Life Under the Thoughtful Lens
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
A crisis in confidence
Sunday, January 13, 2013
Pass the shoulds and pick up a pebble
I live from lists. Mental lists and physical lists adorn my world, offering continual productive bait for my seemingly waning attention span. I have so much to achieve and many expectations to live up to. So many tasks, people to contact, things to write, stuff to organise. I wonder what mood I was in when I wrote my last list. I am surprised it didn’t remind me to clean my teeth and check I was still breathing. And with this, I wonder if I have lost faith in my own motivation. Instead, I’ve started relying on bits of paper to keep me on a track; as an acceptable functioning member of society in the 21st century.
Monday, November 5, 2012
Surrender Is My New Magic Wand
This blogs comes to you after a hibernation and transformation period, during which I was not ready to write. In short, life has opened up again. A new level of awareness has been found...one that Maya Angelou apparently realized at the age of 15 (lucky girl!).
So much of my life I have struggled with and focused on my ability to resist. To resist status-quo, "shoulds", temptations, labels, and my own thoughts & ideas. Often times I wanted a stronger voice and more understanding in the moment. It has only been recently that I have truly grasped the magnitude of surrender...daily life surrender.
What occurred to me was that although I knew that finding my way had nothing to do with control, I was still trying to control a lot of things. I put energies and thoughts into the plans of everything with the hopes that it would result in more security within my business, my kids, my self. Instead, this over focus on personal thinking was allowing me to miss my insights along the way.
One day, I had a moment where my consciousness opened a bit and I saw myself on this hamster's wheel. Spinning and spinning with good intentions, but having no more fun.
Since then it has simply made no sense to engage in this habitual thinking and planning that at one time seemed impossible to let go of completely. "Who can let go of all control in this Western world?", I would say to myself. Now I know the answer...I CAN!
The insight was something like "I won't know how much I know until I surrender & let go of this illusion of control." As is always true of insights, since I provided the courage to go with it, I was rewarded instantly and massively. It has become fun to look for the signs rather than direct traffic. I'm now too engaged with life to busy myself with that old game. I almost don't know how to explain the difference in my experience since I had this culminating realization, but I will try.
In my family life, I feel a feeling of letting everyone be. Everyone gets to be what they are. They get to be right when they are and they get to be wrong when they are. No reason to get mad at that, but plenty reason to see the wisdom wherever it is. I see so much more clearly that we all get caught up in personal thinking and step away from surrender and listening even with the best of intentions. It's hard to bring your highest self to a situation if your sense of control sits behind the wheel. I see this in myself and others, and what has happened is that I feel peaceful. This peace is the platform by which I parent, partner and connect with those that I love. I've never felt closer to my family and this brings immeasurable joy into our home.
In my professional life, I have not stopped being informed and prepared, but what guides me most is the wisdom that all there is to do is be aware. I know that I'm supported by something that is all-knowing. Seeing this means that all I have to do is have the ability to notice this wisdom and then choose to act. This is so much different than having an important game plan, or needing my client to see something behind my words. The trust and the confidence in it is contagious, and it shows in my recent business opportunities. People feel my renewed faith in how much we each know.
On a community level, I am making strong connections suddenly that have an amazing influence on my life. I'm being recognized and complimented. I'm realizing that I have friends everywhere I go. I'm smiling at strangers and they are infected by it too. I'm seeing that I'm the kind of person out in the world that I want to be. I'm not too busy planning to notice the woman who needs help or the litter on the ground.
None of these things were goals, but they're all happenings that grew from one moment when my thoughts got quiet. Now I'm loving life more than ever and I see possibilities that I did not entertain before. This...all of this came from a moment of clarity and a little insight. The power that we have as humans can truly only be revealed when we realize it is within us...then we can surrender to it rather than search for it "out there".
Now, go find your magic wand, dust it off & have fun playing!
Monday, April 9, 2012
"Worry Is A Misuse Of Imagination"
I have friends, family members, and clients who worry. I talk with them about how worry comes from our thinking. I remind them that we are creating...we are painting the scene. I know that if they hear the depth of this message, it will free them. One finds it ridiculous to live in the feelings of self created possible futures once they realize they are creating it all. This works like magic if the person listens and hears something from their own wisdom. Poof, they are in the present moment again where new thought waits to bring new feelings.
This is all true, but because I am not a worrier, I found at times that I felt a frustrated when others held so strongly to their worrisome thinking. There was a part of me that lacked a little understanding...a little empathy. I didn't realize the nuances of this at the time, but the thinking was there. I recognize it now, because of my recent divergence into the world of worry. I suddenly realized how awful, how nagging, these thoughts of worry can be...the toll it can take on the human spirit.
What happened was this: Our family cat had died, so we recently got two kittens to cheer everyone up. Suddenly both kittens got sick...one of them became very ill. I was doing all that I could with medications, steamy shower times, TLC etc. The one kitten was not responding and was getting worse for about three days. I thought of him constantly. I thought about how I would tell my kids if he died. I thought about where I would bury him. I thought about how maybe I didn't get him into the vets soon enough. I thought and thought until my stomach was sick and my head was spinning.
At about this time my young son came down with the stomach flu. I spent two sleepless nights with him, consoling him while I worried some more. Will he get better soon? Will he need to go to the hospital? Will he eat today?
Next, I got a text from my daughter who was visiting friends in California. She sprained her ankle and was letting me know how much it hurt. She was hoping it wasn't broken. That was it...my thinking had won. My worry increased by ten-fold as I completed busy work throughout the day and as I attempted to sleep at night. I was a wreck & try as I might to take my own advice about worry, it simply did not seem to work.
As I lay in bed one night, feeling perfectly awful, I realized I was going to be sick. Suddenly I got mad at myself. I reminded myself that I know more than I am illustrating. I absolutely refused at that point to let this worry effect me. In this moment of determination, my personal thinking...my worry, dissipated for just long enough for me to have an insight.
Beyonce...she has an alter ego...I think it's Sasha Fierce or something. Ya, she does...but why am I thinking about this? Then it came to me...a crazy idea that packed a whole lot of well being. I should create an alter ego too. So, I did!
I sat there in bed. I named myself Coco Hawthorne. I was a vet-tech and I took care of sick cats every day. It did not impact me and I had hope that all would be well. I had a lot to do, and not time for worry. I had kids at home and I was strong. I was in charge and I did it with ease.
As I did this crazy brainstorming, a great thing happened! I felt fine again. I was not the old me anymore. I had distracted myself and come to my senses. I know that feeling better had nothing to do with Coco or Beyonce. It was the act of following an insight that came on the heals of me remembering my own well being. I was in such a place of despair, that I did not question it...anything was better than intense worry even if it seemed nuts.
For me, the lesson here is two-fold. One, we all get caught up in our thinking. When it grips us, it feels real, and it feels big. We also all know our way out, and reminding ourselves of this seems to be a brilliant first step. Two, insights and wisdom come in many packages. Who are we to judge? We must have the faith it takes to follow them even when (or especially when) they seem outside of normalcy. No matter how insane the insight seems, one must give way to it.
Hope you remember in your day to use your imagination wisely! :)
Monday, March 19, 2012
Catching up with Einstein
“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” Einstein.
I've been plunged back into the world of London Public Health and sitting on the train home, I am delighted to take a moment to digest the developments that are occurring around wellbeing in the UK. It's all been happening! Mental health is becoming recognised as the key source of ill-health in the UK. In fact, as Lord Layard, the catalyst for 'Action for Happiness' stated at a recent LSE conference; Mental ill-health accounts for half of all sick days off and for almost half of all disabled people on incapacity benefit.
The Happiness/Well-being agenda has been bubbling away in England for the last 10 years. Back in 2001, the Department of health said “How people feel is not an elusive or abstract concept, but a significant public health indicator; as significant as rates of smoking, obesity and physical activity”
It's a powerful statement that has taken several years to really embed itself within the culture of public health. To be honest, we still have some way to go; but, hats off to the UK on this one. I am proud to see that we are making strong steps in the right direction.
After becoming involved in the Three Principles around 5 years ago, I began to recognise the impact that low quality thinking was having in every sphere of my life. In the office I noticed insecure conversations masked as authority. Working in community development I would frequently engage in conversations that, on the surface, appeared full of conflict and defense, but were actually fueled by fear. In my personal life, I began to discern between genuine conversations and those in which I was fixated on my own agenda or issue. I began to grow an awareness of those conversations which were ultimately limited in scope and clarity, due in part to my own limited listening in that moment. Like I've mentioned before, this is mental health. The fluctuating nature of our thinking is something we all confront on a daily basis. Thanks to my understanding of how the three principles of Thought, Mind and Consciousness work, I am more aware than ever of when I have clarity versus cloudy mental health.
England is currently a hotbed for well-being and mental health pressure groups. Lord Layard is currently appealing for a minister for Mental Health. He calls it the 6th pillar to our Welfare State. Given our current cuts and reform, this topic is a political minefield. However, I thoroughly support his view of illuminating the importance of Mental Health for our nation. By doing so, it also begins to dispel the stigma associated with Mental Health. Importantly it also offers a platform for respectful discussion around the importance of our subjective experience. At last we can openly discuss and value our inside world and how it impacts upon our day to day lives.
Our subjective world creates meaning for us through the power of our thought. We humans are thinking creatures and as an early Buddhist text explains 'We are what we think; All that we are arises from our thoughts. With our Thoughts We Make the World'. So our thoughts, our subjective experience, have huge implications for how we navigate our daily life choices. For an English National, these discussions offer the green flag to take our happiness seriously. For our International readers, it may be worth me reminding you of the 'stiff upper lip' for which we Brits are famous. For the most part, try asking a Brit from the elder generation (i.e. the purse string holders!) if they are happy and they'll likely look at you as if you are mad, while replying with a stiff face, "Of course I am". The topic of happiness often becomes like a game of Chinese Whispers, where a genuine and caring question sounds more like an interrogation into how much money someone earns or an attack on how someone is living their life. Or at least this is often my experience. With all this talk about happiness, I've actually felt that there isn't much understanding about what happiness actually feels like. Therefore how can we really know if we have it?
So now, thanks to these people like Layard who are translating Happiness into Economic impact. We have a conversation about happiness that people have to take seriously. If you don't think you are worth being happy for, then be happy for your country! This may be a much more motivating message. And the how to? Well that's here as well thanks to the New Economics Foundation we have the Five Ways to Well-being; CONNECT, KEEP LEARNING, GIVE, BE ACTIVE and TAKE NOTICE, Thanks to the South London and Maudsley Mental Health Trust’s (SLAM) Well London Project; DIY Happiness we have a project which can gently lead people toward activities that remind how it really feels to connect with our felt-sense of happiness. So it's all there for us Brits, the momentum is building, which I find very exciting. I am sure that reconnecting with that felt sense is half the battle. It's the reminder of what's there for us when we loosen our grip on our thoughts and instead go with our felt experience.
At the end of the Layard conference a colleague from SLAM asked a wonderful question, paraphrased as "...Are you concerned with the quality of our thinking during these stressful times" Listening to the podcast earlier today, I applauded her. His answer pointed mostly toward meditation to soothe the mind. But most importantly, it seems to me that this Happiness movement is creating fertile and safe grounds to explore how our intellectual thinking minds may these days be overly dominating our felt, intuitive intelligence. Einstein would be proud.
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Cheers To the Ornery!
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
I smile because I sing
Earlier today I was told by a friend that he listens to music to quieten his otherwise hectic mind. The external offering of music can do wonders for a busy mind. We can become immersed in the music and lose our self in its beats, melody and lyrics. It offers a temporary escape from the perpetually created world of our thoughts. We all have this problem from time to time, and really it amazes me that this disabling symptom of the modern day is not more widely acknowledged. The constant narrative of a chattering mind can be deafening at times. From the sublime to the mundane. Our internal commentary can both help and hinder us. At this point I'd like to clarify, I am not talking about our commonly diagnosed mental health problems. This isn't what 'other' people suffer from. From what I understand, it is the fluctuating narrative that we all carry. Some days it may go completely unnoticed. Others, it offers a cheerful narrative to accompany our interactions with the world around us “I’m walking down the road...isn’t it sunny today...I feel good...etc". Sadly though, this narrative has a darker side. Sometimes, the talk can be so dense that it can almost severs our connection to the rest of our body. The heaviness and intensity of these thoughts can leave us so tense and cut off that the world around us becomes a nightmarish caricature of itself.
From a personal perspective, I know that whatever story is being woven can be extremely compelling. Whether it's offering a epic tale full of adventure with enemies at each corner, or a suffocating scene of social dynamics to comment on. It can feel like it’s the only thing that really matters in that moment. However, what can frequently be overlooked is that this story is limiting my experience from its full potential. No matter how compelling, the chances are that this interpretation is limiting me from responding optimally to my surroundings. Plainly said. When my personal thoughts are loud, I don't hear others in the same way. I don't see the world in the same way. And I don’t see opportunity. In these times I would like to be a fly on the wall, observing how my insecurity seeps into every interaction. In modern day computer speak. My connection is down. I'm working offline. There is a vast space between me and the world and quite frankly it's impeding my ability to be the kind, compassionate human being that I know I really am. On many levels, when the narrative is loud, life can be hard to navigate. But, more so, if you are unaware that it’s the narrative that got loud, then life can be incomprehensibly harsh.
Which leads me back to a conversation I had last night. What is it I care about? I am involved in the Three Principles, in Community Development in the form of capacity building, community organising and supporting access to health promotion and well-being awareness. The root of all this, is I want to help people make healthy decisions. This isn't prescriptive. It's about raising awareness of the fact that we all live in fluctuating and dynamic environments. We are permanently caught in a web of complex social and physical influencers. The right solution for now, wont necessarily be the right answer in half an hour. We cling to formulas, education and research as if they offer us the key to happy unconscious living. The result is that we tend to sleep walk through our days making more and more decisions based on old habits of thoughts, fear responses or what worked for us last time. In the midst of such a busy mind, decisions become even more difficult. The funny thing is that often, when we are in the grips of this over productive thinking mind, we are not always aware that that is what is happening. Hence the sleep walking. The harshness of our thinking can manifest unhelpful interpretations of the outside world. Our low quality thoughts can lead to a limited potential to find a creative solution or making a healthy choice.
This is a human experience. For some perhaps, it is more frequent than others. Where I sit on that continuum I am not sure. But as the pendulum of my thinking mind swings I can take some comfort in my understanding of what is happening behind the scenes. Without trying to understand why, I can instead understand that this is a temporary ‘human experience’. By having an awareness of how my body feels. For instance tense or heavy, I can be with my body as well as my thoughts. The narrative can't take over completely, and in the meantime, while my body feels heavy, I know I don't have to take my thinking too seriously. I can be aware and listen for that moment when my thoughts, feelings and actions are light and flowing again. I feel very strongly that we are all able to be that kind, compassionate and connected human being that we know we are. From that space, I also believe that we can all make healthy choices in each given moment. For anyone who knows me, they'll be aware of my recent obsession with a book written by Iain McGilchrist, a British Psychiatrist, which is called 'The Divided Brain: The Master and the Emissary'. Among the many important aspects of this book, which I will likely to wax lyrical about in another blog, I have always been touched by this quote when he talks about our interaction with modern Art. He says something like 'These days we mistake our lonely monologue for dialog'. I believe this is the case for so many of us in our modern world. Whether that lonely monologue is full of cheer or misery, it so frequently stands between us and our full potential for a two-way connection to the real world around us.
Sometimes, the narrative of our thoughts can be so loud that we may not notice their bulldozing impact on the world around us. We may not even realise quite how suffocating and limiting this narrative is, until it begins to pass, or a tiny hole gets punctured in the validity of its story. From that point, we can at least entertain the idea that there might be a bigger picture than we are able to see at this point. The simplicity of the Three Principles, is that in union, they offer an anchor to cling on to when the seas get rough. Thought: When my thoughts are heavy and domineering, I know that they are coming to me on a moment to moment basis. The experience is temporary. Mind: my connection to something profoundly more creative and wise is still there. I am still the kind, compassionate human being that I 'know' myself to be. I’m just feeling a little bit lost. Consciousness: I know that in any given moment, my consciousness may raise. My thinking may become more useful, or my connection to Mind may offer me insight. This potential for new thought gives me strength to stay calm and as still as possible until it arrives.
So in hindsight, my response about my friend listening to music to quieten his mind was rather dismissive. I said 'I sometimes feel like listening to music is just masking the symptoms of our crazy world, instead of dealing with the root cause of our uncomfortable busy minds’. In hindsight, this response was very much coming from my own 'heavy thinking' of that moment. Because, now as I sit here writing this and listening to music. My toes are tapping, my body is swaying and I'm becoming more aware of the rest of my body. My tension is easing and I feel more creative. So here I am reminded of the importance of art, of music and connected conversation. For each of these, in their own unique way offer us a fleeting reminder of our natural state of mind. With that reminder we have a contrasting feeling so that we know when our chattering narrative is stealing the show. With that kind of gauge we can become better decision makers. Ideally, by knowing when we are in a state of mind that fosters clarity, creativity and ultimately supports us to make those healthy decisions. Or in contrast, when we know that we should perhaps throw down the anchor and instead of making any big decisions, indulge in some art and enjoy the drift.