Life

Listen to your soul

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I create a bit of space every day when I can sit in silence and allow myself to hear my own thoughts.

In this busy, connected world, with notifications, advertising, and everyone having a voice, I feel it’s important to learn the difference between someone else’s voice and opinion, and my own.

To do this I sit in silence for at least five minutes every day, preferably outdoors. No television, no radio, no phone, no noise, just a notepad for making notes afterwards. I get into a comfortable spot and allow myself to sit in silence. I take a few deep breaths and allow my thoughts to flow.

In creating the space for my intuition to be heard, I’m creating space for the guidance to flow.

If there’s a situation that I’m concerned about or a decision to be made that worries me, I allow my mind to go to the situation and simply allow my thoughts to drift. And, I listen. I don’t question what comes up; I just listen and give my inner voice permission and space to speak to me.

A health problem became my focus most recently. As I sat on the seat in silence, I allowed myself to drift into thought. I pictured the ‘healthy me’ that I ideally wanted to attain. It became very clear what I needed to do to remedy the problem. When I got up from my seat it was clear the food I needed to cut out, and the exercise path I needed to restart. The answer came from my body itself. I listened to my instincts, I listened to my intuition, and I found the right path.


A fear worse than death

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The teenage boys moved forward along the High Street navigating the street furniture and other people without losing their group formation. Their hair styles all looked the same, their clothes looked the same, they sounded the same.

The scene reminded me of an observation by Carl Jung:

“Grazing heads nodded, the herds moved forward like slow rivers. There was scarcely any sound save the melancholy cry of a bird of prey. This was the stillness of the eternal beginning, the world as it had always been, in a spate of non-being for until then no one had been present to know that it was this world.

"I felt then as if I was the first man, the first creature to know that all of this is. The world around me was still in its primeval state and it did not know that it was. And in that moment which I came to know the world, the world sprang into being. Without that moment it never would have been. All nature seeks this goal and finds its fulfilment in man but only the most highly developed and fully conscious man. Every advance, even the smallest, along its path of conscious realisation, adds that much to the world.”

Our fear of standing out and feeling different is sometimes so great that we fear it more than death. It’s a feeling I understand well myself having suffered for many years from a chronic lack of confidence. On the other hand, it seems odd that we’re so afraid. What exactly are we afraid of? What do we think will happen to us? We’re unlikely to suffer any real or lasting harm - or are we? The answer seems to lie in our remote past, in our evolution as social animals.

Most people don’t want to be seen as ‘different’. Not fitting in is associated with being an outcast, an ‘undesirable’. Humans evolved over the last few million years in a world filled with risks like large predators and starvation. Early humans were probably commonly hunted by many of the large predators common at that time.

One defence commonly used by mammals to protect themselves from predation is to live in groups. In a group, members can alert each other to predators and help to fight them off. The advantages of living in a group probably are the reason why early humans and other large primates evolved to be social, and why we are still social today.

Early humans learned to survive by using their wits and collaborating with each other. Those that worked well with the others, helped others and fitted in with well with the group were more likely to survive and pass on their traits to their descendants. Failure to fit in with the social group and getting kicked out probably spelled doom for early humans. It follows that anything that threatens our status in our social group, like the threat of ostracism, feels like a very great risk to us.

In the animal kingdom, ostracism is not only a form of social death, it also results in death. The animal is unable to protect itself against predators, cannot garner enough food, etc., and usually dies within a short period of time. Imagine the herd that Jung talked about. If one of the herd was injured or became separated from the group they would be targeted by the predators. Modern day humans who dare to be different and stand out from the ground risk becoming a target of trolls or of being ridiculed by their peers.

The fear is shared by many people who are faced with getting in front of a crowd and performing such as speakers, artists, athletes, actors, and musicians. They fear being negatively evaluated in anything they do; fear being rejected; fear being abandoned.

We are all afraid of rejection. At a primal level, the fear is so great because we are not merely afraid of being embarrassed, or judged. We are also afraid of being rejected from our social group, ostracized and left to defend for ourselves on our own. Sometimes, it seems that we fear ostracism even more than death, because not so long ago getting kicked out of the group probably really was a death sentence.

Image: Fotolia.com


Do other people's opinions really matter?

Digby

Care about people’s approval, and you will always be their prisoner. Lao Tzu.

BY JANE REDFERN JONES

I went to the beach with my daughters and their friends. My dogs love the beach so I took them along too. The plan was for the teenagers to go on the beach then head for the amusement arcade and shops while I walked the dogs. I agreed to stop at a shopping centre on the way home too and wait for them while they went clothes shopping.

The dogs went in the mud flats. The two golden retrievers were now dark brown and dripping with mud. I couldn’t get to the sea to clean them off without going through the mud again. Not only that but the one dog came up to me and shook. My face, my hair, and my clothes were all covered in mud. A lot of mud. The only consolation was that I wore my wellies and had boots to change into.

On the way home we stopped at the shopping centre. As I waited in the car I really fancied a latte from Costa and a sandwich from Marks and Spencer. The voice in my head said, “You can’t go in either of those places in this state!” So I sat and waited a bit longer. But then another voice in my head said, “But you always say that you don’t care what people think. Why are you denying yourself this small pleasure?” So I got out of the car and got my latte and sandwiches and really enjoyed them. I got a few strange looks but I just thought “So what!” It really struck me then that if worrying about what people think of us stops us enjoying something as small as a latte – how many bigger things and opportunities are we missing out on?

Diving home later we went past someone walking a golden retriever on a lead. My daughter commented on how clean it looked. “Yes”, I agreed. “I bet that dog isn’t allowed to run free on the beach!” The two dogs in the boot of the car were very muddy but they had loved the walk and the freedom (and the mud). Fortunately for them I didn’t stop them enjoying the beach because I wanted create a good impression with two clean well-groomed dogs.

We were all muddy but happy.


I am not alone

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Woodlands and forests are ideal places to go back to nature and to refresh the soul.

JANE REDFERN JONES

I stand amongst the trees and soak up the peaceful atmosphere. I breathe in the woodland smells, deeply inhaling the smell of humus emanating from the woodland floor. I watch beams of light flicker through the canopy of branches overhead. I place my hands on a beech tree and feel the smooth bark. I feel the moss bounce softly underneath my feet.

An old bench seems to beckon me to sit quietly for a few minutes. I look and listen for signs of life - a wren is flitting about close to the ground, a pygmy shrew scratches and searches for food. I hear the distant tapping of a woodpecker

I place my hand on my heart. I can feel it beating and notice how my chest rises and falls with every breath. I think of all the heartbeats doing the same thing in these woods, in the whole country, in the world. I feel the shared experience.

I am not alone.

 


Growing our internal mother

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BY JANE REDFERN JONES

The relationship we have with ourselves sets the tone for every other relationship in our lives.

Practicing self-love means showing up for ourselves daily, celebrating ourselves and our successes daily, and understanding that whatever we feel we need from others we have the power to give ourselves.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author of Warming the Stone Child, says that internally we all have a light that can never go out. There are many beliefs about this light, and one of the sayings is that any type of wood that is half burnt always has a spark or ember in it that can be fanned by a very small wind into a gigantic flame, and this is also true about the internal flame of those of us who lacked parental guidance as a child.

Even people who have endured terrible things must realise that surviving is not enough. We must learn to thrive. That is what the little flame inside us is all about. Fanning that flame into something that’s sturdy, something that doesn’t waver every time someone gives us a funny look, disapproves of us, or is angry with us. We can become resilient so that our flame burns brightly. That’s what healing our inner child is all about.

In terribly unhealthy families children are damaged in many ways, including the destruction of the child’s belief that he has any purpose and value. Without that belief, it is difficult to succeed, difficult to take risks. It may even seem foolish to them to take risks, “knowing”, as such people do, that they are not up to the task. Estes talks about how we can suffer from a syndrome she calls ‘collapsing’. When someone is angry with us we go into a psychic regression with feelings of being worthless, wishing to be invisible, collapsing instead of being adult and stable and present in the moment. This causes the flame to waver.

We can look back and try and analyse everything that has happened to us - the neglect, the put-downs etc - but that will not help fan the flame.

The tender, the keeper of that flame, is the internal mother and if things had happened properly to us as a child that flame would already be burning bright and stable.

In order to grow the internal mother, you have to be willing to be decent and good to yourself. You must be willing to accept self-love and self-respect. You must realise that the only things holding you back are the faulty illusions and beliefs from your past. Nothing can stop you so long as you believe in yourself. It doesn’t matter if you are overweight, too thin, too short, too tall, it is all to do with caring about all the things that you are. That is what develops the internal mother. You can feel and see her grow before your very eyes if you are willing to develop your self-love, self-respect, and self-regard for yourself.

Many people who have this deep sense of being unmothered often feel that they are searching for love, that if they were just loved enough, everything would be so much better. But, it doesn’t matter how much love you have lavished on you, it won’t be enough. What will work, is to have the guidance of intuition, the guidance of consciousness, the guidance of common sense.

Consciously knowing what we are capable of, what our good points are, what our bad points are, and guiding ourselves through life with that knowledge is the deepest internal mother that you can have.’ And if you are an unmothered child, that is what was missing in your upbringing.

Take heart, no matter what happened to you, that light still lives inside you.

Take the focus away from what you look like, take time to get to know yourself – both your strengths and your weaknesses. Know that whatever has happened to you, you are enough. Nourish your body as a celebration of all it does for you.

And, as we pour love into ourselves, that love will spill out into the rest of our lives.

“Beautify your inner dialogue. Beautify your inner world with love, light, and compassion. Life will be beautiful.” Amit Ray.


A brand new day

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“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” Marcus Aurelius.

I love the early mornings when things are very still. I stand outside my door and look out across the fields, over the house roofs and treetops, at the glorious colours in the sky. Behind all the worries we have, the things (and people) we complain about, and the disapproval we have in our minds, the sun is always coming up in the morning, it always moves across the sky and goes down in the evening. The birds are always there collecting their food and flying overhead. The grass is always being blown by the wind, or it is still. Even now, in wintertime, flowers are blooming in my garden. There is so much abundance all around us. As I breathe in the early morning air I appreciate being alive. Some people overnight will have taken their last breath. They will not have realised at the time that it was their last, but their lives will have silently ebbed away. We are so fortunate to have another day here on our beautiful planet. 

The Navajo teach their children that every time the sun comes up, it’s a brand-new sun. It’s born each morning, and each evening it passes on, never to return again. As soon as the children are old enough to understand, the adults take them at dawn and they say, “The sun has only one day. You must live this day in a good way, so that the sun won’t have wasted precious time.” 

Acknowledging how precious each day is, is a good way to live, a good way to reconnect with our basic joy and appreciation.

“The fastest way to bring more wonderful examples of abundance into your personal experience is to take constant notice of the wonderful things that are already there.” Esther Hicks.


Nature is not outside us. We are nature.

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“I think that we are like stars. something happens to burst us open; but when we burst open and think we are dying, we’re actually turning into a supernova. And when we look at ourselves again, we see that we’re suddenly more beautiful than we ever were before.” C. Joybell C.

Hydrogen is formed into helium, and helium is built into carbon, nitrogen and oxygen, iron and sulphur - everything we're made of. When stars get to the end of their lives, they swell up and fall together again, throwing off their outer layers. If a star is heavy enough, it will explode in a supernova.

Our bodies are made of remnants of stars and massive explosions in the galaxies.  Everything we are and everything in the universe and on Earth originated from stardust, and it continually floats through us even today. It directly connects us to the universe, rebuilding our bodies over and again over our lifetimes.

The residual stardust finds its way into plants, and from there into the nutrients that we need for everything we do—think, move, grow. And every few years the bulk of our bodies are newly created.

We tend to think of our bodies changing only slowly once we reach adulthood. In fact, we're changing all the time and constantly rebuilding ourselves. 

The skin, for example, is our largest organ. To keep alive, our cells have to divide and grow. We're aware of that because we see children grow. But cells also age and eventually die, and the skin is a great example of this. It's something that touches everything around us. It's also very exposed to damage and needs to constantly regenerate. It weighs around eight pounds and is composed of several layers. These layers age quickly, especially the outer layer, the dermis. The cells there are replaced roughly every month or two. That means we lose approximately 30,000 cells every minute throughout our lives, and our entire external surface layer is replaced about once a year.

Very little of our physical bodies lasts for more than a few years, something we might find hard to grasp each day as we look in the mirror. But we're not fixed at all. We're more like a pattern or a process. 

The spiral in a snail's shell is the same mathematically as the spiral in the Milky Way galaxy, and it's also the same mathematically as the spirals in our DNA. It's the same ratio that you'll find in very basic music that transcends cultures all over the world. Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Every tissue recreates itself, but they all do it at a different rate. We know through carbon dating that cells in the adult human body have an average age of seven to ten years. That's far less than the age of the average human, but there are remarkable differences in these ages. Some cells literally exist for a few days. Those are the ones that touch the surface. The skin is a great example, but also the surfaces of our lungs and the digestive tract. The muscle cells of the heart, an organ we consider to be very permanent, typically continue to function for more than a decade. But if you look at a person who's 50, about half of their heart cells will have been replaced.

Our bodies are never static. We're dynamic beings, and we have to be dynamic to remain alive. This is not just true for us humans. It's true for all living things.

Cells die and rebuild all the time. We're literally not what were a few years ago, and not just because of the way we think. Everything around us does this.

Nature is not outside us. We are nature.

Read more: Living with the stars: how the human body is connected to the life cycles of the Earth, the planets, and the stars. Karel Schrijver and Iris Schrijver.


Nothing is born, nothing dies

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Sometimes people ask you: "When is your birthday?" But you might ask yourself a more interesting question: "Before that day which is called my birthday, where was I?"

Ask a leaf: "What is your date of birth? Before you were born, where were you?"

If you ask the leaf, "How old are you? Can you give me your date of birth?" you can listen deeply and you may hear a reply. You can imagine the leaf being born. Before being born it was the meristem in the mother oak. Or it was the acorn that had fallen onto the soil. It was also the sun because the warmth from the sun helped the acorn grow. The rain is there too, helping to nourish the mother tree and help it thrive. The leaf does not come from nothing; there has been only a change in form. It is not a birth of something out of nothing.

Sooner or later, the leaf will change into decaying organic material. If you look deeply into the ground you can see the leaf. The leaf is not lost; it is transformed into compost, and the compost is transformed into grass and the grass into cows and then to milk and then into the latte you drink. Today if you drink a latte, give yourself time to look at the latte and say: "Hello, leaf! I recognise you.”

Our true nature is the nature of no birth and no death. Only when we touch our true nature can we transcend the fear of non-being, the fear of annihilation.

Nothing is born, nothing dies.


Why connection is better than drugs

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Imagine a dog in kennels waiting to be rehomed. We see the video on Facebook telling us how sad and depressed the dog is, and how it sits, staring, into the corner. The solution, they say, is company and a new home. We are shown how the dog’s mood has lifted when it finds a family, has company, and someone to take it on walks.
 
We are shown how company, connection, and attention have transformed the dog’s life.
 
Now imagine that same dog, sitting in the kennels, forlornly staring into the corner. Imagine the staff asking the vet to come and see the dog because they think he’s depressed. The vet says that the dog appears to have a chemical imbalance in the brain, prescribes some drugs for him, and sends him back into the same kennel, alone. The vet says he will assess him again in a month. The dog goes back to staring into the corner.
 
Most people would agree that this approach would be crazy. It’s obvious that it’s both the environment the dog is in and the lack of connection that are making the dog depressed. It doesn’t need drugs, it needs company, connection, and hope.
 
Yet isn’t that the way we treat people? The person who is depressed, living alone, or with people they don’t emotionally connect with, goes to the doctor to ask for help. The doctor decides that the patient has a chemical imbalance in the brain, gives him some tablets, and sends him back into the very environment that is making him ill. Obviously, the doctor can’t say “Here’s your new forever home” to his patient, but he could consider that maybe the patient needs an opportunity to connect with other people and to get outdoors. Even just once a week they could benefit from some wild art therapy, or even just a walk with people they can connect with.

Two waves forward, one wave back (surviving adversity)

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My daughter spotted a little sea creature struggling to return to the sea. We could see its little legs sticking out of the shell scrabbling about, trying to right itself and move forward. But then a wave would come and wash it back again.

“Please pick it up and help it,”my daughter pleaded. But, as I watched, I noticed something interesting. The tide would ebb away and the creature would again put all of its effort into moving forward. Then the  tide would come back and wash it back yet again but it never washed it back to where it started - it had always managed to move on a bit.

I stood and watched it, until, through sheer determination, it was back in the depths of the ocean.

Sometimes we have to downgrade for a while in order to upgrade. Sometimes we have to ride the wave and see where it takes us.

I thought about what would have happened if we had picked it up and helped it on its way. What if that had happened all its life? What if someone had always been around to help it get where it wanted to go without it having to struggle? It would probably never understand how determination and effort can achieve the seemingly impossible. But, what if one day nobody came and the little creature just sat there waiting for someone to help? It would be afraid of the unknown, not understand that sometimes it needs to make an effort itself and so it would be stuck and would probably die. 

Sometimes struggling can make us stronger and more resilient.

People who live ‘safe’ lives, children who never have to do anything for themselves, people who are stuck in their ‘comfort zone’ - can they ever be truly successful?

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