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Entries in perspective (32)

Tuesday
Feb182014

Sitting in the discomfort.

It's been 4 months since we started our life in this new environment with a different language and culture, different schools for the children, different friends, different groceries in the supermarket, different climate... I was starting to feel settled. I was proud of what I had achieved in that time and amazed at how well things had been going. 

Just over a week ago I got a phonecall that has really shaken the "settle".

I am amazed again ... this time at how instability feels - how uncomfortable, how terror-filled, how nightmare inducing (literally!) and above all, how shocked I am at how temporary things are - even though I "know" in my head that it's always been this way and always will.

The hardest part is not slamming the door shut on hope. At different times I want to give in to my Mind that is taunting me with "see I told you this was too good to be true" and "I knew it - nothing THIS good could be real or last".  

I've been through all the emotions I can imagine. It hurts and it's hard. The work comes not from running away from the feelings, but in resisting the temptation to do so. I know this is life. And! (not but) the discomfort is excruciating some days.

So the work I am doing is to sit in it ... to just sit there in the discomfort, the pain, the fear, the anxiety and the not-knowing how it will all turn out. 

In doing so, I notice feelings of shame: shame at having let myself go, of having fallen so deeply in love, and having believed that I could have this wonderful experience. Shame that I had dropped my defenses enough to truly feel, to be vulnerable, to live whole-heartedly. 

I notice that naming my shame, my feelings and my fear has helped me stay in the experience rather than running away. Realising what I feel ashamed about has also reminded me of how I want to spend the time I have in this life: to live whole-heartedly no matter how excruciating the pain, true to my experience.

That realisation is where I feel myself lift - up out of the pain, the fear and the confusion - into a place of acceptance: acceptance that whatever is coming is going to be OK; of trust that I can cope with it, whatever it is. 

Beyond acceptance, I am grateful for the experience and it's lessons in vulnerability. I am thankful that I am still learning, noticing that I continue to find the courage to practice the things I say I want to have in my life: courage, whole-heartedness, sitting in the discomfort - walking the talk!

Of course I don't feel the lift all the time - I am still learning the "how" on this one :-) - but I am able to step back from the experience every now and then, to notice the dance of Self and Mind, to appreciate the difference between these two and to sit in the discomfort of learning and evolving towards a place I want to be

Where do you want to be evolving to, and what discomfort are you willing to experience to get there?

Sarahxx

Monday
Jan272014

Noticing the noise.

These days, I wake up at 4am and savour the moments of bliss before watching, noticing, observing my Mind fill with noise. 

When I had small babies, I would lie awake for hours worrying about getting enough sleep, raging against the lack of sleep I was able to get, fearing the daylight hours, fearing the night hours too. Getting up to a child in the night meant being awake at least 3 hours ... and it was making me sick. It wasn't the lack of sleep, it was my Mind keeping me awake and making me sick with worry, rage, frustration, fear. 

By accepting my being awake in the early hours, I have come to treasure it as a moment when my Mind is clear and less noisy than "usual". I get up and write, or read or research or listen to the gentle silence in my mind. 

Of course when the noise begins to take over my Mind, I notice I feel the need to get moving, do things, start on the list I want to get through for that day.  That noise is what I now recognise as anxiety in my Mind

Notice, I don't say "anxiety in me"?

My Mind and my Self are different: my Self is calm, centered, clear.

My Mind is full of noise: crazy stories, thoughts, judgements, ideas, fears, conversations had, conversations that need to happen, to-do list items, random sounds.  That is what I observe... when I step back from my mind and notice. 

This morning, for example, I noticed how I think about my ability to speak French as "intermediate", "it will never be more than that" and "I am intermediate or average at everything I do and have always been". I noticed these thoughts and wondered  "Really? ... where does this stuff come from?". 

These limiting thoughts are fairly benign: they relate to a skill that does not make or break my day - although has definitely led to all manner of frustration over the years!

But what if this kind of thinking is prevalent in other ways in my Mind ... and even more crucial, what if I am actually listening to it, believing it, holding it to be a truth, and living my life as if it's true?? What are the consequences of seeing that noise as a real part of me? 

These days I notice the noise and see it as separate from Self. These days I label it as noise, acknowledge its connection to the anxiety I feel, and accept that it is something I carry with me that does not define me. It is NOT me (Self), it is my Mind - that is all. 

Naming Mind and Self as different is a freedom we all have, if we choose.

Noticing the noise is a significant step to seeing the separation between Self and Mind and to reducing both anxiety and depression. 

When you listen to your noise, what do you notice?

Sarahxx

Tuesday
Feb052013

How am I making it through?

Apparently, the key to overcoming a long-held fear is to begin ... and so I did.  (here is what I did)

It helps to have important dates and milestones along the way: tests and assignments due regularly, and the grande finale of an exam in a couple of weeks that marks the end - except for the bit about waiting to see if I passed!. Some of the dates near the start were about giving up, pulling out, deferring. They were opportunities to bail on the whole mad scheme – to give into the fear. 

Make a start – that’s the hard part. 

Turn around and face the thing you fear. Diminish its power over you.

Name what scares you the most. Share it somewhere – write it down, tell someone, say it to the wind – whatever! Just get it out.

Then put one foot in front of the other. Each day do something little that helps you towards your goal. 

When (not if – cos it will!) looking at the big goal makes you feel queasy, glance away and decide on how you will proceed for today only. 

When the distractions arrive, or the self-talk creeps in telling you “it can wait” or “this is more important” – tell yourself “you made a start, this other stuff is resistance, you are on the path towards a goal and the only thing for it is to keep going”.

And the big distraction I was offered was impressive.

A couple of weeks into the course my son broke his leg. In our case, this meant that he needed to have three weeks off school, then it was two weeks school holidays. When he could finally return to school, I needed to go four times a day to help him up and down three flights of stairs (no lift). I had to pull back on my work hours, change appointments, stop doing as much writing, socialising, reduce my “free” time and dig in for a month.

When I was sitting in the hospital for two days while they sorted out his leg, I thought to myself “oh no, I just started … maybe I should pull out, this is going to be too hard to manage all at the same time”. It would have a been a decent excuse. But I knew it was just that!

An excuse. It was my fear talking.  So I kept going. 

And here I am, with two and a half weeks to go before the exam (THAT’S a whole other experience!) and while I am feeling quite anxious about the exam experience, I know that I am almost there. I know that I am closer to my goal than I would have been if I'd never started… that I am one big step closer to the thing I have wanted for so long.

I say a big step closer because this wasn't simply a case of studying a subject that doesn't enthrall me, this was about overcoming a fear that has plagued me for twenty-five years.

And now I am free - not because I passed (I don't know how this all ends) but because I am beyond the point where the fear has control of my life and my choices.  

Name the fear that is standing in your way ...

sarah xx

Monday
Nov192012

Motivation vs ability.

Two days ago I signed up to do something that terrifies me - something that has held me back for years. I decided I'd had enough. As the saying goes "change only occurs when the pain of staying the same becomes too great" ... I guess I'm there cos I fear not following this dream more than I fear doing this course.

I was fourteen when I began to realise that my grasp of Maths was not great ... my Maths teacher when I was fifteen gave me enough of a push that I studied extra hard to pass my exams of that year. When Math morphed into Statistics and Calculus in later years I was completely lost. I recall sitting in the Basic Maths course during my first year at university (college) with 500 other students and an uncomprehendable lecturer writing on an overhead projector screen and thinking to myself "nah, can't do it", leaving and never returning. 

After that, I just managed around it. Mathematics at that level never really came into my life - I was gratified of course to find that I didnt "need that silly course anyway!!" ... but the truth is I do. And I want it. I want to banish this idea that I can not do Math. I want to move on in my career and education and I need Maths to do it. I am no longer enjoying this limitation I have placed on myself and my development.

Can't or cannot implies a lack of ability to do something. I don't believe I lack the ability to apply myself to most things. What I have definitely lacked up until now was the motivation to do it. 

Ability or know-how and motivation are very different things. Without motivation, know-how is pretty useless. 

My motivation for putting myself through this potentially excruciating experience is that, like the chicken or the Billy Goats Gruff, I want to get to the other side. I want what is on offer over there. To get there I have to go through - after years of going around this one I can finally admit that.

So it's not, and has never been, a lack of ability. It's always been a lack of motivation. The HOW of things is most often very easy - these days even easier than before! 

It's the MOTIVATION that takes time to find. Without motivation, ability or know-how is nothing. 

Sarah xx

 

Tuesday
Sep112012

It's spring ... somewhere.

After more than 7 years in the northern hemisphere, I appear to have suddenly reverted to living my home (southern) hemisphere’s seasonal pattern. The planet’s south has passed the magical date of 1 September and launched itself into spring. That means the north is on it’s way into autumn – not exactly the traditional time to begin the behavior of ‘spring cleaning’.  It appears to be part of an elaborate plan of resistance to taking back my “old” life in an effort to have more of what I truly want and less of what I have settled for. 

I am clearing, cleaning, culling, washing, airing, tidying, and making space between the stuff. I am recycling all manner of work-related paper that I was sure I would ‘do something’ with one day. I am vetting carefully the social engagements I accept.

I am choosing nothing over 'something' ... instead of settling for less-than. 

I have to admit that, aside from a few attempts in the area of spring cleaning (even on-season), I haven’t done this properly in years. I put it down to a recently restorative two week holiday where I didn’t cook, clean, grocery shop, do laundry, organise a babysitter, follow a routine attend social events or work.  The holiday created space for awareness and reflection – for detaching from my life.  

Post-holiday, I feel a strong resistance to falling back into the old way simply because it was “the old way”. An automatic response that pre-holiday was simply there – perhaps even something I would have labelled ‘natural’- is no longer the leading force in my actions. 

Instead, there is a delay … a moment when I find myself thinking “umm is this what I want? Is there a better way/different response/alternative thinking I could be using? Do I need this in my life? Is it bringing me closer to Self and the ones I love? Am I living my values” 

Of course it’s not a sweeping change. It will come as no surprise to you that there are times when I just do it the old way because it doesn’t feel like there is time to suddenly create a new one. Other times I choose to do nothing instead of just doing the same ole, same ole.

There is a very strong sense of coming up for air – from daily life, from habit, from a kind of sludgy place where I always felt I was struggling to keep my head above water. 

For years, when asked what I want I would respond “a simpler life”. Now I feel like I am creating it. 

Why did it take me so long?

I suspect it comes down to letting go – to just simply having the chance to STOP and step back. Doing nothing of the normal allows us to reflect on the ways we normally spend our time and energy.

It's spring somewhere ... 

sarahxx