Monday, 11 June 2018

"Shoulds are Sh*t"

I recently saw this caption shared by the regularly inspiring 'Notesontheway' from a podcast she had listened to. Instantly I loved it and felt compelled to write about just how accurate I believe this statement to be, having eradicated that word from my life's language as I undertook my journey to freedom.

In the past, 'should' was a word that I consistently allowed to speak for me. It emerged from a fluency in 'not good enough' and eagerly contributed to a growing vocabulary of self-limiting and self-destructive language. Having brought awareness to its undue recurrence in my mind and its connection to how I was feeling and acting, I realised how little it served me to continue to speak it. It wasn't freeing or beneficial or a part of positive growth for me, and as such, it had no place in either my own self talk or my outward conversation. Bit by bit, this word was replaced with many other more suitable, self-supportive and encouraging alternatives.

Why? Well, because 'should's are shit. Our language has incredible power as a creator in our lives and shit words are simply not likely to create positive things for us. And we deserve to enjoy positive things!

Here's three questions to address my strongly averse stance on why 'should's are indeed, shit.

1. How does it feel?

Words have a powerful impact in positively or negatively shaping our feelings. That's because thoughts create our feelings so if our thinking is steeped in negativity, we're of course going to find our feelings following suit. For me, should always felt heavy. It was a pressure, a word laden with expectation, obligation and judgement.

Shoulds hold hands with the self destructive beliefs that create a current of 'not measuring up'. They feed into our perfectionism, our comparison and our feelings of inadequacy. Shoulds feel shit because they are suffocating; they steal the breath of possibility and choice. It's not a word of lightness, enjoyment or freedom - it's more harsh and demanding. It feels like who we are and what we're doing needs constant improvement. I recall it feeling like the fuel for the fire of panic, anxiety and an attack of inferiority, all of which do not belong in a free and content life. It's not motivating or uplifting or inspiring, if anything it detracts from my energy and puts my creativity, vitality and gusto on a standstill.

How does this word feel for you? When your mind tells you you should be this, that or the other? When you imagine scenarios of where you should be at, what you should be doing, how you should be? Does it feel good? Is it conducive to a supportive, positive mind?

2. Where does it come from?

The thing I've realised about should, is that it primarily stems from my beliefs about what others expect. It's an expectations word. By that I mean, it's not coming from what I'd like to do, not from my passions or internal zest for life - it comes from societal norms, expectations or external pressures. It comes from what we perceive others to be judging us on - our decisions, our appearances, our skills, our worth. Shoulds don't represent how we actually want to live our lives. They represent where we don't feel like we're measuring up - they piggyback on perfectionism and instill a belief that what we're doing is wrong and absolutely not good enough. From my experience 'should' came to represent the stick I'd beat myself up with for not being good enough in any area - physically, mentally, socially, emotionally. 

What are your most common should thoughts? Do they represent a free and content you? Where do they come from? In who's eyes are they true or accurate or fitting for your life? Would your most authentic, secure and free self be saying this?

3. What are the alternatives?

Of course I recognise that we all have responsibilities and realistic duties to uphold in order to maintain a functioning lifestyle. There are certain things we must do. But I'd rather litter my life with the 'could's, and the 'would like to's. I want to fill my vocabulary with open, recharging language that leads me to potential and possibility rather than regiment and expectation. Realistically I can still pay my bills and work and do what I need to without feeling as though I should, instead seeing that I want to and I enjoy the benefits of doing these duties.

The words we use can be a fountain or a drain. We can flow into positive, enthusiastic language, using it to our benefit in freeing and unleashing us into the reassuring and supportive self talk that will truly serve us. Or we can drain our dreams, our individuality and our raw authenticity in the shoulds - a fluency of berating, judging and comparing that extinguishes our own beautiful fire.

To me, 'should' is a word we can employ if we wish to live our lives by the rules of others. Should will make our vision small and our minds heavy. It could minimise our efforts, our capabilities and our unique drive into something that doesn't seem to be enough - and that's why it's shit. Because we all have lives beyond shoulds that are so beautifully bound with potential, adventure and new experiences that are much more than enough. They are ours. They are free. They are plentiful in possibility and choice and the opportunity to enjoy both in our very own, very limitless way.


Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Get Out & Grow

Get out 
Of the confines of the fault finding mind
Get out
Into the world where the sun still shines and we can
become more inclined towards its positive light
Step out
from the belligerent beliefs that only serve to feed
A nitpicking narrative
A cocoon of contempt.

Is it that bad? Is the world actually out to get us? 
Do our peers exist solely to sneer and stand hand on gavel
Ready to pass judgement on our every move?
To render us unstable within our own self worth
Burying our esteem under the hardened ground of shitty self talk
composting and fertilising 
a poisonous seed of self image that needs uprooting.

Get out 
Of the view that's there's something bad about you.
Because you -
You are the unbelievable seed of incredible,
of significant, of a strong and sacred life.
You have immeasurable capacity to grow and thrive
And that might sound exuberant, I get it, 
I didn't believe it either. I didn't realise
But free now from that mindset, I've come completely alive.

See, maybe we're missing the value of what we have 
By seeing only that which we don't
Maybe we're losing sight of possibility
By instead tripping ourselves up with volatility
The quest to achieve an approval stamp from society
Lost in the dead end chase of validation
A starvation of self love feeds our creation of a life we don't want to live
But life's not at fault and I think we could go ahead and forgive
The world our assumptions and decisive disdain
Because it only serves to add to our pain

It's not that bad. 
It's not that hard.
We're not that stuck.

I'm not minimising the struggle 
But I feel impassioned to maximise the strength
The vigorous victories we can achieve should we go the length
To choose differently, to shift perspective, to implement change,
A choice to get out of the limiting beliefs that keep us contained
And exchange it for a life that bursts into the light
A step out of the seedy underground bound for insight
Get out of the belief that everything's worse than it is, 
Because realistically, it's actually alright -
You're here because you have this plot of presence
And you're undeniably equipped to win this fight.

So get out,
Of the potted perspective that has held you unfulfilled
Get out 
And allow your own substantial serenity to spill
Out into a world of suitable expanse
Stepping out
As a free and growing entity nourished by chance,
By potential, and the abundant opportunity to flourish
Living a life that your authentic self would encourage. 



Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Making Friends with Our Minds

When experiencing distress or any negative challenge with our mental state, our poor minds can tend to take the blame. If we're experiencing a depressing phase, finding our anxiety to be increasing or becoming overwhelmed with daily living - it all seems to point towards an issue with our minds. As the momentum of mental health awareness gains speed, we're more aware of the many labels we can attach to our mind but does this awareness make our minds the target? The source of struggle?

I certainly believe it makes it more difficult to live with ourselves if we see our minds as the root of our problems. If we look inwardly with blame, shame and hostility, our mind is not going to thrive. When we demonise our very thought process, the simplest of tasks can become ordeals, inner arguments lead to self hatred and resentment and ultimately we feel very much helpless and lacking in control.

Not good things.

What if, regardless what we're going through, we choose to see our minds as a tool, a friend, a co-creator in our path towards freedom and wellness? What if we see the issue, label or whatever we're annoyed at our minds for, as a separate entity i.e. not part of the mind itself, but a passing albeit unwanted visitor? Instead of cursing the mind for every mishap or failure or difficult moment, we decide to treat it with compassion. What if care and reassurance were our instinctive responses?

I've been learning that compassion and combining kindness with mindfulness (kindfulness as my inspiration Ajahn Brahm would put it) has a profound effect on many areas in our lives. It is a powerful shift in thinking and attitude that can actually cultivate a nurturing environment in place of one which dwells in negativity.

Our minds are our own. They are extremely powerful, holding unlimited potential for us in our lives, when we learn to work with them rather than against them.

Of course outside influences, our environment and the shit life throws at us affects them and yes there are many very serious distresses that they can go through - but they are still ours. 

And we need to extend our self love to our minds. They are not faulty or defective but maybe just sensitive to negative experiences and distress.

And what do we do with something sensitive and vulnerable? Well we don't berate it.

We encourage, support and reassure it. We realise that it is more than capable of overcoming these challenges and we are going to be part of the team that ensures its victory.

Our minds are no different and if we want them to thrive and help us achieve all that we are here to achieve, we could probably do with treating them more like friends than foes.

Here's a 1-2-3 to do just that:

1. KINDNESS

As with any friend, we'd like to treat our minds with a mindful kindness. That means compassionate self talk and a commitment to positive re-enforcement throughout testing times. Recall regularly just how amazing the mind is, exercise gratitude and appreciation for all that it does for us. Friends wouldn't stick around for long if we persisted in dissing them, so likewise in befriending our minds, a thankful, caring and considerate attitude will be of much more benefit. Affirm the goodness that's within, acknowledge that it cannot be expected to be perfect, change the inner tone from one of harsh criticism and irritability to one of more tolerance, patience and understanding. You and your mind are not at war, you are in fact the team needed to beat the adversity you experience. When allowed to thrive, I can say from personal experience that this magnificent mate will relentlessly serve us in a positive and supportive way.

2. FORGIVE

With the understanding that thoughts create feelings which in turn, create behaviours - we may see our mind as the one to blame for regrettable experiences or destructive behaviours we have gone through. Past memories or waves of shame that we replay could of course feed in to ammunition against our minds - but that's not fair. In troubling times, whatever we went through, there may have been a parasitic influence of negativity in our thinking, which did/does not have our best interests at heart. This is not our own mind, this is a condition or affliction that has affected our thinking. And we need to forgive ourselves and our minds for these things. I for one, have plenty of regrettable experiences from when I was unwell in myself, but I know it's not the fault of my mind but the condition I was dealing with at the time. In forgiving myself and my mind for this, I am freer to move forward and embrace the more positive, fulfilling and helpful relationship I have with my mind now. I forgive all the challenges I went through at the hands of my thinking and I'd hope that if personified, my mind would forgive me the lengthy abuse and disdain it went through from me.

3. NURTURE

If you want something to work well it'll need the required energy, nourishment and fuel. Ensure to fulfil the needs of your mind, getting ample rest, food and hydration. Minimise stress as much as possible and allow your beautiful, creative mind to indulge in passions and pursuits that revitalise it. Invest time in positive experiences, laughter and fun. Essentially, bring your mind to nice places as you would a friend, let it do things it enjoys, ensure not to over-exert it, respect its limits and allow it to recharge. Consider the effects that certain actions will have on it, recognising the difference between numbing and self care, avoidance and expression. The mind has needs and if we wish to show that we really care about it, it's our duty to take these seriously and get to know what is and isn't going to nurture it.

***

I got inspired to write this after listening to a talk by aforementioned Ajahn Brahm where he speaks about becoming kinder in meditation and eradicating the 'control freak' we become when trying to force zen upon ourselves, ('stop thinking', 'shit I should not be thinking right now, ok focus, breathe....I can't stop thinking, ugh I'm so bad this..ok back to my breath.. focus ffs!'). He speaks of how much more time we'd want to spend with someone kind, compassionate and friendly and how this somewhat aggressive approach to meditation is of course off-putting to our mind in terms of becoming relaxed. It makes sense in a lot of areas of life, that compassion and kindness are the heart of opening things up. They allow for space and freedom and growth. They are soft and welcoming and there's a gorgeous absence of criticism and judgement.

All I want for people reading this blog is to thrive, to overcome the challenges in life and start daring to live the life they want to - a life that promotes, encourages and supports their happiness. And I'm afraid that nowadays we get so caught up in labels and identifying with our struggles that we disempower our own healing, our own triumph and recovery. We need to believe in our minds as allies. Because I promise you, they are. I know this to be true, wholeheartedly from personal experience. They are amazing things, these minds of ours. And I know they all have so much to give and so much to explore and experience and create. They are the homes of so many upcoming incredible memories, the cultivators of magical moments and the authors of our beautiful lives.

Treat them as such. You only get one.




Thursday, 3 May 2018

Recalibrating Responses

"It's not about the event, it's about the response". Jack Kavanagh

Recently I had the pleasure of completing a course by Pema Chödrön called the Freedom to Choose Something Different, which inspired a flurry of thought around this topic. And since finishing it, I had yet to catch these thoughts and compile the learnings together.

Then yesterday after hearing about it (thank you!), I got to see this Ted Talk by Jack Kavanagh, and it reminded me of how profoundly powerful recalibrating our responses can actually be, and how cementing these lessons into practice could be a significant turning point for anyone experiencing challenges, adversity or even just the unhelpful reactions we employ to those things that get under our skin.

Three things that are fundamental to this idea for me are some of my favourite words:

Freedom - Choices - Ownership

Shit things happen. They happen on a daily basis in varying intensities. They happen to everyone. Things go wrong, we get upset, we get hurt.

And we've likely developed numerous ways of responding to these occasions. 

In order to help us escape, overcome or manage the feelings that arise when shit hits the fan, we resort to habitual, probably unconscious responses.

Maybe we lash out, we turn to blame, we descend into negative self talk, we shutdown. We stew in the negativity that comes with feeling challenged, inadequate, weak, helpless or scared. 

Maybe we engage in particular patterns of avoiding or numbing the uneasy experiences even if they don't actually make anything better. Quite often these responses might feel justified or right but in reality, can actually exacerbate the problem; they bring us down further or they lead us to make a mountain out of a molehill. We throw kerosene on a fire that we could have extinguished, or that could even have just burnt itself out.

So what do we do about this?

Well, we choose to do something different. We own the choice to change. We give ourselves the freedom to respond in a new way. And we begin overcoming where we had been succumbing.

'Freedom is owning our choices'

Responsibility and ownership are beautifully empowering tools we can use. But, do they tend to go by the wayside in favour of playing the victim role? Would we prefer to plead ignorance instead of facing up to the fact that we are creators in our life? We don't choose what happens to us but we do write the story of what we do with it. And some of our go-to responses are not particularly acceptable or helpful lines of plot.

Reactive ways of responding have simply become patterns or chain reactions, but they're by no means permanent. Change is always possible and we have the capacity to open up a whole new catalogue of helpful and proactive responses.

1. FREEDOM

We have the freedom to make choices. Let's embrace this! The freedom to do something different is there in every snap decision or regrettable reaction. Becoming aware of alternative possibilities opens so many new doors. It frees us of the belief that we're stuck and demonstrates the potential to seek a new path, to start a new habit, to become victors rather than victim. The freedom is ours to welcome fresh alternatives into our lives; to interrupt and rephrase the conversation we're engaged in with our life experience.

2. CHOICES

Making the choice to respond differently is a substantial undertaking. It means we're recalibrating responses that have taken up residence within. And in doing so, we're enabled to dissolve the intensity of moments of struggle and instead see with a refreshed perspective. Making the choice to pause before entering a destructive chain reaction carries a wealth of strength and invites a dynamic shift in our lives. It disrupts the momentum and  gives us the chance to see the choices that are available. It opens our eyes to the alternative possibilities. It highlights the freedom we have to choose to leave the passenger seat and take pride of place as the driver in our own lives.

3. OWNERSHIP

This is one that can take awhile to embrace but is an extremely empowering tool to implement. Ownership means taking responsibility and accountability in our lives. Own the way you act. Own the responses you make. Take ownership for how they are or aren't beneficial to you and others. Own the fact that this is your life and it's up to you to make the best of it. Revel in the responsibilities you get to undertake as the master of your own experience. It's a privilege to make significant changes in our lives. The most treasured lesson I have was learning how to react differently to life, to choose a path that supports and nurtures my own experience and to own the part I play in it.

I know exactly how to be the ultimate diva of dramatic responses. In the past, I've responded to life with many a descent into self-destructive behaviours, lashed out at others or totally shut down. And it was often just because I got used to trying to escape the real feelings; trying to avoid being afraid, upset, lonely or feeling like I'd failed. I know all too well how that story goes, and I'm extremely grateful that the opportunity to rewrite it exists.

Anyone can transform their reactive responses and realise how very manageable all manner of our daily 'disasters' are when we choose a different reply. When we support ourselves instead of succumbing to an attack of self-hatred and blame. When we pause, take stock and see the alternatives at hand. When we give ourselves a chance to overcome, to persevere and ultimately, to triumph in the face of challenge...when we choose to do something different.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”  Victor Frankl



Thursday, 26 April 2018

Free Write Series

Celebrate

Everyday is an occasion
But how do we mark it?
Do we market the moments that matter
As profound as the significance they shatter
Into our heart, our gut, our soul?
The veritable fiesta felt from human experience
The celebration of simply living.

***

Bloom

Bloom - 
To night, the ready seed is dawn
Rooted in impassioned dedication to rise, to grow,
To spawn a life so enriched it emits a contented glow,
exuding the 
Enlightened air of potential's perfume.
Notice the nudge to blossom;
The call to bloom.

***

Truth

To which fallacies do we subscribe
Expecting efficacy to exist?
Alluding to escort us towards bliss -
A different world we wish to imbibe.

Pause.
Identify the truth
Rescind the other.

***

Move

There is a way
Invisible to eyes with lenses of fear,
But, in taking the step, the stones appear
Committing to courage forges the way through,
'Stuck' is a myth, a swamp, a ruse
It is not a word applicable to you.

***

Waves of Freedom

Ebb & Flow
Inhale, exhale - deep & slow
The continuous made conscious,
Free to come, free to go.

***

Today

Today: 
Cement the intent inspired 
By the 'whoops' and 'what ifs' of days of days past
Yesterday is but a closed door
Today, it's ultimate contrast -
A blank page, an untouched path
A renewed route within our very grasp.

***

See

A treasure of surprise
Awaits opened eyes
When the lids heavy with 'busy' lift
Perception undergoes a shift
The world, instantly maximised
Transforms the norm into a gift.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Speak


Unravel the cluster of words kept confined to the tip of your tongue
The language of you, unspoken to anyone;
Numb, dumb and cautiously muted - fuelled by fictitious fears of sounding stupid
Those inner disputes contribute to this self imposed silence:
Blank pages. Unsung songs. Frozen movement.

But, as we unravel, the fibres of our own valiant voices begin to form.
We learn, to use the breath of gut instinct and vibrations of passion to put audio to ideas once just imagined,
We feel the inspired rumbles rising 
And reply to intuition's proposed patterns
Resisting the fear inflicted instinct to critique and edit and instead, just express it.

Art, music, movement, words.
Hear yourself and then be heard.

The call to impart truth trills louder than reason to repress -
Heed it.
Applaud your individuality and unearth the magic in the mess - 
Embrace​ it.
Unleash the finesse forged of raw authenticity, the kind that can undress us to the bare skin of vulnerability - 
Feel it.
Reject any insidious inclination to try to impress -
Own it.

You know, there is a language of you that needs to be heard -
So go ahead,
Speak it.

Friday, 23 February 2018

3 Steps to Conquer Comparison

Comparison is an insidious, unhelpful pattern of thinking that we can often resort to when we don't feel good about ourselves. When we feel down or unsuccessful or uncomfortable in our bodies, the world can quickly become a catalogue for comparison.

'Comparison is the thief of joy', is seriously such an accurate quote. I can tell you from experience, it simply does not serve us to be trying to measure up to others, to put anyone on a pedestal and in turn put ourselves down.

There's nothing to be gained from engaging in this kind of thinking; it just ends up shaking our own self worth and leading us into a negative mind set, believing ourselves to be less, not good enough or beneath others.

Whether it's on social media, on the street, in our work or wherever, cascading into comparative inner conversation has no place in helping our self esteem, worth and confidence thrive. It's usually just charged by our own insecurities anyway purely attempting to confirm or re-enforce a negative, 'not good enough' self image.

Personally I can unfortunately​ say I spent an excessive amount of time negatively comparing myself to others and all it did was make me miserable. I can't be anyone else. I can't possibly switch lives or nick someone else's skills or appearance, and trust me, it's exhausting to keep beating myself up because of that.

So I've found​ an energising and rejuvenating practice to invest in instead, is actually celebrating myself - seeing who I am and knowing that that's what matters and what's worth admiring. And at the same time I can see the worth and beauty in others, without it threatening my own self worth and security.

When it comes down to it, all I or you can do is be who we are, so why not start to actually enjoy and appreciate that?

Maintaining comparison as a practice in our minds is only going to jeopardise our inner security and capsccap to feel strong in who are. And that's just not on.

So, here's how we can put a stop to comparing and harness a more positive, joyful thinking practice instead:



1. STOP

Stop yourself the minute your eyes or mind wander towards making a comparison. Automatic thought processes like this need to become conscious for us to catch them so first, we need to start stopping them in their tracks. Anytime you notice yourself measuring up to another, in any way, stop it.

2. ACKNOWLEDGE

After stopping the thought, we need to intercept the usual pattern with something new. So instead of comparing qualities, we'll acknowledge our own. Replace the stream of 'theyre so much more x,y,z than me', with an acknowledgement of your own qualities. See your own beauty, talents, uniqueness, mind - shine a light on what's good and valued within you.

Acknowledge that everyone is different and that we cannot base our opinion on others or ourselves merely on appearances and assumptions.

Acknowledge that everyone has something amazing to offer, so yeah you're going to see incredible or impressive people, but you're actually a part of that too.

Acknowledge and affirm the strengths and attributes that you uniquely hold, all of the authentic and endearing substance that makes you You.

3. APPRECIATE

Appreciate what you have that makes you who you are. We all are so different and while that may sound cliché, it is true and it is amazing when you begin to celebrate that fact. Own who you are. Be entirely authentic and cultivate a comfort and confidence in the person you are - exactly as you are right now.

Appreciate the qualities of others too. Where before a particularly attractive person might instill intimidation and comparison, learn to appreciate what you admire in them. It's a much warmer way to approach others, with no need for competition or comparison. Others can look great or have great lives without affecting our capacity to look great and have a great life too.

Life is not a competition. Our worth is not constantly at risk based on who's around us or what everyone else is doing. Letting go of comparison enables us to embrace our differences, validate our individual identity and put ourselves on a level playing field in the world around us.