Balance and Purpose

Balance and Purpose

Many of us feel the need to ‘change the world’ at times. Whether this is from an altruistic base, like helping the disadvantaged, or from the ego by building a business or becoming a famous ‘influencer’, this need can lead to intense ‘outer’ activity and, potentially, change.

This motive of change can be applied to our inner world too.

Change is a powerful agent with all sorts of ramifications and repercussions, some good, some not so. Internally, its common to set up barriers against the change process, especially if the change is large and obvious, such as doubt – ‘will it really make any difference’? or excuses such as – ‘once things have settled down’ appear readily.

Why is this?

It is suggested that most of us are comfortable just where we are. As humans we are wired to survive, to look out for our safety. Change and the unknown future are potentially risky, so no wonder we can become anxious and invent barriers to stop our progress.

Conversely when we are not progressing, we can become bored. To prevent boredom we DO things, when we do things, we distract ourselves and, as a bonus we often achieve things, which is good right? Yes, it’s good to tick off jobs and to achieve, but in all that ‘doing’ its easy to forget about the importance of ‘being’, and, for a lot of people, ‘being’ is simply ‘doing’ nothing, so we are back to boredom. Its a bit of a paradox!

But what if you are present in yourself or meditating?

It may not surprise you that meditation is one of the greatest change agents, and that simply dwelling, contemplating or practising insight meditation can lead to deep and profound change, by your own process, and quite safely.

Change can lose its fearsome reputation if we can bring ourselves to think about it as a natural change of our inner self. When appraoching this we may find some deep psychological barriers to contend with brought about by our own particular circumstances and conditions. However, if we can bring our awareness to that continuing distillation as we meditate, we can often reach acceptance and embrace, with self-compassion, the motivating feeling underneath our inner fears.

With recognition comes release, allowing the natural processes to continue uninterrupted. Balance is restored, we can progress.

Progression as human beings is programed in. We are coded to change through the keyways of natural development, and its easy to see this through the development of a child – the formation and birth, the onset of puberty, adulthood, ageing, and the multiplicity of life and living that attends those stages.

But what about spiritual progression?

Whilst certain characteristics and inclination can be seen, spiritual progression is widely variable and has no such obvious development landmarks.

Whilst a young girl may struggle against the perceived indignity and real frustration of hormonal activity and menstruation, the naturally designed process of growing up will not stop – and that’s as it should be. How much easier for us if we had been spiritually programmed that way!

Instead, many feel an absence, a gap, a space that sits within the human and calls for ‘something more’. The gap of our cognizance, our connection, and our sense of being a part of that ‘something more’ – but somehow separated from it.

For many, the task of ‘inner’ or ‘personal development’ becomes a form of spiritual seeking for purpose, or an alternative to it. Personal development can center around specifics, such as our brain patterning and thinking, seeking authenticity; the schooling and balancing of the emotion, or perhaps it sits nearer the core, within the values and practices of a religion or a personal belief system.

Of course, we can shut our purpose life out by simply making the most of just living, cant we? – finding spiritual meaning and purpose takes effort after all! So, cant we just ‘go with the flow’ of the ups and downs, the excesses and depletions of what’s happening in this world? 

Many do, but then sometimes within the occupation of our lives we enter deep times, times of questioning thoughts brought on by meaningful or catastrophic incidents that bring us back to the enormity of what the life we are expending may be about. Times when the the idea of the importance of a more purposeful life may arise, and in response to that ‘something missing’, a deep ‘something more’ is needed …

Perhaps, at these times, we can come to feel and know that, somehow, we are not alone in all this. We are surrounded by the unseen, the unknown, in this incredible creation. We are organic life dwellers, multi-faceted sensers, translators, processors, holders, formed by the mother planet around us but host to something higher, a soul, a spirit and, if we enquire, we may find a belief system and more purposeful way of life to invest in. 

For we are in fact already connected from the inner to the outer, whether we are cognizant of it or not. And, if there is a creation, who/what is the Creator?

A great starter and balance for both the inner and the outer life is being out in nature, we respond to creation in a diverse number of ways, as too the planet and stars. When we are in and with nature we are emotionally, physically and physiologically balanced, and our well-being is increased.

As part of creation our being is also responsive the call of it, the sense that there is ‘more’ to do, more to be. Our emotions, which often stir in the great outdoors, are a vital connector and gateway to the passion and compassion of life.

Being in and with nature can be grounding, and yet uplifting, and it can softly and deeply reconfirm the portent and potent possibility that our life truly is.

So, the next time your being hums to the song of creation and your mind touches the seeking from the depth of the inside to the reach of the outside, know that it’s programmed in, you are the start of your keyway ‘home’, and fulfillment of your own possibility is part of the journey …

With best wishes
AL

See previous Blogs on Change – What is a Paradigm? Adapt or Diminish! and the Pillars of Purpose series here …

 

 

Nostalgia, Harmony and Belief

Nostalgia, Harmony and Belief

What happens when the past takes on an intensity that shapes our present behaviour? A backward-looking life, whether shaped by good or bad experiences, spells trouble, because your thoughts and feelings are the tools that will craft your personal world, both now and in the future.

You can’t drive forward looking in your rear-view mirror.

An anagram for nostalgia is ‘lost again’. Indeed, we can become lost and disconnected from what the future holds for us when nostalgia gains a deep grip on us; and we become lost down a line of time. In this form it can become the precursor to severe depression, distorting reality. Nostalgia is a lens that simplifies many of the complexities of the past; it is not a holistic or integrated perception of the times. Nostalgia is a shallow emotion that can deny, in the present, the necessity for transformative thinking and action.

Whatever our past, we need to learn how to escape nostalgia’s gravitational pull, at least in the space where dark emotions lurk. Failure to do so affects our potential as participants in a greater existence. This being so let me metaphorically illustrate what happens when nostalgia or past hurts and disappointments begin to govern our lives.

This metaphor involves ‘God’. Unfortunately, the one concept in our English language over which wars are fought and communities split is the differing concepts of God. However, the reality is that in every mainstream ‘God-believing’ religion on earth, one of the core attributes of God is that God is an entity that one way or another touches or even permeates our existence.

For the purposes of this metaphor, I ask you for a moment to imagine God as creator of the universe, emitting a vast array of musical frequencies, notes and rhythms of life of which we are the potential receptors if we allow ourselves to tune in.

As babies we can receive and play back the odd note; as we grow older the notes become riffs[1] and melodies and then, growing into adulthood (with all the personal development that is implied), we begin to form a quartet and then an orchestra (although some of us may have more violins and others more drums). So we progressively become better able to resonate with the creative emissions of God and the universe in our lives; but then deep nostalgia or past experiences captures us and we go back in time to when we were just a string quartet or played solo.

In so doing we are reducing our capacity in ‘the now’ to play God’s song for our lives and be the fantastic orchestra we have the potential to be.

Yet, when playing in the full resonant and harmonic way that we are designed to play, our health, spiritual, relational and material prosperity and wellbeing soars.

As an internal condition, nostalgia may at times be a subtle but insidious obstacle to our reflection of the universe’s true harmonic. Another such internal condition lies in the challenges of our past. These challenges may have resulted in a legacy of bitterness or hardship, or poverty, or, more frequently, rejection. For many of us this can mean that we are now cautious about opportunities and relationships that lie in the present. We have all heard the expression ‘once bitten, twice shy’. As we respond to such sentiments we tune out of the musical frequencies of life.

Such emotional flotsam from our past becomes our baggage, a baggage of wounds, hurts, and outdated beliefs. Its legacy needlessly, and often unconsciously, causes us to drift in a metaphorical Sargasso Sea[2] of our own making, wary of repeating the same ‘mistakes’. As a result we increasingly become non participants in the construct of our future.

With a bit of self-reflection we can all recognize how often we allow the baggage of the past, with its pain, rejection, suffering or nostalgic moments, to create chains that hold us to a place, to a person or to a circumstance long since faded from the present. Such baggage reaches out, down through time and into our present world, eating at our dreams, denying our possibilities and binding our future with their legacy.

Back in the 1960s Paul Simon, of Simon and Garfunkel, wrote a song I am a Rock, which reached the charts in their Sounds of Silence album. It expresses the way in which we all can become self-limiting and emotionally insular, as we retreat from past hurts.

‘I’ve built walls,

A fortress deep and mighty,

That none may penetrate.

I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.

Its laughter and its loving I disdain.

I am a rock,

I am an island.

Don’t talk of love,

But I’ve heard the words before;

It’s sleeping in my memory.

I won’t disturb the slumber of feelings that have died.

If I never loved I never would have cried.

I am a rock,

I am an island.

 I have my books

And my poetry to protect me;

I am shielded in my armor,

Hiding in my room, safe within my womb,

I touch no one and no one touches me.

I am a rock,

I am an island’.[3]

But consider for a moment that the world is also filled with successful people who refused to allow the hurts and baggage of their past to impede their future.

People like Oprah Winfrey who overcame a childhood of abuse and molestation to become the world’s first African American billionaire; or Walt Disney who went bankrupt several times before building his successful entertainment empire. People like Thomas Edison, who, when a reporter asked him how it felt to have failed 25,000 times in his effort to create a simple storage battery, replied ‘‘I don’t know why you are calling it a failure. Today I know 25,000 ways not to make a battery.’’ Notably Edison also made over 2,000 attempts at creating a light bulb before perfecting it.

Other examples might include Helen Keller who became the first deaf and blind person to graduate from college and Franklin Roosevelt who contracted polio as a young man and refused to allow his subsequent paraplegia to have an impact on his life, becoming President of the United States of America. In the process, he became a powerful symbol of an individual’s ability to overcome the ravages of one’s past.

History is filled with ordinary people, no different to you or me, who refused to allow their past and outward circumstance to dictate their future.

The baggage of our history and culture affects and shapes our beliefs and thinking. Beliefs are those things you hold to be true that change how you behave and so creates paradigms of our reality. These paradigms can keep us closed and unexpectant, blind to the opportunities of life around us. In a brilliant illustration of what happens when we are blinkered, my favourite poet, Elizabeth Barrett-Browning, once wrote:

‘Earth’s crammed with heaven

And every common bush afire with God:

But only he, who sees, takes off his shoes,

The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries,

And daub their natural faces unaware’[4]

Most of us tend to be blackberry eaters, missing the fire of God (however defined) all around us, with its generative possibilities for a fulfilled life, as we live in our self-limiting sensate world, leaning into the past, unbelieving that life holds more for us. To see the burning bush in our lives we need to believe that it exists in the first place. Such celestial burning bushes tend to only exist on the periphery of our vision.

We need to enlarge our paradigms. 

Paradigms are based in what we hold to be true; what we hold to be possible. In other words, they are based in our beliefs. We must create paradigms of reality that are bigger than our experience and more than wishful thinking. We need paradigms that allow us to recognise the unseen universe, the nature of being and weaving the realities of the seen and unseen into a practical philosophy of daily living.

Much is made of the Law of Attraction and its alleged premise that thoughts manifest, or make tangible, a new reality (health, wealth, prosperity, opportunity etc.). This is a casual, if not sloppy, wording. Thoughts do not manifest so much as ‘beliefs’ manifest. Beliefs are those things you hold to be true that change how you behave. Thoughts are mental processes. Dominant beliefs manifest, or make tangible, a changed reality. The belief that because you have been hurt once you will be hurt again will preclude you from opportunity. A belief that life was so much better ‘way back then’ leaves you locked up in a past that can blind you to the present.

But a belief that you can move mountains, shape your destiny, unlock riches, achieve new heights whether creative, spiritual, relational or temporal, such a belief will change your future and take you into a new dimension. Such a belief, as will be demonstrated, calls down the intervention of forces in your life that are greater than you; forces that are drawn, or are attracted, by your belief as it signals to the universe.

‘What the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve’, (Napoleon Hill – Think and Grow Rich).

Belief gives an emotional quality to our thoughts, and that emotional quality has much more power for change than our thoughts alone. This is so because such belief will also encourage you to take the steps you know are necessary in your life to realise your dreams.

Beliefs are broader than material facts.

Beliefs give us confidence where the presenting ‘facts’ might lead us to doubt. It’s been said that if you want to attain your dreams, work with ideas, not facts. Dwell upon the end result, not the ‘hows’ of it. Do not worry about the logistics, the people or the money you need to make the result happen; but think of the end result you dream of. The ‘facts’ of apparent difficulties and lack of resources will be overcome by the creational storehouse of the universe.

Our subsequent actions, which actualise our new life, are the tip of an iceberg, the hidden base of which is formed by our beliefs, and between the two are our values layered with thoughts and emotions.

Beliefs form the foundation and bedrock of our being.

Change your beliefs – and you will change your life.

Do not be afraid to recognise your ability. Move past nostalgia, or saudade, rejection, bitterness and fear and become the destiny that is yours.

Guest Blogger: Dr Brian Gordon, OAM

[1] short, often repeated series of notes in pop music or jazz

[2] The Sargasso Sea is famous in mythology for its images of fleets of derelict sailing ships, crewed by bleached white skeletons, and trapped in dense mats of clinging seaweed.(http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2000/05/11/125857.htm?site=science/greatmomentsinscience)

[3] Lyricsfreak Retrieved 17 July 2008 from http://www.lyricsfreak.com/s/simon+and+garfunkel/i+am+a+rock_20124809.html

[4] Browning, E.B. 1856 The Complete Poetical Works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning Thomas Crowell and Company New York p134

Health and Well-Being meditations here

 

 

Finding Balance, a Reflection

Finding Balance, a Reflection

One of the most important principles in establishing a sense of wellbeing is trying to find the right balance; whether it be in the physical, mental, emotional or spiritual realms of our lives.

We see this perhaps most powerfully in the rhythm of the breath.

From our first ‘in’ breath after birth, to our final ‘out’ breath at death, the ebb and flow of our breath literally gives us life and is ever seeking the right balance. Try holding your in breath for a minute and you will soon feel the urge to rebalance with the out breath, or vice versa.

This principle can come alive in many other aspects of our lives and an imbalance can often be felt as a cause of disharmony. For example, if we have too much order in our lives, (the way we dress, work, behaviour patterns etc) we can start to develop too much rigidity and then find ourselves lacking creativity. On the other hand, being too much ‘into’ being creative can often lead to a literal, and sense of, chaos. So, most of us need to try to find a balance between the two to help put things in perspective.

Asking yourself some simple questions about your life balance is a good start …
  • Do I spend too much time and effort in or at work, taking on responsibility for extra things and for others, or am I developing some lazy habits by allowing too much relaxation or surrender?
  • Do I spend enough time connecting with nature or am I always surrounded with 21st century culture? Are there times when there is too much to ‘do’ rather than just to ‘be’?
  • Do I spend time ‘helping others’ because I think that is the ‘right thing to do’, but sometimes find that I have neglected to listen to my own needs?
  • Am I compassionately wise and wisely compassionate, or am I becoming too hard, or too soft; in the same way, do I try and see someone else’s point of view or am I a bit judgemental so unbalanced with understanding?
  • How am I in work and personal relations? Too much of a talker to listen, or too much of a listener to ever get to say what I would like to?
  • Do I put more time and effort into my work than I do into my domestic and family affairs?
  • Do I read self-improvement or religious books? Am I ‘filling up’ on theory or do I make time to ‘empty’ each day, through meditation, a gentle tai chi or yoga class, or a hobby like singing?
  • Do I hold my scientific/spiritual/religious beliefs so strongly that I leave too little room for the flexibility for my own intuitive insight to lead me?

With all these questions perhaps the most important one is ‘what can I do about that?’

For our lives to flourish we need to be a mixture, tinkering here and there, adding this or that ingredient to find the right balance. We need to allow the upshoot of fairness, or peace, or a moment of stillness or a stimulation to move and evolve in whatever situation we are finding ourselves in.

Small practical exercises can also help – simple ones like taking a little time each day and balance on your tiptoes, or just sway slowly from side to side to feel the return to the balance point, or perhaps try walking with awareness of how the body retains the balance as it goes. If its safe close your eyes and walk backwards very slowl, your body is equipped to teach you about balance, so why not give it a go?

Guest Blog by Amanda Brown, Yoga Practitioner and Teacher UK

Burn Out – its Official!

Burn Out – its Official!

We all know about workplace burn out. Used up, fed up and exhausted!

Now it’s official, recognised and classified.

In May 2019 the World Health Organisation (WHO) included ‘BURN OUT’ in its 11th Edition of the International Classification of Diseases.

Classified as an ‘occupational phenomenon’ burn out is defined as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:

• feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion.
• increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
• reduced professional efficacy”.

Like most things, burn out doesn’t just happen, it takes time to build and the main building material is stress.

So, now that we know its real rather than just us being ‘not up to it’, let’s have a quick look about something that can be done to alleviate it.

Remember the humble Tea Break? time to refresh, stretch, catch up with the others, eat, drink, and maybe take a walk outside.

It was easier when everyone took a tea break, meeting up for a chat in a canteen or kitchen where there were plenty of cakes, biscuits and, if it was someone’s birthday, a sausage roll or two. The walk outside was often to have a smoke, or pop to the shop to pick up something ready for the lunch break.

Now, we don’t take tea breaks, and some of us not even lunch breaks. We don’t eat so many cakes, biscuits and sausage rolls, and water is our number one go to for drinking at work. Supermarkets are open all hours and we don’t smoke so much, so no need to stretch the legs outside. As we are on our devices most of the time even the chat has less value. Add to that the increased workloads and speeds of the times and it’s easy to see how the tea break has disappeared.

Clearly however, the underlying need to stay healthy by reducing stressors in a break from output is still there. So maybe it’s best to take the ‘T’ part off, and just take a break, anytime of the day, for a few minutes? (quite possibly the world won’t collapse).

If you don’t know what to do in your break time here’s a few suggestions.

• Disengage from your work and its associated activities. Just put it to one side.

• Physically stretch. Walk about and stop off to wash your face and hands in cold water (it activates the parasympathetic nervous system which helps calm and balance you)

• Go outside for a walk, and if you can see green that’s a plus. (slip your shoes off if you can – see the Blog on Grounding)

• Be purposefully mindful about something, breathing, walking, eating …

Research shows that even two minutes – 2 minutes! – of mindfulness can help alleviate stressors by calming the emotion and rebalancing the mind.

A short mindful activity that can be helpful at any time at work, including before entering a stressful situation or after stress has occurred, is simply to pause and breathe. Here’s how.

PAUSE
Find a place to stop or sit (you can do it in the toilet cubicle if you have to!) close your eyes and breathe out forcefully and long, then take a few deep breaths that expand then collapse your chest, abdomen, and belly slowly.

Allow your breath to settle to its own rhythm naturally and as it does simply pay attention to the breath as it flows in, pauses, and flows out of your body.

Take notice of the movements of your body as you breathe.

Take notice of any sounds or sensations, thoughts, or distractions as they arise, then simply let them go, dissolve, as you gently bring your attention back to your breath and the movements of your body as you breath in and out.

Stay with the breath for a while and when you are ready, come out of the pause by taking a deeper breath in then breathe out very slowly …

Take a moment to note the change of pace you can feel before you go back to work.

Regular meditation, even short practices, can help you to regulate and manage stress levels, improve focus, provide insights, and help to induce a calm and balanced inner wellbeing. It will help prevent burn out.

Care to try it? check out our workplace meditations now.

AL