Ask and accept

hands askingSuch a simple act, asking, a transaction we take for granted … until we need it. Then it is hard to ask for help and even harder to accept it. When we need it most, our life is contracted and fearful and we shy from asking for help. Partly because we feel alone and partly because we believe we’re meant to do it alone. Somehow it is ‘cheating’ if you get help or you’ll diminish your eventual standing as a hero.

The Hero’s journey

Our culture venerates heroes. The cult of the individual, of the “self-made man” and “supermom” those who seem to have endless amounts of time and energy to be focused, ‘together’ and successful. They battle uneven odds, villains, entropy and all manner of hurdles to win out at the end. Those stereotypes make it hard for normal people like us to feel adequate, to feel ok about wanting someone to help us. We want to be a hero. We want to be Sam or Frodo, off doing deeds that bards will sing about when in fact we’re at home in Hobbitton dealing with overdue bills, an infestation in the crop and illness in the family.

Part of the bigger picture is that it is too easy to slip into thinking in binary. This kind of “win or die” sloganeering that suits the need marketing firms have for dramatic impact is not helpful for general living or for remembering the infinity of possibilities that are available to us. The pervasiveness of hero-based entertainment distracts from our emotional development in respecting our connections and relationships. That is fairly fancy-pants way of saying that when we want deeper, honest, trusting and intimate relationships, we’re ready to learn more about dealing with conflict and about asking for help. Here’s a tip for advanced players – they’re the same thing.

Fighting for your life

When our world contracts to difficulty and we tighten up around the hurt, we’re likely to feel very alone. That perspective is defensive in nature, it is a way of protecting what little we have left and our claim on what was taken away. We aren’t open to a lot of possibilities, normally we attach or even fixate to a single outcome “I want it back the way it was” and moving through that is a hard road. Some people can never find their way out of that grief and anger.

Maybe it isn’t you, maybe you’re standing by someone’s side as they face a dreadful outcome. Maybe you feel useless, or rejected, or attacked as the person you most want to help lashes out at those closest with blind pain or fury. We’ve all been both of those people at one time or another. Did you find the courage to love them through that time, understanding that their actions at that time were a symptom only? Were you able to accept the unknowing of that time and stay committed to standing by them, no matter what? I bet you did. You’re probably thinking that was a no-brainer. Maybe in hindsight you wish you’d done more or been stronger. Rarely do we consider what transformations might happen if we are softer.

Softly does it

If we can soften (sweeten, gentle, trust, surrender – whatever is the word that makes sense for you) in that time of need we can use a different type of power to create possibility and transform our relationship to need.
Imagine you are looking for a chance to help someone every day, that you decided to do this for your own needs or atonement – in that instance you’re actively looking for someone who needs some help. It might be some spare change, or directions on a busy street corner that you can give. It might be listening over lunch to someone’s problem and remembering that there’s an ombudsman who handles appeals or using your personal network to find accommodation for a friend out of town during a medical emergency, or that as your friend’s house floods on the night of her big birthday party you offer to host the party at your place so that guests who are arriving from all corners of the state and city can still gather to celebrate. Those last three are all real, by the way, and from the last week or so. There are some truly wonderful people out in the world (and the ombudsman reclaimed a lost $9 000 so this is not just hand-waving).
But why softness? And what does this have to do with conflict? For a moment think back to the last time someone was unexpectedly nice or kind to you. Did you just feel your shoulders drop a little or your breath deepen a bit? Think of someone who has been endlessly kind to you, and supportive – can you glimpse that warm and fuzzy feeling then? If you can visualise that feeling, feel it, magnify it, this glowing sensation is compassion, it is a type of love.

Not sex love and not alone

Now that you’re a grown-up, you’ve begun to realise that there are all different types of love. Not just lust and adoration, other types too (the love as a friend or as a parent for example). When you can feel that love for strangers (and it is possible) or from an outside source, you’re experiencing divine love. You can learn it if you like (search for “compassion meditation”) it is not hard to get a handle on. One of the amazing side effects of doing simple compassion exercises is the immediate shift in your perception of being alone. Within the concept of divine love, or universal spirit, or cosmic unity (once again play around until you find the words that work for you), how can there possibly be such a thing as ‘alone’? There isn’t. We are, literally and figuratively, all in this together.
Even at a practical, basic, functional level you’re not doing it alone. Someone grew the food you eat and someone else drove it to the store. There’s lots of someones keeping the internet running, making your clothes, building the trains and plumbing and selling you a ticket at the cinema to see the films that other people made. In every area of our life we are part of a vast and interconnected web of people. Don’t be confused by all this talk about economies. Money is an agreement between people – it is the people who really matter. We are fundamentally interdependent and our culture’s veneration of heroes and of ‘individualism’ is an epic case of ego. Like so often with the ego, it leads you towards a less useful place to be in (thanks for nothing ego!).

Gentle hands

Sometimes it is only when you get knocked badly and your knees slam into the ground that you surrender enough ego to open up to grace. You don’t have to make it that hard for yourself, but if you do, try something different and soften up to ask and accept.

Holding a space for someone else (some with whom you may be in conflict) to not be ‘wrong’ in their actions or behaviours means there’s an opportunity for both of you to grown through the experience. It us a challenge to the ego and it does take a high-quality energy but the results are wonderful, they’re transformative. Try it. Call out bad behaviour or bear witness to your own conflict from a position of compassion that gives both of you respect.

When you are in the other position, or being tight and needful, remember that you are part of a whole that includes the possibility of expansion, inclusion and grace. Sometimes it is only when you get knocked badly and your knees slam into the ground that you surrender enough ego to open up to grace. You don’t have to make it that hard for yourself, but if you do, try something different and soften up to ask for help and accept that which is given.

We are all in this together.

Be happier

Why do we put off having a good time? Sure, technically, celebrating is normally reserved for a ‘significant event’ but that shouldn’t put the dampeners on enjoying our day-to-day living more.

That’s what we all want, right, to be happier?

shared mealDon’t wait to celebrate. It is a long way between birthdays and promotions through the year, those special events often slip by us anyway. Birthdays are particularly fraught with baggage in our culture where youth is venerated. What can we do to be happier in our lives? Time is ticking people, this is our life we’re talking about!

What stops us being happier?

We worry – but by definition worry is about things that haven’t happened yet. So we’re making ourselves less happy now to think about things that may not happen in the future.

We turn worry into anxiety. While worry is tiring, anxiety is crippling. It isolates us from support and undermines our confidence.

The world is noisy. There is an avalanche of data every day, we’re suffocating under information and opinions.

Lots of people are mean and selfish. Let’s not go into this one too deeply, but I bet you thought of an example immediately didn’t you? Probably from the last day or so. We live in a crowded and pushy world, where a lot of people are out to get what they can.

Never enough money to go around. Do you get to the end of your pay and still have some week left? Do you wonder where the last pay went to?

We don’t have time. So very busy all the time with doing things and buying things and planning things and worrying. Oh my. So much to do! Where does the time go!? Another month and still you haven’t gotten around to that important thing you wanted to start? Drive faster, work harder, try harder to squeeze it all in. ARGHHH!

We just don’t think of it. It is a bit of a rut, day to day, doing all the things you have to do. Plodding through work and chores and bills and buying groceries and getting that thing fixed and all the other details. Being happy just kindof slips out of the picture.

Seven things you can do this week to be happier

Live in the now. Take life a bit more ‘as it comes’, or as a wise friend used to say “one meal at a time”. Of course you have big-picture plans and a few things you really want to achieve, but let go of obsessing over the illusion of control. Roll a little as the waves of life come at you.

Count your blessings. Make a list of all the things you’re grateful for. It is the best ever antidote for other people being nasty. Why? Because it brings you back into a core space that is ok, a space from which you can worry less about other people being grabby, because you realise you probably already have enough. Want a challenge, send a postcard or a letter to someone and thank them for being in your life or for something particularly that they did.

Buy less stuff. Being happy is an experience, evaluate how you spend your money in terms of what you value.

Turn off the worry switch. Anxiety is a horrible outcome from a quirk of our clever brains. The capacity to think through events that had not yet happened gave early humanoids a survival advantage. These days it keeps the wheels of our minds spinning when we need to be sleeping. Not so helpful. Learn about sleep hygiene and mindfulness practices that suit your variety of worry. If you can’t act on your concern, mentally count numbers. Or do maths. Really.

Be in a bubble. Cut out some (or all media) and detach from the ‘stay informed’ imperative. You need some of that intellectual energy to deal with your own life, to solve problems (see ‘worry’, above) or to create and heal. You won’t miss much. If you feel like a challenge, learn how to meditate and give that a go. You’ll get the secret bonus that meditators know all about (true quiet).

Time travel. Pretend you already lived today and then time travel back to the morning and tell yourself what the one important thing to do is. Just do that. No matter what other random, confusing, urgent and distracting things happen, hold onto the knowledge that future you needs current you to just do the one thing. You’ll change the nature of your time. Trust me, I’m a Doctor.

Share a meal. No need for a special occasion or fancy food. Just enjoy an ordinary meal in company. Chat about your hopes. Listen. Relax and enjoy the taste of the food, feel grateful for the earth that grew it and the people who worked to bring it to your plate. Tell jokes, daggy ones you remember from when you were a kid.

There you go.

None of this is too complex to grasp and you don’t need to hire a professional to do the paperwork to get started. Don’t like this list? No problem, here are 10 scientifically proven paths to be happier and Dr G will point you to any number of similar lists.

The real trick? Just make one of them happen. Now’s your moment, act on a whim so you don’t over-think it.

This week, don’t wait to celebrate. Make the call and put an idea into action. You’ll be happier for it.

Taking a bath

How did you go with your time for forgiveness? Did you experience any positives? It can take a while to work through the layers if you haven’t gone through that process before. It can also be confronting to acknowledge how many emotional conflicts and memories we’re carrying around one way or the other. It might seem like too much to ask to stay up to date each day with fresh forgiveness, but there are a lot of good reasons for trying. Among them is the ability to stay calm and graceful under pressure, so today we’ll all practise taking a bath.

woman taking a bathAlthough we don’t always have the time or resources to refresh ourselves with a physical bath, we can mentally take a bath whenever we need one. If you work with humans, that might be every 20 minutes or so. The little mental break it gives us helps to create a useful pause before responding to any situation. In that pause we can review our emotional and intellectual states, check in on our five circles and double-check that we’re not about to perpetuate something we’ve been working at forgiving. Sounds like a lot to cover but with practise you’ll be doing all that during one deep, slow inhalation.

While the quincunx gave us a model to put parts of our world into relationship and so help us deal with different challenges that come up in one realm or another. We’re taking that further now that we’ve begun to add the aspect of time, or rather deal with the fact that time is constantly happening to us, we get a chance make a distinction between things we can influence and things we need to simply let go.

One of the most draining things about contemporary culture is the combination of the ‘fear of missing out’ (FOMO) and the expectation that we’re all ‘always on’ (available via social and digital media at all times for all parts of our life. For many normal, everyday people downtime is a thing of the past. You can’t always burn your smartphone and day after day these pressures create a type of fatigue in us.

The fatigue is built up of layers of events, layers of reaction and super-quick responses that we’d like to think more deeply about but have to keep going as something else has already come in. We scroll through feeds, flicking past short headlines, maybe tapping ‘like’, often thinking how nice it would be to share more than a meme with each other. Then there are the layers of repetition that come from dealing with stupid rules, idiotic expectations, basic inequalities that are structural and so considered ‘nobody’s fault’. Each of those things is a toxin in our system and they slowly poison us into a constant knee-jerk position. Without detoxing, unwinding, we’re on the edge. You’ve got a hair trigger on the constant loop of reaction.

Run a bath

If you’re a bath person, you know you need at least an hour or so to put aside for this ritual. Let me step you through it. Firstly you check the tub, give it a bit of a wipe and just make sure it is ready to host you. Then you start to run the water, deliberating over adding salts and unguents or going with fancy soaps. Maybe at this point you light some candles or set the lighting how you like it. Now select some music that suits the mood you want. We’ll go for something calming and happy today. Check your favourite towel and or bathrobe is handy, turn off or unhook the phone, perhaps lock the door and get ready to enter the water.

You slip into the water, which is a perfect temperature for you. Perhaps you like it a little hotter today so it can seep into all of your muscles. You stretch out slowly, feeling comfortable, and feel the water swirl around you to accommodate your legs. You lean back and take a deep breath. You’re really here, it smells wonderful. The water is supporting you, the tub is warm, and the music starts to sound clearer.

Feel your legs, your toes stretch and wiggle, feeling free for the first time in ages. Your calves relax, your knees, and then slowly your thighs heat through and feel soft and heavy. You unclench your buttocks, why were they so clumped up?! Doesn’t matter, they hold so much of our daily stress, so just let them relax now. Continue moving up your body, letting each muscle group warm through and let go. You’re safe and supported. You’re in a beautiful place. Close your eyes and breathe deeply so that your abdomen rises. Your mind relaxes and is free to drift along the waves of the music. You feel wonderful. Your troubles can be dealt with soon enough, right now you’re doing something important for you.

The view from the bath

Now that we’re relaxed and floating, visualise the quincunx, and if you have a big bath, starfish out and float in the balanced place between all your worlds just like in the picture. The view from the bath is that most things that upset us aren’t really important enough to let ourselves get unbalanced by (and that is why we started with forgiveness, because if you feel frustrated with yourself that you do get thrown off balance by irritations, forgive yourself again and let that frustration wash away. Otherwise our own self-criticism continually sabotages us). From the bath, we don’t want to get out, pull on a robe, unlock the door, turn down the music and interrupt our pleasure in order simply to respond to some other person and their issue just for the sake of responding and staying up to date or efficient or whatever your bugbear is that gets you twitching when your phone rings. No. let’s stay put and enjoy right now.

It is easy from the bath to make the decision to wait a while and think about what is actually important enough to respond to, and how best to do so based on your larger goals, your higher purpose, or the values you’ve chosen to live by. From the bath, we can clearly understand the importance of balance in the now and the value of backing off from the hair-trigger.

The metaphor of taking a bath and the visualisation to go along with it is about refreshing ourselves and also making a space inside normal time for considered choice. If you regularly consciously have a bath (bravo!) or if you just relax and run yourself through that visualisation sometimes, thinking of it in this way becomes a tool for dealing with that tiring round of constant expectations and FOMO pressures. From your bath, you get to make a choice, you get to let some things wait, or even just to let them go. You don’t actually have to answer every message or email or have an opinion about every news event or celebrity scandal. Over time you can tap into that deep relaxation in a single deep breath if you want to. You don’t have to have any other excuse for checking out on issues that you aren’t committed to, and you’ll have more energy and focus for the ones that that matter most.

So slow down, run yourself a bath, and make some time for deep relaxation and your values. No need to get back to me on this one.

Image source

 

The Time for Forgiveness is now

The time for forgoveness is nowLet’s take a moment to remember the importance of time in our lives. The present, right now, is the only time we really have any control over. Just in case you’re not sure what to do with the next five minutes or so, I’ll give you a hint: the time for forgiveness is now. If we want change or growth in our lives it starts with the forgiveness of who were or what we did in the past so that we can heal from the wounds we’re carrying. Don’t wait for divine intervention to make the most of now. Begin the process yourself with forgiveness and healing will follow.

Of course learning from the past is important. Remembering things, making amends for bad action, doing things differently, these are all critical aspects of growing up, maturing, being a decent person but staying caught in an emotional rut around past incidents is a trigger for repeating the experience. That doesn’t really help you to learn, it leaves you re-living things. You’re effectively traumatising yourself.

You need your energy

Do you know someone who is a bit of a drama-queen or an energy-vampire? They seem to always create a heightened state of disarray and then drag you into it – you feel drained by it – and the same thing happens time after time. You feel like you’re powerless to unhook from their drama, despite the knowledge that you’re really sick of it. You’re so nice, you probably even feel guilty too. You want to say something but you don’t want to be rude, or you’ve said something but they didn’t take it on board and here you are again going around in a circle, stuck in someone else’s story.

It isn’t always going to help just to remember that you’re enough, or that you want to feel centered and choose how you respond to a situation. There’s no single answer, we muddle on as best we can. You, all of you, the higher you, the you that needs to remember to pick up milk, the you that yearns for a quiet day at home in bed – all the yous – need your energy to come home. You need your energy for yourself. Sometimes you just need some time out. A time to come back to base. When you do, you might find yourself worrying, or judging your performance. “I should have handled that better.” “I wish I’d stood up for what I believe in.” “I’m tired of going along with his lies.” There are so many things where in the moment we do the best we can and move on. We spend our days running to stand still. Well here’s your invitation to draw a line under each day. Forgive yourself. The energy you’d use berating or judging or re-living can go towards resting, or enjoying some music or laughing with your best friend.

Now is the time of your life

Don’t wait. Don’t put it off as a special thing just for New Year’s Eve or some other special occasion. Our lives are made up only of now after now strung together as precious beads on a string. None of us know how long our string will be. We know from our elders that it nearly never seems to have been long enough once you get to the end of it. As you read this, forgive yourself yesterday’s stumble. Thread a fresh now onto your string. Connect with those who forgive you. Make amends if you need to and then shift your commitment into living your now with the center of yourself at the center of your day.

Perhaps you do believe in divine forgiveness, if you do, be generous with yourself and ask for it from your source. Our goal is to find our center, that place where we can find harmony in opposites and balance between the worlds we live in. The present you are in right now is more precious than money can buy. Be generous with it towards yourself and those you love.

Thank you for spending some of your time here with us. Please share this with someone you love. Oh, and have a great day.

Picture image source

Our water bodies

Let’s bridge over from the esoteric hand-wavy stuff we’ve been doing with the quincunx in the mind (here, here and here) to the body. Sorry, not “the” body but to our individual bodies. The ‘meat-suit’ we wander around in where our lives and emotions and accidents and sensations all happen. That mysterious and sometimes troublesome thing that each of us must deal with.

Christ surrounded by symbols of the four elementsSo thankfully today you can’t see the curry stain down the front of my new shirt or the shredded chocolate wrapper that I’ve hidden in the bin (as though by doing that I will be able to deny eating it) because that gives me the space to create the illusion that I don’t have any problems with my body and we can have this wonderfully pure and calm discussion about bodies without any emotional triggers.

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAAAA.

Oh man, I couldn’t even type that and keep a straight face.

<wipes eyes, loosens belt> Ok, where were we? Oh Yeah, pure mind. Hehehehee. Back on track now.

One of the fascinating and miraculous things about our home, the Earth, is that it sustains water in three distinct physical states – solid (ice), liquid and gas (water vapour is clouds and humidity). In case you’re used to taking that for granted, it is very awesome, and something that no other planet in our universe (or any other universe) is so far proven able to do. I don’t want to harp on it, but that makes the Earth VERY SPECIAL. If you like, take a minute to be grateful for that. If we’re going to use the Quincunx as a model for helping solve problems – how can we read it in the context of our real life?

The first step is to see how our bodies can relate to the model. So in the earth circle, visualise your largest organ – your skin – that connects you directly with the sensations of being here on the Earth. For Air, see and feel your amazing lungs (also large – enough to cover a tennis court if all stretched out). For Fire, feel and see your blood, that iron-rich, salty liquid so precious to every cell in your whole body. In the center, well the center is the heart isn’t it? Not just that pump that gives us our rhythm to live to but the other heart too, where we feel things so strongly, the curled ribbons of grey folds that make up our brain and our gut (they’re the same tissues at the beginning and echo each other as we grow. I didn’t even make that up, it is science ) but we’ve missed one. What would be Water in our bodies? Think about it.

It is Water.

No association at all – just a direct step – more than half of our bodies are water.

We think of ourselves as solid, but in a lot of ways we’re very fluid, jelly-like at best. Our skin and skeleton work hard to put boundaries around us and give us physical structure. Water helps us understand our bodies. We think of fire and earth as being almost enemies, but without a specific band of heat, humans can’t survive. Without the minerals and elements of the earth, our bodies can’t form properly. No traces of iodine or zinc? Stunted growth. No iron in your diet? Blood doesn’t work very well. Our bodies, no matter what shape or colour, are utterly miraculous and exist as a dance between so many parts.

A lot of reader questions last year were about dealing with physical difficulties and we’ll start to look at those over the next few weeks. Each discussion will refer to these ways of reading the quincunx. None of us are ‘perfect’ and yet all of us are individually unique and miracles in our own right. Our challenge is to value the divine more and learn how to disregard curry stains down the front of a shirt.

A spiritual tool for personal growth

Don't PanicWe’re on the third part of our exploration of the quincunx (here is part one and part two) as a spiritual tool for personal growth. Of course you will have noticed that there are some drawbacks to this model. For example, the lines can give an unrealistic sense of solidness (which we all know to be a tricksy illusion); we don’t easily see how these circles change size over time in response to the efforts of our will or our habits; and it might look like we’re all individually in little boxes – a perception with particularly negative connotations in our culture besides which we know ourselves to be interconnected. The purpose of the model is to give a framework for reference that can help us to grow. It gives us a new set of choices, not simply an answer.

Don’t panic

It might feel challenging at first, but imagine that you can see your own actions in each of these circles sometimes strong in one and less active in another, see how over time you’ve made a set of spirals and they reach from your past to where you are right now. This can be challenging and uncomfortable because life is often not how we wish it would be. From here you can see the whisper of their trajectory – the next steps you’re likely to take in each of those realms (potentially also an unpleasant vista as we see ourselves perpetuating unwelcome or unhelpful patterns despite our intentions. If you can hold on through this discomfort, it is more than possible for you to visualise these paths, because you’re already living it now, and you are, at least, unconsciously aware of them.

Sometimes to bring that picture to the conscious mind just takes finding the most comfortable image or story that will help you translate this idea into your life. The quincunx itself might have done the trick, or it might have just nudged a door ajar and you need something else to follow on. It is worth the effort because when you have a conscious connection to the patterns of your life you are in a position of choice rather than reaction.

What you’re looking for is a map or a guiding idea that contextualises the dynamic balance of holding the awareness of these five states at once. Possibly there’s one in the faith that you already prefer. Buddhists refer to the four noble truths and the eight-fold path. In Kabbalah this model would connect to the tree of life (which gives a more detailed breakdown of the archetypal actions likely within each of the realms). Christian’s can turn to a Christological reading of the crucifixion (theological significance)  and indeed the symbol of the crucified Christ is a powerful and globally recognised symbol. These examples are given in the spirit of sharing major, existing models not directing us into a theological comparison! There are lots that aren’t religious too. Surfers have their own language for dynamic balance in the moment, and that complete physical and mental commitment often creates a space or an experience in which the higher consciousness’s presence can be felt directly. Some American Shaman teachings refer to the ‘spiral dance’ and to me that idea made sense – hearing the music, feeling the rhythm, interacting with the ground, the sky, the other dancers.

How this is helpful in normal life

When we are stuck in a pattern of behaviour that seems solid, the story or map that we’ve chosen to use can help us to interrupt the habit.

By the way, you might not believe this, but you’ve already made the first step in getting help where you want it. By asking, you’ve found this concept. Just as importantly now is to accept what comes to you as help. (That’s just one of those obvious things that is worth saying out-loud now and then.)

A real example

Let’s say you’re worried about money. Specifically you’re worried that you’re not making enough savings or the right investments right now for when you’re older. I worry about how I will cope with my chronic illness, how I will survive in a hostile economy if I can’t work. In my version of the model, I understand money primarily as Earth (well-being in the physical world) and as Air (a shared concept in our culture). When I’m worrying, and maybe you do this too, I’m often taking a Water perspective (of emotional values) on the situation. That is to say the issue is that I feel weak and vulnerable rather than the rational odds of the likelihood of the situation that I fear or an evaluation of the other mitigating factors that I could use my intelligence to deal with. Notice there is no Fire in this example. Here’s where the model can point out a new perspective. What might the lack of a Fire perspective illustrate? It shows that I feel that I have no grasp of the mechanics of wealth, of how money as a technology functions.

Instead I look around at what I can see others have (Earth again) and measure myself against their possessions or investments. I read articles (Air) about what people in my demographic ‘should’ have or own. Sometimes I witness myself feeling (Water) that I deserve better or more. All of these behaviours perpetuate the habits I’m stuck in.

Even by trying to describe what a fire perspective might be, I had to interrupt my patterned reactions to the issue and go into a perspective that was new and in this case diametrically opposed to the main realm in which the worry holds power. That action of interruption marks a powerful choice. Actions that interrupt our thoughtless reaction mark a point of self-rearrangement. You may also have noticed the use of the word witness in there – that’s another healthy separation that allows us to put what’s going on back into the circle or corner it belongs in and remind ourselves that we’re more than just that reaction.

Even so, there’s one more angle we haven’t used yet to look at this worry. You can see it now can’t you? That’s right – from the centre. What might the soul perspective be on money, debt or poverty?

What does your soul tell you? Did you get a flash of feeling or a picture from your past come to mind?

What perspectives have opened up for you out of this discussion? Please feel welcome to share them in the comments or to think them over in the days ahead. It sounds so simple, but actually doing this can be confronting, can be a challenge, and it can leave you feeling woozy or even a bit lost. Drink some water and be forgiving. Ask for help, we’re all in this together.

Worry knot

Back in July we first talked about provisional living  and making choices.  At that time those concepts lead into a long talk about consumption and debt.

a hand drawn celtic knot in the roundLet’s spiral back to our beginning for a pass at the topic from a different angle.
There’s another powerful way that provisional living and avoiding choices haunt us and that is through worry.

Worry is an old word originally meaning ‘to strangle’ but those edges are now softened by time and use. We modern types resonate with the sharper ‘anxiety’ (maybe we prefer the strong sounding Latin root).  Worry strangles my day when it appears because it has a ravenous appetite for eating up my confidence, contentment and ability to make a decision. Maybe you have felt that.

Have you agonised over a decision, well beyond the rational weight or need of the implications? You probably have spent time chasing down all of the possible consequences of each permutation of action and attempted to double and triple guess what it most likely and how best to juggle the outcomes and payoffs. It can go so long you lose momentum to actually make the step, or the opportunity passes you by. Worse still, you can finally come to realise your health is suffering, you’ve become worried sick.

You’re not alone. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in Australia and both the U.S. and the UK (I stopped looking after that, it was too depressing). That’s a lot of people with a knot in their guts over things that are on their mind.

Some of the things that connect our worry to the earlier discussions is to do with the addiction we have to comparisonitis. We lose touch with enough and drift into judging our situation against what we perceive others to have or to be. This outward focus of our energy and attention is draining, it blocks empathy and kindness (to ourselves as well as to others) and it is guaranteed to help us lose our way.

In worry we get lost in a maze. In comparing ourselves to others, we let go of our own thread and our path and step into a wilderness of subjective judgments based on guesses and hearsay. We do not know what is really going on for anyone else. We can’t know what battles they’re facing, what burdens they carry or what pain they’re hiding. It is too easy with social media to compare your own inner turmoil with the show reel other people promote.

When worry starts to get you into a knot, be kind to yourself and bring your attention back to your own reality. That’s not as easy as it sounds, but there are techniques that are easy to learn. Interestingly enough some of them correspond to spiritual practices and we’ll explore that terrain in the new year.

In the meantime, if you’re in Australia and you would like some help with your worries, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.

How can I help?
Suggestions are welcome for blog topics for 2015. Comment here or email me directly.

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Your incandescent line

Three Moire of mythology measuring the thread of a life

There’s a lot of lines you need to know about in the world. Probably more than you realise.

There’s the line you shouldn’t cross in relationships or conversations, the line in the sand that defines an issue’s boundary, the lines that make the boxes we’re meant to stay within or think outside of (no one seems to be able to make up their mind on that one), lines on the road, lines to queue in and there is the dreaded end of the line.
So many lines! Lines that become bars to hold us in. Are all lines about rules, taboos and forbidden zones?

Thankfully not, there are some good news lines too, although we hear less about them. Think of dropping me a line, a line of reasoning, in the line of duty or your line of sight. Lines can sometimes be threads too, think of fishing lines and life lines from boats.

There’s one more, vitally important line that is good news for you. It is a kind of thread too. Mythologies tell us that it is a thread measured out at your birth by the Moirai.

This is your life. Right now.

There is no brighter future, you’re holding your own thread in your hands right now. Together we can share the choices we make, the twists and insights we experience. This line is all there is, it is enough, it is the only thing you truly own and one day it will reach its own end. Until that day, let’s live as if we know it is flowing through our hands.  Cherish the feel of the thread. Imagine it, maybe yours is silky, or rough rope, or high tensile cable.

This is your line and it is unique. It is your portion of life, to do with what you will, to enjoy and to share or destroy as you decide.

You probably prefer that your life’s line is rich in love, in shared experience, in fulfilment. Not a sad, drab or dark line (although we all have these threads), but a line aglow with vigour, with ardour and purpose. An incandescent line, thrumming and intense, joyful and bright.

If you’re searching for connection, throw yourself a life line, and let it be incandescent.

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Good housekeeping

A woman empties a pail of bathwater and a baby into a stream

We’re caretakers here. We get to enjoy our time and we leave everything behind when it is time to go.

Every human child from today onward that will ever be born, will be born right here on this single planet, Earth. What they will have for their lives and their children, is partly up to us, from what we build, and partly from what we consume that can never be replenished.

What should they expect from us?

Do good housekeepers use everything until it breaks? Is it really ok that we allow our leaders to exist on a three-year re-election cycle that doesn’t respond well to polling on any issue where short term extravagance needed to be weighed against long term (generational).

You get to make a choice on how much you care about what kind of an ecosphere we’re bequeathing to future generations. It is one of the core aspects of what sustainability actually means (remember that the next time you hear a public figure using the word and you’ll immediately be able to fine-tune your bullshit meter) and also one of the basic skills (delaying gratification) needed in order to mature into adulthood.

So what’s in it for you?

Great question.

Answer: Nothing.

No gold star, no pat on the head, no special tax breaks. Nothing.

This is part of our duty if we want to be citizens of this world. The world, and our species, stretch in time both behind us and ahead of us. We are part of a bigger body of life. All the future of our species (and many others who live here too) are asking of those of us alive right now, is that we keep good house. Don’t trash the place, be considerate of the neighbours, enjoy what we can while leaving plenty for others to share. Any reasonable person would consider it common sense.

Our duty exists whether or not there is a brighter future in it for us personally. We may or may not accept it or like it, but that’s how it is. We can stay as children and wait for someone else to clean up for us, or put our shoulders into the task ourselves. Take a breath or two before you react to that idea. Human life isn’t all about progress and sharing doesn’t mean going without completely.

Later on we’ll get into more of what sustainability might mean day to day, but for right now, while we’re thinking about the values and meaningful lives we yearn for, it is timely to remember that liberty is always bonded to responsibility.

Someone who had a very concrete experience of freedom was Victor Frankl. If you’ve not yet read his famous book (Man’s search for meaning) please consider doing so (it is both short and non-academic). Despite the situation it discusses, I can almost guarantee that it will make you feel more positive and think about life’s challenges with a deeper sense of personal resilience. let’s give him the last word today.

Freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness. That is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast.

Image credit.

Putting down roots

The tree in the Flammarion engravingI love spending time on Earth. The ephemeral nature of it reminds my soul of the precious fragilities of life. Earth shows us glory and wealth. Earth teaches us that everything has a role to play, that there’s purpose in all things and also that humans suffer most from their own making.

I love the way that all our ancestors that have ever been are right here, still with us. That there’s a little kink in our orientation so that as we spiral and circle and dance around the sun, beautiful repeating patterns are made for us to enjoy.

I mean this, not in some abstract, symbolic way, but in a literal, actual way each day, every year. The physical world of our lives, right here under our feet, is both the source and the destination.

I’m repeating this from last week because this is what is so liberating.

It is freeing to be humbled by the totality of the Earth and accept that the expectations we create, the measures we have chosen, the agreements we’ve made to live our lives the way we do, so many of the things that we crave or expect or demand are all of our own invention. Those things are superfluous. Seek them if you wish, but do so with the knowledge that you’ll be able to breathe anyway, that the sun will come up in the morning, and that the trees will fruit in season.

You have seasons too.

Wishing you were ripe in Spring is very hard to fulfil, creating tension for yourself and those who care about you. Likewise in Autumn to obsess about lost days in youth is so pointless. That’s not to say ‘don’t have them’. Create art with those longings, or seek a higher truth from the impetus to understand, work with what is possible inside the physical limits of our reality. That leaves a lot of room for emotional, spiritual and psychological maneuver, it leaves a lot of room for fun, and for the here and now. Sway with the breeze, drink from the rain, tingle with the fire in your sap. There’s freedom here. There’s liberation in knowing what is real, and what is a wish.

I love spending time on Earth with you. There’s nowhere I would rather be. We’re all in this together.

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