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, such as being absorbed in lots of fear around you. 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, like focusing on all this fear around the place, just pause and be still. Be mindful. 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!

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?

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.

Control is an illusion

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

Being disillusioned 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, understand what we need to let go of, 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 instead 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

How to be present when others are losing it

Do you struggle to know how to be present with someone when they are upset or angry, or when you are tired or going through it yourself? I’m very often struck by how people can lack the ability to “be with” people emotionally, especially those who work professionally with people in challenging situations. It’s like our buttons get pushed or we feel inadequate or lack the resources we need. Somehow, people say, they “aren’t qualified” to handle it.

It will be all right
It will be all right

When people kick off

I remember once on a Gestalt training course unpacking a whole load of grief around the impact of divorce on my contact with my younger son, and how I verbalised it to the group in a way that the facilitator later said she was “out of it” for the duration of my work. I recall she was a parent herself. So this can challenge even seasoned professionals. Luckily I had another who  worked with me.

Yet this doesn’t just apply to professionals. Anybody can face this at times. What about when your partner kicks off about some hurt or pain and it’s you that happens to be there – and they need you to be there? What do you do? Do you do what so many do, and shift about uncomfortably, tell people “not to mind” and “it will be OK”, and not get upset, etc? Who are you really helping here, the person kicking off, or actually you yourself? Are you really telling them to stop?

What we don’t like is being faced with powerful emotions that tap into our own stuff, especially if it touches our own doubts and inadequacies. Yet, there are resources available, if you choose to access them.

Being resourceful: self awareness and self management

One is self awareness and self management, in this case the ability to be aware of your own process and how your buttons can get triggered by other people’s stuff. It helps to know yourself enough to know what is your stuff in this situation, of course! This is often all about personal development – that doing your own journey bit, dare I say, that many of us are today afraid to do. It is also about how you self manage, in this case choose not to get caught up in your own stuff but put it on one side, the rule of epoché in Gestalt terms.

Presence

Another is the ability to be present, to be right there in the moment, thoughts and feelings on pause (I’ll say more about that in a moment), in the “here and now”, still in yourself, centred, at One as I keep writing on this blog, connected with some energy  centre or chakra within like your heart centre region or, in the case of powerful emotion, perhaps your power centre in the  solar plexus region. So that you are aligned with  Source as you are “with” another. “Being with” is all about being present with them. So you are truly “with” them, in support, with mind, body and soul, right there in the moment.

Empathy and respect

Your stance matters hugely too. So think about  it. Here is needed Carl Rogers’ empathy and unconditional positive regard. So you respect utterly the other person right there where they are and what is going on for them. No judgement (this can be tough, but it really matters). No conditions attached. In fact  you  are unattached to everything, including how you feel. You have to let go of all that. And you empathise with them, which is to seek as far as humanly possible to see things from their perspective, although  you cannot “know how they feel”. Thus you can hear their story. And you hear it like you get it. So that they feel heard, which is what so many people need. They may not need to be fixed (which is what so many men try to do  with  women, by the way!). Here’s where you truly stop and be with them in their pain.

Then they will feel supported. You don’t have to take their side, or agree with them, or blame them. Just be there. In peace, bringing peace. Om shanti.

I coach people and give training in these core skills. To contact  me, click here

Do you worry that your mind keeps you awake?

It’s a dilemma when you can’t sleep at night because your mind is busy, and then you start to worry that your mind is keeping you awake. Your mind might be churning things over and then you’re fearful that it is doing this and stopping you sleeping. Worrying that we can’t sleep is a major factor in insomnia, and having a busy mind is a major contributor to the problem. It’s a very good reason to learn to manage your mind and is where mindfulness can be so powerful.

You might for example lie down after a busy day in which you have been very mentally active and then find yourself staying awake, unable to sleep, or so it seems, your mind going over certain issues that are concerning you. Then, as time ticks by, and the thought that you need to be up early comes to you, there’s that stabbing feeling in your gut as you feel the anxiety that this thinking is keeping you awake, that you’ve got a sleepless night ahead and that you still have to get up early. It’s like that deadline gives you an imperative that you must sleep and you believe you need that sleep, and still you’re thinking things over, and you’re worried that you’re doing it!

Time to pause and get what’s going on! And let go!

Not so easy until you’ve done some work on all this and can see the pattern, what you’re doing to yourself, and can interrupt that pattern and work to manage your thoughts and let go. It takes, in a sense, training and practice.

The idea that we can manage our thoughts can be a challenging one to people who feel they are prisoners to their thoughts. Yet this is precisely what we need to do. Very often it is about becoming aware that your mind is busy, catching yourself doing it, challenging the pattern and stopping it in some way. It is something that can be consciously done, but as I said, it needs awareness – and coaching.

The role of mindfulness

Mindfulness practice plays a big part, learning to be aware of your thoughts but not caught up in them. With mindfulness you can become the aware witness of your thoughts, but unattached to them, so that they can pass you by. This too takes practice, and meditation is a very valuable tool to help you learn to do it effectively.

Then you know you have inside you a calm, steady, centred place that you can go to. You can learn to let go of thinking and be still and in the moment. You can let go of thinking and of anxiety too, and be present. You can be unattached to deadlines, and to how things “ought” to be, and just let things be, just as they are.

As you calm yourself and let go of thoughts, you can then let your natural sleepiness to come to you, of its own accord.

Just as we can have bliss be present too, our natural joy and contentment.

Further help

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

There is an excellent online CBT-based course on Sleeping that also uses mindfulness in a part of it. Click here.

Do you relate well to others?

Do you relate well to others personally and at work? Do you inspire, lead and motivate them well, or do you struggle in the “people” aspect of your job? It’s common for people to minimise this part but it’s crucial to things going well.

Business leaders have finally woken up to the fact that “soft skills” make a big difference to the bottom line, after years in which people have denied its importance and minimised the value of such training and coaching. Many in the Learning and Development industry will of course be thinking “told you so”, that people need to be able to relate well to others, but it must still be a cause for celebration for many that at last the truth is out in the open, and it needs all the support it can get.

It was, for example, argued in a campaign by employers that coaching and training in such areas as communication, initiative, interacting with customers and team working can make an impact to the value of £88 billion a year in increased productivity and reduced operating costs. It is said that this is particularly so in businesses that rely on “face-to-face human interaction.” An example of this relates to the field of Emotional Intelligence (EI). Research has been showing for a long time now that EI is far more important than IQ in terms of a leader’s capabilities, in the proportion of 85% for EI to 15% for IQ.

Another example is how time gets lost in needless conflict between managers and between their teams. Only when the managers have resolved their differences and found a better way of working together have results improved. Personal differences often get played out in intra-organisational issues. Another, again, is where a manager believes that to manage effectively (s)he has to be strong to the point of bullying the team, and fails to build relationships and rapport with his or her team and results through such methods as simple positive motivation and encouragement.

Key to EI is self awareness, the ability to know your own strengths and weaknesses, but built on that key foundation is self management, the ability to self manage and act appropriately, and social awareness, in particular empathy, to understand and get alongside others. Then the fourth key area comes into play, the ability to build good relationships at work.

People need to get comfortable working with emotions, whereas historically they have been viewed with suspicion by senior managers. A business that has a positive emotional climate is where people feel good to be there, where they feel connected to and supported by one another, where they feel safe to be themselves and feel confident in what they are about and where they are going, where they can be open and honest and trust one another, where they willingly collaborate to make things happen, and where their abilities are recognised and rewarded. That’s not done just by throwing money at it. It’s done by building engagement, involvement and commitment. That kind of organisation is where people relate well to others, and which has a positive emotional climate, communicates well and gets good results from its people. It is very likely well-led.

Are we losing our ability to have empathy and to connect?

We must have all done it, a gathering round the dinner table, and there’s a quiet moment as everybody is on their phones or tablets, with snippets of conversation in between. Perfectly normal, you might think: everybody is checking their phones. Except that that is what occurs a lot right through the year where people are together or alone. This world is now getting brilliantly connected. Yet do we notice any disconnect with others we’re with, our lack of attunement to others, that we don’t have empathy?

Being a big user myself but also a coach of relationship and interpersonal dynamics, I’m frequently observing what occurs in the use of the gadget in one’s hand. As the law now recognises, people can’t effectively concentrate on driving and use a mobile phone. The focus gets drawn into the latter and people miss crucial and sudden events on the road, with sometimes fatal results. When we focus on our phone, our attention is drawn away from what is occurring around us. Thus we are at best only partially present to those around us. To another, it can feel, if they are so bothered, that “the lights are on but nobody is at home”. Disconnected.

Connected but so disconnected

The “inner world” of the phone or tablet is very absorbing. It is also very addictive. It’s now reckoned that people up to the age of 18 now spend over 7 hours a day so connected. However, more concerning is the potential cost to interpersonal relationships. It has been found from social-scientific studies by Sarah Konrath that there are now 40% lower levels of empathy for the age group 25-39, that is roughly the age range of Millennials or Generation Y, than earlier age groups had, along with a corresponding rise in narcissism. It is also being suggested that people are losing the ability to cope with “doing nothing” and where we don’t have a distraction.

What empathy means

To have empathy is arguably the crucial area of development for people interpersonally, and a fundamental aspect of emotional intelligence. As we grow and mature, we realise more and more the need to understand and relate to others and take their needs into account. Empathy is the ability to tune into another and get a sense of where they are coming from, to gain some awareness of their perspective. Without “social awareness”, people can struggle to connect at a meaningful level and others may sense they do not really have a relationship with them in a way that fulfills.

Being connected with others is not a digital occurrence although that is one way we can communicate. What is crucial is the ability to be present and aware of another, right now, in the moment, person to person, in the room, with all our senses engaged, and with our thinking, feeling and behaviour. We hear, see, feel, smell and taste another. Psychologically we are “there” for another, available, conscious, valuing, caring. We notice what happens for another. We respond appropriately. We become attuned and resonate, and become as one.

You don’t get all that from a screen.

The challenge is that there are many who don’t have good levels of empathy. It’s a major weakness for those in business, for example. Leaders who lack empathy are poor leaders at the people level. If you are in a job where people skills matter, it can be costly. In personal relationships it is what makes for a good relationship: how often do you hear people complain that their partners are not “there” for them when they need them?

The danger is that people don’t know what they are not aware of. Thus building self awareness is an important starting point, and getting feedback from others. We can change things once we know what’s really going on, what we need to fix. And we ourselves have to take charge of it, to make the changes.

A fundamental human need is relationship. We are social beings. Being disconnected from others is a major source of unhappiness and depression.

Do you not relate well to others?

Do you find that in some area of your life you lack the ability to relate well to others? You’d not be alone, since our ability or inability to connect with others is something that is the cause of much heartache and conflict in our society and in organisations. For some it is about avoiding making effective connections and for others it is where they overdo it and cause harm. Some people are for example reserved or non-assertive while others can be aggressive.

The importance of self awareness and emotional intelligence

A key underlying issue to whether we relate well to others can be due to a lack of emotional intelligence, our self-awareness, how we manage ourselves, our awareness of others and how we build relationships with them.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is often described as the distinguishing feature of good leaders in organisations, and yet it is not one that figures amongst those that leaders themselves express, the latter more often judging themselves and being judged by their results. As one client client said it to me once, “I deliver but I leave bodies”. However this perception can mask the underlying contribution to success of EI, since it is arguably not so obvious and can be dismissed in business macho cultures as “soft skills”. What matters, it is implied, is “hard” results. Coaches know otherwise since they are so often working with their clients to connect more with their “soft” side and in that of others in order to get better at the hard end.

In personal relationships, what can be key is our ability to be aware of what is going on inside us, especially emotionally, to manage ourselves and our feelings, to sense and empathise with what is also going on for another and build a connection where there is authentic resonance, where we truly get one another.

When I start coaching people I often find it is in this seemingly scary arena of our emotional life in relationship that can be a minefield for people. Thus it pays to unpick what goes on for people so that they understand and know themselves better. Self awareness is absolutely the most important area to work on. If we don’t know ourselves, we don’t know what to change in how we relate to others. With self awareness comes the ability to identify and manage what occurs in us and thus be able to deal with disruptive emotions and be more present, calm and centred. Teaching people self management skills is in itself a course in how to manage life.

At the same time we also explore how we might learn more about what goes on for another, so that we can better relate to another. This requires emotional self awareness since when we know more of our own emotional life we can do the same for others – though, let it be said we never “know how you feel!” But we can ask, find out and respond appropriately. As we tune in better we also learn to manage our responses better. One flows with the other.

Building better relationships is the final arena, and key to people having better personal lives and managing others better at work. It is all about how we connect and build resonance, how we overcome our own and others’ barriers, how we get others on our wavelength and us on their’s, how we tune in and speak their language and help them better understand our’s, how we value others and help them understand our values, how we get others along us, how we resolve conflict and build trust and good everyday communication skills, and how we become more fulfillingly connected.

Then the love can truly flow!

To find out more

To find out more about my coaching, click on the link just given and you can contact me here.

Do you allow the opinion of others to affect what you feel and do?

How much does the opinion of others impact what you think, say and do? Many people say to me that one of their greatest fears is of not being thought well of by others. The role of judgement plays a huge part in our lives, more than we’d perhaps care to admit. Yet, it is just worth bearing in mind that it is just that, a judgement.

Consider the role that judgement plays in our lives. For starters there is religion which in an increasingly secular world still plays a huge part, and much religion is about judgement at some level, usually about those struggling to fully practice what the religion preaches. Many of us will, if we’re honest, still feel inside that there’s some higher being watching us and passing judgement on our thoughts, words and actions. So it rubs off.

Judgement plays a big part in our lives

Judgement has also powerfully influenced the development of secularism, despite the latter’s protestations. There’s also legal systems and law enforcement. If one thinks about how judgement works, there’s such things related to it like suspicion, investigation, accusation, defence, exoneration, confession, evidence of guilt or innocence, the verdict, guilt again, the judgement itself, the sentence, punishment, guilt and shame, repentance, admission of weakness, examination of one’s failings, purging, forgiveness, release. Have I left anything out? It’s a big list! And we carry all this around inside us as a means by which we regulate our lives.

It can feel like someone else is regulating our lives, were it not that we are also doing this to ourselves, if we look at this psychologically. What a lot to deal with!

A lot of this can sound part of a system or someone inside us, but let’s not forget that this is also the product of our society and our upbringing, the social consensus. We’re communicating this stuff to each other all the time. We judge each other seemingly all the time. No wonder people can be anxious about what others think.

Except that often they don’t. They are too busy thinking about themselves!

No wonder we need to be aware of the role of judgement in our lives

Being non-judgemental

The practice of mindfulness gives a big emphasis to being non-judgemental about our experience. Rather it encourages us to accept what occurs as phenomena and to rest as the witness, the non-judgemental observer. People development practitioners of various hues will, if their own development has included this, also stress the value of this approach since it frees the client up to explore their own beliefs, attitudes, values and approaches without, it is to be hoped, any sense of interference from the stance of the practitioner.

Carl Rogers said that for healing to take place three core conditions were necessary, congruence, empathy, and respect. They sound good, but they are a challenge to practice and yet still a lesson for life and relationship with others, not just for certain professionals.

Many of us still struggle hugely to respect others, be ourselves, and accept others for who they are too. Instead we invest our energies in making others wrong and then punish them at some level. We seem so unable to accept, live and let be.

Yet to heal the world we need to start with ourselves. “First cast out the beam in your own eye”, said Christ.