allowed yourself to be?
Everything in the universe is within you. Ask all from yourself – Rumi
When you go about your life in search of an identity you lose the essence of life. You are always searching, trying to find something outside of you that can fit and make you feel whole. When you are feeling empty or something seems to be missing, the assumption is that you can nurture that feeling with something outside of you. But the reality is that all that you are is already within you, only when you connect with yourself can you fill that void.
The problem I guess for many of us is that this idea of not searching, not looking for more than what we already are, is difficult to understand. The idea that you are who you are, that’s it. No need to search or try to explain or even discover. After all if you are all that you are, right there, then self discovery is not necessary.
How Can You Connect With Who You Are?
Firstly try having a heart to heart conversation with yourself. Yes it may sound a little crazy but give it a go every now and again. Oh and remember to listen to the answers. Don’t change the answers to sound better or even deny what comes up, just listen without judgment.
Complete and utter self acceptance. Sounds hard to do doesn’t it? After all aren’t we always told we should be self improving? Doesn’t that mean that we should never just accept who we are? I’d argue that we are perfect as we are, accepting that is a empowering place to be. Does that mean you have to accept that you can’t evolve into a person with higher awareness? No it doesn’t but it does mean that whatever you want to be is already present within you.
Self acceptance also means that you accept that you are not perfect, that nobody is perfect, that life itself is not perfect and with that acceptance find peace with the things that are not as you wish them to be.
And this means that we just live our lives without trying to be anything or anyone, just living.
How Do You Just Live?
Isn’t it funny how the simple things become so complicated when you start to think about it? How do you just live? How do you just be who you are?
The main thing is to come out of your head. To begin let go of the thoughts you attach to about who you or are not. Start paying attention to these thoughts and perhaps work on letting go of any attachments you may have to labels about yourself. And just live – no identity needed.
Thought it would also be great to share this post where Lady Gaga talks about the power of saying no and how she started to find herself again.
You are not your thoughts and you are not the product of your thoughts – Alan Finger
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”
As I write this I am sitting in a hotel room in Cyprus. The significance of this is that this is the hotel I stayed in for my honeymoon. It’s also where we spent many a Sunday when I lived in Cyprus. There is a lot of connection here with my past. This got me thinking about how my life has changed over the last couple of years, it also got me thinking about how important it is to know how to heal yourself so you can move on into your new life.
I came to the realisation that I am truly free from the past, there is such a sense of peace with it that I can only be happy with everything just as it is. So how did I get to this point? What would I say to someone who is stuck in that place in the past?
1 – Learn to Let Go of the Past
I think the most important thing anyone can do is to learn to make peace with the past. To do that is the greatest gift you can give yourself. It’s about accepting that whatever was, it is the past, it’s gone. Can’t bring it back, can’t change it and can’t live in it. If that’s the case, surely it’s a waste of energy to give the past so much of your present time?
To heal yourself you have to work towards creating a life for yourself in the present. Make your life great now, then the past becomes your greatest lesson. If you can start to relate to your past in a completely different way, it no longer holds you in it’s grasp.
I look back in a much more detached way because the past was right for me at the time, it served it’s purpose and I let it go. I don’t look back in a nostalgic way, I don’t look back at all most of the time. Can you accept that however painful your past may have been, it was also the greatest opportunity to learn, to grow and at the time it was where you needed to be?
When you change how you relate to your past, it no longer is a place you want to live in.
2 – Learn to be Fully Comfortable Being Alone
To me this is very high on the priority list, if you want to heal yourself you had better start loving being alone. Why? Because until you can do that you will be making future choices based on your need for someone else. It sounds so obvious right? But I’ve met so many people who are stuck in this attitude of “when I meet that special person I’ll do this or I’ll do that” – Why? Just live your life now, in it’s full glory and let it flow without waiting for someone or something outside of yourself to complete your picture.
I have become so comfortable alone that there’s not very much I won’t do on my own. And what happens is that when I am on my own I somehow meet so many new people, have so many interesting conversations and life is so much more open.
If it feels uncomfortable or scary to do things alone, then just see if you can get past that fear and go do it! Once it’s done, it’s not that scary. I stay in hotels alone, I eat in restaurants alone, I go out, I do everything if not more than I would have when I was married. And it makes me feel so strong and confident, I stand alone and that is so fulfilling.
3 – Learn to Ignore Other People’s Judgements and Opinions
This one is the hardest one for so many people, me included. I’m much better at it now than I used to be. I often do things just to provoke a reaction because I want to show people that their view of me is insignificant. Others can not direct how I live my life because I can only live according to me.
Learning to ignore or better put, learning to not be influenced by other’s takes courage. It means that you may very well loose friends. It may mean that you will find yourself on your own but the freedom you get from living according to you is worth it, I can vouch for that.When you know you are happy to stand alone, then what others think of you bears little importance.
We cause ourselves so much pain by listening to others, everyone wants to share their opinion of you and your life. Especially if it takes them out of their own limited comfort zone. You can only live your life, let them live theirs.
Those that know me will know that I love my technology. As a computer science graduate it’s no surprise that I’m a bit of a geek. However I am also a mindfulness practitioner so am well aware of the need to put things into perspective, until of course my technology fails or worse I break it!
I’m currently in Cyprus visiting family and friends.Cyprus is like a second home to me after having lived here for many years and of course my family originates from this little troubled island. I decided that I’d spend the day in the town, take a walk to old Nicosia, sit in a local cafe and just do some people watching. Maybe even do a bit of shopping.
Things Never Work Out According to Plan
Do you ever have one of those days when you just think you should have stayed in bed? Well I think today may have been one for me. So the first thing not to go to plan was the parking situation. Had to take a little detour to find a space but no big deal, I found a car park in the end.
Still relatively sane I started to walk towards the town, ready for a my day. Then I saw this bit of graffiti and decided to stop and take a photo.
How true it is, we are always searching for something even though it’s usually right in front of us! Back to the point though.
When the Mind Starts to Get Lost – Un-mindfulness!
So here I am in Cyprus, a big meat eating country looking for anything to eat without milk, eggs, butter, cheese, sausage and who knows what else! Nothing, I went up and down the same long high road and found nothing. And then I started to notice my mind going a little crazy, thoughts of
“what an underdeveloped country, how can they not have a simple breakfast without animal ingredients?”
“maybe I should just eat eggs!! – I’ll never be a vegan!”
But then my practise came handy, I suddenly became aware of these stories that my mind was starting to play out, I started to pay attention to the negative feelings that were starting to come out and I stopped right there and paid attention. I let it go right there and decided to just go with the flow. Phew felt calm again.
From Mindfulness to Un-Mindfulness
The ultimate mindfulness challenge came when I took my phone out of my bag to take a photo and it just dropped straight out of my hands. Smashed to pieces! And right there went my mindfulness, my calmness and the whole perspective on life. No phone, no contacts, no way to see my bank account, to get int ouch with family, to take photos, to record for my website and no music. That’s a whole lot of life in one little device.
What did I do?
I took a deep breath, changed my attitude which was by now beginning to be down right negative and just put it into perspective. Suddenly I found a shop that would sell me a phone, the guy was so kind and polite. I left him to charge up the new phone, put my sim card in and get it ready for me, while I went in search of coffee and food again.
Then with this renewed attitude I found a place that sold olive pie without any egg or butter, so now I got my food too.
What’s the moral of this story?
One – scary how dependent we are on our technology
Two – our attitude determines how we respond to our thoughts. Change your attitude and the world changes with it!
I’m usually a very self motivated person, I do what needs to be done and much more. I’ve been accused of being too passionate about life, I’ve been asked when is it enough (meaning what I’m not sure?) and yes I do like to kick life in the butt, even at my age. So feeling down is not supposed to happen to me, right?
But I do get days when I just can’t be bothered, I’d rather just do nothing, veg out. And yes I’ll admit it, even I sometimes feel like giving up on what some may see as a ridicules view of life. However I don’t stay in that story for long because I’ve learnt to recognise the signs.
Tiredness – Feel it, Acknowledge it and Rest
Don’t stop because you’re tired, keep going because you’re almost there
If you are anything like me then even feeling tired is not an option. Instead of just admitting I’m tired, I usually just have another coffee. Yes not a great solution because of the come down after but that’s the only vice I have. But seriously tired is tired, it happens to us all. I’ve learnt to listen when I’m feeling tired, so I’ll have an evening off and just do something pointless.
Exercise – Really Does Make You Feel Better
Oh you don’t have to tell me how much motivation is needed to get your butt moving. I do try to walk everyday if not go for a run and I’ve invested in a personal trainer to make sure I do some real exercise twice a week. I’m not into gyms, prefer the outdoors and that way I get fresh air too.
Meditation – To Bring You Into Awareness
Of course I could not get myself going without practicing some form of meditation every day. Be it formally sitting in meditation or just using a daily task to focus on. For example if I don’t feel like sitting in meditation I’ll do something like wash the dishes or clean my flat in complete silence, really immerse myself and focus on that task. What this does is bring me into the present, connecting with whatever maybe going on for me at that time.
Feeling down is often an emotion from something going on that we may not easily see. It could be tiredness, it could be boredom but it could also be something deeper than that. Meditation helps you connect with yourself and in that silence comes answers. Try it and see what happens.
Mindfulness – How I Live
And although I would never call myself a mindfulness expert, I am a mindfulness practitioner. That means I practice every day, every moment to stay in touch with myself and with whatever is going on for me in that moment. Because of my practice I am able to feel what I feel without trying to make it better or change it.
In life we must learn to live with the down times and the up times. Anything else just causes us to get stuck in fighting life, trying to make it the way we want it, only wanting what makes us feel good.
True happiness includes being comfortable with the down times. After all life is always up and down.
Fear of Success
Yes it’s very true, some of us are fearful of success. Why? I think it’s because when you can see your dreams, your plans becoming reality, it suddenly hits you. “What now?”“What next?
Then there’s the high you’ve been riding to get your dreams going. Always thinking about what you want to achieve, planning, seeing the vision and the adrenaline you get from that. Then you see it coming true, your plans are now real. Your business is taking shape and there’s a sudden low from that.
It’s about re-adjusting to the new phase of your life, even success needs time to fit into your life.
When you’ve been creating your dream for a while, it takes time to step into it.
If you have down days, down times give yourself a break, allow whatever is there to be there and use the time to just be down.
It’s not the down days that cause the problem, it’s how you relate to them that does the damage
Meditation is often seen as some kind of spiritual process where one connects with a higher power and for some practitioners it is. Meditation is commonly attached to eastern mysticism and because of this some people make it appear more than it is, or at least they make it appear complex. But meditation is nothing of the sort, it is simply just being still, nothing more and nothing less.
Meditation is not evasion; it is a serene encounter with reality
Thich Nhat Hanh
What is Meditation?
Meditation can be done sitting, standing, laying down and even in movement. Each type of meditation has it’s own benefit and purpose. Of course sitting still and focusing on the breath takes a different level of focus than say meditation while walking. The common factor is that we stop, focus on the breath or sound or in some instances a single point.
Meditation can be done with eyes open or eyes closed, depending on the type of meditation you practice. Some forms of Buddhism say that eyes open is preferable because Buddha is always shown practicing with his eyes open (only slightly by the way). The reason for this is to be fully aware and open to what is going on around you.
Meditation is not sleeping or even to a point it is not relaxing.
Meditation is a fully aware state, with focus on a support such as breath, sound or a single focus point.
Meditation is just being, stopping from doing and allowing yourself to be still. That’s it.
Why I Practice Meditation
I started to practice meditation formally when I needed to find a way to deal with my life falling apart. I was introduced to meditation when exploring Buddhism and learnt to meditate using the methods I was introduced to through Buddhist teachings.
I practice because I know that without a daily meditation practice I fall back into a very unconscious way of life. I allow my thoughts to take control, I begin to live in my mind and start to feel disconnected to life. In essence without meditation I feel that my life just slips by without me being in it. Of course that is because I know what it’s like to live mindfully and so have a point of reference.
Sometimes I feel a resistance to meditation because I want to avoid certain things that maybe I find uncomfortable but in the end I know that I must look towards whatever it is so I can deal with it. And I choose to do that through meditation because
There is no need to go outside – In stillness comes the answers
Does That Mean I Can Stop Thinking?
This is a very common question, people tend to think that meditation means we stop thinking when actually that is not possible. Our mind thinks non stop, it can’t stop. What meditation does is make you see that your thoughts are fluid, they just keep going, yet we tend to try to cling to them as if they are our reality.
Meditation teaches you how to stand back, watch your thoughts pass by while you acknowledge them but give them no real attention. And with this you are able to live more peacefully in the present moment. After all the past and the future can only live in your mind, the only moment that you can live in is the present one.
So if you want to start practicing meditation, just sit somewhere quiet. Close or open your eyes it’s up to you. And sit, breath and do nothing else. Do this daily and see what happens.
Yes age is more about attitude than anything else. If you think you are old, then you are old. If you think you are past it then you are past it. Simple isn’t it?
Society has a way of making us live life based on numbers, after all age is just a number? Of course our bodies evolve with age, it’s natural. However the way our body ages is a direct consequence to how we treat it. Just as important is our attitude to life.
After a tough couple of years, I decided to focus on reclaiming my physical and emotional fitness; I never believed that age would stop me from living live to the full. I’ve never been much of a rule follower and I’m not about to start now just because society thinks at my age I should be doing things in a particular way.
I just wanted to share a short video from my training in the park today with my personal trainer Jason Levy. He is very much an important part of my journey because he’s approach to personal training includes a spiritual aspect that fits with me.
Perhaps you can try to let go of this age idea and more importantly stop using it as an excuse to do nothing. Life is passing moment by moment, we don’t get to live it again. Forget what society says you should or shouldn’t be doing right now, it really is your life you know that right? Or perhaps you don’t know?
Who Owns You and Your Life?
Here’s another point I’d like to make about about attitude to life. We take great pride in labeling people in our lives, it seems to give us some kind of false security. My husband, My wife, My Son, My Daughter, My Friend and so on. We identify ourselves with this ownership of people in our lives, with our role in this world. But remember as soon as you stick the “My” in front of something, you assume an ownership. And with that ownership comes a sense of expectation that traps us into the confines of what is “normal” and what is “acceptable”
Don’t be Owned by anyone
Don’t Own Anyone
Be free in your relationships, be free in your attitude
Own Your Life
And with that I leave you with my short video from today.
If you are stuck after a relationship break-up and want to start living again, visit myWork with Me page and lets start talking.
It’s surprising the things we take at face value, like the fact that we assume as we get older we get wiser. I’ve found in the last couple of years as I go through a major life transition, that it’s not the older people in my life that inspire me. I’ve found that the most negative and disabling thoughts, words and actions have come from people my age and above.
Does this surprise me? Not at all because I’ve never assumed that age makes us wiser. Quite the opposite I think many people use age to shut out new experiences and new thoughts because they think they know better! But in my opinion
“age has nothing to do with wisdom!”
What is Wisdom?
The Oxford dictionary defines Wisdom as “The quality of having experience, knowledge and good judgement” It is sensible to assume then that experience and knowledge lead to good judgement. However that’s not necessarily the case, it is much more to do with one relates to their experiences and acquired knowledge.
Take two people who go through a tough time, say their marriage ends and they have do deal with all the emotional and practical challenges. Some will use this experience to close up, become bitter, start to see life through a very narrow minded viewpoint. They may judge all the opposite sex in a particular way, they may think life’s been unfair and then they will carry this around for a while or forever.
Then there’s people who take this tough life experience, genuinely work with it, genuinely accept it and become so grateful for the pain, that they can not but grow. It’s not the easy route but it’s the one that ultimately leads to great understanding of self and life.
So here’s the truth about wisdom, it’s not about age it’s about being willing to work with your experiences rather than close of to them. It’s the ability to see past the said “reality” of life and to remain open to whatever may or may not be.
How To Identify a Wise Person
Well if I’ve learnt anything in my life that is to never assume anything about anyone. I’ve been horrified by some people from my generation. Their limiting views, their judgments on others based on gender, race, sexuality and religion. On the other hand I’ve been inspired by my younger friends openness and non judgement, their maturity that outstrips their age.
Fear is what causes closed mindedness
This clinging to keep things from changing, from seeing past what is known, to perhaps see something new and perhaps to shake their own reality. This is all fear based.
And the older we get the less fearless we become.
Yes fearlessness is what keeps us confined. Confined to what we believe to be “security” Confined to our homes, to our way of life, to the people we know and to everything we now label as “me”.
A wise person does not cling to a set of beliefs, they are aware that at anytime something can come along to disprove their belief. As we age we begin to see our beliefs as reality, never moving away from them even if something comes along to prove us wrong. All we do is change the experience to prove our belief.
So rather than say “Age makes us Wise” – Let’s say “Wisdom is cultivated not earned”
If you disagree with anything I say then that’s great because “All I know is I know nothing” – Socrates
The first time I really started to delve into mindfulness was in 1995 when I picked up my first Thich Nhat Hand book “Zen Keys – A guide to Zen Practice” I spent the next twenty years on a journey of exploration into Buddhism, it was a very private journey. Until in 2014 my marriage ended and I had the freedom to dig deeper into what had intrigued me for most of my life.
I’m not a Buddhist, I could never label myself as a Buddhist or anything else to that matter. I have a deep respect for the Buddhist teachings but I’m no expert. To me Buddhism is fundamentally the truth, if studied it has the answers to the questions we seek in life. Buddhism is self exploration and self knowledge, through this we are better able to understand life.
Buddhist teachings are underpinned by compassion, it is about living in peace with ourselves, with others and in this place we call the universe. The daily practice of meditation helps us connect with ourselves, stay in the moment, feel what we are feeling and become fully present in our lives. It is how the Buddha found enlightenment, it is how we gain a greater understanding of ourselves.
I continue to explore Buddhism fully aware that even in my lifetime I will still only touch the surface. I don’t feel the need to be a Buddhist in the traditional sense. I am happy to learn, to take what I can from it and continue to respect the wise teachings through living according to what I learn.
One thing I honor and respect is that in all the years I have been attending Buddhist teachings, not once have I been approached to take refuge. I am left to explore in my own time, in my own way without any interference from the nuns or monks. And so I continue my journey in my own way.
Mindfulness is secular Buddhism
Eventually I discovered mindfulness and have been teaching it formally for a year now. However I am concerned about the way the West has taken mindfulness and turned it into some kind of new thing that we have just discovered. It concerns me that there is such an effort to distinguish it’s difference to Buddhism, when it can not be.
Mindfulness can make a huge difference to peoples lives but not by following a short course and then going about your business again. When we teach mindfulness, we must show people that:
Mindfulness is a way of life – it is a practice that needs to be practiced
Mindfulness is not about sitting in meditation for 15, 20 or 30 minutes a day, it’s not about listening to relaxing music while you sit crossed legged on the floor. Mindfulness is much more than this and that’s why it can not be taught, it must be practiced.
So what is Mindfulness?
In my humble view, this is what mindfulness is:
Self Awareness and self knowledge
Ability to stay still, silent and at peace
To turn towards your difficulty, to stop avoiding pain and discomfort
To practice compassion even to those that seek to hurt you, even to those that society try to demonise
To build an inner strength, from fully accepting who you are, even your imperfections because nothing and nobody is perfect
To understand and accept that nothing is permanent and change is the only constant
To take nothing at face value, to look deeper into the eyes of another and see the truth
Mindfulness is simple but not easy
Mindfulness is about living in this moment, right now! There is no past or future except for the one that lives in your mind
There are two aspects to Mindfulness, the formal practice of meditation and the informal practice of staying in the present moment, in full awareness and presence, in your daily life.
That’s it, simple but not easy.
Of course this is my personal interpretation of Mindfulness, I’m no expert but I am practicing.
Last night I watched a powerful documentary that followed Anthony Robbins through one of his popular seminars. For anyone that’s never heard of Anthony Robbins, he is a renowned inspirational speaker and author of “Awaken the Giant Within”. Anthony Robbins doesn’t say anything new; most of what he shares has been said before in one way or another, most of it is just common sense. What he has is an inner strength and an innate ability to connect with people, to the point that it has a profound impact.
I first read his book around twenty years ago and it played a real role in my progress back then. But what hit home last night was when he said:
“If my mother had been the mother I had wanted
I would not be the man I am proud to be”
There are two types of people in this world. There’s the one’s that let their circumstances and experiences turn them into victims. Then there’s the one’s who use these experiences to grow and become strong.
When I look back at my life, I recognise how I have been able to turn even the most painful experiences into gifts. And I don’t say this lightly, it is part of my “makeup”. I didn’t have the easiest upbringing, yet somehow I’ve always been thankful for it because I know it’s what made me be who I am today. Even when my marriage ended I was able to see the lessons and use them to make me stronger, wiser and yes happier.
Does this sound ridiculous?
I mean people treating you badly and you’re grateful?
I can truthful say “hell yes I’m grateful for all those that hurt me, let me down and treated me badly”
Because I have a deep sense of self trust, self respect and at my core a deep pride in the person I am. Does that make me arrogant, self assured? No it may make others feel uncomfortable because to have such self approval, means I don’t need others to approve. It means I can stand on my own two feet without feeling alone. Ultimately my happiness is unshakeable because I am aware that at anytime something can happen to cause me pain, I don’t shy away from pain. I know each time something or someone hurts me, it just helps me build my pain resistance. Does that mean I want pain? Of course not, but pretending I can get through life without pain is pointless because it will never happen.
In the film Anthony Robbins shouts out how proud he is of himself, he shouts out that he is the best at what he does and why shouldn’t he? It’s easier for us to say how rubbish we are? But saying we are great, we are the best is so unacceptable?
Ultimately, unshakeable happiness is not about things, it’s not about what and who you have in your life. Unshakeable happiness is how you feel at the core of you. I’m happy to say at my core I am at peace, proud to stand alone in this beautiful life that I have been given. No pain can disturb that because it is all part of who I am.
“I am not your guru” Official Trailer – Anthony Robbins
The official definition of the word limit is “a point or level beyond which something does not or may not extend or pass”
Of course there are some limits in life, like we can’t fly or stay underwater for too long without suffocating. So I guess we could assume there are some physical limits. Note the word assume because that’s all we can do, nothing is ever a certainty.
The only limits are the ones you place on yourself.
Oh that lovely place we live in, the one we call the mind. It works 24/7 and busier than Heathrow Airport. It doesn’t stop telling us what we can and can not do. The more we allow this mind to rule our life, the less able we become to explore life to its fullest.
You have only one responsibility – Self Actualisation
Bruce Lee was one of the great philosophers of our time, he shared some important words of wisdom with us. He spoke of self actualisation and becoming the best person we can be. How often do we go through life not knowing why we are even here, what the point of our life is? Even though th answer is simple, self actualisation.
“Using No Way As Way, Having No Limitation as limitation” – Bruce Lee
Self Actualization means becoming the best we can be, pushing our limits, exploring the world and our place in it. And like it or not, unless we remove the limits we place on ourselves on our life, we will never venture into the places we fear.
Beware of Taking On Other Peoples Points of View
So here we are with this mind of ours full of thoughts, full of ideas of who we are, what we can and can not do. Then we pile into that already full up mind the ideas and opinions of others. Wow no wonder we go crazy!
Starting when we are children. The opinions of our parents of who we are. The good girl or boy, the pretty girl, the naughty boy, the artistic one, the talented one and who knows what else we have planted in our mind. Then we start school, here goes for a whole new view of the world. The academic one, the sports talented one but the worse one is “the average one”. Oh dear, who grew up being average? Yep I think I got that a few times.
Now as adults, we live in the confines of these limiting beliefs and then we add into it the “shoulds and should not’s”.
There’s no such thing as should or should not, it’s your life remember. Forget the “At your age you should be doing this or that” or even worse “A woman should ???????”
Is it time to delete, erase and permanently disregard everyone else’s opinions? Perhaps even time to ignore your own limiting beliefs and see what happens?
What happens when you have no limits?
A few things happen when you remove limitations:
Life starts to flow naturally
When you let go of control in your life, let it flow, then the people and things you want start to flow naturally. Believe me, it’s true.
When you learn to let go of limiting beliefs you begin to trust that life gives you exactly what you need, when you need it.
And finally, when you knock down all those limits, you start to experience life on a whole different level. That’s living, being present in your life and feeling every single minute of it!
Right hands up, there is no such thing as a perfect partner, I just said that to grab your attention. But now I have it, here’s the truth (well my truth)
Actually there is no such thing as perfect because the very essence of life is to recognise how perfectly imperfect everything is. So why do we try so hard to find this perfect person to complete our life?
Here’s a little exercise for you to try today.
Write a list of all the things your perfect partner should have or be. Nobody will see this so be as open and honest as you want.
Now look at your list and ask yourself:
a. what characteristics in this perfect partner do you have?
b. What characteristics would you want to have that you don’t already have?
What would happen if you actually met this perfect person? How would it change your life?
What will happen if you never meet anyone that fits this criteria?
So maybe I should share my thoughts on what my perfect partner would be like. He would be a combination of Richard Gere, James Dean and a little Keanu Reeves. Now that’s a great mix right? Attractive, intelligent, strong, and interesting, the list goes on.
“Perfection is when one realises his/her imperfections”
But here’s the thing, as soon as you start to compile a list of criteria for this perfect partner, you set that person up for failure. As soon as they fail to meet one of your preferences, they no longer meet your criteria and they are no longer that perfect partner.
Looking for this elusive perfect partner raises questions about how we relate to ourselves. What is it we are looking for outside of ourselves? Do we look for what we feel is missing within us or do we look for what we most love about ourselves in others?
What would happen if we just saw people as they are, accept them as they are and take them as they come?
What would happen if we stopped trying to make others what we want them to be and worked on making ourselves what we want to be?
This may make me sound like some bitter twisted woman who doesn’t believe in relationships at all. Actually I’m quite the opposite, what I now see and value is that it’s my striving for perfect that has caused so many problems in the past. I’ve come to accept that actually imperfect is pretty perfect. And if that’s the case why would I be looking for perfect in anyone else?
In my work we often end up talking about relationships. I tend to get straight to the point of why I think most relationships fail. It’s simple, we want our partner to be perfect, if they aren’t we try to make them. We try to change them. Eventually this wears us out, it wears them out and causes damage to the relationship.
So what’s the solution? How do we have better relationships?
Firstly we accept that perfect does not exist and become completely comfortable with that. Let go of the dream of perfection in ourselves and in others. Savour what is, learn to accept the imperfections and watch how things change.
And no that does not mean you compromise, it means you see things as they are. Then you can choose if you really want to be with someone or not.
Secondly you remember that the only person you can change is you. You work on you until one day you realise you have everything you want and need, right there inside you. Then how you relate to others completely changes. You no longer need anything, you are happy to just be with that person, for that moment without any expectations.
You learn to not cling to something that no longer serves you.
How liberating is that? Or is it out of your comfort zone?
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.
You can’t literally re-write your past, facts and events can’t change. What can change however is the story you tell yourself about your past and in that sense you can re-write your past. You may want to read the previous post about Letting Go of the Past.
My Re-Write Story
After my divorce I avoided places and people that I closely associated with my past. It felt uncomfortable thinking about going to these places or speaking to people that knew us both. I also felt a little embarrassed having to keep explaining my story.
I dreaded going back to Cyprus, where we had lived for years and two of my children were born. The first time I went back on my own was not a good experience, I felt very out of place and the memories were all negative. I couldn’t bring myself to think anything good about my time in Cyprus.
Time is a Healer – But Only If We Are Willing To Do The Work
Yes of course as time passes we learn to adjust to our new life, in time we settle and life goes on. But to truly move on, to really let go of the past, you must do the work. You have to go deep inside and explore, question and get to know everything within you.
Time can be a healer or it can just act to cover up what don’t want to see. Being a mindfulness practitioner gives me no choice but to explore my mind and the stories I tell myself. So I tend to feel something then explore what’s behind it, that can be a difficult process but liberating when you get through it.
Next Visit To Cyprus Was Very Different
The next time I went to Cyprus things were different. I noticed that places had changed yet they were still very familiar. I started to feel happy to remember my children growing up there, seeing their school, the beach they played on and even remembering being with my ex-husband.
Because the truth is that then everything was as it was supposed to be and now everything is as it is supposed to be. It’s not sad to look back at the past because there were some unhappy times but equally if not more, there were some happy times.
What’s changed is that I am now able to relate to the past in a different way. I’ve let go of the anger and replaced it with a sense of joy for my new freedom. I guess I’m grateful for the chance to live how I want without having to consider someone else. I am grateful for the new life I am living, the opportunities that now lay ahead and for all the new people I meet.
The past is what it was, equally as important as the present because without fully experiencing the past, you can not be fully aware of the possibilities in every moment.
So I re-wrote my past by changing how I relate to it. I respect it for what it taught me, for the chance to have a beautiful family and for the strength it helped me build within myself. How could I possibly see that in a negative way?
The other day someone told me they thought I had too much passion for life. I don’t understand what that means, how can anyone have too much passion for life? Perhaps what they really wanted to say is that at my age I shouldn’t have so much passion for life. That by now I should settle for a life of ordinariness because time has run out for anything more. Personally I think it’s never too late to live life to the full, no compromises and no holding back. Why should life be anything but amazing?
To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people just exist” – Oscar Wilde
If this is what having too much passion looks like, then I’m guilty:
Every second I live is a gift that I do not take for granted. It’s a privilege to be living this human life and I will not settle for ordinary.
Living in my comfort zone for too long is stagnation. I’d rather be uncomfortable for a while so I can experience life fully, than be comfortable forever and never really experience real life.
I am going to die one day that’s a certainty. And because I know this I will live my life to the fullest. It’s my one chance.
No fake timelines. I decided a long time ago that I was not going to live to society’s deadlines. Work like a slave all my life so I can enjoy life after I retire at 65, 66 or whatever it now is. I got ride of the retirement figure and added years to my life. I’m not looking forward to retirement, I’m looking forward to life.
I am building a life around the things I love doing. Look at all the people who spend their life doing what they love, do they retire? People like David Attenborough 89 and Dame Judi Dench 81 and countless others still “working” because it’s their passion.
You live longer when you love life because you look after yourself. You spend time doing the things that nourish you and less time doing things that deplete you. And you don’t fear getting old because that is just the consequence of living longer.
I will not apologise for having passion for life because it’s the only life I’ve got and everyday is a chance to start again, with fresh eyes and open curiosity.
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?