Archives for December, 2011
For many people I know (and for myself at times), 2011 has been quite a hard year. It's held times of real challenge, times of worry, times of loss. Yet there were still beautiful bits that sparkled through it in the light. Has it been that way for you? As we all get ready to farewell 2011 and open a new calendar for 2012, perhaps it's worth reviewing, for a moment, what we're actually leaving behind. And what, if anything, you might like to carry forward with you into your future. For there are clues written into this past year that can help you uncover what's important and fulfilling to you, how to invite more of that in, and how you want to live your life. Let's take a look...
It was on this same trip to work the other day, walking a different way, seeing different things, that I spotted this sign: "FEED YOUR MIND." And it led me to wondering... What are you feeding your mind? Are you nourishing it? Or mindlessly stuffing some junk in for a quick bit of rush? What are you putting in there? (And what are you hoping to get back out of it?) In his book, "Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life," world renown Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh writes about mindful consumption. Not just of food. But of everything you ingest: television, conversations, images, thoughts. So, if you were to look at the typical "diet" you feed your mind, what might you find?
I took a different route to work yesterday. And I saw different things. Suddenly, in a gap between buildings, I spied this view in the photo, above: stairs and a distant clock face above them. A thought struck immediately: "Take the steps to make the time..." And then, a heartbeat later: "... time for the things that matter." I had to stop for a second, to drink it in and let all the bustling commuters around me blur on by. So what are those things for you? The things that matter? Life can change at a moment's notice - we all know this. Profound, unexpected change where the things we previously took for granted become the things we miss, for we can no longer experience them in quite the same way again. At least for now... At the moment, I'm getting lots of reminders of this. Lots of losses, big and small, in my own life, and in the lives of those close to me. I guess it comes back to our fragility. Our mortality. Our passage through the (limited) time we have. And our ability to recognise what really matters to us, so we can live it, love it, while it's here in our hands.
Grief. It comes to fill our hollows of loss. To accompany our loneliness. To be with our pain. So when you've lost someone important in your life, by death or distance; or if you've lost a certain hope for the future; you may find a sense of grief. Or maybe it finds you... It's all a bit of an enigma sometimes. For grief is a something in the middle of a new nothing. A heaviness in the emptiness. And, often, with grief can come tears. Even if you don't always let yourself cry them... At this time of year, with all the special occasions and anniversaries and expectations, all those un-cried tears - both old and new - can make themselves felt all the more. So where do you keep yours? Where do you actually carry them, your un-cried tears*?
So much is unknown about this mystery we like to call “life.” We have our theories and ideas about it, our values and beliefs that may help guide us through it, but watertight certainty about any of it is hard to find. Except for one thing: This is probably the only time your life will be lived. Just think about that for a moment... This is the only time when your unique talents and abilities and yearnings and experiences and even your pain can mix together in quite this way. It’s more than just the chance of a lifetime… So it’s also probably the only time your dreams have a chance to be lived out in quite the way that you – and only you – could live them. So will you let them live?
Yep, it’s that time of year already – again. Welcome to the season that packs so much into itself: The “silly season” The season of goodwill Of giving and receiving Of remembering or maybe even trying to forget… Of balancing extra pressure and expectations Of anniversaries and reflections; joy and pain. It’s a complicated time of year… So as you prepare yourself for whatever shades of the seasonal spectrum that you will face this time, maybe it’s work asking: What will you give yourself this year? (And you know I’m not talking about the material stuff here). Or perhaps it’s easier to think about what you might like to receive from yourself?
Sometimes it’s hard not to feel like an outsider. Like you don’t quite fit in. Maybe you’re carrying a certain sadness that sets you apart from the places that other people seem to inhabit right now. Or maybe you doubt your worth or your ability to contribute sometimes. Maybe you just feel “different.” Or even “weird.” Or that your values or the way you want to live your life aren’t quite what society currently sees as “normal.” Feeling a bit out of step with the people around you – your family or work colleagues or friends – is often tough. One theory suggests there are two opposing "life forces" we balance inside ourselves: the “force of individuality” and the “force of togetherness.” Individuality is about our uniqueness, while togetherness is thought to heighten our sense of safety and survival in a group. So it can be tempting trade self for safety sometimes. To hide your points of difference and gloss over them. To keep the surface calm so that no-one else’s boat is rocked. To muffle the parts of you that would sing a different tune. To shrink yourself to make the anxiety smaller, too. (All of which usually just means that you get to keep all the dissonance inside you, instead of sharing it around). What if there was another way?