Hope

Hope

Hope can sometimes challenge us – can we, will we, accept hope in times of despair?

How do we manage the unmanageable, that thing, person, or circumstance that gives rise to emotional exhaustion and hopelessness?

To be without hope is to be without optimism, expectation, or desire for the possibility of something more, something better.

There are many conditions and situations that can lead to a sense of hopelessness – mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, disorders such as bipolar and schizophrenia, substance addiction, PTSD, a history of abuse, ill-health, the list goes on.

So called normal behaviours, such as negative attitude, reactivity from underlying stress – blaming others, anger, threats – emotional manipulation, acceptance of verbal disparagement or abuse arising from an underlying sense of not being good enough, being challenged by a crisis of relationship, health, or faith, can also all lead to a diminishment of hope.

Often at these times we ask the unanswerable question ‘why? – why is this happening to me?’

The circumstances and challenges of life are often not personal, they are simply a condition of living, of being alive. No one is promised a life of happiness, we all know that in life we will experience times of unhappiness, a time when we, or someone close to us, will become ill, be in a situation, or develop a condition, that makes living testing.

We also all know that no matter how much we pay attention and look after ourselves, our hair, skin, clothes, and try our best to eat a healthy diet and exercise, we are still all going to depart this life, and lose it.

So how to think about this sense of hopelessness that can arise from living life. It begins in the mind. Our brains run on cycles or patterns of thoughts, as do our emotions and the associated behaviours we enact at these times. Without something to change or break the cycle, it will continue through to its end. Without options to intercept, giving the possibility of something else to take place, we are doomed to continuously repeat the cycle that can lead to hopelessness or despair.

In these times it’s important to recognise that your perception is not necessarily the reality.

Your thoughts can be distorted and inaccurate. Becoming more aware of your thoughts rather than engaging in the usual cycle, can help you identify the patterns, and with practice, the mental and emotional triggers that start the cycle off.

Here are some other things to try if you are feeling a lack of hope:

• Challenge your inner belief, and argue the opposite
• Instead of asking yourself ‘why?’ ask ‘what?’ – what can I do?
• Problem solve your situation, either to change how you feel about it or to solve it
• Develop and plan – then take the first step on it
• Talk to a trusted person or a therapist
• Consider faith.

Faith is a wonderful antidote to hopelessness.

The benefits of religion to mental health are known and are consistent across age, race, gender, nationality, and socioeconomic status. Human beings through the ages have constantly sought things to deify. There is a great comfort in knowing that everything is not just up to you, you don’t have to, nor can you, control life, that when you are fearful or call for help someone is there – you are not alone.

Spirituality and faith are a mystery, a mystery imbued with hope.

Movement is also a practical and potent way to help free up the feeling of being ‘stuck’ that can lead to hopelessness. Taking up the practice of Tai Chi or Yoga can help free up fixed mental structures/patterns. By creating more fluidity in your space, an openess of mind can occur more easily. 

The Ability Life website exists to offer encouragement toward a deeper inquiry into the mystery of life and to nourish well-being. Thanks to neuroscience, eudaimonic well-being has been proved to have a positive and healing effect on human genomes. Greek philosopher Aristotle spoke of eudaimonic well-being as ‘central to reasoning, happiness and a rich fulfilling life’, and ‘a start point for thinking about the nature and purpose of human life, its virtue and its ultimate fulfilment’. It is our hope you will find our blogs, contemplations, and mindful meditations beneficial to yours.

AL

Note: This information is a helpful guide only and not as a replacement for seeking professional advice and assistance.

The Intactness Within

The Intactness Within

 How strange life can be,
It’s not always as it seems,
What seems so right 
What seems so wrong.

Go out, go out they say,
But pause just a little,
Before you go,
Maybe first there are things to know.

What we seek, it looks for us,
Hoping too, that in our search, we stop
It’s only ourselves we seek,
No more and yet no less.

It’s in the eyes this presence bright
Who would seek to subdue that light?
In oneself or others too,
That colour, it’s God’s own hue.

 

This little poem came together with a life of its own having met an old friend on a walk, a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time but knew had been unwell over recent years with a neurological condition.

His speech and walking were quite badly impaired but what struck me most were his eyes first and then the look on his face.

You see, he was all there, but more so than I had ever seen, more intent, stronger, more alive.

The thing is, he doesn’t have a neurological condition, his body does. The inner life of him is intact and even strengthened.

We cant always choose what happens to us, but we can choose who we are in dealing with it.

Guest Blogger Tim, UK

 

See our well-being meditations  to enhance insight. AL

My Way

My Way

I often wonder why I love science fiction and science fantasy so much.

My friends read all the latest books that win prizes and are much vaulted. I do try and read them but too many of them are dry, depressing, and boring.

‘What about space?’ I think, ‘what about dragons?’

I am in an ordinary life, it is pretty mundane in the main, with pockets of excitement, warm family times, and outings with friends. But these books allow my spirit to soar, ideas to develop, lift me to see the impossible for our lives today. It gives me both hope for the future and a taste of the possible other worlds, which generates optimism in me and makes the move towards growth and openness in myself.

What can beat the satisfaction of a good read? Whatever the genre? Some would say its escapism, but for me I think it’s both a coping mechanism to the stresses of everyday life and a soaring of the imagination that adds a richness to oneself. A reminder that we are not alone in the universe, that anything is possible.

If we dismiss the imagination we are in danger of dismissing possibility, and closing off so much. Imagination opens us to new things, to growth, development and  improvement.

We all  have our ways into this. Meditation is another way of mine, offering peace, knowledge and gentle motivation in the sitting and dwelling, as well as bounteous undertsandings, insights and knowings.

Add all this to my favourite genre of books and I am ready to fly!

Being open to books, to meditation, to difference, helps me be more tolerant, able to see the bigger picture of life, believe in God and see the wonder of the universe.

What is your way?

Chris UK,  Guest Blogger

Access relaxations, visulalisations and meditations

 

The Notebook

The Notebook

I have a beautiful notebook. The picture on its cover is of the sunset, yellows, oranges and gold’s.

Its a few years old now, it is still pristine. I look at it often but do not write in it, in case the words I write are not good enough somehow for its perfect blank pages.

What if I mess it up? Cross out? My handwriting may not be neat enough? Write something that does not fit with this perfection?

Then one day, quietly musing as I stare at the crisp white pages, I wondered if I live my life like this – and realise  in part, I do.

I cannot paint, so better not try as I will be rubbish.
I cannot write and there is no one who would like to read it anyway.
I cannot meditate and I would not be able to still my mind in any case.
I cannot swim as I do not look like a model in my swimming costume.
I cannot join a walking group as I walk too slowly and people will judge me.

And on and on, the more I think the more I see how I restrict myself and how it is actually stopping my life.

But I can change I think to myself, as I pick up a pen and decide to write a ‘can do and will do’ list in my clean notebook.

There are things I can do, and will do, simply by having a go I write…

Then my perfect attempt of neat handwriting starts to fade as my list gets longer, I cross out and change words, use a numbering system then decide on bullet points.

Its a bit messy but real, like my life.

Let’s try a story I think, no I think I will start by writing about my notebook, then the story, then oh, buy some paints. I will add that to my other list and just squeeze it in, more mess, oh well.

I see that life is messy, change happens.

So, I don’t have to be perfect, it’s okay not to be, nothing always goes to plan, we are only human after all.

Guest Blogger – Chris

AL Feel better about your self, see our Well-Being meditations

Coping with Death and Loss

Coping with Death and Loss

Death is inevitable.

There are nearly 8 billion people on the planet at this time and every one will meet an ending of this life be they old or young, sick, or healthy. No one knows how long their span here will be, for hundreds of thousands every day their time is up now, and one day it will be your turn.

This is a reality of life.

We live in an impermanent world and, depending on your belief system, it’s a world that is a part of your journey in life, rather than the end of it.

Humans are hard wired to change and change is a natural process. However, grief is one of the changes in life that can be incredibly hard to navigate and adopt.

We can read articles about how normal change such as death and loss is – even as we read this we are losing cells in our body as they continually die and regenerate – and we can read about the planets cycles of nature, all of which demonstrate the impermance of life. But we also know that changes such as endings or new beginnings are usually accompanied by some level of anxiety or pain. Whether it is a change of house or job or the loss of a friendship or a loved one, pain can be felt.

The pain of grief or loss can be accompanied by an intense, and sometimes devastating, sorrow that can be challenging to be with mindfully. It can also cause our systems to become overwhelmed and go into a protective shock that effectively shuts us down until it can process what’s happening.

The effects of shock can last for days or months and still be in process years after.

Suffering grief affects the body, it can increase inflammation and blood pressure, dampen our immune system, our appetite, and rob us of our energy. The disruption to our chemical and hormonal balance can increase fatigue yet affect our ability to sleep properly. These symptoms are all ‘normal’ bodily responses to the process of grieving.

As with any trauma or issue that stops or hinders our internal processes, it may need remedial action to get things moving again.

One of the best ways to begin coping with death and loss is to accept and allow this grief process and, as much as possible, to be with it and let it happen.

By owning and allowing our feelings of grief to flow through us we can open to and move on with the process which, like any other process that passes through the body, goes through stages until its complete.

Knowing something is quite different to processing it. I remember seeing a recipe that looked delicious, knowing the ingredients and what it would taste like, my mouth watered as I imagined eating it and my digestive system responded. As real as it felt reading about it however, I was missing out completely on the experience of engaging in eating and digesting and benefiting from the physical and emotional process.

We are processing machines in that we are designed to process our food, our thoughts, and our emotions by being with them, experiencing them. My senses and mind missed out on smelling, tasting, touching, feeling, savouring, thinking and feeling the satisfaction of being replete. My system missed out on digesting, processing and most importantly retaining the nutrients needed for a healthy body, before getting rid of what’s not required.

Emotional process is just as vital, as is taking things as slowly as necessary, in your time. We gradually begin to move out of shock and into gentle action, spending time as we move through and be with our thoughts and emotions as the stages of grief pass through. Being careful to not shut out or avoid our feelings of grief to lessen the risk of placing blockages in our being that will, eventually, either need to be processed or cause problems later.

Gentle and compassionate awareness of this process, awareness that encompasses the body, the emotion, and the mind in these times, is a strong feature of healing and continuance.

With the right effort the grief process will allow you to retain the essence, the bits wanted and needed to aid your eventual recovery and well-being into the future.

This usage of emotional ability and skill to be present is there for us to use when needed, and yet, just like any other skill, learning to be proficient with it takes time.

Emotional ability is enhanced and enriched with awareness and is a critical part of the ability to cope when facing death or loss. In practising awareness with self- compassion, we can often reach, recognise, and accept the ultimate feelings underneath our grief. This is the key to release of any blockage and the natural flow of the grief process.

As you progress you may find it helpful to notice the way each feeling is expressed in the body – perhaps aches or emptiness in the stomach or a heaviness in the chest – and in time you may notice how your mind is responding to these feelings, perhaps pushing away, or holding on to things as they flow past.

One of the many benefits of mindfulness meditation is the ability of the breath to be an anchor for our attention as we gaze deeply into the process of death or loss. Our thoughts and actions in this time of suffering can make our lives miserable or help us shape our future. When we can reach awareness and acceptance of the ongoing changes in life around us, we can find the gratitude and resilience to become reconnected to our own life journey, held safe in the trust that we have been made for it.

For now, to help cope with the grief of death or loss, or any other challenges in life, access Awareness of Challenging Emotions, Reframe with Rain, and Loving Kindness on our meditations page or, if you prefer to start gently, try a few relaxations or breathing meditations first.

With encouragement
AL

*Note: This article is a complimentary support to the grief process and should not replace reaching out to others or undertaking professional counselling.

Adapt or Diminish

Adapt or Diminish

Nothing is permanent, everything changes – this is the nature of things.

National Geographic writes that “adaptation is the biological mechanism by which organisms adjust to new environments or to changes in their current environment … “
So change is a natural part of life, and one that we are biologically coded to meet.

Our world situation has altered dramatically over the last few decades. The industrial revolution has been followed by a technological revolution and both bring huge, often unfathomable and unintentional changes to our lives and society.

Currently we also have climate change, sweeping social change and now, a new global pandemic.

With such levels of adjustment on so many fronts we can experience anxiety, uncertainty, and stress, but change is also opportunity for a new life if we can adapt – and to adapt is to respond by changing too.

When we respond to something, we take time to consciously think before making choices or taking action, rather than automatically falling into a non-thinking habitual reaction.

To enable us to respond continously there are many tools and practices to help keep the mind calm and balanced in order to cultivate an internal climate for conscious thinking. Mindfulness is a practice that helps maintain the balance and clarity of vision that is needed for clear thinking in times of ongoing change. Regular practice increases our awareness and capacity to recognise what’s going on, and keep a sense of perspective and possibility.

Resilience is another key factor in adaptation and psychological strength. An aspect of resilience is to be able to think and generate alternative ideas and solutions on the run. Awareness together with resilience helps enable an ongoing adaptation to change.

Whether the change is perceived as good, like going on holiday or finding a new home, or challenging like an illness or argument, stressors don’t have to be big to be felt and impactful. So, another part of adaptation lies in being able to recognise the scale and nature of the issue. This recognition has many aspects and levels of understanding – a friend of mine uses the Serenity Prayer to gain perspective and make better choices in her life, and it’s a great start.

We are all on a journey in this river of life and we all have opportunity to adapt, or diminish. The same can be said of planetary life, can it adapt, or will it diminish? and how can we help that adaptation process?

As people alive right now we have it to do, environmentally, socially and psychologically but as we ponder this situation, let’s not get discouraged or forget that biologically, we are literally made for it.

AL