THE CAUSES OF HAPPINESS

I’ve just come back from a few days in Scotland, and one of the highlights of my trip was a visit to the Tibetan Monastery and Buddhist Centre of Samye Ling (pr. Samee Ling).

Samye Ling is a little piece of Tibet set against the hills of the Scottish Borders and nestling amongst the pine forests, heather and wildflowers.  I could feel its vibrations stretching out towards me even before I began to walk the path that leads towards the main complex. The entire architecture is Tibetan with long oblong buildings and roofs that curve upwards towards the sky. Along the entrance path, two tall arches rise up painted in the traditional Tibetan red and gold and embellished with intricate paintings and designs. In the main complex can be found tranquil pools and waterfalls and wonderful huge statues of golden Buddhas, and the whole place is very, very peaceful.

The Shrine Room building has a wide flight of stone steps leading up to it from a large courtyard.  Inside, the eye is greeted by magnificent Tibetan ornamentation and decoration and the great Golden Buddha which is the centrepiece of the room. Here I found the vibrations so incredibly powerful that after a short while, I had to sit down on one of the chairs arranged against the back wall. Once seated, peace descended upon me like a cloak being gently laid upon my shoulders. Within moments, I was in a place of utter stillness inside and I sank into an effortlessly deep meditation which lasted for about twenty minutes (ah, would that it were always thus!!).  I emerged strongly grounded and centred, totally peaceful, and with an immense feeling of contentment. It was a wonderful experience.

As we drove back to Edinburgh where I was staying, I was reminded of a line from the Tibetan Buddhist prayer which begins: “ May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness ……” and I found myself thinking how one cannot help but feel content when the mind is still. This led to my musing upon the importance of finding happiness in oneself, not only as a way of peace and fulfilment but also as a wonderful way of self-healing.  For in just the same way that one cannot be negative when one is relaxed, one cannot be unhappy if one is serene, for it is in that place of equanimity that the turbulence of the emotions is stilled. This is why truly happy people tend to be not so concerned with material riches. Nor do they angst over finding the perfect relationship. Somehow, even when facing challenges or ill-health, they still manage to be happy.

So how do they do it?

It’s long been accepted that there’s a direct connection between the body and mind and that our thoughts affect our bodies.  Our bodies respond to the environment, and they react to the ways we think about ourselves.  Limiting beliefs, negativity or any toxic mental patterns are going to cause cortisol to be pumped around our systems most of the time which can lead to illness, disease and to generally undermining our health.  So it makes sense to think about pleasurable things as much as possible to provide the antidote to this!

The good news is that you can be happy right now by changing your thinking and your attitude.  You can choose to be happy – and generally speaking, the only person who’s going to stop you from doing this is you! So here’s a few suggestions to help you along the way:

Begin by thinking of all your problems as challenges.  Instead of focussing on how difficult something is, start looking at it as an opportunity for you to change and make your life better.  Every challenge is a lesson to learn and a chance to grow and become all the stronger for it. There’s usually an upside to any issue if you’re prepared to look for it – so make a point of focussing on that instead, and practice eliminating the word “problem” from your vocabulary!

Try not to sweat the small stuff. Remember that whatever little thing is irritating you right now will be irrelevant in a year, a month or even a day, so why wind yourself up? Tell yourself: “I’m just going to put this on one side for now,” and then get on with the other things in your life.  It’s easier than you think to do this.

Resolve to let go of grudges and be kind to yourself and others. Research has shown that this is a big factor in feeling happier. Kindness releases a powerful energy which helps to build relationships and fosters positive feelings for yourself and those around you.

Choose to spend time with friends who are positive because that way you’ll be buoyed up by their positive energy. Notice how frequently you make comparisons between yourself and others (whether you think you’re better or worse than them!), and consciously switch off your critical thoughts.  Everyone is a unique individual and being judgemental in any respect is detrimental to your happiness.  Also, don’t talk about plans, dreams and ideas to people who are negative because they’re likely to pull you down and generally be unsupportive. If you want an opinion, ask a positive person, and wean yourself off the need for approval from others.

You are what you eat, so make an effort to eat healthily.  Processed junk foods will leave you feeling sluggish and prone to health problems. So avoid the pizzas, burgers and chips and go for more fresh vegetables and fruits and try to buy organic produce whenever possible.  Also remember that exercise produces endorphins (these are those happy hormones which are so healing for your body). Even walking for 30 minutes a day can enhance your state of mind, reduce stress, help to keep down your weight and make you feel happier.

If you’re not already doing it, learn to meditate.  Research has shown that it calms the nerves, is good for your health and supports inner peace. And if you can commit yourself to trying to practice more awareness of living in the NOW instead of dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, that will provide much grist for the mill.

Being able to express gratitude or appreciation for the things that you have (rather than the things you have not),  has been found to help with stress, foster happier moods, more optimism and bring better health.  Gratitude causes beneficial shifts in the body’s biochemistry, reminds you of the positive things in your life, and can turn bad things into good things.  It can remind you of what’s important in life and crucially, remind you to remember to thank others for their gifts, kindness and help.  Simple acts of kindness cost nothing and are very healing for both the giver and the recipient.

It’s a good idea to start a “gratitude journal” and write down all the things you’ve encountered each day for which you’re thankful. As an alternative, you could also spend a short while each night before you go to sleep making a mental list of things for which you’ve felt grateful during the day. In this way, you can start training your mind to think in a more appreciative fashion.

And finally, remember nothing in life is ever going to be perfect.  Happy people are able to accept what can’t be changed and instead put their energy into the things that they can control and are able to improve.  So, when change enters your life, resolve to accept it and see it as something really positive.  And when you can’t change something, practice acceptance of that, too.

I hope these ideas are helpful for those of you who would like to find ways of feeling happier and are useful reminders to those of you who are already working on themselves in this way.

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LIFTING THE HEART

The other evening I was sitting outside in my courtyard enjoying the gentle breeze that was playing through the plants, lifting the fronds of the passion flower and virginia creeper and causing the geraniums to nod their heads a little. It was a relief to feel the cool soft air after the relentless heat we’ve been experiencing and instead, enjoy the long ‘silk-coloured evenings’ (to quote Philip Larkin) of summer. So peaceful and quiet was the day at that moment, my shoulders relaxed and my spirit lifted as I soaked in the serenity of the approaching evening. My mind stilled without effort and a sweet calm pervaded my body and mind. Ah! How good it was to be cool and still!

The weather this month has mirrored the fierce temperatures of anger, grief and unrest in the world of late, and in particular, what has been happening in our own small piece of the planet, and without a doubt, we have all absorbed elements of it to one degree or another. Living amidst such vibrations and not being affected by them in any way, shape or form is hard to avoid, if not impossible, so it’s really important to find some antidote within ourselves in order to help us counteract the heaviness it can cause to body, soul and mind.

More than ever before, it’s important to practise ways of lifting the heart, for in lightening any burdens we feel, we are automatically raising the spirits of those around us and our environment. The wonderful HeartMath Institute is currently involved with researching  the effect of human emotions upon the Earth’s subtle electromagnetic field and has found, amazingly, that ‘when large numbers of people create heart-centred states of loving care and compassion, it results in a more coherent electro-magnetic field around the earth that benefits everyone – plants, animals, and the planet itself……..Every single person affects this global field because we are all interconnected with and affected by the magnetic fields generate by the sun and the earth……. And every cell in our bodies is bathed in both an external and internal environment of fluctuating invisible magnetic forces’ . From “Making Life Easy” by Dr Christane Northrup.    

Bearing in mind this research, I’m sure you’ll appreciate why we need to incorporate techniques which make our hearts feel light on a daily basis so we can benefit from  the way we are fortified and supported by such emotions.  All of you will have tried and tested  mechanisms you already  use to do this from time to time, whether it’s by sitting quietly (as I was doing) enjoying the cool of the evening, or gazing upon a beautiful view.  You can lift your heart by listening to your favourite music. You can do it by singing (yes, singing lifts the spirit very effectively which is why all religions since time immemorial have used singing and chanting as a fundamental aspect of their worship).  Lifting the heart can be achieved by being with loved ones, through laughter,  by tuning into the joy of children playing, by stroking your cat, walking your dog, feeding the ducks and swans, or reading an inspirational book or piece of poetry. It’s there for you when you walk in the countryside or beside the sea, or beside a river or stream. Did you know that being out in nature automatically encourages your aura to open and expand which will, in and of itself, elevate your mood? Also were you aware that every time you are close to running or moving water, your aura is cleansed? This is why a shower is so invigorating and a walk beside the sea is so refreshing!

There are many more ways of connecting to a lightness of heart simply and easily.  You can achieve it by  participating in an activity which brings you joy (running, swimming, driving, skiing, painting or some other creative interest, etc., etc.), or meditating, praying, or just sitting for a while in a temple, church, cathedral or mosque and absorbing the powerfully peaceful vibrations of such places. All of these things are freely available to each and every one of us, and no doubt you can come up with other ideas of your own.

Practising being able to lift up our hearts and spirits in these times of unease and difficulty can only be beneficial and healing.  Remember that even though the world at the moment isn’t a peaceful place, we won’t make it any better by dwelling upon catastrophes and violence.  I’m not suggesting we turn away from the iniquities and tragedies around us and pretend they’re not happening. No.  But what I encourage you to do is to make it a priority in your life to find ways to offset the de-stabilising effect such troubles and unrest can have upon you so that you can build a greater ability to  maintain a state of balance and well-being  within yourselves which in turn will help others.

The power to change is within us always, as the following poem illustrates:

I prayed for change, so I changed my mind.

I prayed for guidance and learned to trust myself.

I prayed for happiness and realised I am not my ego.

I prayed for peace and learned to accept others unconditionally.

I prayed for abundance and realised my doubt kept it out.

I prayed for wealth and realised it is my health.

I prayed for a miracle and realised I am the miracle.

I prayed for a soul mate and realised I am the One.

I prayed for love and realised it’s always knocking, but I have to allow it in.

Jackson Kiddard

 

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LOOK TO THIS DAY

No doubt you were all shocked and horrified by the recent atrocity perpetrated in Manchester and, like me, are full of admiration for the people of that city for their courageous solidarity in holding together and not being cowed by the terrorist attack. Their indomitable spirit is a wonderful demonstration of how life has to go on, no matter what happens.

It’s also a powerful example of how it’s possible to find a positive in the worst of situations. None of us know what the future will bring or how long we have left on this ‘mortal coil’, to coin a phrase from Shakespeare.   I doesn’t feel inappropriate therefore to ponder upon the most positive thing we might draw from the trauma and distress of the Manchester massacre, and it must surely be to remind ourselves to try to live more in the present moment and make the most of every day that we have.

Living here and now is something we can all do but many of us only manage it spasmodically.   This I because a lot of the time our minds are somewhere other than right here, right now.  Too often our thoughts are consumed with picking over the past or agitated by worrying about the future, conjuring scenarios which have not yet happened and yet believing they will.  It’s also because we’re very good at getting easily distracted, (thanks to living in a world which is driven by infotechnology) or diverting ourselves from the present by doing more than one thing at a time. Eating food while watching television is a good example of this, or talking to someone whilst keeping an eye on one’s mobile phone so as not to miss any messages or social media posts that come through!

Present moment living doesn’t have to be some extraordinary esoteric art which can be only be learned by the few. We ALL have a natural ability to do it already – it’s just that we need to remind ourselves that it’s not only possible, but fairly simple to do.  All we need is a little awareness and intention. Everyone has  experienced being totally present at various times. It’s when whatever it is you’re doing is consuming your total attention and complete attention is being 100% there. Times of enjoyment and pleasure rank high as present moment experiences because we’re so fully immersed in the happening of it.  (Think about making love!) When we’re here and now, quite naturally, we open ourselves up and simply let the energy of what we are doing flow into us and move through every cell of our bodies. There are no extraneous thoughts. We’re concentrated and focussed without effort. And there are no feelings of being constrained by time.

I remember the first time I went to India, I experienced an unfolding awareness  of losing track of time.  Five minutes could sometimes seem like thirty minutes. Thirty minutes could feel like five.   A whole day could completely obliterate any need to count the hours and just feel like I was living in a continuum. I was amazed at how elastic time became and initially, was at a loss to understand why I was suddenly experiencing every day so differently.  Little by little, I realised that the reason for it was very simple.  I was so enthralled with everything I was seeing, doing and experiencing that, for the first time in my life, I was actually living each moment.  And in doing so, I was completely at one with each person I was with and with every place that I went.  My thoughts were calm and clear, I was content and at peace, and it gave me an amazing sense of just being. 

Once back home I realised how lucky I’d been to have this experience, for continuing in the same way was not at all easy and mostly downright impossible.  I was constantly disturbed and diverted from the peace of mind and sense of being at one with everything that I’d felt in India. Happily, I gradually discovered ways I could re-experience that “now-ness”, for I eventually came to see that in everyday life I could find some very accessible portals to the here and now.  Examples were : walking in nature (where you can get caught up in the wonder and beauty of the scenery around you and give it your full appreciation); gardening (when it’s easy to become absorbed in the tasks in hand and let go of the thoughts which are crowding constantly into your mind); sitting quietly and looking at the day (you can do this from a park bench, or by looking out of your window, or watching a sunset, or by allowing yourself to  be lulled into relaxation by the sound of the waves by the sea).  I discovered I could catch that awareness when I stopped to watch a flight of birds wheeling and soaring in the sky, or by gazing at a river as it flowed past me.  I could find it by stroking my cat and just allowing myself to be at one with the gentle vibration of her purring and enjoying the silky texture of her fur. And, of course, meditation was a great help (although all of the things I’ve mentioned above can be meditations in their own right).

From here I grew to understand the power of appreciation and gratititude for all the things that I had, and gradually I became less pre-occupied with the things that I lacked. All this unfolded slowly and increasingly led to a greater sense of peace and happiness within.  I’m not pretending that I live in the present all the time.  I don’t, because like so many of us, I can still get distracted and pulled off in too many directions (something that often happens during periods of challenge and difficulty).  But the good things is :  I know how to get back to these practices  when I’ve “fallen off the wagon”, and I know without a shadow of doubt, how much better I feel about myself and life when I do.

Too often we starve ourselves of the peace and contentedness which can be there for us in every moment.  Too often we tell ourselves we’ll only feel that peace and joy of being if a certain set of external circumstances fall into place. But it doesn’t have to be that way! We can still be fully alive and in the present moment by just BEING HERE AND NOW and making the most of our lives.

I want to end this piece with a poem by Kalidasa, an Indian playwright and poet who lived during the 4th and 5th centuries.  I hope you will find it as inspiring as I do.

“Look to this day, for it is life, the very breath of life.

In its brief course lie all the realities of your existence:

The bliss of growth, the glory of action, the splendour of beauty.

For yesterday is only a dream, and tomorrow is but a vision.

But today, well lived, makes every yesterday a dream of happiness,

And every tomorrow a vision of hope.

Look well, therefore, to this day.”

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AWAKENING THE HEART

It seems to me that these days, we’re bombarded regularly with dreadful scenes of carnage in Syria and elsewhere, terrorist attacks in major cities and news of people showing total disregard for their fellow human beings. In addition, right now, quite apart from the dangerous stand-off between the US and North Korea, we have endless coverage of politicians making speeches ahead of the French and British elections which seem designed to cause ever more divisions between people.  So many vibrations around us are about aggression, disunity, and fear. Sadly, we live in a very unsettled world which for many folk doesn’t feel at all safe.

How wonderful, therefore, to learn that in spite of all this turbulence and instability, there’s a growing number of people who are noticing themselves feeling more kindly and more accepting of others. All over the world, people are apparently reporting feeling less need to hold on to old hurts and resentments, which is a very positive indication that there is perhaps a growing movement towards the need to exercise compassion and understanding towards each other for the greater good, despite  the discord and acrimony in the world around us.

I gleaned this information recently from reading through an article on the wonderful HeartMath website (https://www.heartmath.org) and I must say, I found it very encouraging.  I have, myself, been very aware of an increased heart-opening over the last months, and can’t help feeling that perhaps there’s a new momentum of heart awakening happening because our deeper instincts tell us that the only way we can ever make a paradigm shift from the chaos of today to a world in which compassion and co-operation are the norm, is not through war and politics, but through each of us becoming kinder and more open-hearted towards each other. Perhaps we are beginning to sense that living from our hearts is “the most practical approach for increasing individual and global peace, being that we’ve tried most everything else already”. Sara Childre, President of HeartMath Institute and Doc Childre, HeartMath Founder.

As the song says : “What the world needs now is love, sweet love ………”

The heart and its emanations are much more powerful than we might imagine. Energy emanating from the heart is approximately 5000 times greater than the energy generated by the brain. Research has shown that the energetic vibrations of the heart permeate every cell in our bodies and create an electro-magnetic field which envelops the entire body and extends out in all directions into the space around us. It is now understood that aside from this organ’s most well-known function of pumping blood around our bodies, the heart has its own equivalent of a brain which is constantly interacting and communicating with the head-brain on neurological, biochemical, biophysic and energetic levels.

The heart/brain connection operates when the heart is coherent.  (i.e. experiencing stable, wave-like patterns in its ryhthms.) Amazingly, when there is a smooth, ordered rhythm of the heart, it brings all the organs and systems of the body into synch with each other.  This is hugely beneficial to body, mind and spirit as it brings more clarity, the ability to be better at decision-making and a greater sense of well-being. When we’re stressed, it destroys this coherence, and incoherence in and of itself causes stress.

Just think what this means in terms of all those emotions and feelings which are traditionally connected to the heart like love, compassion, appreciation and understanding.  Think about how your whole being feels when you’re consciously or unconsciously linking in with these emotions. You feel aligned and in flow. You feel open and connected. There’s a sense of ease and movement, things go more smoothly in your life, tasks become easier, communication is better. Your energy levels are high!

And think what your body and mind feel when it’s not like that. e.g. when you’re consumed with anger, resentment, frustration, or when you feel you’re not being listened to or appreciated, or when you’re misunderstood or generally don’t feel good. Or when you’re feeling exhausted, burnt out and overwhelmed.

The good news is that there’s a very effective and simple way developed by the HeartMath Institute to facilitate better heart coherence which will not only help you to change your state of mind, but will also allow you, with practice, to build your own heart coherence and resilience over time. Not only will this impact beneficially upon your health overall, but it will also enable you to influence the emotional states of others and those people with whom you interact – in other words, you can help make others feel good, too, just by being in a coherent heart state yourself!  How good is that?

I’ve talked about The HeartMath institute many times in the past.  It has an incredibly interesting and helpful website (see above link),  and I would like to encourage you to have a look at it. HeartMath has developed a breathing technique which brings about a sense of inner ease (which I’ve also mentioned many times before and can’t recommend highly enough.). This technique isn’t going to eradicate all your challenges in a flash (!!), but if you practice it you will slowly but surely build up a greater ability to go with the flow, connect with your higher potential for effective reasoning, discernment and  interactions with others, deal with the onset of stressful feelings and generally manage your mental and emotional system more effectively. This is how you do it:

  • Close your eyes, place your hands over your heart area and allow yourself to breathe a little more deeply than normal. Think of yourself breathing in and out through your heart and give this your full focus and attention.
  • With each breath, breathe in for a count of five and out for a count of five. Allow your breath to be smooth, unforced and comfortable. It’s not hard to do, but it may take a few moments to get used to breathing this way and eventually, your breath will settle naturally into breathing in this rhythm.
  • Once this breathing pattern is established, bring to mind a positive feeling about something that makes you feel love, gratitude or appreciation. (Don’t focus on something or someone you have loved and lost – focus on something for which you have purely positive associations unhindered by any sense of loss or rejection.) Focus on these positive emotions for about 5-10 minutes whilst maintaining the breathing pattern described above.

Practicing this technique can greatly add to your sense of well-being. Many people find it helpful to spend a little while on the technique first thing in the morning or last thing at night (it’s great for helping you to  drift off into a peaceful sleep!). But you can do it when you’re travelling, on a break at school or at work, or even whilst doing housework, It’s particularly helpful if you’re feeling stressed or un-focussed because of grief or overwhelm, as it can help to calm, centre and balance you.   

Overall, it’s a wonderfully simple aid to increasing your energy, coherence and resilience.  And if you, too, have been experiencing a greater sense of heart awakening of late, then it will help you to strengthen those feelings and in time, increase your capacity for understanding, compassion and forgiveness. If you haven’t noticed any changes in your heart opening towards the world in general, or if right now, you feel you need to simply concentrate on yourself – no matter.  Try using the technique and practice it as often as you can – even if it’s only for five minutes here and there through your day..  It will benefit your body and mind bringing feelings of calm and peace, and as these feelings emanate from within you, amazingly, those around you will start to feel quieter and more serene as well.

You’ll not only be helping yourself, but adding to the ripples of heart awakening that are already happening and contributing towards the growing desire for a more harmonious world.  This is such a practical and simple thing to do for yourself and others, it can only be beneficial to one and all..

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A SPRING IN THE STEP

It’s definitely spring!  We’re awash with daffodils and crocuses and yellow baby chicks and pale spring sunshine. The trees are frothing with blossom, Easter is around the corner and the clocks have gone forward.

Yes! Spring is here so that means it’s the time for planting – and I don’t mean casting seeds upon the earth, for, as you well know, we can also plant metaphorical seeds into the garden of our minds. As with any kind of cultivation, things take time to grow.  But whatever we plant in ourselves now can soon start showing green shoots.

Spring is all about re-birth, so it’s good to think about what might help us grow, strengthen and renew in ourselves for the year ahead. Often this means doing a little revision on stuff we know, but forget to do!  So check out whether you’ve got a bit rusty on any of the following things over the winter months:

It’s always good to have an openness to whatever this benevolent Universe brings us, (even if what is presented to us at the time is tough and challenging), as this helps one to go with the flow of life more comfortably. How are you doing on this concept?

Your attitude governs whether you’re generally happy and content or frequently angry and resentful. Thoughts are energy and wherever you place your focus will make that area grow strong.  So it stands to reason that there’s no point in focusing on not being happy!  Instead, are you making a commitment to putting your attention into thoughts that make you feel joyful and at ease?

It’s a fact that 90% of happiness comes from how you decide to think about events and only 10% from the events themselves. So make sure you’re living your own version of happiness (not anyone else’s!), and resist the temptation to look for it outside of yourself because in the end, it always comes from within.

If there are negative thoughts churning through your mind, change direction and make a conscious decision to try to think about something else which doesn’t bring you down. How are you doing on this?

How’s your attitude of gratitude? Remember, it can go a very long way to creating a happy life for yourself.  If your ability to feel gratitude has got somewhat jaded, why not make an effort this spring to re-double your efforts in this direction?  It’s easy to lose momentum. You can strengthen your gratitude muscles by remembering that before you go to sleep at night, you think of three things you feel grateful for which have happened during the day.  They don’t have to be big things.  Helpfulness from a shop assistant or a warm smile from a work colleague or even the sight of a blue sky and spring sunshine beaming down are all things which can spark gratitude if we think about it.

Don’t let’s forget that concept of living your life with a glass half full or half empty. The paradox is that it can be BOTH things. It’s how you view it that matters.  Are you making sure that you always view your glass as being half FULL? It’ll go a long way towards helping you to be happier in yourself and generally more content.

Where are you with trying not to over-think things? Remind yourself that mostly it only complicates matters. Re-double your efforts here if this is a seed you need to re-plant. Practice looking for good to come out of every experience, and if you’ve been hit with a big challenge, spend time searching to see what might be positive in that situation and concentrate on that instead of the pain or anger you’re feeling. Don’t forget that you can choose how you view your life, and this can lead to more contentment and give you a greater sense of calm.

How often do you smile? Research shows that smiling (and laughing)  triggers a part of our brain that leads to happiness and optimism – so doing more smiling and laughing can lead to contentment and success. You can also have the pleasure of passing on happiness to others by smiling more!

How good are you at not taking life so seriously? Make sure you haven’t forgotten how to laugh at yourself – but not in a dismissive way. We all get things wrong sometimes, we’re only human, and nobody’s perfect.  Maintaining your sense of humour (especially about yourself) is a wonderful safety net. As a Zen monk once said: “If you’re not laughing, you’re not getting it”.

Who you are right now is down to whatever difficulties, heartache and sorrow you’ve overcome in the past. All those ups and downs you’ve experienced have made you a great deal stronger than you were when you first started out in life. Are you celebrating that and giving yourself some appreciation?

And finally: very often, the thing you think you want most of all in the world, isn’t actually what you’re after. More often than not, it’s the feeling of having that thing which is the real desire because that is what you think will bring you success, joy, relief or whatever. So here’s a time-tested technique you can use to help you feel like a millionaire without winning the lottery!

Whatever that thing is that you really want – think of yourself already having it! Close your eyes and think about how good you’d feel if it was in your life right now!  Let yourself experience that feeling to its utmost. Think about doing the things you want to do because you have that thing. Think about how life is so much better.  Think about how happy you are with that thing in your life and let yourself feel that happiness. Get a sense of how that joy feels in your body, how it sings and zings through your being.  Let yourself be filled up with that feeling and allow it to flow through your entire body.  Let it flow in through your head, down through your body and out through your feet and then let it flow in through your head again.  Keep recycling it  – in, through and out –  for as long as you can.

Then take a breath and see how you feel.  Notice your mood. Notice how it feels in your body.   Be aware of how it feels around your heart area.

If you’ve focussed on this with concentration and done it whole-heartedly, you’ll be BUZZING from head to toe.  Your energy will be in full flow.

Now, doesn’t that put a spring in your step?

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KEEPING THE HOME FRONT FLOWING

A couple of weeks ago I ventured out into my courtyard and was surprised to see that some snowdrops had appeared in one of the tubs outside.  I always think of snowdrops as the first indication of spring, and I immediately felt a rush of anticipation surging through me at the thought of the end of winter.  It’s been a bitterly cold, and blustery few months up here in the land of the North Folks (Norfolk) and my heart lifted as I conjured images of warmer days and daffodils and crocuses, and all manner of spring things peppering the landscape and bringing a sense of lightness back into the world.

As always, this time of year also nudged me into thinking about clearing stuff and doing a bit of a spring clean.  I’ve been dealing with getting rid of the huge amount of paper in my study of late, and suddenly, I couldn’t wait to finish the task.  How wonderful to have less files, less clutter, and a clear desk! Ah!  That would make it so much easier to focus on the things I want to become more engaged in this year like painting and writing. What better time to clear the path for fresh energy to flow into my home!

As you all know from my writings in the past, monitoring and nurturing the energy in my home is of prime importance to me, because I have long benefitted from making my home a place of sanctuary. I do this by creating, to the best of my ability, a balanced, peaceful and sacred environment, which becomes a nourishing environs to help me continue to grow and develop on all levels. I believe that your home is a reflection of your thoughts and feelings and therefore reflects your inner state.  In a sense, it’s an extension of your body.  You may not be able to feel the energies moving around your home, but believe me, they’ll be influencing how you’re feeling emotionally and may well be affecting your health.

The objects and possessions we keep in our homes can affect how we are. Every object you possess contains the emanations of the people who previously owned it, as well as the energy of the object’s creator. The buildings we live and work in are made up of constantly changing energy which is made up of atoms and molecules through which the Chi or subtle energy of the Universe flows. And since you’re energetically connected to everything in the universe, you’re therefore not separate from your home. Your home is alive and has consciousness – the same as you!

Many of us hold on to far more in the way of possessions than we actually need and companies now exist all around the globe for the express purpose of providing storage for our overflow.  Furthermore, research has shown that the more stuff a person keeps in their homes, the higher their stress levels. This is indeed a sobering thought which might perhaps spur you on to thinking about clearing some of your clutter!!

Clutter builds up when things never get put away, when there’s too much stuff and not enough storage space; or when piles of things end up strewn on the floor, under beds, chairs or sofas or stuffed into cupboards all higgledy-piggledy because they don’t have a home.

Piles of clutter, even when hidden out of sight are natural gathering places for negative energies.   The more negative energy is allowed to accumulate, the denser the atmosphere in your home will become because the energy can’t move and becomes stuck.  This in turn can create chaos in your life and make you feel disorganised.  Physical clutter in your home means mental clutter in your mind.  It can make you tired and keep you emotionally bound up with the past.  It can cause lack of energy, foggy thinking, general inertia, laziness, sadness and depression. Disposing of unwanted/unnecessary items not only clears your outer space but also your inner space as well. Dealing with your clutter will help you clear the way for new things, new people and new opportunities to come into your life.

So, does this inspire you to get up and start putting the home front into better shape? I do hope so because it’s a really good time to start doing it! Go with the energies of spring and let them sweep you along into making some very helpful changes in your life.

Countless books have been written about the best ways of clearing clutter.  I used to advocate doing one room at a time (or even one corner of a room or one cupboard at a time), and there’s nothing wrong with doing it this way if you prefer. But since reading Marie Kondo’s books “The  Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and “Spark Joy” I’m now a great advocate of her method of chunking the task down into categories and dealing with one complete category at a time. This is a surprisingly effective way of making a BIG clearance.  I wrote about these books and her extremely useful methods in last August’s blog which you may or may not remember. But beware! She sometimes goes OTT and gets a bit carried away with what you should and shouldn’t do, and this may not sit well with you. Don’t worry! There’s plenty that’s practical and eminently do-able to follow in her techniques, the basic premise of which follows:

Divide your clothes up into categories of : Tops (this includes shirts, blouses, T-Shirts, jumpers and cardies); Skirts; Trousers; Dresses and Suits; Underwear; Tights and Socks; Shoes; Handbags (and Man Bags);

Divide your accessories into: Jewellery; Ties; Scarves; Hats (include Woolly hats and Beanies);

You can deal with other categories after you’ve worked through the above.

You should start with the first category (i.e. Tops) and pull out every single one that you possess from wherever you keep them (we often keep things of the same category in more than one place which of course is how we get duplicates!). Make sure you pull out ALL your tops from ALL the rooms where you keep them and dump them ALL in one big pile on the floor or on a bed. You will then realise how many you have!  Now pick up each garment one at a time, hold it and look at it and notice your reaction to it.  If you LOVE it, keep it.  If you don’t love it, put it aside for the charity shop or wherever. The idea is that if you wear only things that you LOVE, you will create a happier, more harmonious and flowing energy for yourself which will make you feel good, lift your spirits and nurture you in ways that are highly beneficial. And this is most certainly true.

Warning: Don’t keep things because they might come in useful sometime, or because someone has given them to you and you’d hate to upset them by not wearing it, or because they are new or cost a lot of money or whatever.  If you don’t LOVE it, LOSE it!! 

You may think this will take a lot of time, but it won’t.  You’ll be surprised how quickly you pick up momentum as you go through the garments one by one and use the criteria given to decide whether you wish to keep something or not.  If you feel neutral about something, you could keep it, but put it aside and check it out again a few weeks later.

When you’ve finished one category, start on another but not before you’ve finished the previous group. Do this over several days and you will be so glad that you did and amazed at how much you are able to discard.

For other categories like photographs, kitchen equipment, luggage, objects and ornaments, and general miscellanea, I suggest you do your own version of dividing things up into categories and working through each one, keeping only those things you love and discarding anything you don’t love until you’ve been through everything in that group.

Don’t touch papers and files, etc., till you’ve finished with the clothes and when you do, keep only the absolute minimum you need for information.  For pills, potions and medications throw them out if they’re past their sell by date.  With cosmetics and creams, don’t keep anything that’s over a couple of years old as these things can go off after a time.

Chunking things down in this way makes tackling clearing out so much more manageable!! And most importantly, it allows you to be able to see the progress you’re making which is a great incentive to carrying on with the task until it’s finished.

Good Luck! May the wind fill your sails and carry you along! May you be inspired to keep the home front free and flowing! May your homes be filled with love and light! You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel when you’ve done it!

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THE WISDOM OF TREES

“Be like a tree and let the dead leaves drop” – Rumi

Well, here we are at the beginning of another new year and you’re probably settled back into the old routines, facing a few new challenges and doing your individual things. And no doubt, since it’s the traditional time for making resolutions about creating improvements in ourselves and our lives one way or another, some of you may have spent the last few weeks of December thinking about what you’d like to achieve, and/or things you’d like to change in 2017.

It could be that you want to lose weight and join a gym. Or make a concerted attempt to clear your clutter. Or sign up for that class/course to learn something new. Sometimes we find ourselves making the same resolutions year after year but never actually succeeding in carrying any of them through. How so?  Something happens to push us off course, or we lose the impetus for one reason or another. How many times have you set out on January 1st with good intentions only to find that, come the end of the month, you’ve fallen by the wayside with your goals?

If so, maybe it’s time to re-think the whole idea of new year resolutions and instead of making a list of aims and aspirations which you find hard to achieve,  have a look and see what it is that prevents you from seeing your plans and projects through and resolve to let any limiting beliefs go.  Why? Because by letting go of negative beliefs that hold you back, you’ll automatically find you’ve got less obstacles to achieving your aims!

Many years ago I belonged to an esoteric group where part of the teachings that we received encouraged us to refer to Nature for guidance in our lives and to do this by observing the cycles of the seasons. We learnt to ask ourselves : Are the first shoots appearing? If so, then this would be a good time for starting new projects and endeavours. Is it a time of flowering? This then would be an indication that any early planting of seeds you had done were growing and flourishing and you’d do well to notice your personal flowers and feel encouraged.  Autumn brings an abundance of fruits and berries etc., so this is clearly the time to look for your personal harvest and assess your achievements (large AND small) in the previous months and celebrate whatever you’ve managed to accomplish so far.  Are the trees shedding their leaves? Or are their branches bare? Then now might be the time to look to see what areas in your life are not serving you and to see what you could do to let go of the things that hold you back.

Every season can provide us with some new knowledge and understanding of ourselves.  All we have to do is to be observant of the changes in nature and learn.  This is what our ancestors did and they lived their lives by it.  And they found that their spirits were nourished by their closeness to Nature and the understandings that came from the earth upon which they walked.

Right now, as you look out of your window, you’ll see a lot of bare branches on the trees.  Some may already be showing signs of buds, but this couldn’t happen unless they’d first shed their leaves. Every year, deciduous trees let go of their leaves because they know that new ones will grow when the time is right.  The great oaks and elms and sycamores and their smaller tree cousins know that by discarding their foliage and letting it fall, they’ll create fertile ground in the earth beneath them in which other plants and creatures will grow.

We can draw an analogy between the leaves and the stories and mantras we recite to ourselves subconsciously each day.  Examples might be (fill in the gaps) :  People like me never get to do …….;  I’m not worthy of love because I’m not …..; If only I could have ……..I’d be  happy; I’m hopeless with money …….. ; there’s too much competition out there for me to succeed – and so on.

You may well resonate with the examples above – or find you have other negative mantras which come to mind.  Perhaps you’d love to change aspects of yourself and have tried many times before but failed. So it’s time to understand WHY.  Look carefully at past situations and see how what has happened previously which may have created limited expectations of yourself.

Looking at your perceived failures this way is very useful.  Instead of feeling defeated or lacking in ability, you can begin to see how negative self-talk (i.e. limiting beliefs) prevents you from achieving your aims. And these are the “leaves on your tree” that you’d benefit from shedding.

So…….if you’re up for wanting to shed some of your metaphorical leaves and would like to have a crack at a different approach to letting go, here’s a powerful little ritual you can do to help yourself:

FIRE CEREMONY

You can do this using a fire in your grate at home, or simply using a candle – but if doing the latter, make sure you do it safely so that the burnt paper falls into a metal container or sink – and have some water nearby just in case!

  • Take a few sheets of paper and cut it into 10 strips.
  • Then using a pen, write down 10 limiting beliefs, memories, fears or habits that are holding you back. (If you can’t think of 10, then just write out as many of them as come to mind.)
  • Take your time to do this as it may require quite a bit of soul-searching. Ask yourself why you haven’t taken that next step in your career/relationship/personal and spiritual development.  Write down the negative self- talk that comes up consistently for you when attempting change or when you face challenges.  Write these things down on the ten strips of paper.
  • Once you’ve identified these emotional blocks and written them down, light your fire or your candle.
  • Then take each piece of paper one by one and read out what you’ve written aloud and really FEEL the emotional intensity of what you’ve written.
  • As you read each strip of paper, hold it over the fire or candle flame and say : “It’s time for us to part and go our separate ways. Goodbye.” Let each piece of paper go as it ignites in flames.
  • Exhale as it turns to ash.
  • Then take the next piece of paper and do the same, and so on, until you have burnt each strip of paper.

Ceremonies like this go back a long way in time.  They’ve been used for centuries to help unblock those inner obstacles and help in the healing of emotional and spiritual wounds. Doing this ritual with focus and intention can be very liberating and many people experience an immediate inner shift as they burn the papers.

By interpreting the wisdom of trees in this way we’re following their example. Give it a try!  Remember, trees have been around for about 350 million years which is a whole lot longer than we’ve been here!  They must have learnt a thing or two during that time!!

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