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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?

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Desire and want can be barriers to happiness

Desire and want are riven through so much of our thought, speech and action. Listen to someone speak and you will hear quite quickly an expression of need, sometimes negatively and sometimes positively. It’s ingrained in our consciousness but perhaps unsurprisingly it also flags up an aspect of our way of being that doesn’t necessarily always serve us. In fact they can make us miserable.

In coaching, for example, it is often a very effective question to ask, “What do you want?” It can invite someone who is feeling unclear to explore their desires and can bring out what is really motivating them and the statements and actions that they most need to make. Knowing what you want is very useful. You’ve probably got a clearer idea where you are going and what you want to accomplish. You know what to ask for. It helps in communication since it invites honesty and directness. “Tell it straight” is a powerful communication enhancer, if a bit challenging for the less direct amongst us, especially if done without attitude. Then people know where they stand and can respond appropriately. Organisations are often structured arrangements for the meeting of needs, such as the requirements of stakeholders, customers, managers and so on.

Yet desire and want are also about what is missing, about lack. Stating a want can also be a statement that you don’t have which can draw more lack to you, for those familiar with this way of thinking. It’s not surprising. Humanity has such a massive history of hunger, poverty and deprivation and so it’s in the blueprint. Deficit need is a well-known aspect of psychological difficulty for many of us, the unmet need for, for example, love and affection. Our consumer society is geared to the repeated desire for and satisfaction of material need, usually then replaced by some other need.

Not surprisingly too, Eastern spiritual traditions caution against attachment to desire. One great interrupter of spiritual practice is some thought process related to desire and wanting. Those who meditate regularly will know this all too well. In the midst of some gradual deepening of inner calm can come thoughts like “I need to put the oven on,” “My partner wants me to do something for him/her,” “I’m supposed to be leaving the house in half an hour,” “I want some more money,” “I wish she/he would appreciate me more.” Yes, it’s just about anything. However, the persistent ones will be about an ongoing or regular issue that occurs in our life.

It’s worth noticing what these desire-related issues are that keep cropping up. Then we know what we’re dealing with. Then we can also know more accurately what to “name” from a mindfulness perspective, and let go of. We can notice when they are hovering around in the background. We can tell when we’re feeling some hurt of upset what’s got triggered and what it is that is really nagging away at us.

Then remember. It’s not who we are, and let go, breathe, be still. We are so much more than our desires.

Desire is the great interrupter of evenness and equipoise, of inner stillness and contentment. Thus the ability to distinguish when desire is present and is an aspect that doesn’t serve us is very important.

I give coaching to help people accomplish what they want and also let go of unhealthy or self-defeating desire. To learn more, click here.

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Letting go can be the hardest thing to do

Do you find you get so caught up in something that you don’t see that what you really need to do is let go? We can get so attached to something that hanging on to the direction we’re taking seems the only option and we thus lack choices about alternatives. Letting go of “it” can seem a weakness, giving up.

It can seem obvious to an outsider but to us in the middle of “it”, whatever that is, “it” is all that matters. You want something to happen but “it” won’t oblige! The frustration builds up and we work all the harder to try to make “it” happen, with a resulting log-jam in the universal delivery service. So, what’s to be done, if anything?

For those of us caught in today’s rat-race, trying to bring in the cash, trying to square all sorts of competing demands on our time, trying to stay on course, we get locked into a way of thinking and thus deprive ourselves of the ability to see the bigger picture. For some it’s not till they get sick or some other event happens that compels them to pause and assess what’s going on.

With mindfulness, what happens is that we step back from the content of our lives, bring our minds away from what we’re caught up in, or whatever our mind is doing, come into the moment and can see what’s going on. Being able to take this perspective means we can see what is happening while it’s happening. You learn to witness yourself in action. You learn that these thoughts are not who you are. This awareness is just a breath away.

To let go is part of the process. Once you take your awareness away from being caught up in “it”, you let go. With this approach we are also non-judgemental and accepting. Thus it gives us freedom. So when we let go, we allow all sorts of possibilities to be present, we “allow” the universe to do what is needed, which could be what you really want – except that you are no longer driven by it, attached to it, and equally you are open to other possibilities. It’s a paradox. To get what you want you have to let go of it.

If there’s an ounce (or gram!) of attachment, then it doesn’t work. You need to find a way to totally let go. Then the log-jam can clear and things can flow again. When we are caught up, we can’t see this, or don’t want to.

So, have a think: what are you at this moment attached to that you need to let go of? Often this is uncomfortable, because what we don’t include in this are the very things we need to let go of most. So your list would need to include your strongest attachments. And in your struggle over this, you can use mindfulness to witness the part of you that is attached and see what that might be about too.

This is where peace lies.

We are running a series of mindfulness courses this year to train people in this vital ability. To learn more, click here

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Meditate even when you don’t feel like it

If your mind is off on some trip somewhere and you aren’t feeling so good, it’s a good time to meditate. Yet this can seem a hard one if you don’t feel like that either. Yet many seasoned meditators will say that this is exactly where meditation can be so beneficial.

Let’s take the example of feeling dissatisfied or discontented about something. Somehow the problem keeps hanging around in your mind and you don’t seem able to let it go or change how you feel. The fear might be that if you go and meditate with this going on, you’ll just have a “bad meditation” or “won’t be able to meditate”.

Of course there can be a bit of victimhood with the problem, where we feel sorry for ourselves, “at the effect of the problem”, like “it” has got hold of “us”. So we separate ourselves from the problem and make “it” the cause” of our woes. With meditation, we make contact with our Oneness, our essence of Being, and us and the problem are at some level one. At that level, what can be the problem if you are fully surrendered to the One? Here we can potentially see that we are creating our problem and we can dissolve it.

There is a limiting belief that we “can’t meditate”, that when we’re in the middle of a problem “it” will get in the way. Yet meditation is what happens when we sit with the intention to meditate. Sitting still, going within, and being present with our Selves, warts and all, can include everything, including noise, distraction and busy, unhappy minds. In meditation we work with acceptance, which includes accepting whatever is going on, being mindful of it and returning our awareness to the breath – and a mantra if you use one. Being still, aware and present in this way enables the problem to just be there, with us mindful of it, the observer of it, as a witness, and return our awareness to our breath, etc. What can happen in meditation is that we loosen our attachment to the “problem”, which then becomes yet another manifestation of consciousness in its contracted, egoic state, which over and over we let go of as we meditate. Then your state can become inner stillness of Being, consciousness in its true state.

Over and  over we learn how we can let go of these things and they no longer exist as a reality, except as we choose to make it one. Thus going to meditate when you don’t feel like it, when your mind is caught up in stuff that you’re not happy about, is a perfect time to re-mind yourself of what it’s really all about.

You can download an mp3 of guidelines for meditation and 2 guided introductions to meditation to help you develop your practice of meditation. Click here.

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What do you regret?

It’s a useful question to ask, and many of us hit occasions when we do just that – on the last day of your life, what do you regret?

A palliative care nurse recently compiled a list of the top 5 things the dying stated they regretted. These might not surprise you:

1.    I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me
2.    I wish I hadn’t worked so hard
3.    I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings
4.    I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends
5.    I wish that I had let myself be happier

You could check how much this list fits with your everyday concerns, and whether key ones in this list are not actually attended to by you on a day to day basis. In other words, what’s really missing?

The thing is we don’t come up with “I wish I had done that trip to some special part of the world, or had this or that experience, or made my fortune and retired happily ever after, or had this or that lifestyle”. It’s the really fundamental things, those that strike at the core of our being, who we are.

Where you feel the power of the emotion of that thought.

This is really key. Depending on what you believe, there are many traditions that say we go through some kind of life review at the end of our lives. This question brings us up face to face with what we’ve really been doing or not doing with our lives. And there can be something unfinished, incomplete, not resolved.

There may be an aspect to this that we may of course come to learn to accept. Letting go of regrets and forgiving others can be part of the journey of personal and spiritual growth.

However there are others that we may well have choice over in other ways. Yet we continue to plough our furrow and not deal with them. We deflect ourselves away from making contact with these fundamental things within us, and thus live life on the dimmer switch. We deny our own life force. It can be almost perverse.

Yet we do have choice. As humans we do have free will. Will you choose life?

So, here’s where you can make your choice. Use the up-coming workshop next Saturday to explore for yourself:

1.    How I might choose to starting living a life where I am true to myself
2.    How I might make changes in my work that meet my real life goals
3.    How I might be more authentic
4.    How I might be more connected to others
5.    How I might bring lasting happiness into my life

You can book here: click here.

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Persistent negative thoughts are beliefs you need to let go of

What are the things you keep saying to yourself when you’re annoyed or frustrated with yourself? Or those things you keep telling yourself that are negative about you? If you can catch yourself thinking or saying these things, it can potentially be very useful if you want to make changes.

For example you might say something like “I’m useless at…” or “I’m no good at…” when describing an inability to do something, especially when comparing yourself with others. Or you might say “I’ve got it wrong…” or “I’m wrong…”. These phrases we use to describe ourselves negatively can be highly instructive about how we think, especially the view we may persistently have about ourselves. Thus in the two examples I’ve just used, my message to myself might be things like “I’m useless” or “I’m wrong” or “I’m bad”. This can reflect a belief we have about ourselves. We might even think it is who we are, and not necessarily just when we’re having a bad day. Such thoughts can truly undermine our life and limit what we can achieve.

It can be well worth while to learn to spot your persistent negative thoughts that you keep thinking, and the root thoughts that underpin them. This is how we can do ourselves down. It’s habitual, and might have been learned when very small, as a results of views we adopted when someone said something to us that impacted us, or a decision we made as a result of something that happened, well before we we old enough to look at it rationally.

A common root thought I hear is “I’m not good enough”. It’s as though at some point we made the decision that we weren’t meeting a certain standard that was “good”, and that what we offered wasn’t “enough”. You can almost hear the parental messages: “That’s not good enough” could get misinterpreted as “I’m not good enough”. There not being enough is of course a root human thought right across peoples, the sense of insufficiency that drives need and desire and is never satisfied, especially when it is applied to our desire for love and approval.

Here is a great example of the ego at work, where we make ourselves small and insufficient. The key point here is that we are splendid and worthy beyond measure. But, you might think, even reading those words can make us squirm with discomfort, because a deep part inside doesn’t think that’s true, a very hurt part of the ego that is. Hence we can keep ourselves locked in, seemingly unable to break out and truly acknowledge our own beauty and worth.

Here is important work to manage the mind, to notice and challenge these thoughts and let them go and re-direct your awareness to that which uplifts. You can learn more about this in my online course here.

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If only thinking keeps us chained to the past

If something has gone wrong or we think we’ve failed at something there’s the “if only” game: “if only I had gone that way rather than this”, “if only I had listened”, “if only I hadn’t done that deal”, and so on. There’s always some scenario that we can think of that was better than what we actually did that we can mull over as we rue the results of our actions or inactions.

Living in “if” is another way of not being in the present moment. Like worry, we imagine some alternative to what’s occuring but this time it is in the past. It is hypothetical: it didn’t happen and probably won’t happen, and it prevents us accepting, letting go and coming to terms with what is.

“If only” is another way of judging our actions and making fault. We can go over what should have happened again and again, not resolving the matter but making it unacceptable in contrast to what we think should have happened. Life is suspended while there is a perpetual inquest.

“If only” can be used not just for particular events but for life as a whole and the choices we’ve made. So we can play “if onlys” with major life decisions, like people we’ve married or jobs we’ve taken (or refused) or major purchases, investments or other big commitments we might come to regret later, or some major transgression by people important in our lives. So “if onlys” are about regret and resentment about the past, and can involve an inability to forgive and let go.

Learning to give the whole thing up and let go of it is therefore a major journey for those hooked on “if onlys”. What happened, happened, and we have our views about it. Yet we can change what we think, and think again, and see the past differently. We can forgive ourselves and others for what happened. We can choose not to be governed by what are really our interpretations about the past. This is about shifting perception, since there is very often another view of the same circumstances and we could potentially see what occured quite differently. Then we can learn the whole gift of acceptance and non-attachment: what happens, just happens, and life continues. I am not past my past. I am simply who I am.

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Is it hard to let go of not having what you want?

Success is a big thing for many people in our society and a source of major frustration. It’s a word that gets plastered all over the place in various people development and personal life change literature. Yet it trips so many of us up.

What does the word “success” mean for you? Career success, making loads of money, something aspirational, a certain expensive life style you can afford because you’re “successful”? How do you feel about that? Is there a part of you that wishes it was like that for you, but that you feel frustrated if you were being honest because that’s not how it’s worked out.

It’s fraught with associations. What negative associations come up for you? Here’s a few: not being successful at school, failing your 11 Plus (in parts of the UK) or other key exams, struggling to succeed in sport, not being “any good” at sport (notice the words we use), being successful at losing weight (how many are stuck on that one at present?), being very successful academically, having a successful career, being made redundant (did you take it personally?), not being top of the local social pecking order, not being successful in personal growth even (yes!), etc. I could go on.

Behind the word is the whole matter of desire of course – wanting, wanting, wanting. How much do you find yourself getting caught up with wanting something, or rather of not having something, or of things not being enough? And can any little tiny bit of that plausibly translate into something more personal? For example, if I’m not successful, I might go on to beat myself up and make it that “I’m not good enough”, or whatever is your personal tendency when you’re feeling particularly negative.

With the recession, many people have apparently being giving up on their dreams and settling for what they’ve got, holding on, fearful for their security. I was recently reading a survey about exactly this in terms of people’s careers. Energetically all this represents a closing down, a shrinking away, a barrier to the abundant flow of the universe. So of course we get more of what we fear.

It’s a real catch-22. “I want more money”, people think, and what they get is the want of it.

In my Gestalt terms, this interruption to the flow of awareness belongs in the satisfaction phase of the cycle. We need satisfaction, but we don’t get it, and therein lies a persistent lack of fulfilment and a source of unhappiness. Right now I’d suggest huge numbers are caught up in this.

Even at the macro level, our leaders are struggling between paying down debt and trying to get growth. But it ain’t happening!

So, it’s time to step out of this pattern of frustrated desire, which is in any case a good old ego trait, and let go. Thus you can let in the flow of abundance, but this time based around a far more fulfilling possibility, one where you have an inspired vision that you are motivated to realise.

In this program you can identify where you get stuck and develop strategies to deal with those limiting beliefs, let go and then design your own empowered vision which you are far more enthusiastic about working on and bringing to fruition.

Recessions can bring out the part of us that can get stuck in victim mode. It’s very subtle and can creep up on us. Here is an opportunity, in an inspiring location, to let go and bring out what you truly mean by success that fits with your values, what you are about, your unique destiny.

Why wait for others to give us “growth”? It’s time for seekers to do their own growing. We’ve been at it lifetimes, after all, so we’re seasoned warriors. What could you be doing now that will truly honour what you are about, that you want to manifest?

I provide coaching to help people be successful in ways that are truly meaningful for them. To learn more, click here.

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Forgiveness can mean you need to let go of something

Forgiving another can be the really hard bit in dealing with a problem in relationships. Yet that’s so often what we’re told to do, forgive.

Part of the problem lies in the term itself. People associate forgiveness with “letting people off”, as though what we are supposed to do is go and say, “You’ve done this but I forgive you.” This can be really difficult, especially as there’s things like hurt pride and a lingering sense that the other person was really at fault. So we have blame involved and we also don’t want to be seen to back down.

It can be even harder when we have done something too to the other person, because we fear we may have to go and admit something. Thus the sense of “losing face” can be all the more problematic.Then we might fear we’re giving power to the other person, or that they have the moral advantage.

Human relationships are stuffed full of all this. It’s how countries have ended up at war and whole peoples have suffered genocide, let alone the feuds and private wars that go on. Backing down, as it seems, is impossible.

Here’s another definition of forgiveness: “giving up the right to punish and truly letting go of all resentment.” There’s a big difference here. This is about a shift in you, without any expectation from the other person. It’s unconditional, non-judgemental. It involves letting go, giving up all the stuff that’s going on inside, all the blame, the judgements, the beliefs about what we think the other person or persons did or said, all the stories, all the allegations, all the so-called “facts” (really points of view), all the hurt we feel, all the pain, all the costs, all the hurt pride and the damaged ego, the whole lot.

This is the hard bit. Letting go of something in ourselves. Going and saying “I forgive you” to another is surprisingly quite easy, especially as you may not actually mean it. But to let go of it in yourself, that’s the real journey, the real healing: letting go of all that anger, upset and bitterness. Peace at last!

I coaching people in improving and maximising their relationships. Click here.

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What keeps us apart can be the hurts we hold

Do you notice how easy it is to allow a connection with another person to die off? We might have been good friends with someone and then some issue comes along, or at least an issue as we see it, and rather than discussing and dealing with it, we say nothing, pull back and the contact is in effect broken. This is then what keeps us apart. How much of human relations can be summed up in this all-too-frequent pattern?

The way humans pull back from one another can seem almost instinctual. If one person puts out negative vibes, another will immediately react. It’s immediate. This is why we need to pay careful attention to where we are coming from and what we put out when we deal with other people. Just have one negative thought even and it can be picked up at some level. Humans are much more sensitive than people often allow for. Thus it pays to become skilled at putting your own personal stuff on one side when you communicate with another. Yet at the same time it also pays to be authentic, so that others can trust us and get where we’re coming from. It can become a minefield for some people!

What can be hard to see is what we put out ourselves. We perceive some transgression by another and we make up a story about it. That’s the way perception can go. Then we hold it against them, make them wrong and put up barriers. I’ve known people totally shut down on contact with certain others and there’s suddenly been no communication. The two cease speaking to one another. It can be tragic.

What needs to happen here is a shift to ownership, to taking responsibility for one’s own process, to the meanings one has made, accepting that we each do this rather than blaming others, and unconditionally, without any expectation from the other person. It can involve accepting that we ourselves are hurting in some way and that this might be an old pattern and it might have occured with others in the past, and letting all that go. It might involve forgiveness, forgiving others for what we think they’ve done, at least as an inner shift we can have within ourselves.

Then we need to pluck up the courage and go and speak to the other person, and crucially not from a blame/judgement position, since this might be mostly our own stuff. If we can then be honest with them about how we feel, owning our own process, it might just be that the other might get what’s been going on for us and own something for themselves.

Magic can happen in human relations too!