Daily writing prompt
What are you good at?

This is a weighted question for me. I would say, overall, I am good at being honest with myself, but that has a flip side. I am very self-aware, which is mainly a good thing, but without some discernment it is easy to fall into the trap of becoming too intimate with my faults. Seeing and learning from my faults is a good thing. Judging and criticising them is not. In fact, when I criticise myself I have succumed to the past conditioning which created an image of myself as worthless and a failure. The thoughts quickly turn into the familiar narrative of how it’s pointless trying because I’m so useless and before I know it I’m back there again – hurting.

But I can see it. And this is my gift.

As a child, I saw how people’s minds and emotions worked. I wrote stories about them. I had not developed a full self image at that point. I was in touch with my intuition. I wrote to God and made characters express the feelings that I was unable to. I didn’t think about or analyse anything, it just flowed from me like a river from Source. It was only after I was forced to change schools at age ten that it all went wrong. And of course, age ten is pretty pivotal in terms of ego development. I’m talking here of healthy ego or personality development, when we learn who we are in the world, what we like, what we want.

I started the new school a shell of the child I had been previously. I was scared due to what was happening at home and school was no longer a refuge. I was socially anxious and had been removed from everyone I knew. The kids didn’t know what to make of me. In typical kid-style, they took the mickey. A year later I started secondary school, still friendless. The bullying started. I had always been an introvert but now I was completely withdrawn and scared of people. So rather than developing a healthy personality, I saw myself as an idiot who nobody liked.

I have already written about the sadness around my writing when I started university so I won’t repeat it again. Suffice to say, I suffered a lot through school but writing became an outlet for my emotions and something I considered myself to be good at, until I lost faith in that too. But now, as an adult in my forties, I see and understand that writing was not something that belonged to me; instead it flowed from me, and it’s not something that can be lost, just like the essence of who I was as a child cannot be lost. In a way I have become full circle; I am integrating what the child in me knew with the maturity of age and the challenges I have faced, and realising that what I believed about myself at school was an illusion.

Self-awareness is a gift. Writing is my offering. It is my joy, my passion, and I still like to believe I am ‘good’ at it because that is something that matters to me. In writing, I understand my story, discern my faults, see where I am caught. In writing, I allow the beauty of Divine love to channel through me, remind me I am okay as I am. There is a balance. There is always a balance.

Daily writing prompt
What’s one small improvement you can make in your life?

I intend to be more mindful of how I begin my day because, if I’m honest, the first thing I tend to do after waking in the morning is grab my phone and check my emails! Even though there is never going to be anything so ‘urgent’ that it can’t wait a couple of hours (or else a phone call would have been a more appropriate option) I still feel that pull to make sure. It is the curse of modern technology – it installs a sense of urgency within our brains, triggering a survival response – “I have to check or else I might miss something important and x, y, z may happen” and of course this is reinforced by 24/7 alerts and notifications, which thankfully I have turned off, except for WhatsApp. It is all designed to keep us addicted, anxious, tuned in, constantly checking, and all the while our mental health deteoriates. Well, for many it does.

I have been aware of this for some time but never quite managed to get out of the habit of checking because it’s simply ‘the norm’ now by society’s standards. There is a fear of missing out if one does not check. And this plays on a deep rooted fear of not belonging, being abandoned, not part of the world. In spiritual terms, we can say it’s a disconnection from one’s own soul and becoming lost in the ego. Any addiction is ultimately a disconnection from one’s own soul. Modern technology, if not used mindfully and carefully, feeds the ego, leading to greater fear, separation, and mental illness.

I have resolved to put off checking my emails until I have taken my dog out, eaten my breakfast, meditated, and read inspiring posts on WordPress and other sources. Moreover, as soon as I wake, I am listening to relaxing music on Spotify, to put me in the right frame of mind to begin my day and facilitate a sense of peace and calm. Anything else can wait until I am ready to deal with it.

Small changes lead to big improvements. All it takes is awareness and a little motivation to begin.

The message of the dragonfly

On this morning’s walk with my dog I was delighted when a dragonfly flew in my path. It reminded me of the last time I saw one down that road, around 4 and a half years ago: I was returning from taking my dead guinea pig’s body to the vet to be cremated and was immersed in sadness. Melody had lived an amazingly long life despite considerable struggles – an open infected wound, a limp, brain seizures. A vet even advised me to have her put to sleep as the wound was so deep. But while I didn’t want her suffering, I believed she deserved one chance. Melody took it and ran with it. Her wound healed with treatment and she stayed strong for another two years until seizures began to weaken her resolve and soon afterwards she developed cheyne stokes breathing and passed away. She was 7 years old.

The dragonfly’s appearance that day reminded me that we are never alone in how we feel, even when we most feel it, in fact especially when we most feel it. I was travelling on my scooter down the street when out of nowhere it flew alongside me, kept up for a good few metres, then disappeared as quickly as it came. In Native American culture, dragonflies are a sign of deceased loved ones, so maybe Melody had been paying me a visit in a new form? I will never know. It was enough to recognise its significance and feel intense gratitude that I had a sign from spirit that day.

This morning’s dragonfly flew directly at me, went in a semi-circle, then headed for a brick wall where it flew over and disappeared. Once again I am grateful and awed by its beauty and timing. I was awake for quite a while during the night thinking about my mother and her ailing health, saddened by the thought that one day in the not too distant future she’ll be gone, at least from this physical form. And then there’s my dog, who is doing well on an increased dose of phenobarbital for her epilepsy, but is getting older and the thought of not having her around is deeply distressing. The fragility and impermanence of this life is playing heavily on my mind at this time.

However, this is where dragonfly symbolism provides immense comfort to me beyond any ideas about what form each dragonfly may or may not be assuming. Dragonflies are bringers of light. They represent Spirit and higher consciousness. Ultimately, they are a reminder that everyone is on a journey of transformation, change and rebirth, whether that happens in this lifetime or in some other way. They are translucent, showing that this physical form is ultimately illusionary because everything dissolves and goes back to its source, which is Divine love. While it’s natural to become attached to various physical forms, they are temporary; they get sick, old and die, but what is real never dies.

The message of the dragonfly is that all is well. Nothing is to be feared, including death. Each of us is on a journey and that journey does not end.

The quest for happiness and finding peace

Yesterday I was reading one of my journals from 2008, in which I wrote:

“Everything is like an endless struggle -wanting happiness but never really getting there “

I believed that happiness was waiting for me ‘out there’ in some distant place or state of being. It made complete sense given the fact I was caring for my severely disabled and very challenging 7 year old son while being extremely unwell myself. The situation was unbearable. While social services had thrown all the help they could at us, I was barely surviving. I wanted my life – as I knew it – to be over. Whilst I did go into some very dark places, I had enough presence of mind to know that I didn’t actually want to die. I didn’t want to leave my child. I wanted to be happy, I just didn’t know what it was or where to find it.

I didn’t realise then that happiness does not exist in some other place or even necessarily in the present moment because – if we’re honest – many people’s present moments are absolutely horrible. And while they may help, quite often no amount of shifting perceptions or affirmations or prayers change the realities that some people are unfortunate enough to have to endure. I tried all of them. I thought if I was spiritual enough my situation would improve: I’d recover, my son’s behaviour would become manageable, and I’d finally be happy. What I now realise is that it was never really happiness I was after in the first place; it was inner peace.

Happiness is a temporary state that usually depends on external circumstances. Inner peace goes deeper. It’s our true state, existing beyond shifting thoughts and emotions and circumstances. If the self was a lake, happiness and other temporary emotions would be the ripples that come and go, subject to disturbances such as stones and twigs and boats, whilst inner peace is its depth.

When we go deeper, we realise that the present moment truly is the holy grail because it is only when we stop and pay attention to the now that we tune into the stillness of the lake that exists within us. We are no longer being thrown around at the complete mercy of what life throws at us. Whilst outer circumstances may be dreadful and cause immense pain and apparently endless suffering, we know that the strength and magnificence that lies within us is truly endless.

Moreover, when we connect to the stillness within, we access our Divine truth. We don’t see our thoughts and perceptions as the ultimate reality because we have experienced a greater reality. We will have the wisdom to know whether we can and should change the situation we are in, or whether to walk away, or there is nothing to be done but tap into the Divine power of acceptance.

This is far from easy. In my case, it took me seven more years before I reached rock bottom and realised what Divine wisdom was asking of me. It went so against the grain of what I, my ex, and indeed society, thought a mother should be. I was brought to my knees and you know what the saying goes – if life brings you to your knees, pray. Well I was so angry at God that I neglected my spiritual path for quite a few years. I didn’t understand why I was so ill, why I had a child with such difficulties, why my life had to be so hard. I still feel the pain. I had to make a very tough decision that affected me and those around me for many years. I felt immense guilt for a long time but it was the only decision I could have made.

I’m not in the terrible situation I was back then; in fact my outer life is quite peaceful all in all, only my thoughts and emotions cause disturbance. I am not always happy but I understand that happiness was never something to gain; it is something we experience at times, if we are fortunate. Being in touch with our natural state can inform our thoughts, emotions, and experiences for the better, but sometimes circumstances just hurt. In such times I remember the calm lake that is my true Divine nature and know that whatever disturbs me in life, I am safe. I connect deeply with my inner self, and I am at peace.

How?

I wonder if spiritually minded people are more susceptible to taking responsibility where they perhaps shouldn’t? Sometimes a higher state of awareness is a curse rather than a gift.

A male friend and I have been spending more time together and have decided to move our relationship beyond what it had been preciously, at least for a number of years. The problem is, on doing so, we’ve realised his health is worsening and it may not be the right thing for him.

I feel immensely guilty. If I hadn’t brought the issue up, we’d still be friends and his health would be stable. It was my need for something more that caused the problem in the first place. If his issues result in his death, it would be my fault, no less.

At least, that is where my mind is going.

Life can be so darn hard. I wish I was less sensitive, less reflective, less aware. I would have a far easier time. I wouldn’t care about the impact of my decisions on anyone else. But I do care. I care too much. I always think I’ve gone wrong somewhere and that I’m dragging others along the faulty path with me.

That is my life in a nutshell.

I wish someone would come along and tell me that I never did anything wrong. I wish God, or the spirit within, could tell me that I’m fine, I’m not hurting anyone else, I never did. But I feel as if I am. I feel as if my choices have caused so much wrong.

My biggest desire is for the Creator of the universe to turn around and say ‘My dear, you never did ANYTHING wrong.’ But that will never happen because it’s all down to me to believe that and hope that and trust that, and I can’t right now.

I’m genuinely scared that my choices will cause my friend to die. I know he has free will too. And every right to exercise it. But I feel the responsibility of my awareness and knowledge that I could – you know – just walk right away from relationships and live a life of solitude. Does God want that? I truly don’t know. Are my human desires wrong? Have they always been wrong?

I wonder if I seem too dramatic if I say I don’t know how to live this life. I don’t know how to face the choices I have and their implications. I can’t cope with the pain I feel and see around me. Even a poor catapillar trying so hard to find fresh grass to eat. And then there is my friend who is sick because of my desire to find something more.

How does one do it. This is a real question.

Inflammation and mind/body connection

The humble tomato and myself are not friends.

I always suspected that I didn’t get along great with tomato based meals, but hadn’t had one in quite some time…until last night.

I had an especially nice spaghetti bolognaise using a recipe I found online. I have to say, I can’t remember ever enjoying it more.

A few hours later I was in bed when the restless legs started. I couldn’t keep them still. I was trying to meditate to a mantra as I often do before bed but the tingling and clawing sensations in my lower legs got so bad I was thrashing around for ages trying to get comfortable,

Eventually they did calm down and I was able to sleep. I woke up in the night with a blocked up nose. I didn’t think too much of it in my sleepy state, but when I woke in the morning and the sneezing became uncontrollable, I realised it was part of the inflammatory response. Sure enough, my legs ached painfully, my heart pounded, and I felt generally weak and unwell.

As I tried to begin my day despite feeling dreadful, I became aware of a horrible feeling of anxiety flooding my system – that fight-or-flight that so many of us are familiar with. It wasn’t the result of feeling bad, as I often feel bad, it was part and parcel of the inflammatory response. I had an intense need to cry, so I did for a time, even though I knew it was due to the tomatoes and that staying away from them for so long and then re-introducing a meal heavy in them had freaked my system out and made me feel physically and mentally unwell.

Tomatoes – nightshades – are high in natural toxins – and for so many people they worsen existing conditions. That doesn’t mean they’re not good foods with many health benefits because they are of course. But for those of us with auto-immune or other long term conditions, they can exacerbate symptoms dreadfully. Potatoes are also nightshades and I do have to be careful with those, but they don’t produce such an extreme reaction. Chilli peppers are another and I tend to avoid those, not being a fan of spicy foods generally.

It was a lesson for me not only in knowing I must never eat tomatoes if I want to avoid unnecessary inflammation, but in observing my physical and mental symptoms as the witness rather than getting caught up in identifying with them. I can see my body doing its thing and it’s incredibly frustrating and annoying, but that’s all it is. I’m not actually anxious, my body is on the attack due to the tomatoes. It feels threatened so of course it’s producing adrenaline.

Knowing all this means I can accept and let it go rather than adding another layer of suffering and mind-identification to the whole experience. And I can grow more and more knowledgeable about what to put into my body.

Being the awareness that holds it all

Yesterday was not a good day. Some heavy emotions had hold of me and all I could do was let them have their way. Sometimes distraction works but this time it didn’t, and I felt intuitively that I needed to be with what was happening, that it was not an episode of depression that I could pull myself out of with some uplifting words or music. It was grief determined to be acknowledged and heard.

The challenge was letting the emotions be without identifying with them. I was tempted to revert to familiar narratives such as ‘my life is pointless’ ‘my opinion isn’t worth much’ and ‘this is all hopeless.’ They took me further into the cycle of pain until I realised what was happening and re-centred myself in the present moment. Because the key to healing is being fully with what is happening, accepting and being compassionate towards it, but not losing oneself in it.

I don’t reject those narratives because I understand why I’m experiencing them, I just don’t lose myself in them. My wounded inner child felt pointless, worthless and hopeless for many years. Unfortunately, she has had many reasons to feel like that. She has a voice that demands to be heard. She is part of me, but I am not her. This means I can learn to integrate her within me as I offer myself a loving space; embracing everything and rejecting nothing. Eckhart Tolle calls this the awareness or presence but it may just as well be seen as the Divine within, the Higher Self, or the Soul.

Emotions are energy that is moving through us for a reason – to make us aware, to wake us up, to transform us. They are meant to be felt and embraced as the messengers they are. But they are not who WE are. Like our thoughts, they exist for a time, then they move on. My challenge is to let them be without losing myself in the story around them and believing the story again. It FELT true once, but that doesn’t make it true then or now. Anchoring myself in the present, in my body, I can feel that truth and become the awareness that holds all of it.

In the moment you have a choice

When your childhood wounds seem to have you in a tight grip, squeezing the air out of your lungs, closing their fingers around your heart, desperate for another temporary release from a lifetime of pain, you have a choice.

When you can stop, feel the longing, the anger, the desperate need to escape from this pain into what you think you need, or what some part of you thinks it needs, you have a choice.

Even when you feel the tightness, the agony, and know you have a choice, but you act out anyway, you have a choice.

In awareness there is always choice. Even when the desire pulls you this way or that, you remain aware, the compassionate witness, understanding that there is space between the ‘you’ that you think you are who is gripped by a need for something out there to relieve fear and feel safe, and the witness which is ever present, eternal and loving.

The witness, the soul, higher self, Divine spark or whatever else we may call it, does not need to judge the child who is consumed by painful emotions and desires. The child is simply reaching for whatever seems to provide the relief from pain and the security it needs. Until the child learns there is another way, the witness can love the child – not the behaviour, but the child – and let the child know that love is found here, in this moment.

Even when the child does not believe you, or refuses to listen, maybe because the messages from the past are too entrenched, the fear too great, the desires too tantalising, and the witness totally disappears, all is not lost because the witness has not really gone away, it is always there; the sky within which everything else passes. And once again, there is a choice.

You can choose to reach out to the higher power to which all of us are connected, to pray, ask for guidance, ask for the courage to choose love.

In the moment, you have a choice.