Acceptance gives you true freedom

Acceptance of your situation can feel like the opposite of what you want but its power lies in it being a paradox

We can encounter situations in life where our customary response is to dig our heels in, fight like mad for what we want and think we can by our efforts triumph in the end – and yet frustratingly get nowhere. Acceptance of the situation can feel like surrender, giving up, “giving in”, and somehow losing in another of life’s struggles. Nobody wants to be a “loser”: feel the shame of that! Yet true acceptance is not about this. It is about letting go, embracing what is, and allowing the universe to bring you what you truly need.

I was recently talking with someone about the physical pain they were in, a result of a severe back problem that seemingly wouldn’t go away. Rather the reverse, it looked it was there permanently and they might have to face living the rest of their life in pain, discomfort and restriction. This can be seriously hard to contemplate, especially if you have lived a lot of your life thinking the world’s your oyster and you can have anything you want. You can come down with a really hard bump if you suddenly realise that that isn’t so and that things are much more finite and limited than that. We think we’re immortal, and it can hurt when we discover that, in the material sense at least, we aren’t.

Acceptance of the situation

In this conversation, as I heard all the efforts that were being fruitlessly made to tackle the problem, I was suddenly struck that maybe what this person needed to do was accept the situation.

Now, you might think that this would have meant “giving in” and no longer working to bring about change. Surely what people should do is get into a positive mindset, challenge the situation and harness mind, body and spirit in the healing process? There is of course merit in this: look for example at how people have recovered at some level from back injuries that might otherwise have left them permanently disabled. However, one difficulty with focusing on the problem is that one can create more of the problem. According to the Law of Attraction, you draw to you more of what you focus on. So it depends on your approach. Getting the balance right is crucial.

To accept your situation is to embrace it and let go of it. It’s a paradox, almost like a contradiction. In accepting and letting go, we release ourselves of any attachment to the problem. It just is, like life.

It might be hard of course. Back pain can be pure hell. There could be lots to let go of, and grieving to be done for what we’re letting go of. When we let go and accept, we’re no longer resisting. “What we resist, persists”. Now, we truly allow it to be.

Here lies freedom. All sorts of possibilities can now come in.

In the case of our back problem, we might for example relax. With the release of tension the body can more easily re-adjust and potentially more easily allow the healing that’s needed. Some new possibility for a way of being can now come in that was being kept away by the resistance, for example by living life in a calmer, more stress-free way. Maybe there’s a learning there that was needed and can now be completed, for example allowing oneself to receive support from others rather than thinking one has to do it all oneself. Thus life can henceforth be lived at a new level of contentment that was previously excluded.

What do you need to accept that you are currently resisting?

Every day we have moments of magic

Mid-summer early mornings can be times of magic. I was just woken at dawn on a hot summer’s morning by the first song of a blackbird in the cherry tree right by our bedroom window. Light was faintly appearing and its song wafted in like some welcoming celebration of another day, pure and clear. I then thought, “We live our lives experiencing suffering, when really we live in paradise. We just don’t see it.” It felt like I was being sung that as a song. A true wake-up call!

I guess I could then ask, how much do you or I notice and attend to our wake-up calls?

A sceptic might say, “Hey, that bird was just doing its thing marking out its territory!” Then, I could turn aside from my moment of magic, and my mind could get to work around what a birdsong is about and about what we make things mean. So, I’d go along some path of thinking. Thinking is useful, when it serves us, but as many say, “overthinking”, excessive mental activity, can disconnect us from the spiritual component of our experience. So we can lose touch of what we needed to hear, see or feel that connects us, you and me, with our inner self, soul, God, or whatever for you is meaningful around the real essence of your life.

We can get these moments of magic at all times. We might directly sense them. We might hear them from the words of another, read them on some billboard, see them on an advert, on TV, hear a song, remember an event, have a dream, or reflect on the words of a loved one.

Yet we need to notice them. Do you or I pay attention? Or are we too absorbed in the daily busyness of our lives and mind? Are we too disconnected, cut off from our real inner flow of Life? Is there a part of us that disconnects habitually, shuts off from our feelings and sensing,  desensitised or deflecting from what we may fear is too uncomfortable and threatening, and thus unable or unwilling to reach out, take risks, and experience our true inner Self. Habitual busyness, that ingrained mental activity, and outer activity, often stressed, very often “caught up” in the ego, keeps us stuck. We may even know it, but carry on anyway. “Some time I’ll start meditating”, we say, and then carry on as before.

Then, we also need to attend to what our bit of magic is. Notice it, tune into it, feel it, get its resonances, enter into what it has to tell us. Step back and be the witness. Yes, and really get it. Attending, being with it, letting go of ego, and being present with our experience. Focusing. It involves an effort of will for many of us. A choice.

A woman recently said to me that, despite her many years of journeying she was “still unenlightened”, like she still hadn’t got “there” yet. I commented that hadn’t her guru told her that she was “already enlightened”? She got it.

It’s here, right now, in our moments of magic, paradise right here, right now. So what does it take to get it?

When we let go it all flows

When we let go, it all flows. However, the ego won’t have it like that. Do you find yourself so wrapped up with stuff that you can’t solve it or make it work, and the more bogged down in it you get the worse it gets, and still you don’t want to let go of it? Today I was having great problems with my website. I couldn’t figure out why it was misdirecting links and I felt bogged down in a problem I felt unable to resolve.

In the middle of “all that stuff”, there was a distant and growing “honking” of geese: a huge flock of birds was flying overhead. We rushed outside in time to see wave upon wave of geese formations coming up from the direction of the Pyrenees and Spain, no doubt on their migration to Northern Europe. The Lot valley here in South West France must be a marker point for them. There were huge lines of birds in V-shaped formations, the birds flapping their wings and then gliding and then flapping again, with this constant sound of the birds calling, stretched out right across the sky. And they just kept coming. Beautiful!

Then I came back to my computer and suddenly thought of another way to deal with the issue, one that was very simple but one I hadn’t tried before. The problem was fixed!

Why was it that, before, nothing seemed to be working, and then after time spent with the uplifting, soaring sight of the birds in flight, all was simple and easy?

Whatever the real reason, what struck me was how I had left go of the problem and was enraptured by flight, and then all seemed to go with the flow. It just worked!

Let go and allow things to be

This to me is a simple illustration of the power of letting go and allowing things to just be.

You may well have this experience a lot in one form or another. It’s when we left go of the rationalising, thinking mind and let the unconscious do its work. Many possibilities all coexist in the present moment. Being present and “in the moment” releases all sorts of things that come to us when we allow it. It’s that thing of “getting out of our own way”, letting go of ego and its machinations that don’t serve us.

Ego in this case could be running all sorts of stories like, “I must sort this out”; “I can’t go out and play till this is done”; “I’m no good if I can’t do this”; “I’m stupid”: “I’m not good enough”; or whatever your or my repeat pattern is at core. One part can be thinking that you should do it, while another part doubts your ability. One part wants to get it done while another is concerned it won’t be right unless you spend more time on it. You might be worried that there are other things that need attention too and you are holding things up. The ego can run all sorts of stores like this, all to bolster or question some belief about your identity, who you think you are as this personality.

Yet, when we let go, all this “stuff” just goes. It’s like we drop it. Then in the moment we are calm, clear and centred, at peace, at One. We’re not being driven, or driving ourself. Then paradoxically we are at last in the real driving seat of our life. All flows, all works as it is meant to.

This is where we feel true freedom, at One with Spirit. As we are meant to Be.

To let go of control is to allow life to happen as we intend

“Get back control” seems to be a mantra for our times, except that it can seem frustratingly difficult to achieve, especially where it’s in the gift of others. Yet the more we try to assert control, the more we don’t ultimately get what we really want.

I often used to hear business people tell me how important it was for them to have control, whether it was over others, a system or process, or the direction in which things were headed. To lack control was to be at the mercy of others or the system. and to be tossed about amidst a sea of uncertainty. People feel they have lost control to remote, alien and malign forces and that the world is no longer what it was. The sense of community and collaboration seems to have been replaced by a doctrine of “every man for himself”. Others are deciding things without consulting them and taking account of their interests.

To have control can however be an illusion. The universe operates as one and seeks for balance. When things are out of balance, the tendency is to restore balance. Thus humankind thinks it can control nature, until it hits back with massive destructive force: “I told you so”. Climate change is ironically a sign of nature’s re-assertion. How hard it is to remember that we need to go with the flow, not push against it. If we push against it, we get back what we put out, which is more obstacle and resistance.

“When we let go of control, we are in control”. This is a different way of seeing things. To surrender intentionally is not giving up. It is allowing things to be. Rather than being “nowhere”, directionless, out of control, we allow nature flow to occur, be “now here”, in the present, where our intention draws to us that which we need, and life happens in accordance with our plan for it. Control is replaced by a state of allowing things to be, guided by our intention. Thus we are aligned with the creative force of the universe.

Life can be so much easier when we allow it to be.

In the present, we don’t know what is going to happen. We have intention, but we are also surrendered. Hard though that can be for very many people in today’s highly goal-focused, driven and stressed existence, it is where we let go of ego, and be in what medieval mystics referred to as the “Cloud of Unknowing“.

It might be that we need to let go of what we are attached to, what we want. To fervently want is to be attached to desire. Then we push it away from us. We get what we put out, which is wanting. Surrendered to our Cloud of Unknowing, we can instead allow what we need to come to us, trusting in the process.

In today’s world, very many people are very anxious and fearful of the future, and think bad things are going to happen. This is exactly when it is time to step back, be aware of what is happening, re-connect with our core of Who We Are, be in the state of Being and surrender to the process, remember our intention and allow what we truly need to be revealed to us.

Life is so much easier when we let it happen.

Are you disillusioned with life?

Has life not turned out as you thought it would? Has it dawned on you that things have not worked out as you had hoped? There can come a time when our hopes and dreams for life don’t materialise. We feel disappointed or disillusioned. Then we can get downhearted, depressed, cynical, cease to believe in what is possible, lose our faith, and give up on life.

Life’s disillusionments

This can occur at any stage. Perhaps you have had a dream of how you want your life to unfold. Maybe you have had career plans. Then you’ve had a desire for your ideal partner, have pictured where you’d be living and what you’d be doing. Perhaps you had a sense of how you’d be. It could be that when you started out, life seemed exciting, full of expectations. When you thought of the future, you’d have a thrill of excitement. Things were going to be really good.

Then life comes along, with its way of throwing up challenges. The job wasn’t what you had wanted. You had difficulties getting the career project off the ground. Your partner wasn’t quite who you’d longed for. The relationship proved rocky. You didn’t end up where you wanted. Money has been a constant challenge. Maybe you have had health problems. It could be that you didn’t get that ideal family and home. Perhaps some big crisis came along which spoilt all those plans.

We can attribute life’s difficulties to all sorts of things, other people, events, our own mistakes, our upbringing, our education, or flaws in our character. The list is endless. In fact we can get into a blame outlook about this, and give others, ourselves, God or life itself a hard time.

Your thoughts about your life are crucial

It is crucial, as an awareness skill, to notice that you have this thought about your life. I say awareness, since this view about our life can get habitual and ingrained, such that we don’t notice this underlying thought. I call these root thoughts, underpinning but often not seen.

The skill is to catch ourselves doing this. It might not be a thought in the obvious sense, but maybe a sense or feeling that we don’t articulate as such, until we do some self-enquiry, and become aware that this is going on.

Then you can notice that this is what you think about your life.

When you become aware, you then potentially have the tools in your hands to challenge and change.

Because it doesn’t have to be like this.

What you think about your life is what occurs. You are at cause.

Become your own creative force

When we lose our faith in life, and cease to proactively choose what we want, and believe in the outcome, then we start to be at the effect of it. It happens differently. If we have negative thoughts, we get negative outcomes.

Thus we need to do our own inner exploration, get what we’re thinking at a root level, and then let go and create new purpose and set new intentions. When we truly let go and intend healthily, if I can use that word in a non-medical sense, life happens and it’s OK. It happens because we have let go, of need and expectations, and are no longer attached to our illusions. Thus to be disillusioned is to be dis-illusioned, without illusion, maya, a construct of the ego. We can then be who we truly are.

I coach people who have got stuck on their path in life. Contact me

Uncertainty undermines your sense of purpose

Uncertainty undermines your sense of purpose. You’re not sure what’s going to happen, what direction to take, or whether you are doing the right thing. You feel disempowered, no longer in control, at the mercy of other people or events, or prey to your mind and its fears.

It might be that this is due to events. Brexit could have put a halt to plans. Your organisation might have put investment and hiring on hold. You’re not sure whether you’ll have to move countries or whether you’ll have a job. Business conditions might have turned unfavourable. Maybe your landlord wants you to vacate your flat but you are sure where to go, or what you want.

Or, its personal. Your partner isn’t committed or is hinting at getting out. Or you’re not sure if you want to be in this relationship. Should you jump ship or stick around? Perhaps things are unstable and you’re not sure where you are.

You might lack a clear sense of direction yourself. You find it hard to commit when you don’t know what you want. Many people spend whole chunks of their lives sitting on the fence.

When we hesitate and hold back from action, the universe goes on hold too. We don’t say what we want. So how can the universe send you what you want? Uncertainty gets mirrored back to you, in the lack of commitment from others. We get back what we put out, or don’t put out. Doubt and confusion takes its place.

It doesn’t have to be like this: we have choice

What can be hard to recognise is our own part in our process. We are at cause in our lives, though it feels like we are at the effect of it. In other words, we feel things, events or other people cause what happens for us. In reality, we are the cause of what occurs, strange though that can seem.

This is about our thoughts and in particular our beliefs. What we think and believe is what occurs. It creates a state and that emotion goes out there and comes back in certain configurations.

Thus if we feel uncertain, that is what we get. And we disempower ourselves.

But we can choose. Even when it seems like we can’t. We can choose to think and feel differently.

It might take working on, which is why people do personal development and learn skills in managing the mind. But we can learn to step back from our egos, witness them, and enter a calm, peaceful state.

Anchored in your Self

When anchored in your Self, you are at peace. You have then stepped aside from the whirring of the mind, and your state, which in this case is uncertainty. It isn’t you.

When we are in this space, we can choose. We can let go. We can take charge. We can create our own purpose and have our own intentions. We are once again aligned to the creative force of the universe, who can now send you what you know you want!

Doesn’t that feel better?!

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Has change just disrupted your view of the world?

How much are you being affected by change and uncertainty right now? Both in and outside of the UK many people are thinking their lives have been turned upside down recently due to the Brexit vote. It’s not necessarily about the politics but more the impact on their lives and their plans. It’s like a major event has serious disruptive results. This isn’t the only kind of change that disrupts our settled view of the world.

Change occurs for us in all sorts of ways, some welcome, some less so. You might be getting divorced, you might have lost someone, your children might have left home, you might have just got married, you might have just given birth, you might be menopausal, you might have taken on your first mortgage, you might have moved house, you might be recovering from a major illness. The list goes on.

It might be positive and it might really hit you

It might seem like a positive, but you still feel unsettled and uncertain and all over the place. You might be badly affected. It might be really good, for example, getting your first house, but then you get hit by all the responsibilities and the stress and wonder what you’ve let yourself in for. You might find your job is going, there’s nothing you can do about it, and all your hopes and plans are wrecked.

People grieve. It’s well-known: they can be shocked, angry, upset, or depressed, and take time to process the change and come to terms with it and move on. This can be brief or it can take a long time, depending on what’s happened for us. It can affect us emotionally and physically and leave us facing a new world with all the familiar navigation points gone.

Do you feel sad as times change, or do you feel good for what is coming to pass?

It’s worth looking at how you regard change.

Note my words: look at how you look at what your mind does. At one level we can be caught up in some emotion about change, and we can also, mindfully, be aware of what occurs, of what our minds do. We are thus in a state of awareness about what our mind is doing.

Sometimes we adjust happily to change and sometimes it gets to us. Ask yourself: is the glass half-full right now, or more like getting empty?

Change is a constant. It happens. Life is impermanent. Everything is in process. You might be feeling OK and handling change, until something comes along and really hits you. You might just get down, and stay down. Then we moan about things that are happening, and that glass gets emptier still.

Step back and notice what’s happening

It can be useful to step back and notice what changes have been going on, and allow ourselves to really notice how we are allowing ourselves to respond. It can be useful to honestly grieve for what we’ve lost, what is passing, and then see what we can learn, and let go of.

It’s also useful to cultivate your inner core, the part of you inside that never changes, the ever-knowing, ever-seeing, ever-loving, ever-aware self. Then when change occurs, know that you know. It’s a further step that we take, using awareness to re-connect with our inner knowing. Inside, we’re always OK.

Change happens. It can be hard. It can be joyful. It can be sad or painful. Part of you, the real part we might say, is still here, and always is. The real question might be, do you connect with that part?

I work with people who are impacted by change and need to work out a new way forward.

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Is practicing mindfulness something you don’t get round to?

The hard bit about mindfulness is the discipline of practicing it every day, particularly when we don’t feel like it. It’s one powerful way the ego has of deflecting us from what we need for our path. Thus it can be very easy to drop the practice after a while because it seems like “it isn’t working”. Practicing mindfulness needs to be regular to see the benefits.

Lets say your practice includes an early morning meditation. You’ve committed to this time to give yourself some space before the day starts for you to go within, be still, let go of thoughts and enjoy your inner calm. Maybe you’ve been told it is a good time to do this, and certainly seasoned meditators affirm the value of the quiet of the early morning, particularly just before sunrise.

The busy mind

Yet one day you find your mind is really busy with the day’s activities and your schedule, like you’ve already started work! So you find it difficult to settle and have a mediation where instead of focusing on your breath you get all these thoughts buzzing round your head. It’s not easy because one reason you took up the practice was to still your mind. On another day you get ready for your meditation but you realise you are a bit late, and so you have the worry of being late and it “spoils” your meditation, like it didn’t come up to your expectations and you feel stressed. Another time, you feel hungry and want a good cup of coffee to start your day. This day you badly need that coffee, and so you decide that has to come first and then you’ll meditate. But you don’t because its late and your mind is busy. Then things slip more and before you know it you haven’t been doing your meditation a while and it seems no point. Then you decide “it doesn’t work” and give it up.

Now I’m not saying that you the reader are like this. I’m just giving a list of common reasons why people find the sustained, regular practice difficult. You might like to check through the reasons above and look at what is common amongst them. There’s the busy mind, lots of thoughts; there’s feelings, like worry in this case; there’s the list of what to do; there’s expectations about things being as we want; there’s stress; there’s the desire for something; there’s our excuses. I could go on.

The ego distracts us

These are aspects of how the ego operates to distract us from our true goal and keep us safe in our limited state because that is what it beliefs enables us to survive. But we know how to survive and we want to grow further and move beyond the ego to know who we really are. The ego resists this and uses techniques like deflection, to shift our attention to things like desire and attachment, what we believe we want and what we are attached to and don’t want to let go of. Yet through mindfulness you can get to see how your ego gets in the way.

Steady practice

Mindfulness involves the steady practice of using the breath or a mantra to help us focus or concentrate, to step back from the activities of the mind and observe our process. In this we notice what occurs, rather than be caught up in it, and be in the state of non-attachment, where we let go of the ego’s ways, and rest in our inner stillness. Here the mind can still chatter on and we rest in our stillness within. Each meditation is another chance to practice, and to notice the ego at work, let go and rest in our stillness. This is ongoing as we gradually find our stillness more and more.

Being patient is not something many of us do very well

Being patient is not something people seem to do well. On the contrary, we pile on the pressure, push the boundaries and demand results, impatient to get what we want. It can be self-limiting since it sets up resistance in the universe and the more we push, the harder it gets. The cycle of impatience is resisted by others and within us too. There’s another self inside crying out for attention and not getting heard.

We’re all in a rush to get somewhere, get something done, short of time, too much going on, on a deadline, other people demanding something, feeling guilty for not delivering, afraid we’ll be late, can’t stop, must get on, sorry not now, I’m too busy. You can hear the excuses. Think about the person tailgating you in their car or walking down the street with someone breathing down your neck. Or you doing it to someone else. Why don’t they hurry up or get out of the way?! Breathing expletives under your breath, muttering curses to your environment.

It’s a lot of pressure that we put ourselves under, mainly at our own expense in the end, as our bodies suffer long-term from accumulated stress.

Patience by contrast means allowing things to be, giving things time, waiting knowing all will be well, being present rather than in the future. It includes acceptance or tolerance. We don’t get into negative emotions like irritation, annoyance, or anger, nor be anxious or worry. It’s not an impatience being held at bay, since that’s an inauthenticity because the real underlying sense is impatience. It involves letting go of negativity and any thoughts that cut across patience.

It’s counter-cultural since so much of current society is bound up in multiple requirements done at speed and in being driven to achieve, which many people place as virtues.

Mindfulness practice involves being patient. Acceptance and allowing are central. If we are to let go of incessant thinking and be present, and if we are to make contact with inner stillness of being, we have to find a way to let go of impatience. We need to give ourselves time for the practice. Allowing things to be enables us to gently explore within. We become more able to make contact with our subtle experiencing, and very slowly and gradually this subtle level of being opens up to us.

Placing pressures on ourselves undermines that. Being still caught up in stuff and feeling the anger or fear of all that pressure cuts right across the subtlety of being, and drives away all the accumulated merit of the practice.

Someone who knows patience is unattached to what happens. They are able to let go and be. They can thus experience the joy of being.

Living like we do in our society we lose the real joy of life. Thus do we suffer.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. We can just be, if we choose.

I give coaching to help people manage stress and learn and practice mindfulness. To contact me, click here.

Do you worry about when you can practice mindfulness?

People often ask, when is a good time to practice mindfulness, or to meditate. It’s tempting to answer, when you feel like it, but there are practicalities! Like not when you’re working or traveling or cooking or being with family and friends, in other words when there are lots of distractions. Yet, it’s not as crazy an answer as it seems.

First of all, we’re talking about pausing, being in the moment, aware, present, in your body, focused on your breathing, letting go, noticing thoughts rather than caught up in them, being the observer or witness. You can do that anywhere and at any time. You can have a quick five-minute meditation even. The thing is, most people don’t do that.

It should be said right away that dealing with distractions is part of the practice. We need to learn to manage how we let the rest of our life get in the way.

Busy minds

The mind gets powerfully seduced every other moment in the stream of ego consciousness. We go off on one thing after the other. You might notice this even when specifically meditating at your appointed hour. A few breaths, feeling a bit more still, and then you’re off on some tempting line of thought or reverie, even without noticing you’re doing it, till say 5 minutes later you suddenly become present again, notice what’s happened, and return to your breath. Which is excellent, by the way, because you’re practicing being mindful. Yet, most people don’t see it like that and beat themselves up instead.

So, the point here is that you can practice mindfulness at any time. In fact this is invaluable since it helps you maintain your self-awareness, check negative thoughts and feelings and return to a centred state. The practice is key, since it helps reinforce the discipline that we need. Practice, practice, practice.

Thus in the middle of a meeting, if you’re feeling stressed, you can just breathe, become aware, and focus on your breath, or on a train or in a noisy, crowded airport while waiting for your delayed flight.

A practical time

However, from a practical point of view, to really help develop an effective grounding in mindfulness, it pays massive dividends to dedicate a specific time of day to the practice. Find a quiet place, ideally a room of your own, where you won’t be interrupted by others, the phone, etc., get a comfortable, upright chair, sit in an upright posture, perhaps with a small cushion in the “small” of your back, your lower back, and with your feet gently placed flat on the ground and your hands facing down on your thighs or on top of one another facing upwards on your lap. Breathe in deep and breathe out long, and repeat two or three times, relax, let go, and then as you breathe normally, allow yourself to focus your awareness on your breath. And keep doing that, bringing your awareness back if it has drifted off on some line of thought. Give yourself 10 or 20 minutes, or more if you can.

Do this regularly at a particular time of day to suit your rhythm, which might be after you have got up in the morning and washed but not yet eaten, and before work. Or it might be when you get home, in the early evening, before eating. Those are two of the most common times. It might be at lunchtime, but again before you eat as your stomach will otherwise be very occupied managing that food! Some people even get up early to meditate, and find that the meditation compensates over time for the sleep.

It is the regular practice that is crucial, and giving yourself some dedicated space and time absolutely fundamental to really anchoring the practice – and in coming home to your self! Then over time and with practice, you can come more and more to those quiet, silent, still points, the gap in the stream of consciousness expands, and you notice more and more the bliss that lies within! Isn’t that tempting!

I coach people to develop their mindfulness and meditation practice. To contact me, click here.

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