A love letter to Oprah Winfrey

Dear Oprah,

As your magazine has celebrated 10 years and your show 25, I think it is about time I said thank you.

I am now 35 years old, and have been reading O Magazine for the past 3 years, and watching when I can for the most of the 25.  Your programme bounced around the British TV schedules, from channel to channel, then time slot to time slot, but when I needed you most, I found you. 

Over the years I’ve learnt about neti pots, your favourite things and how to wear scarves to match the key pieces in my wardrobe.  I’ve learnt that no-one is perfect, and the people that try the hardest, can fall the furthest.  I’ve learnt that a heartfelt ‘Sorry’ will undo a lot, that owning and wearing your mistakes proudly is easier than trying to hide them, that I am allowed to live my best life, and anyone who tells me otherwise is trying to control me.

You’ve introduced me to Eckhart Tolle, Rev Ed Bacon, Josh Groban, Byron Katie, steel cut oatmeal, Peter Walsh, Elizabeth Lesser, Nate Berkus, Drs Oz, Roizen, Dyer and Phil, Michael Pollan, Taylor Swift and Martha Beck, all have enhanced my life, particularly the oatmeal.  I took my husband to see Eckhart Tolle and Dr Phil when they came to Melbourne, loving that he got nearly as much out the evenings as I did.

Now about that bit when I needed you.  My first marriage stopped, failed, utterly and miserably.  Broken open, torn apart, I sat on a friends couch and wondered how I could go on.  I lurched along my life, collecting pain and misery wherever I went, accumulating anger and resentment.  I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t function properly for months.  Then I found a workable way to get through each day, and for the next year or so drifted along aimlessly, only thinking about work, not thinking about the pain inside me.  You chose a book for your book club, and I found a way out of the noise and collateral damage inside my head.  I worked my way through with highlighters and post it flags, it now looks like a rainbow of colours and confetti.  The poor book has been read and re-read so many times it is nearly falling apart.  But when I brought it, downloaded the podcasts and worksheets, it was like a life line.  It literally yanked me back to shore.

How do I thank you?  How do I thank Eckhart Tolle?  The only way I know how.  I try to live my best life, every day.

Wherever your OWN takes you, on this next part of your journey; when you wake up in the morning after your last show, know that there are millions of people all over the world who owe you so much.  I for one, can never repay you.  I am proud to have walked beside you along this journey, joining for the bits I could as the show was bumped around, but you’ve always shown up, upheld your side of the bargain.  Twenty Five years, it’s a long time to wear your heart on your sleeve.  Enjoy that lie-in, you’ve earnt it.

With lots of love,

M x

Back in the saddle again

While unable to blog, I had loads of ideas.  Now I can blog, I am staring into space wondering what they were.  I wouldn’t mind but I carry a notebook around with me wherever I go.  When a half sentence wafts into my head, I should write it down there and then.  Call me a PA?  My life is one oxymoron.  I am so organised in some areas, yet so chaotic in others.  I am so disciplined, yet so lazy.  I am proud, yet prejudiced.  I know that it is a learning curve, some days will be better than others, I have a-ha! moments where I see so clearly, but then get paralysed with the fear of letting go and letting life carry me.  Must try harder. 

It’s raining in Melbourne today, which means crazy drivers, more yummy mummies driving their children door to door to school, people without lights on, horns blaring as people get carved up and people arriving at work frazzled, frustrated and probably carrying that mood throughout the day.

Getting ready this morning, I knew I was going to get stuck in traffic, so I just accepted it.  I got ready at far less than the warp speed I do normally, got my lunch out the fridge and listened to Take That all the way to work, singing along, not worrying about how silly I looked to other drivers.  I am feeling calm, placid and as the majority of the people are out the office today, know I will get a lot done with minimum interruptions.  I am also looking forward to my first rostered day off on Monday, so I have a long weekend to boot!  I am going to update my vision board, cull the magazines that have been stored over the past month or so, and drive out to the country for a walk.  Because I can.  I will also have a bath, read a bit and use it as a day off.  I accrue them through the month, so I get 12 extra days holiday a year.  I’ve decided that every single one of them will be MY days.  I am not going to use them on anything other than me.

This gives me a four-day week next week, ready for a week off in Port Douglas.  Our reef trip is booked, I wish I could tell you how excited I am to be seeing it, up close and personal.  We’re going to be swimming with turtles in the Low Isles.  I’ll look out for Nemo for you all.  I’ll leave you with this, which is what I am going to endeavour to do daily:

Leave Life alone.  Let it be.  Eckhart Tolle

“Enlightenment means accepting what is”

This quote greets me daily as it is on a bookmark I collected when Dan and I went to see Eckhart Tolle speak last year at the Melbourne Convention Centre.  I stuck the bookmark immediately underneath my vision board, and as I sleep curled up in a ball on my right hand side, the pictures and wise words I’ve chosen to help me are the first thing I see when I get up in the morning, stuck at pillow height right by the bed.

For me the biggest shift in my life has been accepting that there are things I cannot change.  However, there are also things that I don’t need to tolerate.  So while I have accepted them, I have also moved on, knowing that despite my best intentions, I can’t do anything about them.  

De-cluttering and letting go isn’t just about ‘stuff’, it’s also about psychological baggage.  While my past life is there, ready for me to access straight away in terms of memories, because I all I have to do is think about things and I am right back there.  If I chose to not think about them, they have no power over me.  Learning to live in the here and now is hard, there is always the voice telling you that you failed before, you won’t succeed because of x or y, why do you want to do it that way for?  And so on.

If all you have is now, why waste it thinking about something that has happened that you have no control over?  Why project yourself into the next meeting you have in your diary, when you are supposed to be concentrating on this one?  Why worry about something that has happened, or something that hasn’t yet happened.  All you will miss out on is the here and now, when you actually have control over what can happen, because you are fully in the moment you are in?

Easier said than done, as it does take a conscious effort to stay here.  My mind is running ahead of me as I am typing, I am thinking with part of my brain about what I want to tell you.  I was re-reading some of my writing exercises that I used to scribble out when I was commuting back and forth to London.  I found one about a ‘Life in the day of…’, talking about the difference between having a shower and having a shower.  You know, where you step out of it feeling like a whole new person, instead of just doing the washing thing?  It is because when you concentrate on washing your hair, and what the water feels like on your skin, you are in the moment, you are in the shower.  If you are thinking about what emails will be waiting for you when you open your computer at work, you’re not concentrating on where you are.  You’re already playing catch-up projecting forward the day, before you’re even in it.  Before you’ve even registered you are standing under running water, you’re out of it and you’ve missed it.  Which considering how many people in this world don’t have access to showers, is pretty selfish.  So next time you are there, make the most of it!

Didah my counsellor told me that if I did start to worry about things again, I was to write everything down, taking no more than 20 minutes to get everything onto paper.  The chances are, I wouldn’t get to 20 minutes, and it would only be one thing, but forcing yourself to actually think about what is worrying and niggling at you, gets it out your system.  Not that I have had any cause to do that lately, I seem to have stopped worrying about things.  I’m letting the road rise up to meet me as I walk along it.  So far, I’m doing pretty well.  The past 3 weeks have been a revelation, my mind is clear, my heart is clear, I am excited about my life.

I find time to meditate every day, I am trying to get to Bikram Yoga every day, although starting a new job next week may mean shuffling around what class I go to.  I am not beating myself up about what has happened in the past, I can’t predict the future, I can plan for it, but as all the plans we made over Christmas are now on hold, so you also need to learn to be flexible.  And accept that what life gives you is enough.  You are enough.  You don’t need any more.  All you need is within you.

Cut and paste

I have had another good day today.  As you know I am working part-time at the moment, so am scheduling my counselling sessions around my days off, when I can.  Occasionally I get thrown a curve ball, but as long as I am there for the 2.5 days a week and get what I need to done…  I am meant to work till 1pm on Fridays, last week I had to work on Tuesday as I couldn’t work on Wednesday, this week I had to finish early on Monday so will be working all day Wednesday and Friday.  Are you with me so far?

Anyhoo, today I have been busy with my inspiration book.  Started at the prompt of F’lerika when I was living with her and her Bear, for the past (stops to think) 5 and a bit years I have been cutting articles out of magazines, newspapers; printing things from websites; finding pictures I like; postcards I like; all sorts of things, but anything that speaks to me.  For the past 2 years (I know it is that long as my subscription is due), I have been culling my Oprah magazines; for 18 months the magazines that come with the weekend newspapers here and had piles of paperwork to prove it.  I had collated it all in a concertina folder, handily arranged in subject order.  I had plastic wallets of other articles.  For someone so organised, it was in a bit of a muddle.  I kept adding to it, but not sorting it out.  Over the past month or so, I have had 2 or 3 sessions where I have sat with my guillotine, scissors and glue cutting out, trimming off and sticking in for hours, and can now proudly announce that I am up-to-date.  Everything is stuck in, and not in subject as I liked the randomness of flicking through and reading things in no particular order of the first book.  At least, until I pull apart the Oprah magazine that arrived this morning, and buy the papers at the weekend.  I have 3 A4 books, chock full of goodies.  From columns by Martha Beck, to pictures of beaches, from an article on Dame Judi Dench  (isn’t she glorious?) to blessays by Stephen Fry, you name it, I’ve got it stuck in them somewhere.

One thing I hadn’t added is anything I’ve written.  Until now, when I will type up all the notes I’ve taken from seeing my counsellor and add them to the mix.  Every time I see her, I have an a-ha! moment, like this session where she retested me on my depression and anxiety levels and proudly announced that I had pushed through to the other side of my wibble.  But I knew that already, that wasn’t the a-ha! moment.  I knew that when I slept for 12 hours on Saturday, I knew that when I was able to line all my ducks up, shoot them off in sequence and close the door on the carcases.  I knew that when I was the strong person on a phone call this morning.

My a-ha! was when I visualised this week that what I thought initially was a small problem, but one that got progressively bigger as nearly every day another layer was painted on.  A bit like the rubber band balls you see on desks, they start from one band at the core, but you keep winding bands on, they’re gonna get bigger.  Eventually, this problem squashed me into a corner, with nowhere to go.  So I shut down, I had to.   As anyone would had you put pressure on them for that long, stress is a good thing, but bad stress is a bad thing.  Sustained bad stress is an impossible thing to cope with, you will go phut.  I have gone phut, but now the pieces are coming back together again.

I will be weaned off my antidepressants when I am settled, but they are doing their job, they are holding me up while I continue to get my head around some things that are happening now.  The things that have happened, have gone, they are in the past and have been put away.  While some things were disappointing, “When you know better, you do better”.  And for another Maya Angelou quote: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time”.  If I had believed the first time what I didn’t want to see, I wouldn’t have gone phut.  I would have gone.  Period.  Because “What you do speaks so loudly, what you say I cannot hear.”

I’ve learnt, again, who my friends are.  They come from unexpected places, but they are the people who do not deplete me.  They encourage, cheer me on, support me, even from miles away, they are the people that raise me up, not bring me down.  They are in my corner, and when they say they are fighting in my corner – they stay there. 

So I will carry on cutting and pasting the things that are important to me; I will carry on reading and re-reading the articles and books that have helped me through this: I will carry on learning what I am here for, what my purpose is; but sometimes you need a little help to show you the way.  The past month has been invaluable.  It reminded me what is, was and will always remain important.  And that something cannot be cut out and stuck in a book.  It is something I carry with me every day.  Me.

Friends are the family we choose for ourselves

I have been overwhelmed by the amount of love and good wishes that have come my way over the past couple of weeks.  Not only because of the work thing, but also the parent thing.  Friends who I know are crazy-busy have emailed me, great long sweeping emails that I re-read.  The tweets, the texts, the cards, the comments on here.  All remind me that I am blessed.

Last night I had a massive ‘a-ha!’ moment.  I mean HUGE.  One that took my breath away, made me stare in silence at the wall and rethink my whole life.  Funnily enough, it came from a book that I have read before, will read again and recommend to anyone who struggles with depression.  Richard Carlson’s Stop Thinking Start Living.  I found the book one day in Waterstones, I was walking around Camberley town lost, changing my address with the opticians, the bank etc. after my ex-husband had left me.  I was in a right muddle, kept crying and thought ‘I need help with this’.  I walked in, stood in front of the self-help section and saw this book.  At £8.99, I could barely afford it, but I certainly couldn’t afford the £12, £15 or £20 books, so I brought it.  Within a couple of chapters, I could feel the pain leaving me.  It was the first book I turned to this time when I was signed off work, and slowly worked my way through, highlighting passages in blue biro.  When I first read it, I used a pencil, little faint lines show what spoke to me then, bold blue lines show what shouted to me now.

Last night I read this:  Unhappiness is your curriculum. …You can think of your central issue or issues as your ‘curriculum’, an education that you must go through to make your life feel complete. …The name of the game is learning how to deal effectively with, and eventually conquer, the central issues in your life.  Sometimes conquering your curriculum means making the symptom go away. …. When you understand where your depression is coming from, and when you view it from a distance, the ‘game’ begins to change.  Depression is no longer an emergency, something that is destroying your life, but rather a part of your ‘course work’, a necessary part of your education in life, something that you must learn to conquer.  You can conquer it. … While every curriculum is unique, every solution is identical. … I must acknowledge my struggle yet choose my healthy functioning instead of my destructive urge.  I must remind myself I have a choice.  I must have faith that my inner strength is more powerful than my helpless feeling of struggle.  Each time I choose peace instead of fear, love instead of hate, happiness instead of struggle, I solidify my faith in my healthy functioning and it gets easier.

I realised that all my life I have been searching for approval.  Searching for validation from my actions.  I have to be told, I am good enough, I have to be told that I am ok.  Because inside me, there is a voice telling me that no matter I do, it isn’t good enough.  How long has this been going on for?  I came home from a junior school fete, with a butterfly face painted on me, I showed it to my Mum, then washed it off before Dad came home, in case he didn’t like it.  I would have been 7 or 8 – I am now 35 years old.

It is a long time to search for approval, it is a long time to wait for praise, it is a long time to have that spectre hang over you.  I am good enough, and I am going to show up in my life as myself, not as an imitation of myself or what you think I should be. 

This constant need for approval leapt from my father to the man who has been bullying me, because no matter what I did, it wasn’t good enough.  If it was close, he’d change his mind.  Constantly making me work harder, try harder to anticipate and achieve what he wanted me to do, then constantly setting me up to fail.  And like an idiot, for months I kept trying to work it out, kept thinking it was a communication problem.  It wasn’t a communication problem, he is insecure so uses his position to enhance his power.  I am insecure, so let him.  Then came the line in the sand.  Where my body and my mind said ‘Enough’. 

It is just a shame I had to fall apart to be rebuilt for me to learn this.  People out there, learn from me, learn that what you are struggling with needs to be addressed and tackled, not thought over and over until you collapse.  Learn that when you stop, be still and quiet your mind, answers will come.  Learn to listen to your gut and your body, they will guide you where you need to go.  If something doesn’t feel right, it isn’t right.  Don’t put up with it.  Be strong and stand up for yourself.  No-one else will.  If people get hurt along the way, remember, you teach people how to treat you.  If you make yourself a door-mat, people will wipe their feet on you.

This isn’t talked about enough

So I am going to talk about it on here. 

Depression has been described as a ‘black dog’ that follows you around.  For me, it is a black pit that creeps in closer and higher around me, so that it is hard to see light, suffocating me, weighing down on my chest.  I walk with my head bowed, following my feet along the pavement, and have to remind myself to stand tall, let the light in.  I know when I am having a good day, it’s when I look at the horizon.  When I walk along and smell the roses in the gardens as I walk past.

Depression is also a cold hand, clutching at your heart, making you feel worthless in every area of your life, even simple things that you once used to find funny.  If you have a disaster when cooking dinner, that can be the end of your day, sending you to bed stressed to think over and over what you didn’t do on time to fluff up the meal.  If you burn the toast, it can be the end of your day, before it has even begun.  You feel that you are assaulted from every turn, if someone cuts you up when you are driving, it can make you weep. 

Usually somnolent to the point of coma when I sleep overnight, now I am agitated, fidgety.  When I go to sleep, I listen to audio books, I concentrate on the words, print them out in my mind, and so eventually drift off into fitful sleep.  I also struggle to sit down and watch a TV programme, DVD or to read a book, so I choose the easiest, quickest, safest books on my shelf.  The Darling Buds of May series, No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series: both can be dipped into, and are worlds away from my own.  I relish in the imagery of 1950s England and Botswana, removing myself from my life into theirs, albeit briefly, is such a relief. 

But at the same time, I am reading books on how to get through this.  Reminding myself that this is the present moment, that I am not at work, so I shouldn’t be thinking about it, as I am here, slowly learning and unlearning the habits of a lifetime.  Practicing daily that I am ok, that I am full of worth, that I do count. 

I didn’t want to take antidepressants, but if it gets me through the next few weeks or months so that I can function again as a normal human being, I will take them, and gladly.  At the moment, they are still getting into my system, giving me a slight nauseous feeling and when I turn my head, my brain follows slightly afterwards for the first hour or so.  I can’t say they are lifting my mood yet, I’ve only been on them a week.  If when I go back to work, they help stop me from disintegrating into a puddle, then I will be happy they have done their job.  If that is all they do for me, I will be happy.

It’s funny, I get messages from all over the world asking me how I am doing.  But some of my family and friends don’t want to talk about it, it’s like it hasn’t happened.  Or if they don’t talk about it, then they can pretend everything is ok for me.  I don’t open every conversation with ‘Oh by the way, I am clinically depressed’ as what you think about just perpetuates and carries on and on and on.  But you cannot pretend that it isn’t there.  You cannot pretend that at the moment, I am not struggling with my life.  You cannot expect me to walk into a room and light it up, although I am trying to be present.  At the end of the day, people who are depressed need to know that they are safe with their friends and family.  That they can sit there and be quiet; just be, is more important than anything else.  I don’t need you to do anything for me, I need you just to be there for me when I show up either with a phone call, email or text, or in person.  I also am looking out for number one at the moment, I am putting my oxygen mask on first.  I have to fix this, no-one else can, but I need people to lean on every so often.  To remind me of what route to take.  To remind me to hold my head up.  To make me laugh by saying ‘Remember when?’

Stormy weather

At last the muggy spell has broken.  I sit in my study with rain hammering on the windows, after watching hailstones the size of golf balls hurtle down from the sky.  I should have been walking to yoga, I would have got soaked, and probably collate a few more bruises had any hailstone hit me.  As it was they smashed into the house, onto the roof and bounced off the windows.

I was walking as DG took the car to play cricket, now rained off, but I felt like walking.  The rain was predicted, but it doesn’t bother me walking in the rain, I am in English – you spend most of your life damp.  I packed up my bag, swung it over my shoulder and plugged Eckhart Tolle in to talk me to the studio.  I was wearing sunglasses, then realised I couldn’t see where I was walking, I took them off, it was nearly dark.  I looked at the weather front moving in, turned around and went back home.  I dropped my bag off, grabbed the bread that we had been saving for the ducks and walked down to the pond instead to feed the ducks and birds.

The ducks were happy to see me, very happy.  Some days they are fed full to bursting and won’t come near you, this afternoon when I stopped by the bank, they zoomed over the pond, bumping each other out the way to get to me.  One brave female mallard stood by my trainers, catching the crumbs as I broke the bread up for the others.

Feeding ducks is such a simple thing to do, but when you are truly there, not listening to the voice in your head, but truly present – it brought me such joy.  I couldn’t believe how close they got to me when I was feeding them, I was crouched down and rummaging around in a collection of bread bags, yet they knew I had food and so were so trusting.  I looked at their feathers, the rainbow of colours that go to make up brown and black, the smoothness and sleek bodies that are so graceful on the water.  They were so patient too, yes they were squabbling over the bread when it was thrown in, but they knew I had to break it up and throw it out to them.  Even the sparrows got in on the crumbs, looking at me with heads on one side saying ‘Come on!’ 

On my walk around the football fields this Wednesday I kept walking past 4 magpies, it is disconcerting when they make eye contact with you.  I am sure they wondered what I was doing, circling round in loops, they were watching the grounds man roll and prepare the pitch, no doubt waiting for him to get out the way so they could get in there for worms.  But quite happily sitting on a fence, watching and waiting for the right moment to get what they needed. 

I keep thinking about what I need at the moment, I thought I knew, but the deeper I look the more I see that things are changing.  I hope that with the break in the weather I sleep better tonight, as the next two days are days of preparation.  I have to collate paperwork ready for a meeting on Tuesday morning, I need to be ready, I need to be strong.  I also need the storm of words and emotions in my head to clear.  So I will be offline and ignoring my phone, regrouping as I go into battle.  Because that is what is has become.

A new day

Apologies to those of you who don’t like Celine Dion but please play this link at some point either before, after or during reading this.  While the video is unintentionally hilarious, (I watched Spicks and Specks this week laughing at the fist in the air, being drawn down, saying they wondered if they have an ultra sound of her doing it in the womb?),  the song popped into my head as soon as I typed the title, as soon as I opened the webpage to write to you today.

But check out these (abbreviated) lyrics:

I was waiting for so long
For a miracle to come
Everyone told me to be strong
Hold on and don’t shed a tear

Through the darkness and good times
I knew I’d make it through

I see a light in the sky
Oh, it’s almost blinding me
I can’t believe
I’ve been touched by an angel with love
Let the rain come down and wash away my tears
Let it fill my soul and drown my fears
Let it shatter the walls for a new sun
A new day has…come

Where it was dark now there’s light
Where there was pain now there’s joy
Where there was weakness, I found my strength
All in the eyes of a boy

I took a sleeping tablet last night, after taking one on Thursday night I didn’t want to 2 nights on the trot (I am under strict instructions for only 3 a week), but I had to.  I knew that after the events of the late afternoon, I would be unable to sleep otherwise.  I woke up, no alarm, at 8:08am.  I missed a skype with my Darling Wiz (we had a phone call a bit later planned instead), but I felt like a new woman.  I looked at my face in the mirror, and it looked like it had been ironed out overnight.  My eyes were clear, I was standing up straight, I felt refreshed.

It takes a lot to calm me down at the moment, and it took Dan the best part of an hour to do it last night.  My boy, his blue eyes holding onto mine, talking me down from a meltdown, slowly talking to me, telling me that I can do this, I can get through this, he will help me, he will support me, I just need to relax.  I hate being told to relax, it usually has the complete opposite reaction, I normally explode, but last night I took my tablet, lay on my tummy (face plant, ready for sleep) and he slowly stroked and rubbed my back until I drifted off into my chemically induced slumber.  The poor boy was then awake until 2:30am, it was both horribly hot and sticky last night, and his mind was also now churning, but he said waking up to my relaxed and smiling face was worth it.  

One thing I struggle with is telling people how I feel, about what I want and need, because when I did open up to people in my formative years, I was told not to be silly, why would you need that?  So I learnt to keep schtum, and also learnt that my feelings didn’t matter.  You can imagine the knock-on effect that has had through my whole life, and is why I am in such a wibble at the moment.  Last night, I confessed that I wanted my old life back, I wanted a job I could go to, and leave at work, I wanted to be able to exercise, I wanted to spend time with him in the evenings and at weekends and just get some semblance of normality in our lives back.  Now the hilarious thing about this is, what I want is what I had when I was working at the Sovereign Centre, when I knew what shifts I would be working, I knew I would be having a laugh on poolside, I knew I was valued as a swimming teacher, and I could make up hours (and money) as I wanted and needed to by picking up overtime or covering classes.

That was over 10 years ago!  How sad to feel a yearning for something resembling the normality I long for is 10 years in the past.

This morning, and indeed all day, I have the day to myself.  Matt is down from NSW, he has taken Dan off in his new car to Chadstone, poor DG needs some boy-time, not hysterical banshee so he can regroup.  Andrew has an epic hangover, so he’s retreated into his bedroom with Star Wars DVDs to recover, but we all had breakfast together that Dan and I shared the cooking of.  I have nothing on my agenda until 4pm when I need to go to yoga.  I need to buy the papers, get some veggies and cook dinner, but that is later on.  Now, I am sat in my ‘office’ for the day, which is our bedroom.  I have the door open, cool fresh air is blowing in gently, I have 4 gurus with me for solace and reflection:  Dr Wayne W. Dyer ‘Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life’, Louise L. Hay ‘You Can Heal Your Life’, Richard Carlson ‘Stop Thinking, Start Living’ and Eckhart Tolle ‘A New Earth’.  (are you noticing a pattern here?)

When life is ticking over, I find it very easy to be pragmatic and can control my thoughts easily.  When you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck, it isn’t as easy.  I need to practice, I need to find that nugget inside me that will grow and rebuild me from the inside out, but I know that when I finally come through this and out the other side, I will be a better and stronger because of it.  I also know that by reading Dr Jill Bolte-Taylor’s ‘My Stroke Of Insight’ the voice that is creating all this havoc in my brain, is a little area only about the size of a bean.  It provides my story, enables us to link thoughts together, but also won’t shut the hell up unless you think about other things.  It is the area that rabbits at you on and on while you try and meditate, and needs to be trained to shut up.  It is also the area that prompted Eckhart’s whole journey when he thought ‘I can’t live with myself’, and realised that he is not his thoughts. 

So here I sit with notebook, pen, books, highlighter, looking for strength in the printed word that will help guide me through this journey, turning to people that I already trust and value, and I hope that this new day is better than all that have gone before it this week.

Breathing

I have been concentrating on my breathing, more than usual over the past week or so. Growing up I swum nearly every day, so got in the habit of breathing in and out through my mouth. It’s kinda difficult to breathe in through your nose when you are doing butterfly and there is water everywhere.
The breathing through my mouth at yoga is the first exercise, and even then it is only ‘out’, after that you have to breathe through your nose. No matter what position you are in, head squashed onto knee, thighs or whatever, you breathe slowly and calmly, preferably with a smile on your face too. Then at the end of the class we sit on our knees, spine straight, hands on our knees and breathe out. Hard, forcefully, pushing our tummies in and out, the in-breath happens automatically while we concentrate on expelling air out through our mouths.
When I am out walking, I am on my own, so again I am concentrating on calmly breathing through my nose. When I lie in bed and my mind is rattling nineteen to the dozen, I concentrate on my breath, it helps calm me down, it helps remind me that I am in bed, now is the time for sleep. Not stress.
Whatever else is happening to the external me, no matter how hard my mind is working to convince my ego that I am struggling. When I breathe free, I am free. When I close my eyes and relax, breathing comes naturally, when I am stressed it is ragged, hard work. My very body is fighting against me as I try and live here, now. Not in the egoic thoughts that tell me I am crap. I am all I ever need to be, right here, right now, this breath. Not the last one, not the next one, this breath.

It’s not often 86 year old men make me cry…

… but this World War II veteran did. I wish more people would understand that we are a human family. That we are all equal, that no-one is better than another, that we are more alike than we are different and xenophobia, homophobia and religious zealots who read and proclaim part of their holy books, but ignore that God is INCLUSIVE not EXCLUSIVE – so He loves everyone, no matter size, shape, colour, height, weight, blue eyes, brown eyes, white skin, green skin, orange skin. Your God is not better than my God, because your God tells you the same as my God – to do unto others as you would have done unto you/ cast not the first stone/ love your neighbour.

You can’t say ‘You’re welcome in my place of worship, and you, and you. But you’re not because you are wearing red shoes.’ Because that is how silly and stupid you are are for excluding homosexuals, women, people of different race, creed and colour. Study the books properly, learn that you have to love everyone, or you can’t call yourself religious.

The central light that is shining at the heart of all religion is the peace and love that is at the core of the Human Family. The feeling you get when you help a friend who is dire straits or when you donate your last money in your purse to someone who needs it more than you, the feeling you get when you lie on your back and watch clouds in the sky, or when you get the feeling of complete and utter calm inside when you finally live fully in the moment and everything is clearer and sharper.

It is not for penalising other people that don’t fit in the box.