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Healing conflict in ourselves and in the world is needed right now

These are undoubtedly very testing times for very many of us. Countries are beset by political conflict and division. People in the UK are about to be confronted by a very serious political crisis, but they are not alone. In other countries in Europe and America, there are also serious crises. So what does the concerned, consciously aware person do in such circumstances? Is there something that can be done around reducing or healing conflict?

You might feel yourself getting caught up in the conflict, taking sides, feeling angry about what is happening and indignant about certain actions. Or you might want to avoid it all, and try to pretend it isn’t happening, that is of course until perhaps the incoming tide washes at your shores too. I don’t find it easy myself, with all these feelings about Brexit. Yet, there are certain understandings and approaches that can be useful.

Being aware that you are caught up

Getting caught up is what the ego does. According to the understandings used in this blog, the ego is about survival and an identity construct is created to support that. “Who I think I am” is one who is, for example, fearful, and a defence against fear is to get angry. Often these are creations from childhood. As an example, you or I might be afraid of being left alone and abandoned, as a knee-jerk response from that time. So when it looks like there might be terrible upheaval and chaos, my fear might kick in, but masked as anger directed at some perceived “other”. But this is a false construct, my ego. It is not who I really am. I’m pure spirit and light and at essence love, part of the whole. My ego however fears separation from that essence of who I am and the fear of separation often lies at the core of ego.

What we are experiencing at the moment, in my view, is acute separation consciousness, manifesting as division from one another. Over Brexit, whole families and neighbourhoods are at odds with one another, very angry. New enmities are being created. Separation.

Use your awareness

The aware person at this point needs to pause, notice, step back and see, sense, feel, think. Enter your aware state and what we call witness consciousness. From that higher perspective, you need no longer be caught up in ego and separation. You can witness what is going on.

Others may not be doing this, of course, but that doesn’t mean they are not beings of light like you, even opponents. They just aren’t aware of it right now.

Letting go in this way, enables you firstly to release yourself from what’s going on. That doesn’t mean you won’t get caught up again, but you know who you really are, and you can come back to this state whenever you choose.

The key is to practice and to know that place more and more. Hold that inside. Meditate on it. That way it builds, and your confidence, your faith, will grow too.

Extend what you know to others as healing energy

Yet the aware person could do more than that, if he or she so chooses. Does not this world need healing right now? Could we not be standing, as the witness, for something higher than this conflict? People may not consciously listen, but it can help. People can pick up the subtlest of energetic shifts after all, at some level.

You might feel, for example, as I do, that now is the time to be really sending out healing, to be healing conflict.

There’s an excellent book by James Twyman called “Emissary of Light” that describes how a group of people came together in the midst of the Bosnian civil war to meditate and send out healing light. That was right in the middle of it, even when troops approached their building – and passed by not even seeing it!

These emissaries would sit everyday in a circle and meditate for 12 hours. Each would focus on sending energy to a person in the centre of the group who would then channel the energy out into the world. Every day while the conflict lasted. What service!

How to extend your energy

You could do this too, if you wanted to and were willing to commit to it. For example, you could sit and meditate, and while meditating, say in the last few minutes, do this:

Allow your awareness to focus on a happy memory. It might be a person, a place, a particular occasion or some other way of accessing inner joy. It might be your love, either for a person, animal or something else. Really be aware of that.

Now bring that joy or love to your heart centre or chakra. Very gently allow the energy to build in your heart centre. Really allow it to grow in your heart.

Then imagine there is a door in your heart that you can open to let out that energy to the world. So, when you are ready, just open that door and let out all that love and joy into the world and send it right out there to all beings who are suffering and in conflict. Do it without judgement and any feeling other than what is inside your heart centre. Send every last bit.

Then, when you have finished, bless the world in whichever way you might do that and then bring your meditation to a close.

You can access a download of this process as an mp3, for a limited time, here

What we wish for ourselves, we give to others

After all, don’t we also want healing, love and peace too? All we’re doing is giving to others what we also want for ourselves, healing conflict in ourselves. After all, we are all One.

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Do you feel like you’re going nowhere?

If someone asked you where are you heading, what would your reply be? Might it be going nowhere?

That’s not intended as a frivolous question, though many right now might feel tempted to reply with variations around “get lost!”. It could be something around, “don’t ask me questions I can’t answer”. Because such is the state of the world right now that there don’t seem to be answers and many people feel incredibly uncertain and anxious about the future, and even focusing on the immediate can be really hard work and tiring.

What’s your state of the world?

In the UK, there is a decision pending about Brexit, but there’s no sense that things will get better and if anything could get a whole lot worse. In other countries, there’s a lot of unrest, even in places a sense of near-revolt, or continued concern about President Trump or whoever, or a general dissatisfaction with one’s lot, or a wondering if you will get by. Then we hear of the dire state of the climate and how humanity’s future could be in doubt if we don’t change course. We read of stock market crashes, the rising price of fuel, the risks of a trade war, or disasters of one kind of another. The mind, once aroused around fear, will quickly focus on more things and we start to catastrophise, like something dreadful might happen, or going through “what if” scenarios. Just to check, ask yourself: have you over the last week been predominantly optimistic or pessimistic?

One way such uncertainty can show up is in how we feel, like feeling tired, exhausted, low energy, low morale, or struggling to get motivated. It’s like pushing water uphill and not having a sense of achieving anything. Some report waking up at night feeling very anxious, but with no particular reason.

Disempowerment: not being in control

People don’t feel like they can get on with their lives. It can manifest as a sense of disempowerment, or, to borrow a phrase much used at present, “not being in control”. Anger can spill out every now and again, like the Gilets Jaunes protests in France. People need to express it somehow because otherwise the powerlessness gets channelled internally.

I used to work with this state a lot in organisations going through major restructuring which could seriously impact people’s jobs, especially when awaiting announcements. It was the “not knowing” that really did it for them. It was hard if not impossible to plan ahead, to get a sense of direction. People would experience a loss of purpose, even of competence and self-esteem. They didn’t feel valued.

I used to call it a “limbo” state, being in limbo.

It also happens when people are awaiting a health diagnosis. They know something is wrong, but they don’t know what it is or, crucially, what is to be done about it. Will it be serious – or not? Will they be OK – or not?

It’s the not knowing, the state in between, a void, which we try unsuccessfully to avoid.

Afterwards, it’s different. Once people know, they can plan, prepare and get on with their life. Now they at least know where they stand. It might not be that pleasant, but at least they can get on with things.

What can you do?

So it’s important to remember that this is a passing phase. It does not last. Life goes on. Remember the famous John Lennon quote,Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Or the Buddhist understanding that all is impermanent, all in process, and that nothing stays the same. So too, we move on. If we allow it.

So, if you are faced with uncertainty in some form, while it isn’t necessarily nice, you can do something. After all you are a responsible being, if you so choose. So, you can act as one.

One is to look after yourself. This is crucial, since stress levels can rocket. So breathe and meditate, take exercise, eat healthily, every day. Remember your values and what and who you love, including crucially yourself! Love endures despite all things.

Two, have options. There is always a choice, even when we feel disempowered. Find things to make choices over, things you can control. Be prepared, at least to cover possible scenarios. Once you’ve thought it through, put it away somewhere and don’t mull over it.

Three, manage your mind, deliberately, intentionally. After all, we are what we think, and life turns up accordingly. So, by managing our minds, we can keep or regain the focus we want. We can manage and let go of anxiety. This is true taking control. This means, as this blog explains a lot, pausing, stepping back from your stream of thoughts, becoming fully aware, in the present moment, letting thoughts go, being in the Now. And stay there a bit, letting anxiety shift from thinking to feeling to dissolving, so that all you are aware of is Now.

Such present moment awareness allows you to shift from going nowhere  to being now here.

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In the end is a beginning

There’s a poignancy to autumn at this time, damp, wet, a chill in the air, sun shining low through golden leaves that cling forlornly to thinning trees. The summer is replaced by autumn and winter beckons. All is decaying – but then all is also preparing for the next spring. The end of October is, it is said, a time when the veils between the two worlds are thinner, at the time of the feast of Samhain. No wonder many often choose to leave. This time of ending, of closure, is a sad time, but it can also contain the seeds of new birth. How often can a person’s leaving this world also be when a new one is born, and in what form? It’s to see the beginning in the ending.

Court of the Lions, Alhambra
Court of the Lions, Alhambra, Granada

We have just had a nice break in Andalucia and went on a long-promised pilgrimage to the Alhambra in Granada. I don’t know if it happens for you but when we stepped through the doorway of the Nasrid Palaces we felt a powerful energy charge, like moving to another zone. It’s an awesome place, literally! Then, we also soaked up Andalucia, and spending time on the coast was wonderfully restful and warm.

Then on the last night we learned that a neighbour and friend had died and Akasha had to spring into action to lead a funeral ceremony. The next week was frenetic since in France funerals come quickly and there was masses to do and people to support. Now it’s over and we are relaxing back into “normal” life. Except that it isn’t. A lot has happened. And we feel sad, tired and listless, a bit devoid of direction, a bit disorientated. So what’s all this?

It can be useful to be aware of what happens, if this is something that has happened for you, in some way. According to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross there are five stages to grief. Put in my layman’s terms based on masses of work with people who experienced loss, there’s very roughly a series of phases, very much depending on the individual. There’s shock; then a temporary phase of denial or minimising of what’s happened; then a period when the tough emotions kick in, like sadness and anger, and their variants like blame, resentment, hurt, pain, and so on; then bargaining, where we might avoid the truth of a situation; depression, what I often called the pits, when it really hits home over time and we have to find a way to process and move on; and then acceptance, where we start to heal, come to terms with what’s happened and find meaning and new purpose. It’s in the last-mentioned that the real potential lies, but let’s be brutally clear: you can’t avoid or rush the others, though, believe me, I’ve seen masses of attempts!!

I’d hazard a guess to say we’ll all of us have this experience in one form or another with major life events, and accidents, being robbed, moving house and many other stress events too. Death and dying though are truly existential: we’ll all have it. So we need to find ways to cope, to see what’s there to learn from it, and, dare I say it, to gain the real meaning we are meant to derive from it. I wonder what yours is?

Which brings me back to our friend and neighbour. As friends we may not be so emotionally involved, but we are impacted nonetheless. There’s a person we knew and spent time with who’s gone, is there no more. Of course it stirs up our own stuff around death, dying and loss. Then there’s the sense of things coming to an end, an end of an era, people leaving, things changing, the familiar replaced by the unfamiliar, an emptiness, nothing where there was someone, a vacuum. No longer the craic (he was Irish), the jokes, the long conversations, the plentiful supply of liquor, the warmth and friendliness, the hospitality. When it’s gone, you notice it.

Then we hear of other changes in train. Somehow other events seem to be happening. They aren’t caused by the loss, but somehow we notice it more. As a Brit in France, we are impacted by Brexit. Then there’s news of other friends leaving, people moving on. So what now for us?

With such endings, we are left with our own meanings to make. What now for our own future? What needs our attention? What have these events taught us that we need to attend to? What does it all mean? Or, as I would say, what meanings do I choose to make of what’s been happening?

TS Eliot has wonderful words at the end of his masterpiece, The Four Quartets. To quote selectively:

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The End is where we start from…
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

We progress on life’s path, often unknowingly or unaware, and yet it has purpose, even if we don’t consciously know it. Each ending offers us the chance, once again, to bring what is unaware into conscious awareness, to know and feel that which is our truth, that which our soul is calling us to.

During the funeral service, Akasha asked us to reflect while one piece of music chosen by our friend was played. What happened for me was a palpable sense of love, glowing in my heart centre, and with it a contented sense of peace. Maybe that was where our friend was. Certainly that was important for me. That is what I will take from these turbulent last months of his life, a blessing on him, and on all of us.

That’s something to go for!


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Are you feeling what’s going on in the world too?

To some it feels at present as if the storm clouds are gathering. In the distance, the thunder rumbles. Just as the month of June can be stormy, so too world and national affairs seem to be rumbling, seemingly in conflict. In parts of the world there are volcanic eruptions. The environment seems at times to be nearing meltdown. Personally too, people’s lives seem uncertain and anxious. If it’s like that “out there”, what’s it like “in here”, in yourself? Are you feeling calm and serene or are you like the swan, calm on top but paddling like mad beneath the surface?!

There’s a tendency in us humans to get “caught up” in what’s going on “out there”, in whatever the drama is, to be feeling emotionally in ourselves a reaction to what’s going on, and let it become part of our own state. Then day by day we find we are living in an emotionally unhappy state. Yet in times of uncertainty and upheaval, either in external affairs or personally, it’s important, very important, to pay attention to how we manage our own inner state.

It’s easy to state that, and many of us probably know that very well, and yet we can still find ourselves emotionally affected by events and circumstances. You might have your practice, you might meditate, and take care of yourself, and be very conscientious day to day. And yet little by little things can creep up on us or catch us unawares. Then again, we may think we know all this, and get on with our lives, and then, little by little, our practice slips. Until we find we’re seemingly back where we were years ago.

Hey, we’re human. Stuff happens. It’s how we deal with it that’s important.

Everything for a reason. Our emotional reaction is a warning sign, a clue, to something we need to attend to in ourselves. The more it goes on, the more there’s a clue that we need to attend to something.

This is where awareness and responsibility to ourselves is vital. Once we’re aware what’s going on, we can do something about it. Then it’s about how we manage it, let go, or whatever else is needed.

What’s happening in our world can be a mirror to what’s happening inside, whether as a direct mirror, or as a function of the shadow, what we deny in ourselves being projected on to the world out there.

For each of us, I would suggest, now is the time to be conscientious in attending to our inner state, finding our own inner space of peace and calm and resting there awhile each day. It’s by cultivating our own inner space that we can then be in the world in a different, unattached way that, like the ripple effect, will impact others.

Right now, people seem to be at each other’s throats, divided, separate, and antagonistic. Yet, that’s not who we really are. Hence it’s so important to be and model something that rises above the weaknesses of our fellow human kind.

So, I recommend giving time to your daily practice, and to cultivating and holding to a state of inner peace. The more we do this, and, vitally, truly know that place, the more we can do that in the world too. After all, you too are That.

To the right of this blog post there are links to two meditation techniques that can help you develop an inner place of peace and calm.

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Breathe, go within and be present

It’s ever so simple, and yet so profound. Breathe! Yes, just do it! Take in a deeper breath or two and breathe out long. Take a moment to really notice it and feel it. Feel your body as it responds. Notice how you feel. Really savour the moment. And notice the effect it has.

Now, what was going on for you? Where were you at when you read those words and took some deliberate, conscious breaths? Were you a bit somewhere else, a bit in your head, a bit on edge, or other ways that your mind uses to grab your attention? And how was your body? How were you feeling inside?

When we pause like this, and take in a few breaths, we give ourselves a moment to ourselves. To our Self. For a fleeting moment perhaps, we can sense pure heaven.

It’s an opportunity to come into the moment, be aware and fully conscious, to relax and let go, and go within and allow ourselves to feel more peaceful, connected and At One.

Very simple. But do we do it? Probably not as much as we’d like!

Do we do it?

As so often with taking care of ourselves, the challenge is in the doing of it. Remembering to take the simplest of actions to restore our equilibrium and balance can somehow elude us. Familiar?!

When I was in training, when our group would get a bit tense around something very emotional, our facilitator would call out, “Breathe!” with a long drawn out emphasis: “Breeeeeeathe!” And we’d all breathe, and let go, and the room would relax. It proved a great way to support oneself, which it is why it is so widely used by group practitioners. When there’s stuff going on in the room, you make a firm, steady effort to consciously breathe, down into the diaphragm, like you are expanding your belly, strengthening yourself in your power centre, grounding yourself, and being very present.

You can practice doing that in stressful situations. I have often coached people to use their breath when under pressure. It’s a great stress-management technique and superb in interpersonal conflict situations. It has often proved a great way to heighten awareness, since when you breathe consciously you start to feel and notice things you maybe weren’t attending to before. When people do this, they can start to react emotionally, but this is healthy since they can then be aware of and let go of stuff.

You can practice anywhere. After all, you’re breathing anyway, so why not give it some personal attention?! The situations are massively numerous. I found it particularly great when travelling, eg. when on the London Tube, on over-crowded trains or in delays at the airport.

How to breathe in meditation

It is also of course a fundamental technique in meditation, and a brilliant time to practice it. Consciously using the breath is a great way to start your meditation. You sit with the intention to meditate, taking a good, comfortable posture, and you start by attending to your breath. One or two deeper breaths, and then a gentler awareness of your breathing, breathing in, breathing out, and continue like that. There’s then a variety of ways you can notice your breathing and how you can use it to settle you, manage thoughts and refocus on your meditation when distracted.

When we slowly and steadily breathe like this, we become more calm, more peaceful, more relaxed, and more contented. We let go of stuff, and settle into a gentle steady presence, and be with ourselves in the Now.

You can practice this now if you like. There’s a link here to a page with a recording that will guide you into meditation using the breath. Click here.

It’s ever so simple, and yet so profound. A gift we have, which we can enjoy any time we choose to use it. Enjoy!

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There’s so much fear around at the moment and people are pessimistic

People say that there’s so much fear around at the moment and people are sad and pessimistic about the future. Events, issues and personal circumstances combine to give a negative outlook on life. In fact we can get completely absorbed in it. Is this how things are? Need they be?

Early spring sunrise - fear around
Early spring sunrise

I’ve been struck how people are saying that everything seems really miserable at the moment. Maybe it’s the weather, repeated bouts of very cold spells when we’re weary with winter, even as spring is in the offing. For many, national and world events are troubling and there seems so much conflict and anger around. People seem so divided from one another and antagonistic. Then, others have illness or difficulty in their personal lives too, and there’s a lot of unwelcome change. It’s as if the world’s conspiring to dump a whole load of negativity on us all at once.

What also happens is that we get absorbed in it. Almost without noticing, it becomes the norm. We live in it. That’s how life is. Then our work on ourselves, our focus on what uplifts us, fades into the background. Faith recedes. It can almost feel like a personality change. “God, I’ve become so grumpy!” one said the other day. I wondered what God thought about that.

Notice what you focus on

When life gets like this, and it does, it’s important to notice that it’s got like this. Not to beat ourselves up, just notice. It’s the most powerful thing to do.

Where we place our mind, what we focus on, is what is, in awareness terms. That’s what we get. So we see around us, and experience more of, what we focus on. Such is the power of the mind, for better or for worse.

It’s not who we really are, much though it seems otherwise. It all an illusion, maya. And, what ever it is, “this too shall pass”. Things move on, and we can move on.

One big point in personal and spiritual development is to build an awareness of our inner truth of who we really as spiritual beings. Then we have more to hold on to during times of negativity, which do happen, since we are human after all!

So, once we’re aware that we’re absorbed in negativity, just pause and be still. Breathe in, breathe out and let go. Just let that moment be there, when you can notice that there is so much more, that we are so much more, than whatever we are habitually being caught up in.

Even in the midst of stuff going on, whatever that is, trust that within you there is so much more, that you are so much more, than whatever our ego self is doing right now.

Maybe make a commitment to spend just a few moments each day when you do this. Meditate if you can, but you can just have a little pause. It’s a reminder, a re-minder.

And spring is coming. New awakenings!

 

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What do you take for granted that you’d miss if you lost it?

What do you take for granted which you’d miss if it or they weren’t there? We live large chunks of our lives in a “knee-jerk” way. We get on with it, carry out our daily chores, converse with others, get from A to B, earn our daily bread, complete tasks, make connections, and more. All this makes up the necessities and desirables of life. On a scale of 1 to 10, how much of all that are you consciously paying attention to? And what gets left out, that you value if you thought about it, and that you’re not noticing? What would you miss if it wasn’t there?

NLP teaches that the mind can only pay attention to 7 to 8 bits of information out of the millions of bits of data that comes to us. A lot is outside of our awareness, in the background, submerged by all that stuff going on that I’ve just referred to. More importantly though can be those things or people that we deem important but don’t habitually pay attention to.

It’s worth reflecting on those things that you take for granted, but you’d really notice if they were taken away, or you couldn’t access. This could be because it or they go, or you lose the capacity to access them yourself. It goes both ways. They go – or you do. At some level.

Examples are many: the view outside your bedroom window, being able to go up and downstairs quickly and easily, seeing a friendly for regular get-togethers, hearing beautiful music, reading a favourite book, a call from a son or daughter, your parent calling you to ask you how you are, dropping in to your favourite café, your annual or bi-annual holiday. People often say that it’s the really simple things that matter, rather than anything complex or big-sounding, a smile on someone’s face, the sound of a child’s laughter, how they sat in a chair, seeing the arrival of the spring blossom on the trees, the sound of the wind, a walk along a favourite path.

When people go

At a very deeply personal level, I’ve heard many people speak of those who have died whom they never completed with, never talked through an ongoing or old issue and resolved it, never addressed a family problem, never said how important they were to them or, perfectly simply, told them how much they loved them.

And how could it have been different if you’d have given it or them the attention they deserved? Really noticed it, taken it in, taken the satisfaction of the experience – like it was even your last.

Try this one. Each morning, if you’re going out, say goodbye to your loved one, or if you are on your own, to a pet or simply to your room or home. Or when you go to bed. When you come back, really greet them, like you’re really glad to see them. Honour their part in your life. Express gratitude for that part.

And as you do that, connect with your heart centre, feel the connection there, and feel the love.

Love knows no limit. But we shut it out through our constant busyness.

And then we only notice it when it’s gone, and we’re left with regrets.

What does it cost to be present with it instead?

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Hope springs eternal even in the darkest of days

Winter can drag on, cold days, wet or frozen, windy, long nights, seemingly endless. It’s the time of year that people can feel really depressed, devoid of optimism and hope. We can get caught up in a cycle of depressed, moody days, and it can be hard to shift the mood. What’s the point of even trying since nothing changes. It just goes on and on. Some of us even wonder if we can go on and on.

Here it’s been very wet for days, windy but mild, the days dark, the valley shrouded in mist, people looking sad. The weather gets locked into its pattern. “When will this end?” one wonders. It can be very hard to have hope when things keep going on the same way and nothing seems to change.

We can lose sight of how things change. Nothing stays the same, although it doesn’t seem like it. Everything is in motion. The seasons change, slowly but inexorably. Winter is replaced by spring. Even as I write, the snowdrops are coming up. I brought them from England and put them in a little damp spot under a stone wall and they’ve survived the hot, dry summers and are peeping out of the ground, white tips appearing in the grey, auguries of approaching spring. The camellia,

Camellia perfection
Camellia perfection

battered by winds, is nevertheless likewise a mass of buds opening into pink heaven. Primroses on the lawn are showing buds, readying to flower soon, a carpet under the also-budding cherry tree. The seasonal cycle of nature calls us to remember, that warmer, sunnier weather is coming. Change brings new hope, even when it doesn’t seem like it.

The human spirit has hope. Without it, we wouldn’t do things in adversity. Life has faith, hope and trust built into it. We just need to attend to it.

I always think of St. Paul’s words to the Corinthians, “…these three things remain, faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians, 13:13).

It’s a powerful process, to re-member. We have this awareness within us, but it needs will and determination to shift our awareness within to the candle of love that burns constantly inside each of us. It might be a small, faint flicker, but it is there nonetheless.

Just before the dawn is the greatest darkness. It can even be our “dark night of the soul” as St John of the Cross recognised. The darkness can be black, gloomy and despairing, and it can contain the inner secrets of our salvation. We need to regularly revisit that space, not allowing the darkness to overwhelm us. For this, we need to exercise our will. “This too shall pass”, and the dawn will break once again. Nothing stays the same.

Always have hope, and know that this love is always within.

 

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When loneliness and feeling alone is no laughing matter

The Christmas season is usually a time when people gather and celebrate together. Paradoxically almost, it can be also a time when many people feel very lonely. The sense of loneliness can affect people who are single and in relationships, living with others or on their own. It transcends cultures, class and locality. It can affect even those who seem the most jolly and full of the joys of life. Particularly after Christmas, there’s a “let down” period. After the high adrenalin rush and the excess, there’s often a “down” time.

Christmas in the West is a big spending binge followed by a feast, a massive media-and-retail-fuelled hype, a collective energy that it’s hard not to get sucked up into. Not surprisingly there’s then a hangover, both physical and emotional. Families get together. Things are said. Agendas are revealed. Behind the jollity there can be other things going on too, ones we may not feel comfortable to address. There’s high expectations, especially for those raised on an idea of the “perfect” family Christmas, one remembered from childhood. Afterwards, when we once again find that those expectations don’t get met, there’s not surprisingly a sadness, even a depression for many.

Of course this is also a time for the religious to reflect on their connection to their faith, and this can be a time that that faith can be tested, as Christ was: “Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)” (Matthew 27:46).

Allied to that, if one is aware of being alone already, this can be compounded. You’re not part of the fun. Not for you the sense of inclusion, of being part of something. Not the love that others seem to enjoy. The fact that a huge part of the human dilemma is that we are alone can still pass us by.

Existentialists say that this is after all one of the “givens” of being human, that we come into the world alone and leave it by the same route. They would say that we may dread our existence but it is for us to exercise free will and choice, to create the experience we seek. Famously, Viktor Frankl in Man’s search for meaning (1946) argued that for Auschwitz inmates to survive their enormous privations they had to continue to choose, to make meaning: “the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way”. He said, “Man can preserve a vestige of spiritual freedom, of independence of mind, even in such terrible conditions of psychic and physical stress”.

Thus, even in the midst of company, or on one’s own, we can feel alone, or, exercising choice, we can feel alone and, for example, at One. Our experience is our choice. We become not the victim but the master (or mistress) of our choice.

Therefore too, we can feel contented and at peace, just as much by ourselves as in the company of others.

It’s a challenge of life and living.

That’s not to say it isn’t difficult. The testimony of many thinkers and writers over time show that it can often be a very hard path. The demon of loneliness can spring out even with the hardened practitioner. So we need to develop a skill and practice so that we can recover and bring ourselves back on to our path, so that we too in time may feel contentment whatever is going on and whenever.

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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?