On a day that started with torrential rain and umbrella wrestling (and weather forecasts of doom), it seemed almost miraculous to be able to stroll the street in a dry golden-blue-sky evening. But that’s what happened. Unexpectedly. And it was exactly then that this notice on a shopfront window caught my eye (you can see it in the photo, above): “All things must pass.” (And they certainly seem to). Sometimes this apparent truth about the world feels confronting. Unfair, even. Because these “things which must pass” inevitably include the things we love, and the things we celebrate. The things we might want to hold on to and never let go. But they're not the only things that this saying is on about...
A lot of therapy is about sort of stepping back and seeing things – seeing yourself – from a different perspective. Getting out of the weave and the warp of the moment and looking more at the whole fabric of the situation you’re in. Seeing if there’s any repeating motifs or themes that might help you unlock some solutions… or even unlock parts of you. And the wonderful thing is that you can do this without being in formal therapy. Don’t get me wrong, traditional therapy is a great way to get the hang of this pattern-spotting business. And it’s incredibly powerful to work with someone who’s got your back and can help you see any blindspots you might have. But once you’ve become a pattern watcher, you can use it anytime you like, to find deeper insights and often deeper healing, too. So what sort of things might you try to notice? What helps spot the patterns? Sometimes questions like these are a good place to start:
Have you ever felt anxious about something that turned out to be nothing? Worried about an event that never ended up happening (except maybe in your own imagination)? Perhaps you've caught yourself planning for trouble before it actually hit. And feeling the feelings that comes with all of this... It can be pretty sickening - a lurch in your gut, a fast-beating heart and sometimes you might even get the sweats. And no wonder. For your thoughts are joined to your feelings - intricately linked. As one moves, the other will probably follow. So it's important to keep an eye on your thoughts, to monitor them a bit, so a sudden downward spiral into darker feelings doesn't catch you unawares. And so you can nip any unnecessary anxiety in the bud if you want to.
I was winding my way through the early morning rush hour at the station, past crowds of people blurring by, when this strange little moment of stillness opened up. And then I saw it: a lost sole. (In the picture, above). A visual metaphor, reminding me of the times I’ve felt a bit like a lost soul myself. Or the times I’ve spoken with clients in counselling who felt they’d lost touch with their sense of soul and the things that really mattered to them. Have you ever felt that way? Where maybe some part of you was lost? Disconnected? Maybe covered over by sadness or grief? Or buried alive under a pile of convention or expectation that you felt you “should” live up to? Or maybe you just became so busy you gradually lost sight of it? There are so many ways to lose touch with what really matters in your life – to let the everyday grind take over instead. Or to let habits or old thought patterns get in the way. Sometimes it’s important to take a step back and reconnect with yourself. To remind yourself of what you want this life of yours to be all about. To find yourself again. But how might you do that?
I happened to spy this leaf on the path the other day. I was on my way to somewhere else and had my mind on other things, and could easily have walked right past it. Yet there it was. Torn. Battered. Lost. And now found. (And in the shape of a heart because of all those things, not despite them).
Well, how did that happen? It’s February already… So maybe you’re already right back into the swing of things, drawn back to the thousand appointments and meetings and obligations calling your name - just like all these little Post-it notes stuck to the window in the photo, above, practically obscuring the person who put them there. All that stuff that wants to be done. Now. (Or maybe even wanted to be done by January…) How do you approach it all? Whether it’s your salaried work or your parenting or managing your health or keeping up with friends and family (and somewhere in there, also living the rest of your life). How do you do it? Do you multitask? Throw a few things in together and return to a juggling routine you maybe know all too well? Maybe it feels like you do. But do you really? What if some of the research thinks that’s impossible?
I came across a little piece of eternity the other day (there it is in the photo, above). Or, more precisely, it came across me. Tumbling towards me on the footpath. Blowin’ in the wind*. Ok, so it was also just a loose page of a newspaper, blowing around the street, with an advertisement on it featuring a stone angel pointing towards a single word: “Eternity.” Just a banal moment of dodging some floating flotsam on my way home. And a bit of a wake-up call. What do you do when eternity comes barreling right down the street at you? I picked it up. And could suddenly feel my heart beating. I took it with me. What will you do with yours? (Your eternity). (Your heart).
I was walking in the park this morning. Past the hundreds of thousands of millions of leaves, all applauding each other in the wind. Which one of them isn’t perfect? Which leaf hasn’t “lived up to its potential”? Which has “fallen short”? They seem like slightly ridiculous questions. (And yet, are there times that you ask them of yourself?) In light of all of these leaves, the idea of “perfection” seems suddenly a bit lifeless and arbitrary next to the endless, vibrant variations dripping from the boughs.
This little duck (in the photo, above) was swimming in the clouds in my local park this morning, rippling the upside-down sky in the pond. It’s moments like these I want to remember to see. To live. To pause and breathe into in the midst of the day. That’s about as close to a New Year’s Resolution as I got this year. Just to stop. To look. And to remember to see the small stuff. And this morning there seemed plenty around to see: little crystalline moments of inexplicability that you can climb into and rest in if you just get down to their level. Do you want that sometimes?
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...