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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.

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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.

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Is the love-hate relationship between peoples out of control today?

Am I imagining it or is the love-hate balance tipping too far towards hate? Are you feeling uncomfortable about the seeming rise in antagonism towards minorities? Where’s the love and peace? We seem to be in the middle of one of those phases in public life where there’s a desire to blame the ills of life on scapegoats, be they Muslims, benefit claimants, Roma gypsies, immigrants, another religion, another nationality or whoever. Equally we have extremists who have fundamentalist outlooks and see themselves engaged in some climatic struggle against the forces of evil. So, how do we respond from a mindful perspective?

Just recently Muslim fundamentalists in Paris killed a number of journalists for publishing cartoons of the Prophet and attacked a Kosher supermarket. Around the world there’s been protests: “Je suis Charlie”, banners proclaimed, as many asserted the right to free speech. Others insisted on the right to offend, while many Muslims protested against the insults to their religion. All this of course is great recruiting material for extremism, Muslim, Neo-fascist or whatever. You might get the passions aroused, the mutual indignation, and sense of righteousness.

So what might God think of this? Righteous too on one side or the other, or bemused? I remember some words of a teacher of mine, “the benign indifference of the universe”. Taking “sides” doesn’t really fit from this perspective. S/he might simply be reflecting on how humans experience themselves and s/he too through them.

It’s not so easy to see our own shadow at work, that we too can be like this at times. How often have you flipped from respect to antagonism towards another? It’s hard to acknowledge that we humans have this inside us, that we have both the polarities of love and hate at the ego level. Yet this kind of awareness and humility can be helpful, since change starts with ourselves and releasing hate within us. Then we can more truthfully love. As Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”, and he campaigned through non-violence.

There’s also a clue here, about our state of being. If you breathe, step back and witness all this, what are you aware of? I don’t know, but there might be you being aware of having just taken a breath and paused, and then a remembrance of all those thoughts about humans in the world of duality, of being polarised, and love and hate, and all that stuff. And here’s you, being more present and aware.

So, that stuff is not all of you. There’s also you, being present. So you can change your state of being, just like that.

So, there’s all that love-hate stuff “out there”, and “in here”, now here, not nowhere, there’s another sense of who you are.

You could explore “now here”, mindfully, and not be caught up in “out there”. The world of duality, the world of illusion, is how we experience life at the level of ego. But it doesn’t have to be like that. The more we live “now here” the more connected to love we are likely to feel. Then we can manifest “as That” when we make contact with those “out there” who might still be caught up in ego. We can feel God within, whatever our belief system and however we understand it, and we can also see God in each other too.

Then we can be at peace, which by the way is one meaning of the word “Islam”.

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I want it now won’t bring you happiness

You might be pardoned for thinking that the words “I want it now” might be what you hear your small child say when he or she wants something that you are reluctant to agree to. Except that it is also something we adults have come to accept as the norm too, as a recent conference on ethical capitalism showed. While we might feel indignant at the practices of bankers and corporate executives in their chasing short-term rewards at the expense of long-term needs like investment or the needs of the wider society of which they are a part, it is worth reflecting that they, just like us, are at another level also mirrors of the wider society in which they and we live.

We’ve grown used to instant gratification: “me now” includes being able to get things quickly through the channels that now exist in our consumer society. Suddenly being cut off from such access can today be deeply traumatic, as people who’ve been summarily made redundant and had to surrender car and phone on the spot and be escorted off the premises will know, or those who have lost money, credit cards and passport when abroad, or when a business goes spectacularly bust like Lehmans did in 2008. We’re so hooked into rapid satisfaction of need that we can seem unable to wait and be patient, or less inclined to consider the needs of others when we’re on a “me now” trip.

A lot has recently been said about the last few decades’ shift to market capitalism as compared to the collectivist post-war period and the dismantling of many of the welfare state structures. On a personal level, aspirations can seem to count for more than satisfaction for what is.

This could hold a certain confusion about the “now” experience” and this is where it is important to distinguish between the desire-orientated “me now” driver and the “now” of present-moment awareness. They are quite different. The former is driven by an egoic desire for more which can have as its underpinning such root thoughts as “there’s not enough”, “I might lose out”, or “I’m not OK” if I don’t get something I want. There is that element of the needy, impatient, rebel child within, who unconsciously felt he or she never got their deepest needs met, like being loved and appreciated. After all we can enrich ourselves, and have everything we want, as some can, like it seems about 10% of the UK population at present, and still not know peace and happiness.

Yet when we are being mindful and in the state of present-moment awareness we are aware as the witness of the power of desire within us, but not caught up in it, and can let it go. Instead of it being a compulsion, we can take the bigger picture and see that we do not “need” what we seek in order to be OK, because we are already OK. Life is complete right now. So, what’s the point of it all?

When we’re driven, we’re at risk of perpetuating our unhappiness, because we’re addicted to desire and wanting. Yet this is not who we are. We are so much more. The danger is that we can keep being drawn back into desire addiction. It’s such a powerful pattern.

As ever we’re being presented with opportunities to know who we are, and bankers’ bonuses and our insistence on instant gratification present us with more opportunities to see beyond the ego and know who we are.

I give coaching to help people re-orientate their goals and get more real and lasting satisfaction in their life. To learn more, click here

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Do you feel driven by wanting and desire

How much are you driven by issues around wanting and desire? As notions like getting what you want or getting your needs met are very common, this might seem an odd question to ask. Surely, one might think, asking for what I want is a natural thing to do? We as humans have needs that need to be met, as it were.

Yet desire, wanting, has huge issues attached to it that can lead us into all sorts of difficulties, ones that don’t serve us. So it’s worth reflecting on how much desire can get in the way and where to let it go.

What thoughts have you recently been having that are desire-related? For example, as you get into your work today, and the day’s nice and sunny, did a part of you want to be somewhere else, doing something else, being with somebody? Have you recently been wishing you had more money, that there isn’t enough at the moment for what you want? Do you feel frustrated by what you have currently and that you’d like to change, like your house, your job, or something else? Do you long for a particular person in your life, or not feel satisfied with the person you are with at the moment.

If you start to think about it, you can notice that thoughts that are desire-related can run through your mind all day and in your dreams too! In the world out there others who make contact with you will ask the same question! “What do you want?” they ask! Our economy functions on desire: notice the importance economists attach to consumer demand. Overreaching, frustrated or competing desire can lead to wars.

You might still be wondering, what’s the problem? From a personal development perspective, one answer could be that being mindful of the function of desire can alert us to where our thoughts about desire are interrupting our balance and equipoise and leading us to unhappiness.

Meditators are often cautioned about how desire can be the great interrupter of a calm meditation. It is often desire that engages the ego and takes us away on to often negative paths. So, also in life in general, if you attend to it, pay attention to it, you will see how it can kick in very easily, especially if you are already well-attuned to it and it is part of your wiring, so to speak.

That doesn’t mean that wanting what we might consider to be the basics of life are legitimate. It’s perhaps about make the distinctions about what serves you and what doesn’t, a different matter, and about being aware of where you or I get unhealthily attached to less useful strategies. So you might need to get fed, clothed and housed and have a good relationship, let’s say, but not necessarily be attached to having an income that is proving impossible for you to achieve.

To follow this single example, many of us go through our lives feeling we’ve not got enough, that there is always something missing. A common way this shows up is an attachment to not enough money. The more we want, the more we get the “want of it”, or in other words the lack of it. And then we feel unhappy.

I could extend this to all sorts of areas of our lives where there is a sense of unfulfillment. And it shows up repeatedly and causes us suffering. Till we learn to let go of it and not be attached to it. Make the distinction.

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Having expectations can be a set-up for not getting what you want

People are often mystified when I challenge them in coaching for having expectations. “What’s wrong with that?” they ask. I don’t mean it is wrong because that would be a judgement, but I do question its efficacy in certain situations. It usually requires some explanation, and invariably is related to the particular expectation the individual is making and the level of investment they have in the outcome. Here are a few general pointers.

Expectations from a self development perspective  is a requirement of other people, life and the universe by you or I. We are expecting that something will or won’t occur. This is distinct from intention, which is a goal, aim or plan, is related to the originator, and is generally a lot more powerful. When you set an intention, you engage your own creative force and do it with freedom, letting go of any resistances you may have and instead allowing things to occur, so that the universe can flow accordingly. With expectation, you are requiring something from others, which may or may not fit with their free will. Moreover, with expectation, you are pushing against the flow of the universe, and potentially setting up barriers for yourself. It will depend on your investment, and any negative involvement, even at subtle levels.

The potential danger is that actually we get invested in the outcome, at the ego level. Some aspect of our ego identity is at stake. In effect we are saying that “I” (often at a fear level) want something to be, with some level of penalty if it doesn’t occur. It can feel like, “it had better be, or else.” If we explore it, from a self-enquiry perspective, we may find we are afraid it won’t happen or that things are at stake and we may lose out or be disadvantaged.

With expectation, there can be a requirement that life unfolds in a particular way. We may want certain things to occur in our life, but instead of going for the intention, we invest the energy of expectation, and our hopes and fear get involved in the outcome. When we get invested like this, with our wellbeing or whatever other important aspect of “us” is involved, then the failure of the expected outcome to occur will leave us feeling a lot, like anger or disappointment. So there’s a lot at stake, and “we” might lose out. And of course, in Law of Attraction terms, it is potentially setting us up for failure.

With intention we let go and allow. “We” are not invested in the outcome. “We” in the ego sense is not involved. Thus, if it doesn’t happen, “we” are unaffected in essence. From a mindfulness perspective, we simply observe the process. We remained centred. In this space, it’s much more likely to happen.

Funny old world.

I coach people to accomplish their goals: click here to learn more.

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One major obstacle to mindfulness is not remembering to do it

One major obstacle many who practice mindfulness will say is that of remembering to do it. It’s a true test of commitment. Something comes along and we put off doing our practice, or say to ourselves that it’s OK, we can just do it tomorrow, and then tomorrow comes and we do the same. Then, if we carry on along this track, the whole thing can very easily go “on the back burner”, and get postponed.

The ego finds all sorts of ways of resisting what we’ve committed to. Habits are often deeply ingrained and can be very subtle in reasserting themselves. To consciously and intentionally give time to our practice means that we will generally need to do just that at least once a day. The benefit comes over time.

Once we postpone our practice, getting back into it gets that bit harder. People often find they then need an extra bit of effort to re-establish the activity. It can seem a bit of a contradiction, saying that an effort is needed, since we’re talking about relaxing, tuning inside, letting go and being present. This is where the will and intention is so important. Mindfulness is action with a purpose, and the paradox is to then be still and let go and be mindful. This whole field is full of paradoxes.

In this kind of personal development, illusion is a subtle constraint. People are often liable to this kind of pausing their practice when things seem OK. When you really need your meditation, let’s say, you’ll give time to it. But if things are going well, then it somehow seems OK to take a break. Then there are other people and demands on our life, and the million and one things that need doing. There’s plenty that demands our attention.

Then there’s ourselves. Many will attest to procrastination or making excuses. We can do a pretty good job of convincing ourselves. In fact we can get quite angry if the avoidance technique gets pointed out to us. “Look, I need to do this today! I’m fine.” Then judgement really gets involved and we can get really invested in how what we’re doing is “right”.

Then, we pause, breathe, notice what’s been going on, including all the judgements for and against, let go, be present, focus on our focus, and notice mindfully. Take awareness away from whatever the mind has been doing, which is now in the past, and breathe and be aware of your focus.

You can learn more about this practice, and its benefits, if you sign up to the free ecourse on mindfulness which is on the left of the blog.

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There is a field I’ll meet you there

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
There is a field.
I’ll meet you there” (Rumi)

As the world contemplates yet more conflict in the supposed cause of wrongdoing and rightdoing, the poem by the Islamic mystic Sufi Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī serves as a useful reminder across the centuries and cultures of what is universal to us all – if we pause and reflect. There is indeed a field, which we each find in our own way.

In the ruler and warrior traditions as usually conceived perceptions of wrongdoing are usually followed by knee-jerk responses of counter-action. These counter-actions, often intended to punish or deter have very often been followed by escalation of conflict and thus results well beyond what the originators intended. However, we don’t pause and reflect on what we’re doing, so caught up as we are as humans, in the world of ego, in the sense of “rightness”. Only later do humans tend to reflect and wonder on the utility of what they do, often too late.

Hence the very act of pausing has great, universal value. It can open the portal to a higher truth, beyond perceptions of right and wrong, and beyond different ideologies and belief systems.

Taking a pause in the onward flow of thoughts, wonderings, ideas and action is an opportunity to become aware, be present, be mindful, notice what’s going on, take stock, review options, develop new strategies, become resolved. Our glass might need regular replenishment and it’s good to stop and allow it to be refilled from the abundant river of the universe.

In meditation, practitioners may often become aware of the gap between the inflow and the outflow of the breath, and the outflow and the inflow too, and allow their awareness to be present there. In the flow of conversation there are pause points, as people take breath, collect their thoughts, and reflect on what’s being said. People may have pauses between jobs when they need to think about the way forward and re-gain new energy. We go on holiday to “have a break” and allow ourselves to get a re-charge or whatever.

In the pause can be silence and stillness and it can also be pregnant with new possibility. The skill is to be unattached to what may emerge – and even to whether anything may emerge! The creative space needs that opening, the right brain to be freed of the logic, rationality and judgement of the left. Habitual learning is to cut that off, as part of the survival and coping process of everyday life, but it doesn’t serve us for long. In the silence of the pause there is infinite possibility. Many options lie there, more than we consciously know. NLP has it than we can only hold plus or minus 7 such pieces. So think what else is floating around!

Caught up in ego, we get attached to a particular option and lose the ability to take the broader view and access other ways of acting, including not acting at all. In the present situation in the Middle East we here in the west seem to have lost that ability to hold a higher state and be the witness.

Being the witness, connected to your own deeper truth, helps give you the ability to be present with What Is, to choose not to engage, and to allow things to be – and maybe in the process resolve themselves as they need to. While caught up in being “right”, in positions, in beliefs and in culturally-inherited attitudes, we lose that ability and descend into child-like conflict, where nobody really “wins”.

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Acceptance frees us from attachment to desire

In an age accustomed to change, improvement and betterment, it can seem unfashionable in the extreme to accept what you have and where you are. But it is an option not to be neglected. A way round being dissatisfied with what is, is to accept it. Thus we can loosen the bonds keeping us attached to wanting and needing, to desire.

Think of something you aren’t happy about and want to be different. I’ll give you one. I’ve been feeling indignant about the recent revelations about alleged spying and intrusions on internet privacy by spooks from all sorts of nationalities, as I was before by Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper’s alleged hacking of phones. Now instead I could just accept it. Well, it happens, and surveillance of citizenry by the state is as old as the hills, well before the internet. So, just let go and accept it. Breathe in deeply, and when you breathe out let it and accept it. Be aware of whatever bugs you about it, and let it go. Accept it.

You can take this further. Whatever goes on in your life that you tend to get hung up about, accept it. It happens. It is. So accept it.

When you notice yourself thinking, “Now hang on, I’m not going to give up like that. That’s being weak and feeble.” And accept it. Notice the judgement you have, and let it go. Accept it.

Acceptance is the gentle art of letting go applied to the areas of your life that seem at odds with what you want. It’s where the ego function of desire gets engaged, wanting or not wanting something. We can get all tense and wound up about all sorts of issues. So, relax, let it go and accept it.

Now, this might mean you need to find some other way of living with what’s happening. And that might mean managing the part of you that objects to doing this. And then you might also find that your relationship with the issue changes in some way. For example, by letting go and accepting it, you might be giving the universe freedom to bring you what you really need, which might be just perfect. It could be for example that the outcome will suit both you and lets say others whom you are at odds with. By letting go and accepting, you’ve allowed other possibilities to emerge. When we are attached to something, we limit our options and we shut down on creativity and on the Law of Attraction from bringing us what we really need.

Acceptance also gives you peace. When you really let go, the conflict and tension goes, and all is easy again. Which is more how things really work at the higher level. They say, we always get what we need. There is always enough. You just have to believe it! Now, that’s a good one for another post!

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When you are caught up in anger remember that there is a field

Are we being “paranoid” and over-suspicious of state surveillance and control allegedly conducted in our interests or do we simply accept what we can’t influence? Is state (and organisational) surveillance by democratically elected bodies something that we have nothing to be fearful of so long as we act in integrity and are law-abiding? How far is surveillance and individual autonomy a hazy boundary and to some extent something we also create through our own insecurities. Is this sort of issue also an aspect of a human tendency to be fear-based at the ego level?

In a week in which we have contrasting manifestations of the oft-times precarious relationship between state power and personal rights, there has been a massive protest movement in Turkey and revelations of state snooping on digital data in the US. Both confront us perhaps with matters of consideration that are relevant not just in politics but in our personal lives too and how we function at the civic level and in relationship with others.

In personal development terms it can be worth reflecting on the extent to which you (or I) get “caught up” in concerns about authority, control, independence, individuality, and autonomy. One way this can manifest is, as Transactional Analysis would have it, in the ego style of the rebel when in “child” mode as opposed to adult mode. It’s worth being aware of when we can get into “rebel” mode in relation to people or bodies who have an authority role. The paranoid style might be present when we get overly suspicious of others and their motives and not trust others as we might. Also the preoccupation with secrecy and control “out there” might also be part of our shadow, where we don’t acknowledge our own fear of others and our own tendency to want to be secret and controlling. When the rebel gets overly invested in reacting to authority they might be also projecting their own characteristics on to others. And in writing like this about these human psychological characteristics, I might be being paranoid too!

When stuff is going on at the macro level we might have our views about that, and express those views. But it is also worth having humility and looking within and asking, “Is this also a part of me?” This is often a useful self enquiry, since it helps us get things into balance, not get too wrapped up in things like a sense of injustice and anger, and become more balanced. Also, when we let go and centre ourselves, we let go of attachment to  “issues” and “right and wrong”. As Rumi wrote,

“Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there” (Rumi)

Whenever the ego gets invested in anger and injustice, there’s a time too to let it go and have peace. While invested in anger, we also have polarity and difference, and we become unable to reach each other and find our common connection. This anger begets more anger and we remain stuck in the polarity and are unable to find common ground and connect. So when we observe humans beating hell out of each other, it is worth remembering the field. I’ll meet you there.

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(Youtube video by enea)