Figuring it out vs. just doing it

There is something to be said for just taking action. Truly to achieve anything in life you have to take action. This is what separates those who just dream and those who actually achieve their dreams…which are you?

I have always been a deep thinker and as I meandered through the path of self discovery and personal development, I realised that I figure things out before I do something about it. Sometimes I think I have actually got far too stuck in the figuring out phase that I have then had to remind myself that unless I actually do something, nothing is going to happen.

In my experience, figuring out why you do something or where a particular trait, behaviour or dysfunction comes from enables you to process through and move beyond it.

There is another perspective on this, and that is to just do it. Not to get stuck in where or why things happen or are the way they are, but just to do what you need to in moving past them. Act out what you want, rather than sit yourself in the past and figure out why something is that way or where it came from.

Which camp do you sit in and what do you usually do?

Taking action will result in some consequence, whatever that may be and arguably it is better to do something than nothing. Although I believe wholeheartedly that getting stuck in the past isn’t good for you – after all there is nothing you can do to change it, understanding how you reached this point is quite freeing. When you realise something about yourself that just makes everything fall into place and make sense, it suddenly allows you to move forward. To me this process frees you, it allows those suppressed and hidden fears/emotions to become unstuck. It heals the wound and enables you to take the action without being triggered to relive it, over again…

So by figuring it out you are breaking the cycle…I have found the easiest way to do this is through meditation. Problems arise for a reason and when you are able to use meditation to solve them, you’ll find the process flows more and over time, becomes easier. Accepting what is and trusting the process is important. Simply meditate on what you are figuring out and then let go. The answers to these sorts of problems don’t always come at once, but they do come. Sometimes in subsequent meditations and often times through synchronicity – those things that seemingly just randomly come your way. When you realise that what are being guided to read is the solution to your earlier questions during meditation….

Be patient….the solution can always be found in the problem.

[Image copyright, thank you, Ben White, Instagram @benwhitephotography]

Listen and show interest in others

Over the years I’ve learnt there is one sure fire way of taking the focus off you own problems and distracting yourself from your own issues, and that’s by focusing on others.

You might think you’re a good listener but are you really?

When someone tells you of their woes, or confides in you their problems, how often do you respond with stories of your own. How often do you relate by telling your own perspective, your own issues and your own problems?

Being a good listener is not easy, but incredibly rewarding. I have found that by really intently listening to someone else, you not only learn something new but you also feel yourself. Primarily you are helping a fellow human, simply by lending an ear.

We get so caught up in our own story, journey and tale of life that we can’t see a bigger picture. At times when it becomes overwhelming we might feel we can’t cope or can’t see a way out. Truly one of the biggest blessings and antidotes to our troubles is simple. Focus on helping someone else. Whether that’s by lending an ear, helping out or whatever it may be, take the focus off your own woes and help someone else. It is liberating.

Truly I believe we are all here to serve one another. Help each other. Despite the duality we are all one. Using our innate gifts and talents to serve others is a gift.

Commit to doing that today. See the difference it makes. See how much better it feels.

Share your experience here.

[Image copyright thank you Austin Chan, Unsplash. Instagram @austinchan]

What defines you?

I was struck today by how much we are defined by external conditions, which the led me to thinking about what really defines us.

For me, the thought of what defines me came to me this morning when my 16 year old son pointed out that my current situation around money does not define my worth or how I should or shouldn’t view myself. Sometimes we are all in that situation of not being able to see the wood for the trees.

I’ve been dealing with some very challenging circumstances over the past few months around my work and finances. Although I have some semblance of a plan, every now and then I question what I’m doing and completely lose myself in the conditions I am presently faced with.

My son pointed out quite simply that far too many people base their whole self worth around what they do or do not have in their bank account.

‘It is just paper’, he pointed out, ‘it does not make you one thing or the other, it has nothing to do with who you are.’

I love synchronicity – when you are seeking something or an answer, a solution; how the universe just sends you whatever you need. The trick of course is being open to noticing it when it comes your way.

The second synchronicity (there have been a few today) was a video of a guy who asked specifically what defines us. Some people say their job title, being a mother, father and so on. He told a story about his father who in the end said he is defined by love and when stripped back said, ‘I am love.’

I’ve pondered over this all day and realised that at the moment, I am choosing to allow my external circumstances – the life situation I am currently in, to define me. In following the Buddhist path you live in a way that keeps you centred – this is why it is often termed, the middle path – where no matter what life throws you way, you return to your calm centre where you can choose how to respond (or not sometimes) rather than react. This isn’t literal in the physical or location sense – there is no middle or centre, it simply means returning to the heart of you or the core of your being where there is a river of peace and where everything is just as it is and you are ok, strong and sure of who you are. Truly you are love and in a wider sense you are everything and everyone because you are a finite part of an infinite universe.

So today, ask yourself this question, what defines you?

[Image copyright Kah Lok Leong Unsplash]

What happens when you be yourself?

I am listening to a book that was originally published over 70 years ago… by Dale Carnegie. You may have heard of it; How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. Most self development teachings of today mirror the principles of this book and others like it. What I love about books written so long ago is that the teachings are often simpler and more straight forward.

This morning I listened to a story in the book about a singer. She was blessed with an amazing voice but felt she lacked in the looks department because her front teeth protruded so much. For her first appearance on stage she was crippled with fear that if people saw her teeth they would laugh at her and ‘boo’ her off stage. So much so that when she did finally begin to sing she did in such a way to keep her top lip firmly covering her teeth, which of course affected her singing. Not only did it affect her voice but it also made her look somewhat ridiculous because it was incredibly difficult to keep her top lip curled over her teeth while singing!

A man in the audience, who happened to be in the music industry, saw something in her and realised what she was doing. Afterwards he spoke to her and explained that by disliking her teeth so much she was not only affecting her voice, but her confidence and the way she came across on stage. By trying to hide her teeth, she was actually bringing about the circumstances she most feared. He encouraged her to look at her teeth differently, to accept them and to embrace them as something unique to her. He said that rather than curling her lip over the top of them she should instead open her mouth wide to let her singing voice shine through. Own the fact she had protruding teeth – who is to say that isn’t attractive? In stopping trying to hide what she was most embarrassed about and trying to be who she thought others wanted her to be, she became – free to be herself. This changed her into a singing sensation almost overnight and totally changed the way she felt about herself and the way she looked.

This story is the perfect example of the simplicity of this book, yet you could think about your own life, today, and I would bet that you too hide parts of yourself you dislike or are embarrassed about. Do you act differently or try to be someone else around others because that’s who you think they feel you should be? If we are honest, most of us could say we do this.

“When you stop trying to hide the things you feel embarrassed or dislike about yourself and striving to be who you think others want you to be, you become free…to be yourself.”

Maldives for the Mind

When you stop hiding parts of yourself either through being embarrassed about them or disliking, even hating them, you are faced with the truth. Simply that you are who you are. Why spend your life trying to be someone you are not. Be yourself and love every aspect of that. When you do this, you ‘own it’ and although you begin to see that it truly does not matter what others think of you, because you are exuding so much self confidence, people feel the difference and they see you as you see yourself.

[Image copyright, thank you, Nitish Meena Unsplash Instagram @nitishm]

This is life…

Buddhism teaches us that life is suffering and sets out a path we can choose to follow that eases the suffering, somewhat. One of the fundamental teachings is simply; it is what it is. That isn’t to mean we become passive and accept whatever comes our way without any emotion – we are human and truly that’s what causes the suffering. What it means is that life is what it is – we can’t control everything that comes into our lives day by day. We are surrounded by billions of other humans and on a daily basis, hundreds and thousands of others who come and go around us. Each with their own thoughts, feelings, behaviours and actions. In addition, nature does its thing and in every second billions of tiny things happen. It would be an absolute impossibility to even comprehend how we could control all of that. Not to mention exhausting!

What we can control is our response to it. Buddhism teaches us to remain centred whatever the weather, so to speak. For a long time I always thought of this more in times of trouble – so when there’s a storm and life is flinging you about and blowing you this way and that. What I’ve come to realise, experientially, is that being centred is just as important when life is up as it is when it is down.

Life doesn’t differentiate between good and bad. It is the meaning we place upon things that make it so – that make our experience what it is. If we are always striving for the highs, the lows become unwanted and harder to manage. That isn’t to say we can’t be happy or content – it is more about accepting that life is not intended to be that way all of the time. When you can truly accept that deep within, you begin to see that when bumps in the road occur – or back to my weather analogy, when we get blown about a little or experience full on storms, they’re easier to deal with. They’ll come and they’ll go.

This week I was quite hard on myself about something I did – not involving anyone else, just an experience I had that I deemed not good for me. A friend said to me that a couple of days before I was on a high and just to remember that. Suddenly it was as though I was transported somewhere high above and given a different perspective. One where I could see my experience on both occasions – both what I had deemed high and then low were simply experiences – they were not good or bad, they just were. My perspective or the meaning I had placed to each experience is what made it so – what made it good or bad to me.

I’ve got several situations going on in my life right now that are challenging – as we all have at points in our lives. This is life and if we can remain centred – whatever that is for each of us, we can weather the storms without immense suffering. Experiencing emotions is normal – but being overcome and dragged along by them daily is what creates suffering. There are varying degrees to suffering – losing someone and grieving is suffering we often must endure and go through. However, suffering to life’s ups and downs is a choice. For example, worrying creates suffering that is most often totally unnecessary. We worry about things don’t even happen, yet in our minds the worries have become very real. There are times when this incessant worrying actually brings about what we are most worried about!

So what is being centred?

It isn’t so much about being in the middle because what is your middle may be different to mine or the next persons. It is about finding that ‘centre’ within, that place of peace or knowing, belonging where you feel centred. In my experience most people have to practice at this because to know that place is to know yourself. Finding time to be quiet, still and look within.

Meditation and mindfulness is a tool you can use for raising your level of self awareness, allowing you to create space to see the way you think, behave and act in a way that is objective. Meditation connects you with your ‘true self’ that can only be found within and truly the place of centredness. Seek and you will find – start a regular daily meditation practice. Over time as your self awareness grows and you create space, being able to bring yourself back to centre becomes something you do naturally.  It becomes a sanctuary and a place of peace where you can rest and restore from whatever life brings your way.

[Thank you for this beautiful image…Photo by Juan Gomez on Unsplash]

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…]

noticing the transition

If you meditate regularly you’ll most likely sit and practice for a set period of time each day. This might be just a few minutes, half an hour  or maybe more. We see this as our ‘meditation practice’ and a specific time when we sit to do that.

I was reminded recently about the transition from meditation practice and into daily life.

When I talk to other people about practising mindfulness during their day, it’s simply about bringing your awareness to the present moment and noticing. Noticing the sights, sensations and sounds around you as they are happening.

This morning, as I finished meditating, I noticed the transition. The point at which I stopped meditating and opened my eyes. There is a moment, a split second of transition; from sitting in silence to jumping into life and starting my day. I’m up and moving. I make the bed, go into the bathroom, brush my teeth, take a shower and on it goes.

What if there is no transition. What if I don’t ‘finish’ meditating and instead, open my eyes and continue on in my day being mindful – as if performing a moving meditation.

Now I know it is impossible to meditate continually while going about your day, and I am not suggesting this at all, unless of course you are Dynamo…[hmm, now there is a thought]…What I am suggesting though is to take the awareness and mindfulness into the rest of the day as much as possible. Erase the transition.

So as you are brushing your teeth, taking a shower, making coffee, walking the dog, driving the car, interacting with others, working and so on, you are mindful. Mindfulness takes some serious practice at the best of times and often means having a cue or reminder to bring your awareness to the present moment. However, if there is no transition then are you still meditating?

Perhaps it is that simple…I like to think so and am going to try that tomorrow…

[Image was taken in Tomales Bay, California on a hazy, warm October afternoon ….the stillness reminds me of meditation practice and then when you start your day you create simply ripples in the water.]