I woke up the other morning dreaming that a busy, uncommunicative parking attendant gave me a £416 fine (very specifically, £416!). In protest, I went marching through endless council offices, speaking to person after person, explaining that there had been a mistake – I’d only been there for a moment and was away buying my ticket and hadn’t done anything wrong! But no-one was listening. They just kept repeating their silly rules and insisting that I’d better pay £416 or they’d double the fine. It was so unfair and so frustrating!
Now, its said that all the characters in your dreams represent an aspect of yourself. Hmmn – so I have an inner officious, busy, uncommunicative, petty minded beauracrat, do I?… Oh yes! I recognise her well!
Years ago, when I was part of a Buddhist right livelihood team running an ethical gift shop (a job I loved, but that’s another story) I found my inner officious, busy, uncommunicative, petty minded beauracrat alright. I called her Helga. She was a big, loud, tank-like, German bossy boots who liked everything exactly her own way and for no one to get in it. (Excuse the national type-casting. I do actually relish characteristically German directness and two of my very best friends are German.)
Helga would march around her territory – the throws and cushion department – making sure not a fold was out of place. God forbid someone would talk to her, or worse still, ask her to do something else whilst her mind was on the task! Nowadays, Helga is only usually in evidence at Christmas time when I’m cooking for my guests . “Can I help with ….” “NO!” Helga barks before my poor sister-in-law can finish her sentence. “I’m better on my own!”
Bless her, my mum is similarly self-determining. Her kitchen is her domain and its best to stay clear whilst she’s busy preparing a meal. Like my mum, I love to express my love by providing meals for friends and family and want the kitchen to be all mine as I’m doing so. Also like my mum, I generally think I know best and want to do things MY way, even if it means exhausting myself because I’m incapable of delegating. You can see how this connects with ‘over-giving’ and it not occurring to me to say no, traits I also share with my remarkably generous and extremely dynamic mother.
Love Your Inner Parking Attendant
So the moral of this tale is that it pays to love your inner parking attendant, or any other het-up inner character who pipes up and misbehaves when you are under duress. Making friends with them (or even giving them a pet name like Helga) is the best way to make sure that you remain in overall command of how you behave, not them. If these guys remain unrecognised and un-named they have a habit of taking over automatically and wreaking havoc with your life.
The tricky time is when you are not even aware that we have a Helga or whoever in operation. Some unconscious part of you has been activated by a situation and off it goes pontificating or whining or bashing other people and your bigger self is powerless to do anything about it. It’s like you are possessed. Eventually, rant over, you come around to yourself again and wonder what happened. But by then it’s too late…
However, spotting your particular tendency to flip out (and the situations that trigger them) is really helpful. Even better, giving this aspect of your personality a pet name allows you to have a humourous, affectionate relationship with it. You can then give this protesting character some recognition, validation and attention without letting it take over inappropriately. It’s exactly like handling a naughty child.
And so I’ve also come to understand the good that Helga stands for. She has very high standards and is prepared to work hard to achieve excellence. Actually, she is quite talented and makes an exceptionally good job of things. She is proactive and strong and determined. (Part of my previous Buddhist name, Srimati, reflects this positive aspect. Mati can mean determination or strong mindedness).
The down side of Helga is that she is superior and up herself. She doesn’t rate anyone else or trust that they can do anything useful to help. Superiority is, in fact, a state of defensive fear – you compare yourself with others and set yourself apart in a misguided attempt to protect yourself. You don’t like what you think you see in someone else (some form of weakness or vulnerability) and don’t want to have anything to do with it because you can’t admit to your own weaknesses. However, in cutting yourself off from others (and any experience of vulnerability) you also sever your connection with your true nature which is total and absolute BLISS.
To allow yourself to be connected and intimate with others means allowing yourself to be open and vulnerable. It means admitting that you suffer sometimes, that you are fallible, mortal and fragile. It means being HONEST about your human experience and condition – that failure, loss, and pain are an intrinsic part of being alive.
Oh , Jeez, if we could only just surrender to our true feelings and honour the fragility and impermanence of all things, then we would experience incredible tenderness and joy – that we are utterly linked with one another, that there is indescribable, breath-taking beauty in every moment, that we can totally let go and float on an infinite sea of divine care.
Relaxing into the Fragile Mess
In the modern, developed world we live in a culture where fragility, unpleasantness, suffering, illness, pain and death are kept as far out of consciousness as possible. We create great armies of thought-police and institutions and industries to uphold our collective denial. We work and spend ourselves senseless and never pause long enough to breathe properly, never mind smell the coffee! And then when we get to the top of our ambition mountain – the successful husband and kids, the million dollars in our bank account, the huge house overlooking the sea – we wonder why life feels hollow, that we are not truly happy.
Have you ever wondered why ordinary people in poor parts of the undeveloped world seem so happy? Have you noticed the sparkle in their eyes, the bright colours that they wear, the connection they have with one another despite being surrounded by abject suffering? Well, I don’t know for sure, but it’s my guess that these simple people are living in a way which actually allows them to stay in touch with their true humanity in a way that eludes us in the developed world. And I wonder if the key to that humanity is to allow our natural experience of vulnerability and suffering to be a full part of our experience without fear.
Poor old Helga! What a lot she’s missing out on. If she could only realise that it’s okay to get it ‘wrong’, that the world won’t fall apart if a cushion is out of place or a Christmas dinner is late. If only she could relax and laugh and enjoy the great, chaotic play of people and events around her, muddling along, making mistakes, supporting each other, getting there somehow. She might notice that her shoulders are aching or that she’s really hungry, but there would be something so sweet about admitting that she, too, is a delicate human being. She would feel at home in this great fragile mess of perfect imperfection and finally realise that the point of life is not to strive to keep it all in order, but to let go and enjoy it just as it is.
Recently I was looking for a piece of writing to submit as part of my application for a book writing scholarship and came across this blog I wrote four years ago. It was written during a wonderful ‘raw and real’ six months when we were living in two caravans in a ‘wild field’ between moving house.
So here it is again, encouraging you to flow with your natural rhythms and trust the tides of your inspiration…
Do you trust your own rhythms? Do you allow yourself to do nothing and stare into space just because you feel like it? If a rush of creative ideas wakes you up at night, do you get up and start scribbling or smother it down because ‘you must get your sleep’? When all your energy has vanished, do you force yourself to get on with some work or allow yourself to rest?…
Observing the ebb and flow of my creative energy here at the wild field has prompted me think about this. When we first moved, it was easy to see why I wasn’t dreaming up any new workshops or enthusiastically promoting my latest inner wisdom product – I was exhausted! Then the weeks went on and I settled deeply into my inner world – wanting to do little more than meditate and write.
After a while, I started to get a bit concerned. What if all that creative juice has gone? Should I try to drum something up? But no matter how I looked at it, I just did not feel like it. I know from hard experience that it’s counter-productive to exhaust myself trying to swim against the tide, but it’s not always easy to keep the faith. None-the-less, this time I managed to wait and trust that the change would come naturally.
Then, a week or two ago, it happened – a huge uprush of creativity and inspiration came bursting through. Ideas, excitement, enthusiasm and energy aplenty – fully formed and in such abundance – and my new workshop was conceived. A couple of phone calls were made and the people and resources I wanted fell into place beautifully. There was a quality of effortless co-operation with a power so much greater and wiser than myself. My job was to be switched on enough to notice the turning tide, fit enough to get on the surf board and keep my balance, and from there-on-in simply have a wonderful ride!
To me, one of the greatest gifts of my self-determining lifestyle is the delicious opportunity to follow my natural rhythms more truly. Sometimes its an emotional rhythm – feeling slow and sad or fast and excited; sometimes its intellectual – clear as a bell or dull as dish water. Then there are physical rhythms prompted by hormonal changes or meal, exercise and sleep patterns. And of course there’s the environment – the light, the dark, the sun the moon, the seasons, the weather, the surroundings…
Our bodies and psyches are fantastically engineered sensing machines. Should you pay attention – simply pay attention! – you get all the bio/psychic feedback you need in a nano second and you will KNOW what’s right for you at every turn. However, if you override this awareness by getting too busy and out of touch with yourself (or giving too much of your power and freedom away to an over-demanding person or job), you lose one of your most precious abilities – to regulate a happy, balanced lifestyle for yourself. What’s more, regulating yourself like this is your primary responsibility in life. No one else can do this for you or be blamed if you do not do it for yourself.
I’m quite impressed with Paul McKenna’s work with regard to this. Paul McKenna www.paulmckenna.com is a British hypnotherapist who has written many excellent self-help books including I Can Make You Thin. The core principle of this book is that to eat appropriately (and therefore lose excess weight) you simply need to tune into this self-regulating ability. By slowing down and paying deep attention to what food your body really wants, you naturally find your optimum weight.
However, there’s another whole dimension of rhythm in our lives – the ebb and flow of INSPIRATION – our spiritual rhythm. When you are inspired you feel a creative energy rising up within you, giving you the ideas, direction and impetus to make something new happen. It seems to bubble up from inside you even if its triggered by an external source like a stimulating talk or a sublime piece of music. Sometimes it just seems to come from no-where.
The Buddha taught that inspiration can only be experienced when you have prepared yourself to receive it. When you first start to meditate, it can take a while to draw all your disparate energies into some sort of coherence. That’s what meditation does for you first of all – it helps you feel less scattered and more focussed and more whole and complete. This is the initial stage of INTEGRATION (bringing together).
Only then – when you have a sense of being in possession of your whole self – can inspiration start to come through into an adequate container. This second stage, not surprisingly, is called INSPIRATION. Having pulled yourself into some sort of shape, your natural creative energy has a place to arise and a vehicle through which to express itself. It feels like you have a well-spring within you, constantly bubbling up from your deep inner source.
I explain these two aspects of meditation in this video – Meditation for Integration and Insight
As a coach, I have always preferred to work with inspiration rather than motivation. As well as being a carrot rather than stick approach, it is a much more empowering and graceful way to work. Helping people ignite their own natural joyful impetus is more independently sustainable for the client than trying to push them up a mountain they’d rather not climb.
Sometimes I think we’ve got it all wrong – that we think we have to ‘make’ ourselves do stuff because it’s ‘good for us’. No, no! Spend the time to develop the self-love and find the thing you really want to be doing because you were meant to be doing it! Then its just a matter of lighting the touch-paper and standing back while an inspired new lifestyle takes off!
Inspiration is a massive force for the good. When you are inspired you are in touch with who you truly are and feel moved by love and joy rather than fear and dread. One of my favourite tips is the one that tells us how to know when you are making the right decision. By asking yourself , ‘Am I making this choice from love or fear?’ you can discern whether you are doing things for the best (the best way is ALWAYS the one that is inspired by love rather than avoiding fear). If you are making a choice based on love, you feel expanded and free. If you are making the choice from fear, you feel contracted and strained. You can feel that expansion or contraction in your body – often in your tummy area. There’s a reason why we use the term ‘gut instinct’.
I go into the art of following the right inner promptings in this video – ‘Which Voice in Your Head Do You Trust?
So please do keep the faith, dear people – you do know what’s best for you. Your only responsibility is to cultivate sensitivity to your rhythms and allow inspiration to flow. Of course many of us have busy lives with many demands, but even within that, it’s possible to invest a little time developing awareness. Meditation is a brilliant way to do this. Just ten minutes a day – sitting quietly, feeling your breath move through your body – is a wonderful start.
Sign up for a free download of my – Ask Your Inner Wisdom meditation – to help you drop into that awareness.
During this relaxed workshop you can give your hard-working thinking mind a rest! Instead, you will learn how to easily tap into your own deep wisdom to find brilliant answers and solutions at every turn. But don’t be deceived by the retreat-like experience of the day – this stuff is powerful!
With a mixture of interactive practical exercises, talks and guided contemplations, you will be shown how to hone your hunches into reliable intuition you can depend on. You will learn how to make the secret law of attraction work for you and practice a powerful ‘make it happen’ technique that manifests your hopes into reality.
There will be opportunities to ask questions and give your comments along the way. And there will be plenty of time to connect with other participants – typically a calibre group of open minded professionals, creatives, innovators and conscious entrepreneurs.
You will leave feeling equipped to employ a whole new dimension of yourself – your own inner wisdom – in your life, love, work and business. With the constant wise support of your inner guidance and intuition, things will never be the quite the same. Just see what happens next!
As it turns out, I’ve not only had weekday mornings to myself, but the entire weekend too! I’m sort of pinching myself. One minute I was tired, depleted and overrun with domestic demands, and the next – acres and acres of time and space and inspiration to write. The family’s happy, the sun’s shining and the retro caravan work space is all set up. Wow!
Well, I did ask for it. It just shows you what the power of intention can do. The suddeness and scale of the change can be startling, though. It strikes you how powerful you really are – that you can make anything happen just by wishing it! Of course there’s a little more to it than that. There is an art to using intention to bring about what you desire.
I made this video about it last summer called Attracting and Creating the Life that You Want. Not surprisingly, it’s my most viewed film! Take a look if you like…
More recently, at the Entrepreneurs Find Inner Wisdom event I ran this Spring, I also recorded a series of films about the art of manifestation. I taught an ancient practice, called the Ah meditation, that powers up our ability to bring into being that which we truly wish for in life. The whole series is on recent pages of this blog that you can have a look at, but here’s a shortcut to the video of me teaching the practice itself.
Achieving the results that I’d ‘put out for’ so easily was a little scary. So much so that I caught myself trying to subtely sabotage them talking to my 15 year old son yesterday – “Are you sure you want to stay out another night with friends, Jamie? Wouldn’t it be a good idea to come home, have a good meal, a decent bed, a shower? I can always take you out again tomorrow….”
However, mostly I’ve been doing quite well with my saying “no!” practise (to curb my habit of over-giving). Jamie did call me midweek (when he’s usually with his dad) to ask if he and his friends could come and stay at the wild field for the night. It was exactly the same request I’d fallen down the hole with last Sunday when I failed to say no. This time I noticed. I saw the hole coming and I didn’t even fall into it! “No, sorry, Jamie. Your friends can come and stay at the weekend but not in the week when I’m working” – See? Easy.
And so it seems I’m bearing the fruit of my efforts. It’s been the most glorious, peaceful, lovely few days. It’s allowed me to realise that I’m in love with the huge skies here at the wild field. Day and night it is ever-changing and beautiful – the light, the clouds, the moon. I keep wanting to photograph the sky, capture the unique beauty moment by moment, but its impossible. The best thing is to simply go out and gawp, especially at night when the vast canopy of stars above is simply breath-taking.
This is why we are here. Somehow, living like this in caravans in the big outdoors connects me so strongly with my rightful place in nature. As a coaching client described it this week, it allows me to feel “in my skin”. I’m getting fit and brown and can feel the grass between my toes and the breeze on my face. I can breath deeply and enjoy every mouthful I take and every movement I make.
In the first week here, sleepless and sobbing with exhaustion, my husband, Pat, could not console me. Instead he called me outside and took my hand beneath the sparkling night sky. “Look”, he said, pointing up. Gazing into the vastness was a perfect, wordless reminder of what I truly am – an infinite spiritual being tasting a moment of human form in an endless universe of ever-changing miraculous beauty. What could possibly be wrong?
It didn’t take long to try out my saying “No!” practice (my new device to help me overcome habitual over-giving). Last night, my 15 year old son, Jamie, was out in town. At first he said he’d probably stay over with friends, but at nearly bedtime, he phoned and asked if I could collect him and two friends (and his friend’s bike!) to stay with us at the wild field for the night instead.
Fetching the boys would involve a 40 minute round trip, converting Jamie’s caravan lounge (also my daytime writing space) into a sleeping area, rustling up food for three hungry teenagers, putting up with their noise and carry on until they fell asleep and then doing it all in reverse in the morning.
The night before I’d hosted a BBQ and was relishing not having to cook today. When Jamie phoned, I’d just shut the gate to the field, sat down with the last plate of party left-overs and opened a can of lager. The caravans and field were finally tidied up and all was peaceful. I was looking forward to a quiet night with Pat, my husband, watching TV and mending a silly tiff we’d had earlier in the day.
So what did I say to Jamie when he asked me if his friends could stay?… “Oh, I thought you were staying in town! Hmm, well, okay then. It’s a bit of a hassle, but okay. Where shall I collect you?”
I’d habitually fallen straight in the hole again. It hadn’t even entered my head that I could say no for a change, let alone recognise that I didn’t have to justify it. There was no demand for my knee-jerk analysis of everyone’s needs (putting mine at the bottom of the pile, of course) before coming up with the best course of valiant servitude.
A few minutes passed and it suddenly dawned on me.
“My God, I could have said no then!”, I exclaimed to Pat. “Oh well, at least I’ll set some other boundaries. They can convert their own sleeping area. I’ll stick a bunch of rolls and peanut butter in the caravan and they can feed themselves.”
“Yes!” said Pat enthusiastically. “And you’ve spotted it. That’s a good start.”
And he was right. I often relay this analogy to demonstrate how we can break unwanted habits simply be being aware:-
The man walks down the road. He doesn’t see the hole. He falls into the hole.
The man walks down the road. He sees the hole, but not quite in time, so he still falls into it.
The man walks down the road. He sees the hole and manages to avoid falling into it.
The man walks down the road. There is no hole any more.
Spotting a habit, even in retrospect, is the beginning of being able to change it. The trick is to cultivate a sense of slowing down and really noticing our responses to the things. Then we can choose whether to respond this way or that way, rather than just reacting automatically. Meditation creates this inner choice gap beautifully – it feels like it slows down time and surrounds you with amazing, switched on, bright peacefulness. Then you can truly choose what happens next.
Check out this wee video for more on this phenomenon (me teaching at a recent workshop) – it’s a life changer! Creating Choice with Inner Wisdom
Peanut butter in hand in preparation for the teenage onslaught, Jamie contacted me again, at first with a text saying “Thank you very much mum x sorry about it all x”
“Cor, it makes a change to be appreciated!” I said. “Of course, it wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t had your realisation about saying no”, added Pat. “Jamie got your new energetic message telepathically”.
We’ve noticed this before. A few months ago we were having a challenging time with Jamie and we didn’t know what to do with him. Then we realised that there was nothing we could ‘do with him’, we had to change our attitude, not his. We sat and talked for hours about it while he was out, realising what we had invested in things being this way or that. When Jamie came home some time later the first thing he did was ask for a hug. It was as though someone had flipped a switch in his psyche – all his anger and tension had gone and he was completely different!
Pat and I recorded our talks that afternoon on the Flip video camera. We’ve kept them private until now, however, we’ve just agreed to make the first one publically available in the spirit of Raw and Real. Do have a look if you are interested in how we started to work through our issues to handle our challenging teenager.
Parenting our troubled teenager part 1 – Power games, control and the teenage ego.
And as though to prove how positive changes of attitude do transmit instantly and telepathically, last night there was more. A few minutes after his text, Jamie phoned to say “You know what, mum, its okay, I’ll stay with my friend in town. I want to save you the trouble.”
And so I retrieved the peanut butter from Jamie’s caravan and settled down to the rest of my own meal in peace. It didn’t take long for Pat and I to let go of our silly tiff, enjoy a film together and go to sleep in each other’s arms.