therapy journey

My journey to better mental & spiritual health

Tag: mental wellbeing

Fear and loving.

“The seat of fear is in your heart and not in the hand of the feared.” – Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

Life continues on its mad meander, always. Finding myself returning to a community I always thought of as indifferent, I’ve made efforts to reach out and feel a sense of oneness on a par with true nature. I launched a group which aims to help other people to explore themselves, exchange ideas, embrace spirituality, engage with our fellow adventurers, and let go of fear, negativity and anything else that holds us back. I would like this group to unlock participants’ childlike inner states such as joy, creativity and being outside of time. It is my fond hope that as we build momentum through deeper connection and diverse activities, we find some measure of peace, happiness and unity.

We met for our first session a few days ago and had a great connective experience, meditating and reading. One participant read from Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet. Freedom, according to the speaker in the story, is in rising above physical concerns. Freedom is painted as a strong, glittering chain, as a ‘yoke and a handcuff’. There was a line that refers to casting off ‘fragments of yourself’ in order to become free, which highlights the absurdity of that which, through sentimentality, materialism or notions of ownership, we think of as part of ourselves. All that we need for freedom is already an intrinsic part of the self, though expressing freedom requires self-discipline, integrity and sacrifice. Casting off the shackles of the slave’s imprisonment becomes itself the fetter of a greater freedom.

Peace and freedom are very noble, but days like yesterday remind me that I still have a long way to go on my little journey. I felt the resurgence of anger, and I took it out on someone. A stranger, who happened to get my goat and validated every stinking rotten suspicion I had about the people in this village. Of course, that makes me a hypocrite: what happened to engaging with community? The feeling of love for all is not automatic; it’s beyond hard, and for me right now, impossible. Not being able overcome the instinct to lash out makes me worry. I worry that all the time I’m being nice I was merely pretending. I wonder whether loving and respecting everyone ever can become automatic.

It comes from consciously choosing what we want in our lives. It comes from choosing what thoughts to have. So, I made a decision to become angry. While I regretted it almost immediately, I have to accept that it’s OK to feel less than OK. With everything I’m doing, I am learning. I haven’t yet had an experience that has changed me fundamentally. The last thing I would want is to miss out on my own humanity in single-minded pursuit of high-end spiritual programs.

When I am utterly frustrated, which seems to be happening a lot lately, I don’t feel very myself. For someone who runs a group about being authentic, this could be troubling. But what I want to say to myself is, “it’s OK”. Sometimes I sit and feel sorry for myself. Sometimes I silently sulk and stew. Sometimes I act like a giant baby. Sometimes I cry with epic frustration and total sadness. I both love and hate the fact that my life is so comfortable at the moment. I hate what that makes me.

To step out of my cushy comfort zone, I’ve developed this game in which every day I try to do something that scares me. I’m going to try and push through this every day I am in England. Years ago I attempted to commit to a guiding mantra of “let nothing and nobody scare me”. It was conceived at a time when alcohol provided me with a handy Invincibility Cloak. I’ve carried it around all this time. Now, rather than that motto be full of spurious braggadocio, I’m coming at things from a humble and loving standpoint. I’m seeking out fear, challenging its very existence and staring it down. It’s shown to be nothing more than a figment of my imagination.

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Into the heartspace.

We’re bored. We’re all bored now. But has it ever occurred to you, Wally, that the process that created this boredom that we see in the world now may well be a self-perpetuating, unconscious form of brainwashing created by a world totalitarian government based on money and that all of this is much more dangerous than one thinks? And it’s not just a question of individual survival, Wally, but that somebody who’s bored is asleep, and somebody who’s asleep will not say no? – Andre, ‘My Dinner With Andre’.

Some time has passed since the last time I wrote on therapy journey. In that time, therapy journey has turned one year old, and a new calendar year has also commenced with haste. It has been a period of readjustment and coming around. It has been a time of cold winds and hot baths; long goodbyes and short days; high hopes and low pressure; a time for shining brightly in the dark. I feel like I’ve been gathering myself up, and expressing what I am in all that I do more clearly than ever before.

I’ve cast out the old. In a literal sense, I’ve got around to a task I’d been putting off for years, namely selling, giving away or throwing out hundreds of old possessions that I no longer need. This has been a difficult operation to get my head around, as many of the things I’m disposing of still fit, are current or have plenty of use left. But I’ve realised I simply have too many of these things – mainly clothes and accessories – and rather than hang on to them while they depreciate (and for it to cost me, in various resources, for the privilege), I made the decision that it would be better for them to find a new home while they still hold some value.

It’s been a shaming but humbling experience. From the spiritual side of my being, I can say with certainty that things don’t matter. But from the point of view of minimising waste, allocating resources efficiently, enabling others, sharing my prosperity and respecting the abundance of the planet, it has been important to me that my unwanted possessions go to homes where they too can find a new lease of life until planned obsolesce kicks in, as it inevitably will. I aim to live not only more frugally but with what I already have, which is perfectly adequate in every way. Items may need to be replaced over time but at a more ambling pace. It is my hope that while adjusting to less, for every new item in my wardrobe I get rid of two already in it.

I wrote on this blog some weeks ago about the awful situation that befell me when I unexpectedly ran out of anti-depressant medication. Recently I wrote a letter to my GP informing him of exactly what my predicament was. I chose the letter format to express this because I didn’t want to miss anything out, and one can be more formal and cogent in writing. It also served to express how cut off I was when I requested his help, as I was rebuffed contact by phone and email, leaving only the medium of fax which has been entirely useless for the past fifteen years. I was jubilant after delivering the letter, if only with the hope that the doctor thinks twice about prescribing this medication without a well-thought out weaning-off method worked out. It was my own fault however, to leave for an extended trip without thinking through how to resupply, but I naively thought it would be easy.

In that letter I was able to express some of my darker moments which while I am not proud of, were important to keep hold of during my recovery. “I had an episode where I became convinced that I would kill myself, not out of depressive thoughts but because I became paranoid that the drug was intended to kill me, control me and rot my mind and I would never be free of it. I phoned a couple of my friends and they talked me round.” I am more grateful to the people (and dogs) that surrounded me and comforted me, than to the medical establishment and its wider structure of red tape and loopholes which let them off the hook.

These matters are behind me now, thankfully. Tonight I took myself off to a local meditation group in its second week. This meditation aims to go deep into the heartspace, using sound and our ability to listen to our own heartbeat to focus on emotion. This is in contrast to breath meditation in which mental thought is channelled or invoked. We allow our inner processes to interact with the outside. But we wore earplugs, so all we heard was within ourselves.

Others reported peacefulness, space around them, seeing flowers and wanting to smell them, being enveloped by a cushion that turned liquid. I have to admit that during the powerful 45 minute meditation, I didn’t feel anything profound, no vital energy bubbling up within, nor visions nor even a clearing of the mind. I felt acutely aware of my body and of time passing. I didn’t “go” anywhere. It was beyond me, a beginner, to give into the fullness of the meditative experience, especially one that wasn’t guided. We are meant to learn about our inner nature but I only learned that my energy is not settled in this place. It is shifting, it is unsettled. No matter what I do to gloss over the fact – and I am not consciously aware of it, but I found out tonight that it is wanting to return to a place that is more home than this one.

And then I realised I was the earthchild.

The title of this post comes from a creativity meditation I attended a couple of nights ago. I felt it strongly and powerfully and it made my aching soul sing just a little bit. I’ve been feeling strangely misaligned recently – that really is the best word for it. My intentions are out of kilter with my reality, my perception isn’t in accord with true nature, and I’m failing to see abundance and joy some of the time. I’m experiencing anger rising sometimes. I’m rubbing up against people’s bad sides. And I’m experiencing that most ungodly of all emotions: fear.

However this is just one small part of who I am today. Yes there’s fear, neuroticism, panic, worry, anger, paranoia and doubt. But there are also measures of true authenticity, joy, laughter, the ability to see absurdity, as well as magnetism, happiness and the pure sublime. Above all the feeling is freedom, which propels me forward in a world without limits.

My wishes for this most sacred of times, the winter solstice of the year 2014, are to trust myself, to live with authenticity and to see the abundance that is all around. I also wish to be kind to myself, although I find this concept the hardest to understand let alone put into practice. I wish to acknowledge some of my struggles of the past as I work hard to put them behind me. There is literally no time for the past.

A friend sent me the link today to an article which puts everything I wanted to say better than I ever could on this auspicious day. We learn that by facing up to our deepest, darkest emotions we can move forward.  I believe that no-one is broken and ‘healing’ is a redundant concept but I agree with the sentiment that self-forgiveness leads to the release of toxic and self-sabotaging patterns. However challenging this may prove to be, writing about it here is one of the steps to making it reality.

As part of the ‘releasing the darkness’ stage, we are urged to write an intention, and then burn the paper on which it is written, followed by smudging sage. I am not doing this myself because I can’t get my head around rituals yet, coming as I do from a tradition full of them, and finding pain and inauthenticity there. Rituals still freak me out. Nevertheless the words Syma Kharal uses are beautiful and I wanted to share them here:

“Dear Higher Self/God/Spirit/Universe: No matter what has happened in the past, I am now willing to release everything about it that brought me fear and pain. I surrender to you all that no longer serves me for healing, cleansing and purification. Help me to forgive and be forgiven by all involved. Align my vision that I may see everything from your enlightened perspective and move forward with wisdom, grace, strength and love. So be it.”

Speaking of rituals, it is my fond hope that in the future I overcome my fear of ritual and prayer, and participate in spiritual rituals in order to experience what’s called “liminality”, derived from the Latin limen meaning boundary or threshold. These boundaries might separate the sacred from the profane. A ritual is a dynamic and engaged creative prayer that allows us to set aside the time to recognise, honour and celebrate seminal aspects of life. I’m currently reading about this in ‘The Red Book’ by Sera Beak. The book is all about igniting one’s divine spark and is intended as a no-nonsense guide for young women.

It’s a very inspirational book that I wish I could have read fifteen years ago. But – no regretting the past in any way, shape or form, as the present time is all we have. That’s why the present is a gift. Beak writes that when we open ourselves up to the divine,

“[…] life becomes much  more flavorful. Profound meaning illuminates even the most mundane of events. My relationships deepen. My voice becomes clearer. My work excels. My personal issues become less draining and dramatic. I am less affected I require less outside approval. My self-confidence beams. I laugh more. I judge less. My sexuality roars. Random acts of kindness become a necessity, not just a whim. […] My perspectives are amplified. I see the world around me at much more than face value, and as a result, I make clearer choices across the board […] I realize I’m not just some well-dressed biped trudging through life but actually an incredibly powerful and integral piece of the divine pie.”

She’s a spunky chick and I aim to go deep with my learnings into my divine spark and how to enhance it and be true to myself. Remembering always that authentic divine truth never separates people from each other, countries from each other, religions from each other. I’m receiving the tiniest spark of divinity but it’s possible to smother it with too much kindling, or to let the fire go out without the right nurturing. I want to see this through. Intention is everything. There will be times when I am rude to people. There will be times I am frustrated and utterly disappointed. I will continue to be angry some of the time, because this is a divine part of me, but these will be fewer and further between, I hope, as intentions and reality align. I am the earthchild, I am divine, I am myself, I am everything and nothing.

“It’s all about paradox, mystery, meditation, sexuality, long walks, and momentous haircuts.” – Sera Beak, ‘The Red Book’.

abundance

Overthinking and freedom from prison.

G, my psychotherapist, pointed out that it was obvious the inflated emphasis I put on cerebral activities. I had not realised before that there was an alternative. My mind is always crowded with thoughts about something and nothing. These aren’t necessarily productive thoughts such as ideas, but can instead be circular, neurotic, mildly paranoid and self-sabotaging.

Perhaps I seek validation for my overthinking in the books that I read. In the same way I gain comfort from writing neat little accounts of my progress, reading books loosely about self-improvement helps to rationalise, provides solace, and in a sense, to shuts me off from experience with the excuse of ‘yet more research’. But nevertheless, I feel it’s beneficial and interesting to read in order to get the ideas under my belt with which to really live my life.

It is through books and the internet, alongside talking to therapists and reaching out to others that I am slowly developing a sense of the other side that’s out there. This other side isn’t even out there, it’s already here, within me. The opposite to materialism, the opposite to depression, the opposite to enslavement, the opposite to overthinking. So G can say that I use my head a lot more than my feelings, but for me this is a huge step up. It was not that long ago that my feelings were overpoweringly, cripplingly depressive and I was too fragile to contemplate anything like self-improvement with the ultimate and ongoing intention to set myself free from the constraints that are mere figments of my imagination.

There’s a passage in F**k It Therapy that really made me laugh and wake up to what freedom isn’t.

“But most of us have a fantasy about freedom. And that’s why those movies and music work on us, but not because we’re free and on the open road of life. Do you think the true rebels and pioneers are watching Thelma and Louise and listening to The Clash? No, they work on us because we’re still in our chains. Do you know how many white-collar workers there are out there with big motorbikes? Do you know how many Audi drivers listen to Eminem? How many grandfathers are listening to punk? How many media people say ‘cool’? How many of the dudes at school became financial advisers? Don’t knock them. It’s probably me. It’s probably you.” – F**k It Therapy by John C. Parkin.

The book tells you how to identify the prisons that you are unwittingly incarcerated in and then to change them if you want. We are imprisoned by the constant and ultimately fruitless search for meaning when it isn’t there in those places where we seek. A sense of perspective on life is important. The stories we surround ourselves with imprison us. We have an idea about who we were, who we are now and who we’d like to become. The human state is to move from naivete to experience, from playfulness to seriousness, getting older, weaker and wearier all the while. These stories don’t reflect reality; life resists the stories we tell in order to try and fix everything.

So we have the prison of our search for meaning in the wrong places. We have a prison of our stories. We also construct a prison if our aims take over our lives. We construct prisons of thought. A thought-less life is not what’s being advocated, merely the suggestion that eschewing an entirely thought-based approach to life can open you up to amazing things. This speaks to me and is very timely in the light of being ‘diagnosed’ a chronic overthinker. The other prisons we might find ourselves in including fixing ideas to ourselves. These might be religious, materialistic or spiritual beliefs. Hold all ideas lightly, is the f**k it approach. Sure, dip your toe here, dabble there, get a new perspective there. The one possible spiritual truth, Parkin dares to venture, is that we are all connected, maybe even all one. Our perception of separation is an illusion that creates suffering.

My own personal prisons are:

1) my unwillingness to change and push my boundaries. However I have done a lot to confront this issue over the past 12 months. 2) my reliance on thinking… – now that I know about my habit to over think – and have awareness there is an alternative – I will try not to give much attention to those persistent and nagging thoughts. 3) …and the anger and negativity that this leads to. This is the biggest and scariest problem that I have. I am acutely disappointed every time I let myself, my partner and my friends down.

 

Getting to know and tame my rebellious inner child.

So, I came back from what I call my hardcore therapy session yesterday evening fragile and quite sad. I think this the real and emotional response that I’ve tried so hard to deny and suppress, even on this difficult personal journey. The therapy in question was provided by the proper NLP-based, Integrative Arts psychotherapist that I refer to as G. I hadn’t seen her for over three weeks. I realise for sure now that I have found the right person to help me. The fact that it isn’t easy – that it’s quite uncomfortable at times and very close to the bone – helps me to appreciate that this is the right route for me.

I was taken back to childhood again, which I always find quite upsetting because I realise how lonely I felt, how I never got the memo that it’s imperative to express yourself and find out who you are, how I felt unworthy and not valid compared to others. I spent a lot of my time wishing I was someone or something else. Frustration, jealousy, selfishness and self-hatred were amongst my earliest feelings. I somehow got the wrong messages growing up. My parents never did anything wrong, like scald me harshly, or beat me, or make me feel I was worthless. On the contrary, they provided enough materially, sent me to an expensive school, encouraged me to perform well academically, provided religious guidance, and generally made my life as risk-free as possible. In short they gave me all the assurances and comforts that their parents couldn’t give to them.

What it lacked I think was being truly heard and listened to, which is something that today I desperately feel I need. I get very angry when I feel I’m not being understood, perhaps that might be because I can’t express myself clearly. I also missed having the support of a parent, someone that tells you that your dreams are valid and you should go and do the things that make your heart sing. Again today, I make totally unreasonable demands on my partner to support me unconditionally, which of course no human being alive is entitled to expect. And finally, I lacked the coping mechanism when things don’t go as I planned them. My parents made everything cushy, there were no real challenges to deal with. The voice that says ‘I want it my way’ ends up being my saboteur.

Behaviour roleplay

There are four types of behaviour that orbit the satellite of the Adult. The Adult is centred, rational, mature and grounded. There are other sides to this Adult however. There is the Nurturing Parent who shows kindness to the child and supports all of his needs. There is the Critical Parent who judges, attacks, criticises and might as a result make the child feel worthless. There is the Rebellious Child who simply wants things his own way and doesn’t listen to reason. There is lastly the Adapted Part that wants to please the parent, and whose behaviour shifts according to what is expected of him.

Using a painfully recent disagreement as an example to illustrate where I fit into all this, it is quite clear that my behaviour is that of the rebellious child (with a smattering of critical parent). In the example, I didn’t get things my way, so rather than deal with it calmly and adhere to an alternative plan, I became irate, irrational, throwing blame around like it was going out of fashion, calling the other person stupid, and finally refusing to go through with any sort of plan when the other person begged me to. It took me hours to regain anything resembling composure and even then my seeming amicability didn’t last, and there have been more upsets since then.

What the rebellious child wants is to get his way, to be listened to, and for unconditional love. What the child wants is for the other to be untrue to himself. The rebellious child demands total submission. It’s disgusting and terrifying and I don’t really know how I got to be like this. It’s terrifying. I still have this awful concern that I am not going to change and all these little love affairs with spirituality or therapy or whatever’s flavour of the month will be over as quickly as they began, cast aside like a used whore.

The subject of my reliance on thinking/writing also came up. G came to the conclusion I use my strongly developed mind instead of my feelings. I justify and rationalise all kinds of things, that then have an effect on my behaviour. And once poisoned thought becomes feeling then action, all hell breaks loose. G asked me to consider how I feel once I’ve written 900 words that perfectly sum up my mood. I said I felt satisfied, like after eating a big dinner. I’ve put something into a tidy little box, with a title and tags and correct diction and punctuation. It’s all so neat and snug. I can draw a line under it once I hit Save or Publish. But does all this thinking actually perpetuate the problems of an overactive mind?

Trust in love.

I try not to write about future plans because it sounds smug and I’d feel silly if I didn’t follow through with something I said I would in public. However, there is something I have planned that will hopefully step the journey up the next level in embracing body, mind and spirit. In an effort to a) tone up my weak frame and b) shake off this bad mood that has been hovering over me like a personal rain cloud, I have enrolled for five weekly zumba classes beginning this week.

I would like to be active as this is something that’s truly missing from my life at the minute. I’m not the sort of person that makes time for exercise – even just yoga or a few breathing exercies – in the context of their day to day life. I need instruction, and a time and place to do the activity, with other people, and having parted with cash for the privelege. The best way for me to start the arduous uphill struggle of physical activity is by doing my research, scheduling what I’ve found into my diary, psyching myself up in preparation, then hopefully following through and finding it to be actually not that bad.

The past couple of weeks I have been suffering from low energy levels and a generally depressed mood. I have let this mood seep out of every pore, emitting its foulness like putrefying meat, poisoning everyone around me. I feel so sorry for the damage that I’ve done, and rotten that I’ve been forgiven and met with love when I don’t deserve to be.

I’m not just beating myself up about it. I genuinely have behaved atrociously for a week and I am aware of doing it. I have read all the books about loving yourself, accepting yourself, developing self-esteem and enjoying the beauty of life here and now. They don’t help when your mind wants to be bad and blow up over nothing. This is going to take years of psychotherapy to keep at bay for good. The problems I have won’t disappear overnight no matter how hard I will myself to feel differently, think differently, behave differently. The books say that you can – that’s it’s all a matter of choosing which thoughts to have, and to work with the positive ones only and discard the negative. But the power of neurosis in the mind is deep and unrelenting. “If you let it!” You may say. Without the tools and the ability to use them, changing oneself is beyond impossible. It simply takes more than you’ve got.

So I see once again that I haven’t got it made, not one little bit. It remains a persistent struggle with so many reminders that, no, we’re not nearly there yet.

The time will soon come for me to leave the cold, grey, perpetually depressing country where I currently live, for a few months in the sun with my own projects to do with J. I promise always to try to be better, to remember that love is all, to be gentle and kind always, and to recognise the symptoms of my bad behaviour before it erupts. It’s too late if I’ve already flown into a rage or have made hurtful comments. It’s too late if I’ve given cause for doubt in someone else’s mind. It’s too late if I am loathing myself for the messed up way I am thinking. It’s too late if my neurotic thoughts have got such a hold over me that I’ve already justified to myself that it’s acceptable to kick off right now. I have to get better at knowing myself. I have to trust that I can “grow”, not change, as J reminded me when I was in tears terrified that I can’t or won’t change. Trust in love.

Love is the ultimate reality. It is the only. The all.

There is only one reason to do anything: as a statement to the universe of Who You Are. This is a powerful idea and underlines the importance of personal responsibility, the duty to be authentic, owning our own creations, both collectively and individually. Events are created by man’s collective consciousness. All thought is creative. Emotion is the power that attracts. It is energy in motion. Move energy and create effect. Move enough energy and create matter. Thought is pure energy, it never ever dies. A thought is forever.

The power of thought is simply huge, infinite. There are no victims, no villains. We create all that we say we detest, and having created it, we have chosen it. This has a serious upshot for anyone, like me, seeking to change their life. As long as we harbour the notion that someone or something else is causing our distress, we disempower ourselves to change anything. So, I understand and accept that my prior negative states were chosen by myself. I seek change not because one thing is right and another is wrong, but because my negative state no longer makes an accurate statement about who I am.

The Laws (of the Universe!) are as follows:

1) Thought is creative
2) Fear attracts like energy
3) Love is all there is


Reading about magnificent cosmic ideas almost makes me wish I was into mind-altering drugs so I could enter into beautiful philosophies fully. It’s all very well reading and writing about God/Love but the challenge is to make it stick, to make the ideas contained within this book (Conversations With God by Walsch) more than flavour of the month. I’d like to bear out the messages that I am reading about with every fibre of my being, for them to become automatic and ingrained in time. I do believe these things. I do want to believe that love is the only ultimate reality. I am going through a shift, and like all changes will take time and commitment, that’s all.

This book is not at all wishy-washy and in fact contains some of the most logical, clear arguments that I’ve encountered in a book. The conversation style of pertinent question and astute answer is incredibly well put together. I would urge anyone looking for the smallest iota of spiritual guidance, who is feeling lost, alone, bereft, depressed or unwell to pick up this book and just start reading.

Sometimes in my own life I have an impulse to shut down, to dismantle and wait it out until I am better rested or in a better mood. I put it down to exhaustion but how real are tiredness and grumpiness? It’s all in my mind. Also there are still other times when I behave in a way that doesn’t show who I want to be and what I am. For example I might take half an hour away from my desk at work to lie on the toilet cubicle floor wrapped in my coat. This is less than authentic behaviour, but I do it because at that moment I am tired, cold, bored and craving the most basic comfort. This is a clear sign to me that my destiny lies elsewhere, in a mental and physical space where I do not feel like shutting down. Allow each soul to walk its path.

CST and the happy hangover. Vinyasa Flow yoga.

While I talk of practising loads of different therapies and alternative techniques, it occurs to me that I don’t actually stick at any of them for very long. And if even if I do rack up as many as three sessions, as I have with my EFT and CST, I somehow still don’t find the time to practise on my own under my own steam. I wonder whether this resistance is anything more than simple lack of discipline. Because, cue the excuses, my time is just so limited right now, I am often coming home, tending to the most basic necessary admin tasks, eating and going to sleep. Weekends hold different and unexpected treasures, and I’ve yet to work out how to incorporate regular practice of whatever therapy I’m trying with a social life, a work life, time to relax, time to continue my education, and a full-on relationship.

My boyfriend J actually suggested recently that we put aside a regular or ad hoc 20 minutes to meditate together, which I would really like to do. The next few evenings may not be possible, and whether we ever have sufficient peace in the set-up of our dwelling place is dependent on factors outside our control, but I would not like to forget that this idea was voiced and agreed. It should be acted upon whenever possible.

The latest craniosacral therapy (CST) session was different to the last two. I said to the practitioner at the end that it had ‘put my life into perspective’. I’m not sure that’s a lasting feeling. I was asked by B to think of a happy memory, preferably one in which I was alone. The memory I chose was Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow, 9am on my birthday in May 2012. I had been drinking for many hours and had just arrived in Glasgow via sleeper train. I had walked to Kelvingrove Park via my hostel on what was to be one of the hottest days of the year in the entire country. The feeling of coming to the park was of pure unbridled happiness – mixed with exhaustion and no doubt giddiness from over-consumption – but I felt boundless in every way. As I took my well-chosen place facing the sun, steep hill as my pillow, and pulled the eye mask over my eyes, my last thoughts before I fell into a deep sleep were of pure contentment, repair, rejuvenation, excitement at the days and nights ahead, endless possibility and above all, freedom. That feeling of freedom was so real, I can feel it and summon it up now. That’s what I seek to capture. That’s what makes this experience so happy and authentic for me looking back two years on. So much has changed in my life and I find it hard to identify with a lot of things in the past, but the Kelvingrove Park experience I hope will remain accessible.

What B was trying to get me to do in reliving this experience was to locate the feeling in my body. We waste a lot of energy in our heads, and hence our bodies are left depleted. Using this CST technique, the hope is that through learning where good, positive feelings (such as happy memories) live in our physicality, we can much easier bring them to the fore in times of need. This is because the body is far more present than the mind. The mind is bogged down with its filters, its beliefs, neuroses, imaginations, machinations, memories and is often operating in the past or the future. Our bodies manifest how we are feeling just as much as our thoughts, just in a different way, that we in the West aren’t tuned into.

I was asked where in my body I can feel my Glasgow happiness, but it was a real struggle to feel it anywhere other than my head truth be told. At first I said I could feel it in my core or stomach, but it wasn’t a strong sensation. At a later point I said it was on the surface of my skin, but I was clutching at straws. Obviously this will take some practice and perhaps research.gold splodge

Today I tried a new type of yoga called Vinyasa Flow. I went along with an open mind not knowing anything about it, and it was – like all yoga in my limited experience – very tough. There was a lot of going from plank to downward dog, then adding other elements to the routine so it got longer and tougher! Balance was difficult as you needed to be able to support yourself on one leg, and it required a lot of stamina and core strength. Ouch. I liked the more gentle stuff. I liked it at the end, we all sat in a circle cross-legged with our knees touching, and each hand on the knee of another person. I liked when we rubbed our (own) hands together after applying a cream that the instructor had made herself, and when they were hot, placing them on a part of our body that needed healing. I placed mine on my head.

Conversations with God. Fear and love.

I recently chanced upon the writings of someone that I know and respect and they said there was a book that awakened her. She wrote that, after reading this particular book, “for the first time, [I was] in deep peace and comfortable in my own skin. I knew this feeling as love, without condition just as it was, without the need to change a thing. A moment of surrender, it was bliss.” With a recommendation like that, I was curious, especially as this person spent much of their life with all the comforts and amenities of first world living, yet still felt a lack on some level (and the guilt that that entails); and on still another level, an internal, deep-rooted sense of inadequacy.

I picked up the book that kickstarted my friend’s journey. The book is called Conversations With God by Neale Donald Walsch. I don’t believe in God. Not the God of the Bible, Quran, Torah or Veda. I didn’t believe in God as a spiritual being that gives life and love to all, as the beating heart of the cosmos. I never understood the idea of God as Love – though I often wanted to even as a child and young adult. Now as I stand on the cusp of a new decade, having just received some decisive news about my health and the necessity of an invasive operation with a 5% mortality rate, I am ready and open to God in a way that I never have been before. I am open to the spirit, chi, life force, God, soul… and I know that it is within me in a way that brings tears to my eyes.

Walsch wrote a letter to God and got a response. This book is God’s response. The insights, truths and answers that ‘God’ gave show nothing more or less than the fact that God is in all of us, that’s what this book is about. There was nothing special about Walsch, he wasn’t the chosen one. He simply had an inspiration that feeling is the language of the soul, and that which comes from God is our highest thought, our clearest word, our grandest feeling. Anything less is not from God.

How did he know the communication was from God? It only matters that what Walsch felt was real, that he had chanced upon fundamental truths. What would be the difference whether it was imagination or madness? We all have a duty to receive the messages of God directly. Experiencing and interpreting them is our responsibility. Most of us are not willing to listen.

Love is another word for God. Unconditional love doesn’t exist in the human sphere. I certainly have trouble understanding God that loves unconditionally. This really struck a chord with me: “It was your parents who taught you that love is conditional – and that is the experience you take into your own love relationships. It is also the experience you bring to Me.” We have forgotten what it is to be loved without fear of punishment, without fear, without qualification.

Human actions are based in only one of two things. Fear or Love. There is a beautiful passage about these only two thoughts that there are.

“Fear is the energy which contracts, closes down, draws in, runs, hides, hoards, harms.
Love is the energy which expands, opens up, sends out, stays, reveals, shares, heals.
Fear wraps out bodies in clothing, love allows us to stand naked. Fear clings to and clutches all that we have, love gives all that we have away. Fear holds close, love holds dear. Fear grasps, love lets go. Fear rankles, love soothes. Fear attacks, love amends.”
– Conversations With God, by Neale Donald Walsch


					

Body language. Both feet on the ground.

I attended an enlivening talk today about body language by Carole Railton who has published numerous books on the subject and comes from an NLP, life coaching and behaviourism background. She used to be something big in the business world and is the founder of an organisation called Life After Branding which is ‘dedicated to supporting behavioural change in individuals for commercial results’. This gives a very interesting perspective, though not unique of course, combining the business and personal spheres to bring the best out of people and the corporations they work for.

The first thing we use after our first breath is body language. When we are babies we communicate with our eyes (and a few screams). We become articulate and use language as we get older. We start to believe this is the way forward. I wanted to ask the question about how eye movement and NLP relate, but despite the relatively small group and informal setting, I couldn’t quite muster up the confidence to put my hand up and ask a semi-formed question about how to read people from an NLP perspective and whether they are accessing for example remembered imagery or constructed sounds depending what direction they are looking in. I am also quite interested in the new psychotherapeutic field of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and how that relates. This theory developed by Francine Shapiro holds that certain eye movements decrease the intensity of disturbing thought in PTSD sufferers.

50% of the information we take in when we meet someone is visual. Body language is a communication skill and we don’t even have to do too much to read body language. We must be authentic to ourselves. That’s the bottom line.

The exercises were very revealing The most potentially life-changing one is so simple. We were asked to think about the worst case scenario in relation to something that is currently on our minds. It could be something we are dreading or frustrated by today. We looked down with head tilted down, eyeline towards the floor. We worked on increasing the intensity of the negativity. Then we looked up towards the ceiling, tilting the head back far, with eyes closed and mouth slightly open, and tried to summon up the same dreadful worst-case feelings. It was the most incredible thing. Carole didn’t put any expectations in our heads, but one by one, people came to the same conclusion. What bad thought? It’s gone. I can’t put my finger on it anymore. I actually lost track of mine.

The talk was tailored to high-fliers and contained some advice for taking part in video conferencing and how to influence with authority. Some of this stuff was really fascinating. A little tip she had for coming across ‘authentically’ on VC, was to hold a small postage stamp-sized piece of paper between thumb and forefinger of both hands and keep your hands in your lap. Holding on to that little bit of paper, out of sight, avoids excessive gesticulation and releases any nervous energy. Another tip was to blink in an exaggerated and repeated way, as VC cameras don’t pick up normal blinking, meaning participants can look as though they are staring. Blinking is important as it shows sincerity.

It’s important to have both feet on the ground in situations when you want to be truly present such as an important meeting. Apparently we take in 30% more information with our feet squarely on the ground compared with legs crossed. It appears authentic and grounded whether sitting or standing. What you’re doing with your feet is something the police are trained to look for. People easily pick up nervousness or lack of commitment in what you’re saying when you’re not rooted.

A great tip for meetings was to keep your hands open with the palms facing up if you want to learn more. And with the palms down on your thighs if you want to take control of a meeting or situation. We give with our right hand and receive with our left. If you angle yourself correctly you can maximise your capacity to give or receive depending on desired outcomes. Carole said that in her previous career on the frontline of global account management, you can influence a potential sale by simply being positioned on the left so that your right side is the active one!

Body positioning is clearly a tool for influencing once you start to understand even a little about it. One other technique I’ll touch on briefly is breathing mirroring. You can use breath to calm the body. Once you recognise your own breathing pattern you can get into other people’s. This can work particularly well in the case of calming someone down, particularly a hyperventilating child, gradually decreasing the pace of their breath as you slow yours right down. Carole says this works every time… and if it doesn’t, you aren’t doing it right!

The higher up the person is on the rungs of power, the less they move. The CEO makes fewer movements than the messenger boy. In fact women make fewer movements than men. Carole doesn’t get people to move less than they normally do, because that would be inauthentic, but to move more deliberately and more regally. A fascinating exercise we did was to stand up and close our eyes and imagine we had a heavy crown on our heads. Sure enough, people began to move around slower and more thoughtfully with their heads still, chests out and backs straight.

I tried this exercise on my colleagues when I got back to the office, and they were most amused! It felt good to share what I learned. At the class I also ran into someone that is in the healing trade, that I keep bumping into. She runs the alternative remedies centre where I got my Migun massage and EFT treatments. Incidental connections are as much as part of the learning as what was spoken about, I think.

So it’s important to keep your feet firmly on the ground. (No wonder I never liked bar stools.) But occasionally look to the clouds and things don’t seem so bad.

Craniosacral therapy the second time round.

Doing all these different therapies gives me a chance to evaluate where I am from one set point in time to another, as I can see how far I have come from one session to the next. Today I went for my second cranio-sacral therapy treatment (CST). Around 7 weeks had gone by since my first session and I remember how different I felt then while talking to the practitioner, B. When asked about how things are for me, there is a tendency to talk about whatever’s going on in relation to what my mindset was the previous time. I remember feeling very different the last time I was sat on that couch in B’s therapy room. Today I felt really fine. I have no conflicts, internal or external, that I know of. I have no stress in any part of my head or body (apart from the right shoulder blade where I hold tension and I am becoming increasingly aware of the discomfort there). I feel lucky to have the bounty the universe has bestowed upon me and I am at great pains to be thankful and kind in this moment to all that inhabit the earth.

I got up on the bench and the treatment began with meditative breathing. B placed his hands on my shoulders to start with. The contact is so slight there I wonder if there is contact at all. We stayed like this for probably ten minutes and I felt so very relaxed, almost as if I could nod off at any moment. He asked how I felt and I said very fluid and stress-free, consciously aware of every part of my body that touched the bench and feeling those points melt into the bench. There was a long pillow underneath my upper thighs, meaning my lower back was flat against the bench rather than being arched upwards, which was a blissful feeling. He next placed his hands under my lower back. He stayed there for 5 minutes or so. While he was there, I had the sensation of shivers going up my spine twice. He said it’s quite normal for the body to perform strange movements and have unusual sensations while the lower back is being treated. It’s the spine’s energy being released.

He moved on to my head and behind the neck. I didn’t feel such a strong feeling of any kind. I felt totally relaxed, or so I thought. After I was off the bench, I asked him what energy he felt in me. He said that my nervous system wasn’t giving of itself today. It isn’t anything to worry about but there just wasn’t such a strong reaction as the first time, when I felt my skull moving. It takes time to build rapport, and so much time had passed since my last CST session too, so it’s normal that my nerves weren’t quite so receptive. There was a block in my energy, an impasse through which B could not penetrate.

According to their website, CST has been said to provide for patients, “comfort, inner peace, a sense of relief, deep stillness and relaxation, connection, feeling accepted, feeling more fully alive, feeling whole again”. This time round, I cannot say I experienced any deep peace and satisfaction which I did during my first session. It was relaxing, yes, and it felt like it had meaning – but this could be the experience of being in close proximity to another human being who is proferring healing. The feeling of being pampered and being given permission to enter fully into a moment is a compelling reason to give it validation.

blue skies

Fruit & the truth ripen simultaneously.

At my psychotherapy session yesterday I spoke about the positive changes that I’ve been going through. It was good for me to voice them hence giving to them the real weight they deserve. It makes them feel more real to me, as I don’t talk about them to anyone else. The changes are real and will be lasting – at the most fundamental I have to believe that. The new me is young, G says, and must be both allowing and nurturing.

I am training my beat-up psyche both to allow ‘bad’ states of being when they occur; and to nurture the positive ones. Years of conditioning and wallowing in misery have made contentment all too short-lived when it does occur, and it’s time to break out of that cycle once and for all, slowly so it sticks. It has cost me many years of thwarted happiness, even wilful unhappiness. The new way of being will unfurl gradually like a fruit ripening. Savouring each moment whatever mood states it holds, because it’s all I have. From Kabat-Zinn:

“It is best to encounter each moment with freshness, its rich potential held in awareness. We look deeply into it, and then we let to into the next moment, not holding to the last one. Each moment then can be fresh, each breath a new beginning, a new letting go, a new letting be.”

I talked about the current happiness in my relationship, and G asked why is is like this now. What characterises the happiness? I think it is the easeful and considerate communication we have established for one thing. How is it that in becoming more tolerant, we actually become more considerate? Strange really. I guess that is the power of rapport. Secondly I no longer resent not having time to “myself”. I really love the times when I am around my boyfriend. This might sound like I’m losing sight of who I am or something, for the sake of my relationship but not at all. As I said this out loud, I realised for the first time that this is a truth of mine: I have the strongest sense of self at the present time than I have ever experienced at any time in the past. I hope this powerful feeling continues, and I will make it. It feels brilliant right now and that’s what matters. Not the worries that it is illusory, or temporary, or will become inadequate. These are all just non-existent potential problems with my perception. I have stopped making problems or myself, and instead accept that I cannot control outcomes, only my own thoughts and actions.

G said it this is a momentous transformation that I am undergoing. Knowing that all the resources I require for it were in me all along is a huge thing to take in. All this time I was looking for other people, places, connections, prescriptions and stimulants. I’m finally ready. But couldn’t have done any of this until the time was right. I have decided to be at cause in my universe.

“The journey is one of heroic proportions, but so much more so if enlivened by wakefulness and a commitment to adventurous enquiry. As a human being, you are the central figure in the universal hero’s mythic journey, the fairy tale, the Arthurian quest […] this journey is the trajectory between birth and death, a human life lived. No one escapes the adventure. We only work with it differently.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are.

Kundalini. The curl of the lock of hair.

I’ve started a new class in Kundalini yoga which is known as the ‘yoga of awareness’, utilising life force energy located at the bottom of the spine and combining breath and a lot of movement. Kundalini is a relatively new branch of yoga, based on the writings of spiritual teacher Sivananda Saraswati who founded the Divine Life Society on the banks of the Ganges in 1936. Influences come from tantra and shakta schools of Hinduism. It was popularised in the 1960s by  Harbhajan Singh, also known as Yogi Bhajan. Kundalini yoga is said to strengthen and balance the body, give clarity to the mind, release tension, make contact with your infinity and innate inner wisdom, and help you to feel peaceful and fully charged.

According to Saraswati’s treatise, it aims “to cultivate the creative spiritual potential of a human to uphold values, speak truth, and focus on the compassion and consciousness needed to serve and heal others.” This sounds absolutely beautiful. The name ‘kundalini’ has a poetic metaphor behind it, meaning “the curl of the lock of hair”, a reference to the energy and consciousness that flows within us.

The long class uses a blend of postures, pranayam, music, mantra and meditation, which teach the art of relaxation, self-healing and elevation. You get very deep into the soul of yoga. One of the exercises was to move from baby position to caterpillar on your belly with spine curled upwards, then back into baby and up into a downward dog, which is like a triangle shape with your bottom in the air and head down, feet flat on the mat. It’s going to take some practice. This and all the exercises were done with breath being the momentum that carries you onward, and so the movement of the body. and the inhale/ exhale is totally synchronised.

It felt very good performing the breath of fire. This isn’t when you’ve had too much vindaloo but a step away from Western breathing using just the chest area. The breath of fire is awareness of your breathing using the diaphragm to its full extent. Taking intense rapid breaths through the nostrils you fill your abdomen with new air and quickly expel the old. We must have looked like a class of hyperventilators. The technique is said to be good for clearing deposits from the nasal cavities and extending lung capacity, both of which are great for me as these are two problem areas.

Another exercise that I found surprisingly strenuous was lying flat on your back with hands placed under your bottom so the lower back is flat against the mat, then lifting straight legs to a 60 degree angle and opening and crossing them closed, with alternate legs being on top. You do this exercise at a fast pace in a sudden 3-minute burst of energy, which is very taxing when your body hasn’t the discipline for any sustained physical activity whatsoever.

All the physical exercises were tough for me. My body felt tired afterwards and a little achy rather than rejuvenated. All the more reason to stick at it, so that perhaps in a few sessions’ time I can actually feel the benefit. The day after (today) I have no aches but have become more aware of the awkward ways I hold my body, in particular my tense right shoulder.

Aside from the physical exertions, there is also a more meditative aspect to the class I attended. There are spiritual affirmations that are repeated – either chanted in a way that exercises the voice and you really feel your voice; or sung in a way that clears out old air from your lungs. You do feel a bit silly doing the Hindu chanting, but it’s easy to suspend that feeling and just give in to it, like when you dance and after loosening up a little your inhibitions go.

Kundalini yoga uses the energy locks system and focusses on the locks around the lower back. All that energy is contained within the spine – Kundalini wakes it up and shakes it out of its office-life imposed sloth. Sometimes a pose or an exercise will involve connecting the tips of your thumbs together or connecting your thumb and index finger as if circling an imaginary egg, which seemed arbitrary before but I’m beginning to see how this all makes a big picture.

I’m not a natural yogi, I even found sitting cross-legged with a straight back too much at times, but I saw the goodness that is at the core of this teaching and I will endeavour to continue whenever I am free on class night. I feel really lucky to have discovered this amazing way of tapping into inner resources and seeking all that I wish inside my very soul.

Be a light unto yourself. Reflections & cultivation.

“Initiate giving. Don’t wait for someone to ask. See what happens – especially to you. You may find that you gain greater clarity about yourself and about your relationships, as well as more energy rather than less. You may find that, rather than exhausting yourself or your resources, you will replenish them. Such is the power of mindful, selfless generosity. At the deepest level, there is no giver, no gift, and no recipient… only the universe rearranging itself.”
– Wherever You Go, There You Are, by Jon Kabat-Zinn

There are so many simply beautiful sentiments in this book, they almost bring tears to my eyes. The above passage makes me weep with the joy of being alive. You start with giving gifts and blessings to yourself such as self-acceptance. You practice accepting these gifts feeling deserving and without obligation. Give away energy. Direct it towards others and yourself with no thought of gain. Kingly giving is to give as if you had inexhaustible wealth. Share your abundance of all kinds – your best self, your vitality, your spirit, your openness and your presence. Share it with yourself, your family and the world.

We have rough edges of self-cherishing, which lead us to feel that giving won’t lead to adequate reward, won’t be appreciated or will leave us depleted. This is fear-based self-protection. It causes us distance, isolation and diminishment. In practising mindful giving, we discover expanded versions of ourselves.

It is not even necessary to give anything away. Generosity is an inward state. It is a willingness to share with and trust in the world and ourselves. Isn’t that beautiful?

Apart from generosity, Kabat-Zinn also talks about trust. If we trust ourselves or another, we find a powerful stabilising element encompassing security, balance and openness. If we don’t trust in our abilities to be mindful, we will not persevere in cultivating the qualities of observation, attending, knowing, reflecting, sensing… and they will wither away.

And I love the chapter on letting go. While ‘high in the running for the New Age cliché of the century’, real letting go is an invitation to cease clinging to any ideas, things, events, perspectives and desires. Release with full acceptance the stream of the present moments as they unfold, without getting caught up in our attraction to or rejection of them. Kabat-Zinn calls it ‘the intrinsic stickiness of wanting’. Letting go means choosing to become transparent to the strong pull of our own likes and dislikes.

Patience is another of the qualities that lead to mindfulness. ‘Patience is an ever-present alternative to the mind’s endemic restlessness. Scratch the surface of impatience and what you will find lying beneath it, subtle or not so subtly, is anger. It’s the strong energy of not wanting things to be the way they are and blaming someone (often yourself) or something for it.’

Personally I think that humility is the most essential virtue needed for mindfulness practice, as lots of the other qualities stem from that. It’s the one I have trouble with myself as for someone with low self-worth, I certainly have an inflated sense of the importance of my own feelings! There is a chapter in the book called You Have to Be Strong Enough to Be Weak. In in, Kabat-Zinn talks about people that give the impression of being invulnerable to feeling hurt. I’m afraid I am (or should I say was?) one of these people. For years I had a complex that I can’t let anyone see my weak emotions. I felt I couldn’t ever tell someone they’d hurt me, whether a kid in the playground, or a partner or friend. I felt I had to be impervious to all. This was probably in part because of my upbringing. My parents (the only family I had) didn’t talk about feelings and that was that. I’m not placing blame, just locating something specific and true.

Kabat-Zinn makes a clever leap between those who hide behind the powerful shield of their image; and those who believe they are wise meditators, who mistakenly believe they have everything under control and are invincible as a result of their meditative experiences. To be truly strong, there is no need to advertise it to others or yourself. That was quite an unexpected but obvious message of practicing mindfulness and meditation – that shouting it from the rooftops would defeat the point of it. So I will just cultivate it quietly, carefully, slow growing from within.

Flicking the energy bean. Confidence anchors.

I tried out some of the exercises from a book I’m reading, NLP, Bullet Guide by Mo Shapiro. I tried them out with a friend who I think could also benefit from learning some of these techniques. The one that really stuck with her (she has used it since last night, and will continue to, as will I) was creating a confidence anchor.

You think of a time when you were at your most confident. See what you saw, hear what you heard and feel what you felt. Once you have reached a strong memory of the experience and the sensory stimulation you received at the time, make it more powerful. Keep raising the intensity and squeeze you thumb and forefinger together. Keep squeezing while the intensity builds more and more. Develop the feeling into its most confident state and then release the squeeze.

The idea is that any time you need to build up feelings of confidence and control, you simply use your anchor to unlock those positive past states. I think of it as an energy button, which in order to be continually effective, must not only be utilised on a regular basis but must also be stacked with further intense confident emotions. It hasn’t worked for me yet.

It takes a lot to stay focussed on these ideas, and to remember to practice the various different exercises regularly. Especially when there is so much going on in my life and absolutely no aspect of it feels settled. I know that sounds like an excuse but that’s how I feel. I feel as if I need a mantra or a motto, something that I can summon up in times of need. When I call it to mind, all of the positive thoughts that I need to reach at that moment will be instantly accessible. A power button is all very well but I would like to create something with more emotional weight to it. Words tend to mean a lot to me, sometimes too much. I would like my power button to be a verbal one that straight away upon reciting it in my head or under my breath, I can access a concept about happiness or self-acceptance. The words should encapsulate some meaningful truth that I have uncovered on the journey so far. Something to do with being humble, accepting who I am, being aware of the present moment, getting on better with people that matter, and feeling more confident.