A recent event for World Mental health Day turned out to be heart warming, fun, uplifting and hopeful with phrases such as ‘spiritual awakening’, ‘recovery from within’ and ‘looking towards what’s right’ uttered from the podium.
During the event I was struck by something.
The transformative power of where we look from
Many of us enjoy watching wildlife programmes on TV. There seems to be no end to the fascinating, weird and wonderful creatures on our planet. When a narrator invites us to look closely at these creatures through the lens of wide-eyed curiosity, we discover magic in the most unexpected places.
What if we approached human beings in the same way? What if we approached our own minds the same way? Celebrating diversity of being rather than holding judgements about what is lacking or wrong.
Wonder + curiosity = magic + beauty
When we open up to the wonder of humanity in all its guises, we find the world begins to transform. Different ways of being become not problematic or pathological but instead a source of awe and we begin to notice the unique ways each us serves the world.
- The neighbour who brings round surplus tomatoes.
- The young boy who sees unique patterns in numbers
- The mother of 8 who clothes and feeds her children on next to nothing
- The young carer who shops for her Dad
- The inpatient in a psychiatric unit who lends an ear to a fellow sufferer
- The woman with a life limiting illness who feeds and cares for her cat
- The delivery man who smiles as he delivers a parcel
- The man who makes a cup of tea for a colleague up against a deadline
- The child who day dreams weaving fantastic tales
- The community members who donate time, food, equipment and money to help those flooded by storms
These moments rarely make the news. They are happening all round you. The funny thing is: the more we notice the wonder of everyday moments, the more wonderful everyday moments we notice.
If we don’t ‘see’ or experience these things it is only because we have become temporarily beguiled by what’s wrong (with ourselves) and the world. We can’t see the magic and awe of others when our own wondrous nature is covered up with thoughts of lack, dysfunction, judgement and worries.
Being in this human theatre, you are animated by the divine.
Rather than wondering what that statement means or what the implications are for your life or how you don’t get it: what if you simply wonder at that fact. Is it true? What if it is?
Just as the close up movements of the tentacles of a jelly fish captured on film can hold us mesmerised as we are moved by something beautiful, mysterious and new, so too, within each of us, is magic and awe but for our thinking that tells us otherwise.
I’d love to hear your reflections. Please comment below or email me.
© Juliet Fay 2018
Photo: Jellyfish at Monterey Bay Aquarium by Paul Murk 2017
Driving recently to catch a flight, I got caught in congestion following an accident on a motorway (freeway). In a hire car, driving on the right side of the road (we drive on the left in the UK), my heart sank.
As we got closer to the city, there were multiple on and off ramps and cars everywhere, weaving in and out, cutting in very close, moving into non-existent gaps. To add to the show, motorbikes slalomed through the lanes.
I could feel tension mounting and thought, “I need eyes everywhere”, as well as keeping track of the airport signs. Breathe I told myself.
Then the thought occurred to me: this is amazing, how does this work, all this traffic? By rights it should be a disaster area. In that moment, I relaxed a little and slowed up a bit, leaving as much space as I could. Suddenly it didn’t look so bad and it seemed inevitable I would get to the airport no problem (and sure enough I did).
I’d be lying if I said there was no stress involved. I parked up at the airport and handed over the keys with some relief but I realised how different the experience could have been.
There were so many opportunities for judgement in this situation:
- judgement about the other drivers cutting in
- judgement about the driver who narrowly missed a motorbike
- judgement about my driving competence
- judgement about my sat nav failing
The interesting thing is all these thoughts did pass through my mind (along with a hundred others). At any point I could have really dug into one of those judgements and the result would have been increasing stress levels for me.
The point where it got easier was when I noticed something not just okay about the situation but had a split second of ‘wow, look at the dance of traffic going on here.’
This story shows me the changing experience I had driving through that traffic was coming to me via Thought in the moment not from the traffic.
Each driver was having her own unique experience (especially the woman laughing on her phone while weaving in and out, driving one handed – whoa – there goes judgement again!).
And we begin to see there is the possibility for any experience in any situation (depending on the thoughts we happen to be having).
It is not about enjoying a situation so much, rather noticing that our thoughts constantly come and go, enjoying more and judging less our changing responses and feelings moment to moment including the tension, stress, anxiety, indignation.
As we open to each feeling, it moves through us more easily and now and then, a completely different thought and feeling might pop in, (like the sudden awe at the crazy, impossible dance of the traffic) which can transform our experience.
How can you enjoy feeling stressed, anxious or other people being unkind?
What facilitates this is a deeper understanding of our own innate mental health. Without that, this is just another practice.
From a change of heart, a realisation or an insight about our own mental health, our well-being, our deeper essence, something unaffected by the ebb and flow of how we feel. Then the ups and downs in life look less threatening, less important and we begin to find space to open to our experience, moment to moment. We get more curious and appreciate more and more our deepening awareness of how our mind works.
Judging and resisting our experience tends to get us stuck in it and we suffer.
Rather than just enduring our experience what happens if we open to it, even enjoy it? Once we begin to notice how our experience is created via Thought and look more kindly on our own personal experience (the comfortable and the uncomfortable), a lovely thing happens; we look more kindly on others’ idiosyncrasies, habits and behaviour. And so the world begins to transform.
What if you noticed how much judgement goes on in your head? What if you chose to experiment with enjoying more moments, getting curious about the source of your ability to think and feel? Taking each thought or feeling less seriously? Replacing judgement (especially of ourselves) with enjoyment?
It’s been a shock to me to notice how much of my thinking contains judgement: of myself, others, events, life, the world.
“Love is the absence of judgement” Dalai Lamai IV
I’d love to hear your comments, please email me or use the comment box below.
P.S. Not that many years ago I turned back from a car trip on local roads near my home because of overwhelming feelings of anxiety. I remember being terrified of my own mind. The result was near paralysis. I didn’t know I was innocently magnifying my own fears by thinking into those fears. I didn’t know my mind was not my enemy. I thought I was faulty. This understanding is giving me more ease with the ups and downs, knowing that all is well at a deeper level, knowing the mind changes, constantly, and that there is a deeper intelligence at play.
If you’d like to further explore the understanding known as The Three Principles, looking towards a deeper understanding of who and what we are and how our experience gets created via the power of Thought, I am running another small group online programme, Love your life again, starting 23 October. Find all the details here.
My internet connection went down two days before I went away. I vaguely hoped it would sort itself out if I just turned it on and off (my first resort with all electrical appliance misbehaviour). No luck. Somewhat reluctantly I called the provider the afternoon before my departure.
It was a fairly long call as diagnostic tests were run and the operator and I got chatting. When she found out I was off to the USA she shared stories of great adventures she’d had out there. By the end of the call, grateful for all the travel tips she’d shared, I laughed and said she should be working for Visit USA, such was her warmth and enthusiasm.
Since returning, I’ve had more calls with the provider but none quite as delightful as the first one.
What I noticed about that call was: I had nothing much on the outcome. I didn’t expect it would necessarily get sorted immediately and I was about to go off on a much anticipated trip so I wasn’t all that bothered. The operator was also in a space of open curiosity, full of goodwill and so what looked like it would be a hassle and irritating turned out to be one of those random joyous interactions in life.
How often we pre-judge what comes up
What strikes me about this is how often we pre-judge what comes up in life, usually based on how things went in the past. We react to our thoughts, other people and situations as if we have to follow a particular script, as if we know this is going to turn out badly or well. Acting in this way, (as if we could ever really know what will happen), cuts us off from just being with what comes up, with nothing on it.
“At times we are captivated by our own ego and become prisoners of our contaminated thoughts”
p.72 The Missing Link by Sydney Banks
Leaning into what is, with no judgement
Alternatively when we lean in to what comes up, expecting nothing, aware that in any moment we could have any one of an infinite number of experiences then we stop looking for some imagined outcome and get really present with what is happening right now. We are so quick to label ourselves, our thoughts, events and others as good, bad or ugly, that we experience our pre-judgement rather than what is actually happening.
Have you had this experience? Have you caught yourself, pre-determining how your day is going to go, how others are going to react? The funny thing is, our pre-judgement often proves to be true and so tends to reinforce our beliefs and judgements. What would happen if just for a moment you let go of those judgements, got less serious and just stay open to whatever is coming up?
I’d love to hear your comments.
#Judgemental #LeanIn #TheThreePrinciples #SydneyBanks #Ego
Next programme: Love Your Life Again Online starting Autumn 2018.
It is the way of things
To start at the beginning
And return home
Again and again.
Spirals of unknowing.
Bumping up against
Lost parts of our experience
Like amputated limbs,
Ghostly presences, felt
In the body system
Unable to depart
At times the heart opens
Views the world
Through Love Goggles
Rosier by the day
Now and then the lost part
Cries out for recognition
And Fear Goggles
Turn the lights out.
Plunging the world into
Darkness, full of shadows
Perils at every turn
Waiting to consume us
The spiral turns again
Love rises embracing
The lost limb
Honouring its presence
Feeling its pain and
Howl of terror
Echoing through the night
The limb, the part, the belief
Illuminated for the first time
Shows its magnificence
The knight in shining armour
Always keeping you safe.
And now its work is done
We humbly thank and
Praise its tireless service
The iron grip releases
The lost part dissolves
Returns to source
For a happy retirement
In saying farewell
There is no triumph
Or victory song.
The spiral turns
A phantom emerged
Revealed and released
Who knows what more
Will come as the spiral
Turns and turns again.
© Juliet Fay 2018
While we continue to believe that parts of our experience (emotions) must be excluded, we will experience a painful dichotomy in our experience. It is this belief itself that needs to be loved and held and accepted as being present so that it too can dissolve and fall away.. Be seen for what it is …. a thought oft repeated that has become a belief and has guided and protected us until we no longer needed its guidance and protection. Humbly thank it and wish it farewell as it departs.
Six months ago, I published a prose piece, Leave Go on this blog (read the original at the end of this post). It marked a change of tone in my article writing, leaning more towards the poetic in style. Risky? Maybe. Yet the feedback suggested it touched people. Recently I felt stuck, uninspired. It occurred to me to take a gentle stroll through my past writing and I’m so glad I did.
A note on creativity: in case you think ‘creative output’ means art or poetry or prose. It doesn’t. Every time you bring something into form that didn’t previously exist, you create:
a meal, an Instagram post, a photo, an outfit you put together, a sketch, a song you sing, a spreadsheet you populate, a piece of code you write, a hairstyle you create, a picture you frame, a sand castle you build, a fire you lay, a flower bed you dig over, If it doesn’t ‘feel creative’ that is just the thought you’ve overlaid on to the act.
What might you re-visit?
Behind the scenes of this creative process
Here are 18, whimsical and practical, things I discovered on reviewing LEAVE GO:-
- The experience of reading the piece I wrote was a pleasant surprise. If you feel stuck or discouraged, remind yourself of past creative output. If it isn’t still in form (a cake, flower arrangement or beach art), perhaps look at photos, notes, sketches, or plans you made about the creation.
- It seemed incredible that the same ‘I’ created this piece of work because this ‘I’ wasn’t ‘feeling’ particularly creative. A great reminder of how unreliable, illusory and changeable any concept of I, me, my capacity, talents, creativity etc actually is. I.e. best disregarded as often as you can.
- Reading this piece took me straight back to the feeling I was in when I created it (and that was revitalising).
- Something created, captured and shared, is re-animated, every time someone looks at it, listens to it, watches it, shares it (and that includes you the creator of it). Why not relish what you spent time creating in the past.
- A fresh idea occurred to perform the poem (spoken word poetry) and record it (something I am just beginning to explore) and make a little video. INSPIRATION comes from contemplating the wonder and mystery of creation (ours, others’ and the natural world)
CREATIVE ACTION & LEARNING
- Acting on that inspiration led to action which was absorbing and enjoyable (my mood lifted without me actively trying to shift it) LEAVING OUR RUMINATING ALONE AS BEST WE CAN
- I found out some new functions on a free video app called SPLICE for smartphones (LEARNING)
- I had FUN!
- Out of that activity came a fresh new creation. First a written poem, now a performance piece. NOTICING CREATIVITY
- The possibility for many different creative spin offs to create other version of this work suddenly seems endlessly possible and fun. IF IT’S DIFFERENT, IT’S A NEW CREATION
- The joy of paying close attention to different aspects: each word, line length, layout of the poem, font. Then thinking about the performance: speed of delivery, loudness, variation of tone and speed, pitch, adding music or not, what kind? Images that could be filmed to go with the work. NOTICING THE TAP IS ON
SHARING (HELPING/TOUCHING OTHERS)
- By publishing it on Vimeo and Facebook, it gets the creation out of the ‘safe’ space of your studio, notebook or tablet and sets it free. CREATIONS ARE HAPPENING BY THEIR MILLIONS EVERY DAY, UNLIMITED SPACE AVAILABLE
- It changes form as soon as others hear/read/see/taste it and so it gets newly created each time it is heard CREATION IS DYNAMIC AND RE-CREATED AT EVERY MOMENT
- It has attracted fresh interest even though it was previously shared as a poem to many of the same audience. Note to self: Don’t be afraid to RE-PUBLISH/RE-POST, it gives more people the opportunity to connect with what you have created. LOOK CLOSELY, IT’S NOT THE SAME FOR THOSE WHO EXPERIENCE IT
- Heartfelt responses point you towards and encourage you to continue creating what helps people. This feedback gives you helpful pointers. FEEDBACK IS A GIFT
- Helpful guides can appear. A film-maker and fellow writer have offered really helpful feedback and tips on how to improve and how to spread the work more widely. GUIDANCE AND SUPPORT COME FROM UNEXPECTED PLACES
- Specific feedback, in this case on hearing the work rather than just reading it, encourages me to further explore e.g. spoken word performance. FEEDBACK IS A CHANCE TO LEARN
I’d love to hear what landed for you in this post and topics you’d like to explore further. Please add your comments.
And here is the creation: LEAVE GO © Juliet Fay 2018 written, performed and recorded by Juliet Fay with photo by Juliet Fay
For there, just out of sight, is a space where we don’t need to hold things so tightly.
Where there is nowhere to fall but into grace.
Where stories of self and others flutter like Autumn leaves, falling, falling to gently decompose as winter turns to Spring and emerge, transformed.
New shoots from the cold hard earth.
And in this ebb and flow of birth and death, of joy and sorrow, we hear another drum beat.
The deep longing expressing itself in sighs and belly laughs.
The longing to turn away from poring over the flotsam and jetsam on the shores of our awareness.
To wade out beyond our depth and dive into the ocean, down, down to the unexplored territory far below the pull of neap and spring tides.
And as we fall into that deep rest, life rises up, greets us and washes us back upon the shore.
To once again sigh and laugh
Rise and fall
Leave go and let this making and unmaking of Life unfold.
© Juliet Fay 2017
Before I left for a trip across the pond to the US, memories of my grandfather surfaced. He dreamt of a cruise across the Atlantic on an ocean liner but my Grandmother’s sickness on her one, and only, sea crossing (to Norway), put paid to that idea.
Instead they retired to a seaside village, perhaps a consolation prize of sorts for my grandfather
He fed the dream: a pair of high powered binoculars sat on a wooden tripod, ready for my grandfather to inspect ships that appeared on the horizon. Across the room, the majestic ocean liner, The Queen Mary on a cruise with no end, within the frame of an oil painting.
He never made the atlantic crossing.
His story came to mind again when a dear friend said,
“this human experience, it’s like a life-long, all inclusive cruise.”
How my grandfather would have loved that idea!
Every experience is included on this life-long, all inclusive cruise
Not only are we completely taken care of (yes it’s an all you can eat buffet) but also Life is meant to include EVERYTHING. Every experience has treasure in it somewhere except we miss that because we divide things up and judge them to be good or bad.
“I like this experience; I don’t like that one. I want this experience; I don’t want that one. My life will be okay when……”
Focusing on what is wrong or lacking we miss so much of what is present.
We can gaze from our living room, like my grandfather, and imagine how wonderful it could be, but never actually get to immerse ourselves in it.
Or we can spend our lives shovelling coal in the heat of the boiler room, in the bowels of the ship, never realising there’s a whole ship and a world beyond to explore. We can suffer our way through life.
And then we may insightfully realise we’ve been given a free ticket for this life long cruise, and it comes with a full crew and unlimited fuel, food and drink and every entertainment you could wish for.
And what does that realisation do? It means we relax more often, knowing each day can bring new wonders and delights on and off shore for us to enjoy and marvel over whether we are in the boiler room or up on the deck sunning ourselves or exploring foreign shores.
Yes, but what if life doesn’t feel like a cruise (or I don’t want to go on a cruise)?
We forget. We all do. And for some, moments of freedom and ease feel like the exception not the rule. But we have this gift of Thought, and we can begin to look towards more of what is going right. More towards the moments of ease. More towards awe and gratitude at this marvellous, miraculous thing called Life. And as we do that, something seems to begin to grow. A wider, more universal, more expansive and inclusive consciousness seems to come into view, little by little, more and more. And then we forget again.
As another friend said, it’s like a dance.
And these are the kind of things we’ll be exploring in the next online programme. These conversations yield such rich and beautiful stories of life in action where we look towards the wisdom, beauty and wonder of life.
And in those moments we take to reflect together in a space of quiet awareness, we get an invitation to experience gratitude for the profound gift that is Life.
Rather than trying to figure Life out, we get to relax, sit back and feel that sun on our face and the wind in our hair up on that sunny deck with other curious souls.
And as we go off into our day, things seem to shift. Problems tend to look smaller, more manageable or disappear. We may notice kindness and joy spontaneously arising or bouts of weeping may seem to wash our souls clean of thinking past its sell-by date. Or nothing may appear to happen until some weeks or months down the line, you just realise life feels a little easier, a little lighter.
Check out the PROGRAMMES tab on the website.