Saturday, 23 November 2013

What is perfection?

My clients often speak of their deep sense of failure based on the belief that they're just not good enough. The overlap can extend far and wide, a dark heavy blanket covering their home and work environment. Their role as a parent, sibling, manager, friend, wife or husband comes under scrutiny by their over critical headmind.
"I'm so bad at keeping in touch - I'm such a bad friend!"
"I feel overwhelmed at work, out my depth, I'm not even sure how I got this job."
"I missed the signs when my daughter was struggling."
"Why did my wife not tell me she was so unhappy?  I'm hopeless!"
How on earth can we expect to master all the roles handed to us, perfecting every aspect of being human when no-one...NO-ONE is perfect?!
I shouted at my son the other day after he slammed the door in an angry outburst.  My reaction, shouting at him, was not necessarily the best, or perfect way to deal with that situation, but it's what I did.
If you find yourself demanding perfection from another person ask yourself this, "How can I demand perfection from others when I too am imperfect?!"
Try thinking STOP when the headmind starts up with its sabotaging thoughts and just be kinder to yourself. Swamp your negative, repetitive thoughts with the words your best friend would say to you if she or he heard you putting yourself down this way.  Visualise loving arms holding you and telling you not to be so hard on yourself.  You are here.  You are human.  You do what you can with the knowledge you have.  There's no-one out there getting it right all of the time.  We learn as we go.  You and I are no different.  We excel at times, and we make mistakes.  That's LIFE!
STOP thinking you're flawed and start being more forgiving.  By being more gentle and kinder to yourself you will find it easier to be that way with others.  As we heal we're then more able to heal others, relieving them of the burdens and beliefs they carry on their shoulders.  Life is such a short journey, shouldn't we try to love and laugh more while criticising and condemning less?
"Once you accept you are not perfect; then you develop some confidence." - Rosalynn Carter
"The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself." - Anna Quindlen

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

The bigness of there, and the smallness of me.

Being swept along in the hustle and bustle of London, or in fact in any big city can leave me feeling incredibly fragile. I ran a clinic in Harley Street for a few years, then subsequently in Wigmore Street, W1.
Central London was always a bit of a mystery to me. No-one smiled, or said, "Hello!" No-one! On my journey from the airport to the office via the underground and by foot I felt over stimulated by all the noise, the people - everything.
I always tried to arrive at my office a good bit before my first client so I could sit peacefully and free my head from the "buzziness" left by the journey.
My clients were lovely - they seemed completely unfazed by the race course they'd left outside, and as they entered my peaceful office they seemed perfectly calm.  On their arrival I always wanted to ask, "How is it out there now?!  It was crazy when I came in this morning, seriously!  I think I saw more people on my way to the office today than I've seen in my entire LIFE!"  But I quickly realised that could be misinterpreted as me being a tad unhinged, and though they knew I was a country bumpkin from Scotland, there was no point in labouring the fact that I found London, too big, too busy and too intimidating. Moving through it left me feeling dissociated and spaced out... that was, until I really got the hang of mindfulness.
It was while on the Victoria Line to Oxford Circus one morning at 8am that I really honed the ability to stay grounded and mindful.
As is probably the norm at that time of day the underground, and each train coming into the station, was jam packed full.  So, as I waited on the platform being pushed and jostled by everyone vying for the best position, the train stopped, the doors opened and in I went.  As I stood there making myself as slim-lined as possible, I tilted my head down, then to the side and counted the feet and bodies making contact with me. My arm clung tightly to the strap hanging from the pole above my head..1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6...7!  SEVEN! Seven strangers all making contact with me.  That was weird!  It was really hot in the carriage standing there, crammed in...and then I got a feeling I hadn't experienced in many years.  That weird prickly heat rising up from my core, sweaty hands, tight chest, shallow breathing - not a panic attack?!  Not now after so many years?!  So then I remembered all that I've learnt and all that I teach clients.
I shifted my awareness to my feet on the ground and engaged all my senses in that moment.  The driver had made an announcement that we'd had to stop (in the tunnel) for a few minutes as the train in front needed to move on first before he could progress.  I felt my hand gripping the strap, I heightened my awareness of how my hand felt, I paid more attention to the sensations and tension in my hand and shoulder.  Then I thought about my feet on the ground, someone's foot was on top of one of mine so I gently moved my foot and freed it from the shiny black shoe that had been bearing down on my toes. Then my focus moved to my breathing. I reminded myself of a teaching from the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh's,  and I started repeating silently in my head the words I'd read from his book years before,
"Breathing in - I am peace, breathing out - I am calm."
As our thoughts become physical manifestations I could feel myself settling into a very peaceful place as I repeated this phrase over and over.  I was cooling down, and re-connecting solidly to the reality of the situation.  Looking around me I could see that nobody was enjoying being stuck on the train.  We were all en route to our destination and all we wanted was to get off the train as soon as possible so we could get on with our day.
There was something unifying in that realisation.  I wasn't really alone in the big city.  I was surrounded by other people, some were comfortable on their commute, some weren't.  I could allow my discomfort to overwhelm me, or I could use tools and techniques to allow me to reign in the catastrophising headmind and let my fear diminish and melt away.

“Overcoming panic attacks has left me humbled. It’s taught me how to be brave. It’s left me compassionate to the fears and sufferings of other people. It’s given me the wisdom that my thoughts and feelings are simply subjective responses, and don’t need to be taken as true reflections of reality." - Julie Farrell

Saturday, 9 November 2013

The ultimate winners

After a terrible revelation that came to light a few years ago, I made it my mission to remedy a horrendous wrong. Sleepless nights, some anxiety and a deep sense of being completely alone with my grief and anger ensued.
Friends said the right stuff, family did their best, and my husband Andrew kept me as grounded as he could.
Sadly, bit by bit it became apparent that, despite letters and phone calls to all the relevant agencies involved in the case the ultimate, "corroborative evidence" was missing, therefore - at that point - the case could not be brought to fruition.
Five years have passed, and though justice has not (yet) been done, I feel that my daughters and I are winners in the true sense of the word. 
All three of us are healthy, happy and in loving relationships with a tremendous circle of friends that have been there for us throughout.
So, when I wrote recently on Facebook that, "winning is not always about defeating another person" it was this life changing event that I was referring to.
We may be deeply scarred by what has happened, BUT it has also done the opposite of what the perpetrator may have wanted, by making us stronger, even more appreciative of each other and bonded our love in a way that he, and people like him, will never experience in their lives.
"My love for you is not like rain, which comes and goes away. But it's like sky, moves with you all around." - Raghav Singh

Sunday, 3 November 2013

You can be your own guru

Last night I watched a documentary film made by  Deepak Chopra's son called, "Decoding Deepak". The description read,

"In this documentary, filmmaker and journalist Gotham Chopra embarks on a year-long road trip with his father, Deepak Chopra, to reconcile the spiritual icon with the real man known to his family."  

I have always had an awareness that our perception of people is directly affected by our starting point. Deepak's son, a successful journalist in his own right, wanted his Dad to spend more time at home as he and his sister were growing up - but Deepak was driven to spread his spiritual knowledge to as many people as he could through book writing, seminars and TV talk shows.  The flip side was that people who were searching for a Guru found Deepak. He was telling them exactly what they needed and wanted to hear.  His family often travelled with him, leading a chaotic life, feeling confused as they witnessed strangers idolise the man who was their father.
At several points in the documentary I could feel the strain between father and son - but equally there was a mutual love and respect there too.  Gotham remarked to his father that a lot of what he does must be great for his ego - to which Deepak responded by saying it had nothing to do with his ego.

I don't think there's anything wrong with "feeling good" about doing something well and having a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction about our personal achievements.  I also believe there's a fine line between that and becoming arrogant and self righteous about it.  Ego is involved, and there should be less shame and embarrassment about admitting that. I think and feel that some of the new age and religious movements have managed to demonise the ego, and yet it is simply another part of being human.

We certainly should practise keeping any self righteousness in check, and keep an eye on allowing the false belief to creep in that we're in some way special or better than others.  I'm no Deepak Chopra, but what I do know is that when a client of mine gets well I feel great about it!  Without doubt it is the most lovely and heart warming feeling when the mother of a client says, "You've given me back my daughter!"  or a client on returning to health asks , "What would my life have been like if I'd never made that first appointment with you?!"  I thank them for their kind words, and enjoy the sense of joy at seeing them well, but I only facilitated their journey to health.  They did the work - and their healing was always something within their grasp.

If you feel as if you're "searching" for guidance or support by all means get reading and researching, but remember that within you is the capability to take what you need from the authors and apply it to your own life.  Guru's are just like you and me - they may be expert in their field but they also have the same vulnerabilities and human frailties as the rest of us!

“No one and nothing outside of you can give you salvation, or free you from the misery. You have to light your own lamp. You have to know the miniature universe that you yourself are.” ― Banani Ray from Awakening Inner Guru