Being Realistic With Self-Help

Do you feel bombarded with good and well intentioned advice?

Are you like me and have a veritable library of self-help books? Do you listen to speakers on podcasts and hope they will say something that will help change your life and your view of it? If you are anything like me you will always be open to the next bit of illuminating advice. There are many wonderful people out there who lead by example; perhaps they have turned their lives around after adversity, or perhaps they have found a way of ‘ordering’ what they desire from the universe, and that is truly amazing. However, sometimes we feel we must constantly think positive thoughts – any negative thoughts that creep in means things will take a down turn. Oh dear.

But what if we need the odd negative thought now and again? There are times when we have to face the fact that there are still surprises in our lives, even after extensive visualisation and the use of our minds to focus on what we want to appear. Sometimes a negative thought gives us valuable information about what is going on with us. We cannot always run from negative thoughts. We can work with them though; be brave and acknowledge negative thoughts. If you keep ignoring them they can build until you reach a crisis and hit a bump in the road. It is important to acknowledge that sometimes bad things happen. And it is important not to blame yourself when they do. By having negative thoughts you haven’t racked up a sort of self bad karma. At the same time – there is a positive side to just about everything, it’s just harder to see sometimes. Don’t be afraid to say ‘This is grim’. Say it loudly. But then force yourself to look for the good.

To reassess during doubtful moments, try this:

Sit down in a quiet space and list your goals. After each goal, ask yourself why you want what you have written. Is it going to make you happy and more fulfilled? Are you likely to progress towards it?

List all things you think you should* be. Happier? More fit? Successful or wealthier ?

*Where did the ‘should’s’ come from? Why are they even there?  (I try to eliminate the word should from my thinking and my vocabulary). However, look at what you have written. It becomes real when you see it in black and white. If anything doesn’t sit comfortably, get rid of it. If there is something you know in your heart would work for you, then act upon it.

We are all different. What suits me may not suit you. My idea of talking to the trees may seem loony. But I like it. I may not see the point of meditating every morning but you might, and that’s good.  What helps I think, is to create our own ideals rather than take on someone else’s. You can only ‘do’ yourself perfectly, you can’t ‘do’ anyone else, and they can’t change you – in fact you are already complete just as you are. You may want to tweak things occasionally but you always were and always will be whole and complete.

Whole is an interesting thought. Whereas complete feels like finding a missing piece and becoming something, wholeness is being what you already are. Look at yourself as a whole, not just the shiny, glossy parts, which isn’t always easy – sometimes we see bits of ourselves we would rather not see.  But when we see perfection and imperfection, hurting and healing, fear and courage as one and the same we can make a shift towards new understanding. It’s like letting the light in. It means you accept yourself, not in spite of your flaws, but including your flaws. There is nothing to hide or change when you are focused on wholeness. It is simply a matter of being.

You can learn to look at yourself from the most loving perspective and to look inside yourself for your answers.

To look at things without attaching labels and stories to them and feel we have acquired a state of being that offers internal peace, happiness and joy and the satisfaction of all needs and wants is sometime most of us yearn for. Enlightenment as a word can be misleading, because it is sometimes perceived and communicated as a ‘higher’ state of being that feels like it is out of reach for the ‘normal’ person. However, the reality is, enlightenment is a natural state. It is inside of every one of us, and we can all get there, even if we stumble along the way. We just really need to be ourselves and not try to act as someone we are not.

Even if you sometimes doubt it, you are the exact and perfect combination of experiences, insights, strengths and imperfections that make a person whole – show yourself to the world just as you are –  after all, isn’t going out and living your best life the most important thing?

Always engage in the quest for life’s meaning, which is inner peace.’ – Longchenpa 

 

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Looking For the Golden Thread..

You are made up of miraculous things…

 

I was thinking of my beloved dad today especially in the wake of storm Dennis – he was a Dennis too but a much gentler version! He passed away two years ago this week and I miss him and think of him every day. A lot of things comfort me though; the fact I can hear his voice when I am doing something that would worry him, or when I myself am bowed with worry. I hear his laughter when I watch a programme on television that I know he would have found funny, and then I have his amazing collection of books which I have been looking through and which have taught me much about his character. Of course I knew him well; we spent so much time together and talked of many things, and yet I have found a new side of his character, or maybe a new way of understanding what contributed to his loving and interesting character. One book I have been reading is entitled ‘In Tune with The Infinite’ by Ralph Waldo Trine, which was first published in 1897 and which I have found to be full of profound and valuable teachings. It was enlightening, not least because it led me to realise that there are no new observations or astounding revelations ready to be unveiled in this life – they have always been there and are part of our being. So why do we forget this?

In life, if we are not careful we can be led by old negative thoughts and ideas about ageing, and cling on to old perceptions laid down over the years; perhaps we find it easier to accept a doctors pessimistic diagnosis than to fight to change it, or work at changing our body’s chemistry so that we can renew ourselves. But the moment we come into a realisation of our true selves, and so of the tremendous powers and forces within – the powers and forces of the mind and spirit, hereditary traits and influences that are harmful in nature will begin to lessen.

When we are re-introduced to the wisdom that has been in our soul since time began and runs through our DNA we can draw from the intrinsic and deep-rooted strength that is at our core.

There is a golden thread,’ writes Trine, ‘that runs through every religion in the world. There is a golden thread that runs through the lives and the teachings of the prophets, seers, sages, and saviours in the world’s history, through the lives of all men and women of truly great and lasting power.’

It is interesting that Trine opens the book with a message for us – one that would be every bit as fitting today as it was in 1897. He notes that (then) we were born into a strange time – a time that tries men’s souls. Also, he states that bewilderment and fear hold many and that change and uncertainty stalk through the land – all lands. Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

So many times we are bombarded with disturbing news from the media. We are staggered by the dreadful events that unfold in front of our eyes on our television screens. We wonder if these things can really be happening. Perhaps in our darkest moments we try to apportion blame, or divert our attention elsewhere. But deep down we know there must be a better way. And we are not alone. Between us, we have the enormous potential to bring about change, both in businesses, our own lives, and all around the world. We may think we cannot make a difference – but we can. When you throw a small pebble into a lake, the ripples spread out and reach further than you could imagine, and so acts of positivity, however small in your eyes, will make a difference.

Stephen Hawking who also died two years ago, was one of the greatest scientists of modern times; at the age of 21 when he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease he is quoted as saying:

My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus.’ Just think of what he achieved is his lifetime and the amazing legacy he left behind.

We all cope with life’s trials and tribulations in different ways. Some of us take smaller steps than others but it doesn’t mean we can’t get there in the end – we may just take a little longer, and that is not a problem – we may meet others along the way who help us find our feet! We don’t need to be perfect either – to quote Stephen Hawking again: ‘Without imperfection, you or I would not exist.’

I am still going through my dad’s book collection. It may take some time, but I feel all these books and words have been left to show me the way forward; perhaps my dad is finding a new way to help me now that he is not here in person. I have always loved books, and these books tell more than just one story. I have been amused and touched by the amount of self-help books I have found and I realise now where my own interest in self-development has come from.

We are all a mix of so many things – much more than we could ever possibly know. Take heart when you feel low or anxious – you are made up of miraculous things and you will find them reflected in unexpected places.

Oh and I especially like ‘Mr. Thrifty’s How to Save Money On Absolutely Everything, but that’s probably another side to my dad’s character, as is ‘The Pocket Pal of Magic Tricks, which I will take time to study one day! Who knows, maybe I could be an undiscovered magician! Then again, I have always believed in magic.

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Photo by Novandro Manik on Pexels.com

When We Look at Things Differently…Letting the Light IN

‘Your outlook on life is a direct reflection on how much you like yourself.’ Lululemon

 

Why is it when we have anxious or sad days the whole world around us seems to look grey? We seem not to notice the colours around us – the vibrancy seems to be gone, or maybe we just don’t notice it.

A while back I was noticed a mother and her little girl walking in the park. Actually, the mother was walking and the little girl was bouncing. She had a pair of sunglasses on –  and they were pink and glittery. As she bounced along she kept taking the glasses off and on. She was laughing to herself and I heard her mother ask her why. ‘The world looks different when I look through my pink glasses,’ she said. ‘It’s fun.’

That was just a small moment in time – I had stepped out for some air in the middle of a busy day, but it was actually a good lesson for me and one which has stuck with me. The little girl was right and in a simple and fun way had shown me that when you look at things differently they change.

Maybe it’s why we put our heads in our hands sometimes during stress –  if we peek out through our fingers we don’t have to view the whole picture in front of us – just a few slithers of light that we can cope with.

Sometimes it takes getting farther away from something to see it for what it really is too. How many times do we get bogged down with work and sit grimly in front of a screen trying to figure something out that is taxing us? We feel compelled to keep going – surely we can get this right! But inspiration and answers don’t come. Yet often if we walk away, have a cup of tea and return half an hour later with renewed energy we can make much better headway.

It’s an old cliché but it is true that sometimes ‘a change is as good as a rest’; when troubles or anxieties mount up a change of scene can help us re-focus.

At times we need to have the courage to go our own way – realise we are unique. Seeing what everyone else is seeing is one thing – seeing things differently from others is something else and seeing things differently from others can produce new ideas and new results. If you look at something from a new angle you may come up with a brilliant idea no one else has thought of!

Many of us struggle with seeing things from a different perspective. We need to nurture ourselves and view our own selves in a good light. We are worth it! Give yourself good feed-back today and see yourself in a positive light. And perhaps have a go with the rose tinted specs!

 

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Photo by Eugene Golovesov on Pexels.com

 

 

‘We can’t change anything until we get some fresh ideas, until we begin to see things differently’.

                                                   Jame Hillman

 

 

 

 

Settling for a Quiet Life…

Do we try to get off the merry-go-round of life from time to time?

 

I read an article recently where the subject was about settling for a mediocre life. At first, I thought ‘hmm, this is going to be negative,’ but as I read on I realised what the person was trying to say. Sometimes in this tumultuous and changing world we just want to settle for a quiet life. We don’t want to strive and put ourselves out there and scrabble around on the ever rotating ‘hamster wheel’. We may not want to rush around trying to improve our minds even though we seem to be instructed to do this on a regular basis. Sometimes we may yearn NOT to have to strive to meet targets, not to keep up with the latest fashion or the latest upgrade in technology. Maybe we even want to escape the ‘health police’.

If we are prone to anxious feelings, feeling we have to adhere to all sorts of ‘performance rules’ may not do us a lot of good. When we are trying to get by and working at being positive we don’t really want the extra burden of guilt – the sort of guilt that comes from somehow feeling we are not doing all we can to help our well-being.

There seems to be a lot of judgement about, whether it be fiercely or kindly meant it can still unsettle us. I once listened to a medical person talking about diabetes. His theory was that diabetes 2 was largely brought on by neglect and leading a sedentary life, and that it should be renamed ‘the non-walkers complaint’, or something similar. In other words, he seemed to be saying most people brought this ‘complaint’ on themselves by following an unhealthy lifestyle. He may be right in certain circumstances, but I feel this is a dangerous sort of judgement to pass on a person who may have reached a distressing state of health by all sorts of circumstances. Who knows what leads any of us to a state of ‘dis-ease’? Do we start banishing patients from the hospital waiting room if they don’t meet certain criteria or if they have put on a few stones in weight? Most of us like to eat a healthy diet when we can, and take some exercise, but do we need to become so engrossed in studying the latest health craze that we forget to enjoy our food? The media bombards us with information about what we should and shouldn’t eat, what vitamins/shakes/woo-woo berries we should consume, the mantras we should chant and the mindfulness we should embrace. Most of the time I find it interesting but sometimes I want to run away crying ‘show me the chocolate cake’!

Some days I long for calm. More and more I think about peace and ‘going with the flow’. I imagine a new sort of shop that plays gentle soothing music as I buy my groceries or my new jeans, instead of playing mindless, loud music that grates on the nerves. I think about walking in the woods instead of driving on the M25. I think about putting my feet up instead of going to sit in a draughty hall where I am shown how to contort my body and put my leg behind my right ear.

There seems to be too much going on around us for us to spend time worrying about how we should be living our lives; whether we should conform, expect our children/grandchildren to excel in every walk of life, live in the most stylish house, travel the world; whether we should be swinging from the chandeliers every night, (great if you have the energy!) and generally leading an exemplary life.

It’s interesting too, to notice that one can be too religious for some, and not spiritual enough for others. I find this crops up quite often in my life. I have come to the conclusion that everyone forms their own opinion of me and will stick to it whatever I do. So I just have to be myself. And do my best. Besides, sometimes I feel very spiritual, other times I want to question every belief I hold dear. But mostly I get by. I want to change my mind sometimes too. I want to be able to be objective, see all points of view. Not always easy but worth aiming for.

I used to be a nurse, and I count myself lucky that I was one once. I learned that everyone in life has a story, a past, but not always a future. It is easy to forget this in our busy world. And it is sometimes easier to forget than think of it. I am grateful that most of our carers and medical staff that treat us look at us as a person needing love and care and on the whole do not judge us, for how would that help?

When we weigh up everything, and come to the conclusion that searching for the quieter life sometimes, following the calm and slower path sometimes, and taking time out sometimes, leads us to appear mediocre, then I am all for it. Besides, we will have more time to spend loving our family, and what could be better than that?

 

Sometimes it’s in the quiet that we hear the loudest things’.   Anonymous 

 

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Coping with January Blues and Thoughts on Being a Warrior…

What do you do on ‘blue days’?

 

Girl, there is much to be happy about’! This I tell myself so often, as do my trusted gurus, my loved ones, my friends. BUT, there are those blue days that creep up on me; the times when the lurking ‘misery’ monster creeps out from the shadows and wraps its shapeless form around me until it turns into a cloak I can’t shake off. This is not helped by the putting away of the Christmas decorations for another year, nor the fact that the Carols have all been sung and the fairy lights have dimmed.

I often write about how to deal with anxiety and indeed, I have written a handbook about anxiety and how to move forward from it.* I should know by now how to deal with the days when the ‘misery monster’ pays a visit, and yes there are coping mechanisms that work very well. In these times of what can only be described as ‘technology and information overload’ though, I think many of us have days when we feel bombarded with too much of everything, both good and bad, and those are the days when things can get out of perspective.

So what can we do to assuage the wistful feelings that often accompany this time of year?

 My Facebook feed gives me a constant stream of inspiring and uplifting quotes and feel-good stories. Most of them I like and occasionally I will read something heart-stoppingly good. But because there is so much out there to tap into now I question whether I have forgotten how to read with fresh eyes. And maybe it’s the same with other things?  Deep down, most of us know what is good for us, but we don’t always abide by what we know. I’m always talking about the positive effects of being outdoors and enjoying the world around us, and yet yesterday I took a long walk in nearby fields but realised when I got home that I hadn’t taken in my beautiful surroundings at all. I hadn’t admired the beauty of the winter landscape, or noticed the drifts of tiny green shoots that  indicate that the snowdrops will be out before long. Instead, I had been focusing on minor problems that probably weren’t even problems at all.

I know too, that I should eat well. I know the importance of a healthy and well-balanced diet, and getting the right amount of sleep and exercise. I take my vitamins and drink the water. But it’s easier to give in to the chocolate bar calling to me from the cupboard on ‘sad’ days. Hmm….I must switch on my Himalayan Salt lamp.  The warm glow really does feel and look beneficial.

Should we stay in our pyjamas and spend a day on the sofa covered in a soft, warm duvet with a good book or some box sets, or do we try and get on with things? A day on the sofa may be welcome occasionally and there’s nothing wrong with it, ( I like the sound of it actually, and I even have a onesie now), but I guess it’s about waking up to what is around us and really seeing what is there. We can develop the philosopher in us by reading, learning, reflecting and analysing but that’s not the whole picture. I thought yesterday about the term ‘warrior’ which seems to be used a lot at the moment. To be a warrior one needs to be brave, fearless, and be tuned in to surviving at all costs. A warrior bends in the wind but doesn’t break and a warrior doesn’t go against his better judgement. A warrior looks after his tribe; something important to most of us. If we don’t try to embrace our inner warrior we can become victims, blaming our past or our upbringing for what is making us unhappy or restless, instead of facing the world and taking responsibility for ourselves and our past. Don’t get me wrong. It is not always easy to be a warrior. It certainly doesn’t come easily to me. But on sad days especially, I am going to remember I have a warrior in me who can throw off that ‘misery monster’s cloak’. That warrior is going to stand up and be counted and see obstacles as opportunities.

Talking of being a warrior, I would say that warriors actually go easy on New Year’s Resolutions – whilst always striving to be the best they can be, they know that so many things we wish for are unrealistic. Over the years I have wanted to change things; be more shapely, be a wildly successful author, have a children’s TV series, stand up for issues I care about, worry less…etc..BUT I realise I am me, I not perfect and I come with weaknesses ( back to the chocolate). All the really matters though, is that I love and am lucky to BE loved. That is where everything begins and ends.

 I am a cheerful person really. Actually quite humorous. I like doing fun things, I can tell jokes and I can double up with laughter at times. I am a deep thinking person but humour is important to me and I don’t like to think I take myself too seriously 😑  So, dear reader, I apologise for any gloominess, but at the same time, if you are gloomy too, don’t forget to go out and look for the early signs of spring, which is just around the corner. And hang in there, especially if times are tough. Onwards warriors!

* Best Foot Forward – Moving on From Anxiety by Lyn Halvorsen available on http://www.amazon.co.uk or contact me at lmhalvo@aol.com

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I love this jaunty rabbit with a spring in his step – he never fails to cheer me up!

 

 

 

 

Surviving Treacherous Times and Finding Your Compass…

 

This is a blog I wrote a few years ago and I thought it was worth posting again….

If you were washed up on a desert island and desperate to survive, I wonder what survival technique would serve you best? No matter how fit and strong you were, if you weren’t mentally strong you would find it difficult to keep going. Bulging muscles and gym enhanced fitness might help you bounce around the sand for a while but without mental fitness you would soon start to panic or go into ‘freeze’ mode. You would only be able to run around searching for ships on the horizon, and an immediate solution, for so long. While it is certainly good to keep physically fit, there is much more to survival than that. Often the person with hidden strengths survives against the odds.

Just as we would find it hard to cope alone on a desert island, this time of year especially, with all the extra stresses and strains, we may feel we need to go into survival mode. We may not be lost on that desert island but we may feel just as stranded and panicked. It may not only be the stresses of Christmas that bring us down; there could be more serious worries in our lives; worries about finances, health, relationships or body image may become more pressing during the festive period. There is something about Christmas that heightens our emotions and makes us feel things, both good and bad, more deeply.

The strongest survival skill comes from managing the mind. Everything you do and experience comes from your mind after all. It is hard at times I know, but there are some basic tips to help you settle your mind and feel more in control. Just as when trapped on that island, if you worry too much you may panic in stressful situations. In times like this just STOP.  Stop and find a quiet space and take a breather. Pause and do nothing and think about your situation and what is really bothering you. Think carefully about what to do next. Are you stressed by loud music and crowds in a shopping centre for instance? Can the shopping wait to another day? Is it really that important? Think about finding a quieter area to regain some calm. Remember most things aren’t as crucial to get done as you think.

If you were stranded somewhere you would probably make yourself a base camp – somewhere where you felt safe and could shelter from the storm. In the same way so it is also needed in normal life – make sure your surroundings at home are peaceful and comfortable – create your own safe haven and your own ‘go to’ place. Escape to this place from time to time and especially during frantic days, and feel the calmness there. If you work in an office keep your own space uncluttered and perhaps keep a photo on your desk of loved ones or have a framed positive quote that you like. Have a little corner that is just yours and rest your eyes on a scene that is tranquil. If you can go for a walk at lunchtime and play some peaceful music on your headphones you will feel more able to cope with the day.

Make a plan – in  the desert you would formulate a plan so that you could attract help and the possibility of rescue. Do the same in your mind to help you ease your worries. Think of who may be able to help you in your current situation, whatever it may be. Be open to advice. Put out feelers  – you will be surprised where help may come from.

Work out your everyday survival techniques. Have an imaginary compass in your mind – picture it pointing you in the right direction – the calm and happy direction. If you have a problem that is really worrying you, picture your compass rotating until it points you to a place where you can work out your problems. Picture it pointing you to a friend who is ready to receive you with kind and open arms. Imagine it sending you towards your own personal North Star where peace and contentment abounds. It is amazing how this can help you find a way forward and calm your mind.

Every time you leave your own particular safe place, your ‘base camp’, and venture out in a calm and peaceful way and can cope with what ever is outside you will be building confidence and more able to take control of different and even anxious feelings. Also, knowing you have a place to retreat to and recharge your batteries will help, even if you just go there in your mind when you are in a chaotic place.

So next time you feel you are anxious or jittery, put your mind to survival and find the path you lost.

Post Script :

Lately I have heard of so many sad situations , especially those people suffering loss,..I hope this quote from J.K.Rowling may lend some comfort –

To have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection for ever.’ 

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