It’s been a rough year, and it’s only May. I won’t go into the gory details of why, except to say that an elderly mother is part of the equation. For those of you caring for an elderly parent, enough said. So I have needed to regroup. Part of what I have done in the last few months was to take a sabbatical from writing anything other than my Morning Pages (from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way.) It has been a time of paring down commitments in order to give myself time to recover. One of the great things that has supported me is the Tai Chi class I started going to last October. I love it. It requires total attention to detail so the thinking mind has to go on holiday. It’s also very graceful and flowing, like a slow dance. We do the form, or practice of the 108 moves, in total silence. I find it incredibly peaceful. Mobile phone off, quietness, and moving meditation. It teaches you patience, because you practice and practice and then one day, you find that you know a bit of it, and gradually add a little more to what you know. It can’t be rushed. I know about the first eight moves and the two snake movements, that’s all. I bought a bamboo plant and put it in a pot in the back garden. The bamboo is on one side of me and the shed is on the other in a very small space as I try to practice the little I know out of sight of the neighbours, so that they won’t call for a strait jacket for me. The second string of my regaining my equilibrium has been my daily meditation practice, a godsend in tough times. It’s a lovely rest for the mind and helps me focus on all my blessings, of which there are many. Of course the cats are a great help too. Felicity leaped on a sheet hanging over the stairs last week, and slid down the bannister with claws stuck in the fabric, a look of total shock on her face. It was the funniest thing I have seen all year and gave me a much-needed belly laugh. So I am grateful for all mercies, large and small, and especially the way the Universe responded when I asked for help in regaining my joie de vivre. Try it. Sure what have you got to lose?! 🙂
On Saturday I met my friend for lunch. We met at secondary school many, many years ago. We were in the same class. I distinctly remember being behind her on the stairs and noticing with awe and admiration her high heeled blue shoes which were anything but regulation school wear. She still has great shoe sense and I still admire her greatly. As we chat, we invariably say “I can’t believe that was twenty/thirty/forty years ago!” It does indeed seem unbelievable to both of us, because inside we feel eternally young. Personally, I feel like I am about thirty one inside: old enough to be gaining perspective on existential angst, young enough to do cartwheels, although I was never great at them. I notice that these days, my mind is better able to grasp complexities but there is the occasional click of neck or knee to remind me that time is moving on for my body. I also notice that it takes a lot more maintenance than previously to keep my body working as well as it can! I used to do yoga once a week. It was optional. Now I do it every day and it’s not optional – I seize up if I don’t do it! However, on the positive side, I recently started learning Tai chi and I absolutely love it. I had tried to learn it years ago but didn’t stick with it. This time around, I have found a class that is ongoing, with really committed teachers, and I am in it for the long haul. When I am doing Tai chi, time stops. I am completely focused on trying to do the movements correctly and in the correct sequence, and my mind is at rest. It is meditation in motion. There is a palpable sense of peace in the room. It was one of the things my friend and I chatted about at lunch. Another thing we giggled over was how Sister Camillus told us to go our separate ways when we ended up in different classes, and that she didn’t want to see us trying to keep in contact on our lunch breaks. Yeah, right. Great judge of people she was! Oh it’s great to be grown up and mature all right!
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Yesterday I went to the library and emerged, as usual, with a basket of books and a big smile on my face. I have never lost my enthusiasm for going to the library and to me, it is like an Aladdin’s Cave of treasures and possibilities. Not only do they offer books, but of course there are audio books, CDs, MP3s, and DVDs. It’s like a permanent and ongoing lottery win. I’ve just finished listening to the mellifluous voice of Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes telling wonderful archetypal stories on the mythology of the crone, while driving my ancient Nisssan Micra grubby with dog hair and cat fur. Quite subversive, don’t you think?! A couple of years ago the library increased the number of books you are allowed to take out to twelve. Twelve! I was thrilled! My motto is that a book and a cat in each room in the house makes a happy home. Yesterday afternoon I turned the phone off and delved into a selection with large, black, furry Sid on my knee. This afternoon it was Felicity’s turn. Could there be anything better than having a purring cat on your knee in front of the fire as you read a good book? Seriously? And as a writer, I can call it “research!” Way to go. The simple pleasures are always the ones that delight the heart and fill the soul.
As a therapist and animal healer, I am very aware of the suffering in the world of both humans and animals. When I work with a stressed animal, I can feel my stomach contract with their fear. Emotional energy is contagious. Three years ago I started an experimental news fast for a month as I found my energy was being brought down by a constant diet of bad news. I stopped watching the news on TV and reading newspapers. It worked. I use my improved energy to do what I can to help people and animals and to honour my soul work. I have never gone back to following news, but because I use a computer naturally I see snippets even when I don’t want to.
As a clinical hypnotherapist, I know that whatever we focus on expands. As a healer, I know that healing is like water, and it flows from a higher vibration to a lower one. There is a lot of reactive fear in the air at the moment. How can we respond more wisely and well to the climate of fear? We can take a proactive approach and choose to respond rather than react. Three suggestions are: 1. Start a gratitude log to shift focus to the positive. 2. Choose to see the best in everyone, including ourselves. 3. Focus on service by asking the Universe/God “How can I help today?” and when the opportunity to help or be kind to a person, animal, or the earth itself comes today (and it will) take it and make the world better, one intentional act at a time. To connect with other like-minded people and see the scientific underpinning of the benefits of a heart-focused life, have a look at Global Harmony Initiative .
No-one likes to make mistakes. We feel embarrassed, sometimes to the point of cringing. When we were young, some of us were told, verbally or non-verbally, that it was not acceptable to make mistakes. That creates a huge burden on us ordinary people, because making mistakes is not only unavoidable but necessary. Some people responded unconsciously to this message by becoming perfectionists. The terrible thing about perfectionism is the time and life energy it wastes, trying to achieve the unachievable. And of course, in failing to achieve the impossible, we become discouraged. The fact is that without mistakes, there is no growth. This applies whether the mistake applies to choices we have made about work, money, dreams or love. The only real mistake is being so frozen with fear of making mistakes that we hide and take no risks at all. A useful strategy is to commit to letting go of perfectionism and resolve instead to commit to excellence. Excellence allows our best self to shine, while acknowledging that we will make mistakes. Excellence has a built-in latitude for mistakes. As we learn to forgive ourselves for our mistakes, to make amends where we can and then let go, our tolerance for the mistakes of others grows and we become more compassionate. In the end of the day, having a kinder heart for our own struggles and the struggles of others is what really matters.