The Butterfly Effect

You may have heard of this before; in chaos theory where one small change causes much more dramatic changes further down the line. In simple terms, where an action causes ripple effects that go on and on. There is a brilliant little book, of the same name, I read that introduced the theory, by Andy Andrews. He gives some brilliant and utterly surprising examples of the butterfly effect in action. If something so tiny hadn’t happened, something so huge would not have occurred. The tiny flap of a butterfly’s wings could cause a typhoon on the other side of the world.

You could then look at this in many ways. If you were able to choose to go back and eradicate seemingly negative events or experiences from your life, would you? Most people could probably think of a few things they wish they hadn’t experienced and could erase from their lives. However, in doing that there are so many other things that wouldn’t be in your life right now had it not been for those experiences, let alone the infinite number of things that your’ event or experience caused for others. So you can see that these experiences we have in our lives not only affect what happens further down the line for us, but for others, our environment and who knows humanity and the world at large too. The book explains some of those gargantuan types of examples.

These days, when I am going through something that would from the outside be perceived as negative, I try to see it differently. It is just so – not good or bad, just simply as it is. That isn’t to say I don’t suffer through it – all humans suffer, that’s part of what makes us human. However, looking at experiences through a different lens, one where I am accepting of what is, means that I am not interfering with what is meant to be – the butterfly effect. It also makes you see that we are as we were originally born to be, part of a bigger whole that works in complete harmony, perfectly well without our interference. Often times our suffering comes from trying to change what is, from going against the grain or seeking to control what is out of our control.

This way of living, where you accept and let go, surrender to each moment and experience what is happening isn’t giving up. In fact it is more about actually being present in your life as it unfolds, to witness and experience each day fully, rather than being in a constant state of worrying or feeling anxious about what is happening and what you can (or can’t) do about it. When you live that way you spend your time either ruminating over the past or being fearful of what is coming. You miss the present moment entirely and that’s where you life is. That’s where your life matters, right now, in the moment, this moment, creating those tiny ripples or the small flapping of wings that spread far and wide….trust that and be present.

“By your hand, millions – billions of lives will be altered, caught up in a chain of events begun by you on this day.”

– Andy Andrews from the Butterfly Effect

[Image – years ago, when I first began writing, I wrote a series of stories called Rainbow of Love and this image was used for the story around the colour blue; Blue Butterflies…]

The Crazy Chimp

Hello December 🙂 hope you are all enjoying some peace and calm in the run up to the Christmas holidays. What a perfect time to talk about the crazy chimp…

I am reading a book someone recommended me to called, The Chimp Paradox, by Prof Steve Peters, an English psychiatrist who works in elite sport. I am probably only 10% in, but the premise of the book is that our minds are basically operated by two key drivers. Our human and logical self and then an emotional chimp. That in itself sounds crazy, however, it is a simplistic and brilliant way in helping us to understand and manage the way our minds work. 

It is one of those books that you relate to so much that you find yourself nodding or saying out loud how much you agree with it. So relatable and so relevant to our every day thinking and behaviour.

In my meditation recently I have been reminded of the sense of self and the fact that we all interact and experience through our own perceptions. Through the practice of meditation it can become possible to see yourself separately, so that you are almost getting a birds eye view a situation to see that your own perception is often skewed. When you can detach from a situation in this way on a day to day basis, you become much more able to see the perceptions of others in the same way. It isn’t that one person is necessarily wrong or right over another, it is just their perceptions are different. We each come from our own place of thinking, feeling and experiences.  However, understanding this and considering the theory that Steve Peters outlines in his book about the chimp and the way that ‘it’ operates, means you can begin to interact with others in a totally different way. You begin to think and, therefore, act, more on, ‘what is’, rather than what you ‘think’, is. Two very different things; the latter coming from your own skewed perception of what is, which you learn is controlled by the crazy emotional chimp. 

Meditation breathes space, not just into the moments you are practising, but throughout your day. Allowing for pause where you would ordinarily respond and enabling you to consider how to respond to someone or perceive a particular situation. Your perception becomes based on fact, rather than fiction – which is created by our chimp running the show.

When we are present we are not acting on emotion (which is truly what the chimp controls) and causing a REaction. Being present allows us to respond instead or sometimes just choosing not to respond at all, indeed, there is great power in silence. 

Having the choice is the key. We do have control over our perceptions and the way in which we interact with others and experience our world, once we realise how our minds work and our thoughts and perceptions are formed. It doesn’t matter what our understanding is now, or even if we never reach a point of understanding, simply meditating will unravel an inner understanding all of it’s own…we just have to begin and I quote my sister who said, ‘be where your feet are planted.’ The only place that can be is here and now, in the present moment. 

[I’ve had this image for years…bought for a website project I was doing at the time. It depicts being free…when you walk through the door that meditation opens, freedom awaits you on the other side…]

Learning to stay [in meditation]

I have found that when you need meditation the most it is the hardest time to practice. Those times when you feel frustrated, stuck, down, off balance, irritated, displaced, angry or sad. It is easy to meditate when life is on the up swing. When you’ve got a spring in your step, feeling balanced, well and healthy, but when your life has taken a downturn and you are feeling generally out of sorts, it can be difficult to sit, even for a minute or two. What to do during these times?

I once listened to a podcast with Tara Brach and she talked about working with people who were extremely challenged when it came to being able to sit and meditate. People who, for a myriad of reasons find it nigh on impossible to be present. She talked about ‘staying’. The moment when you sit and meditate but want to get up again or leave the present moment. Silently repeating ‘stay’ in each moment can help. Even if you are sitting in the present moment for just a minute or two, it is better than not sitting at all.

The key is being present, no matter what you’re feelings. Accepting them in each moment and being present with them, not forcing them away or inviting them in, simply noticing in each moment what you are feeling within your body. Practising kindness toward yourself (which again during these moments can be incredibly difficult) will also help.

‘The wound is the place where the light enters you.’ – Rumi

Tara Brach has a Learning to Stay meditation that I particularly enjoyed. It is only a few minutes long. During this, notice how you feel when you rest your hand on your heart. Notice how your feelings soften toward yourself and how that feels. You might want to move your hand away, but ‘stay’ with it.

Visit the guided ‘Learning to Stay’ meditation on Tara Brach’s website

 

[This image was taken walking on the Conwy Suspension Bridge, once the gateway to Conwy, and the Toll-Keeper’s House, heading into Conwy Castle, Wales.]

Setting yourself free

I listened to a podcast last week that included a quote that has had a profound effect on me, and that I thought I would share…

If you are experiencing any negative emotion; doubt, fear, anger, frustration, it is almost always a sign to redirect your attention, either to the task at hand or to others. – Adam Robinson.

If you think about how many times you take things personally, or feel any of these emotions when you are at work, with your partner, while shopping, driving, with family, friends and so on, I am sure those times will be too many to mention.

In every single situation, you could always redirect your attention to the task at hand or to others.

Imagine you are at work and dealing with a particularly difficult client or customer. Rather than focusing on how they are making you feel – which by the way is absolutely normal human behaviour, focus on the task you are helping them with. This redirects the attention from you onto that. Or, as the quote suggests, focus on them. Work on helping them.

Mindfulness is a powerful tool here. By bringing your attention of awareness to the present moment you can be more conscious of the person you are dealing with and what they are saying, what their issues are and how you could help them. If you think about it, being mindful is the key. because to redirect your attention, you have to become present.

It is usually when we are on autopilot, with our subconscious mind running the show, that we react to emotions that arise within us. The way in which we respond to situations is usually based on years and years of the same patterns of behaviour playing out. So when a particular situation arises, we will usually respond in the same way. By being mindful, we can become aware of that and actually choose a different reaction. We can choose to notice the emotion arising within us, but instead, to redirect our attention to focus on what we are actually doing – the task at hand – or to the person we are interacting with, to others, rather than ourselves.

This is very liberating. It does set you free from being wrapped up in ourselves and getting caught up in our emotions and allowing them to run away with us. Think about the number of times something becomes about you, when really it has just escalated because you reacted in a certain way. The emotion would have come up within you and then without thinking you would have responded. This is when situations can get out of control.

Being mindful, being present and focusing on what you are doing and who you are doing it with removes the sense of self from the picture. That isn’t to say you aren’t there, of course you are, but you are not coming from a place of it being about you or letting your ego get in the way.

Putting your attention onto something else or others in any given situation where emotions arise will set you free…try it.

If you wanted to listen to the podcast I listened to, it was on Tim Ferriss’ new podcast series, Tribe of Mentors and the guest was Adam Robinson. Click here to jump to that.

[This beautiful image was taken at low tide, sunset on Newgale Beach, Pembrokeshire]