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Entries in spiritual (16)

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

Wednesday
Oct242012

There is nothing 'wrong'.

This is a truly remarkable story ... so often we make ourselves and our feelings wrong. Here is how to take a different path. 

Originally posted on Huffington Post Healthy Living:

Sometimes when I talk about “Radical Acceptance,” I like to tell the story about Jacob, a man who, at almost 70 and in the mid-stages of Alzheimer’s disease, attended a 10-day retreat I was leading.

A clinical psychologist by profession and a meditator for more than 20 years, Jacob was well aware that his faculties were deteriorating. On occasion his mind would go totally blank; he would have no access to words for several minutes and become completely disoriented. He often forgot what he was doing and usually needed assistance with basic tasks — cutting his food, putting on clothes, bathing, getting from place to place.

A couple of days into the retreat, Jacob had his first interview with me. These meetings, which students have regularly with a teacher while on retreat, are an opportunity to check in and receive personal guidance in the practice. During our time together, Jacob and I talked about how things were going, both on retreat and at home. His attitude towards his disease was interested, sad, grateful, even good-humored.

Intrigued by his resilience, I asked him what allowed him to be so accepting. He responded, “It doesn’t feel like anything is wrong. I feel grief and some fear about it all going, but it feels like real life.” Then he told me about an experience he’d had in an earlier stage of the disease.

Jacob had occasionally given talks about Buddhism to local groups and had accepted an invitation to address a gathering of over a hundred meditation students. He arrived at the event feeling alert and eager to share the teachings he loved. Taking his seat in front of the hall, Jacob looked out at the sea of expectant faces in front of him… and suddenly he didn’t know what he was supposed to say or do. He didn’t know where he was or why he was there. All he knew was that his heart was pounding furiously and his mind was spinning in confusion.

Putting his palms together at his heart, Jacob started naming out loud what was happening: “Afraid, embarrassed, confused, feeling like I’m failing, powerless, shaking, sense of dying, sinking, lost.” For several more minutes he sat, head slightly bowed, continuing to name his experience. As his body began to relax and his mind grew calmer, he also noted that aloud. At last Jacob lifted his head, looked slowly around at those gathered, and apologized.

Many of the students were in tears. As one put it, “No one has ever offered us teachings like this. Your presence has been the deepest dharma teaching.”

Rather than pushing away his experience and deepening his agitation, Jacob had the courage and training simply to name what he was aware of, and, most significantly, to bow to his experience. In some fundamental way he didn’t create an adversary out of feelings of fear and confusion. He didn’t make anything wrong.

We practice Radical Acceptance by pausing and then meeting whatever is happening inside us with this kind of unconditional friendliness. Instead of turning our jealous thoughts or angry feelings into the enemy, we pay attention in a way that enables us to recognize and touch any experience with care. Nothing is wrong — whatever is happening is just “real life.” Such unconditional friendliness is the spirit of Radical Acceptance.

Sunday
Oct212012

A step towards self-care.

Is it at all familiar to you? … the moment where you start to wonder if you are going mad or “losing it” because you no longer appear to be able to handle the pace of your life, you feel like crying or hiding away somewhere dark and private? It's a sign that your self-care needs ramping up. 

My work over the past few weeks shows that this is a feeling familiar to a lot of people.

I want to let you know now that you are not going mad. You might indeed be losing it – but we need to look a little closer at what that means … 

We need to begin by understanding what you are trying to manage right now, what is on your jobs list, what are your responsibilities, what are you carrying with you from the past too (because the more you are carrying from back then, the heavier the load right?).

We might even write it all down … to see it all there on paper, to recognise that it takes a while to get it all in print because there is so much of it.

And let’s be expansive about this. For example, if you are simply going to work each day and coming home, eating dinner and going to bed then perhaps you are assessing your life as pretty much what it's always been. But to get the full story you will need to go a step further and write about whether you like your job; you are eating in a way you want to be eating; you are sleeping a full night; you are waking up feeling refreshed from sleep and so on.  

Once you have your list and have expanded on it, take the time to look at the list and ask yourself “what else is going on?” – this will help you understand that while the day-to-day activities may not have changed or increased a great deal, your response to them has. 

Start by doing just this, for now. It’s enough.

To begin being conscious of what your life involves (not just the activities but your feelings and responses to them) is a step in sorting out why you feel like you are losing it/not coping. 

It’s a step towards self-awareness and self-care. 

Any step in that direction is life-changing. 

sarahxx

Wednesday
May022012

Magical Questions: what if things were different?

In an effort to re-focus myself and my life, I have been asking myself the above question: What if things were different? ... the answers are a relevation to me, and provide a plan for making changes in my life.

In my case I decided to ask myself "What if I was single? - how would I live my life?

I hasten to add that I am NOT imagining yukky things happening to my lovely husband ... or the disappearance of my children.

I love them all but I know that the role I play as Mother and Wife is easy enough to hide behind at times ... I mean by raising children I am already "doing" something right?

No. I suspect that at times the busy-ness of these two roles, along with my work, leave me feeling little energy or inspiration for working out if the way I am living my life is how I really want it to be.  

If I could wave a magic wand and change things, what would I change about my life now?

The extension of that question is the concept that if there are things I would change (waving a magic wand seems like a great, easy way to proceed don't you think?) then why don't I change them anyway?

With vulnerabililty, I share with you my list. I wrote it in full indulgence of my imagination ... 

  • I would still raise my children

  • I would continue my education

  • I would diversify my income sources 

  • I would travel more

  • I would see more movies

  • I would switch to a more ecological lifestyle (with coffee and chocolate always included)

  • I would live in the countryside and go walking all the time – a good sized town with mountains all around, or a smallish place near the beach/lake

  • I would have a garden and grow my own veges

  • I would ride a bike whenever I could

  • I would swim each day

It's not an exhaustive list.

It's a 'first go' list. I wonder what I will add as time passes.

Above all, I found myself looking at the list and wondering exactly what it is that stops me from having the life I want right now - it's certainly not my married status I can tell you!!!

I wonder what question you would ask?

 

  • What would I do if I wasn't scared?
  • What would I do if I had the money to do it?
  • What would I change if I could re-start my education?
  • What would I do/change if I cared less what other people think?

 

Take a moment, a piece of paper and a pen ... and write down your question. Then, with courage, write down your answers.

... this is where you find your voice, what you really want ... this is where it begins. 

 

sarahxx

Monday
Apr232012

Finding the focus

Sometimes, the challenge is simply finding your focus and keeping it. Knowing your values is a key way to working out what to focus upon.

Do you focus on your relationship: building a better one, improving the one you have, finding one, re-finding a connection with your significant other, resuming or changing the sex part and so forth?

Do you focus on your children: your connection to them, their needs, their upbringing, their troubles, their cries for help, their development?

What about your career: do you have one to speak of?, is it the one you want?, if not, is there something else you want to do?, what is it?, how do you find out?, does it fit your values?, have you the time and energy to find a new one or will you take up the old one because it's kind of risk free?, do you doubt your motivation for doing anything else other than what you can manage day-to-day? ... (and many other questions).

What about your friendships: where do they stand?, do they need work/focus/attention?, are your friends people who share your values/listen/care for you?, are your friendships nourishing or draining?, what would improve them?, what is missing?.

Your finances: do you have what you need to live?, are you using what you have to the best advantage?, where are you draining your finances by thinking you need something that is not really in line with your values?, how can you plug in to abundance?

How is your health and fitness compared to how you want it to be: are you healthy?, what needs to change?, what are you not paying attention to that needs attention?, what are your values around health and fitness and how are you living them/not living them?

... yes sometimes the challenge is working out where to focus your attention. Otherwise it can all seem

1. too hard

2. too confusing

3. too distracting.

Knowing your values is one way of finding your focus in this life (the one you are living now, in the present moment) and keeping it on track. 

Take each of these areas and work out what your values are. Those are your guidelines for living.

Let everything you do each day be in the service of one or more of your values. 

All the rest of that activity you convince yourself is 'needed' is surplus. Let it go.

sarahxx