Saturday, 26 May 2012

You Be the Judge

Recently, I've been thinking  lot about the concept of judgement .
People get so worried about the judgement that may be bestowed upon them.  I wonder  how much we allow the fear of being judged to limit the choices we make in our actions, our words, our lives?
I don't mean the judgements you might expect to be directed at actions that would cause physical or emotional harm to another person ( or any living thing). I am referring to the fears of judgement that stop us considering a course of action because someone else might think it's "silly", "selfish", "immature", "wasteful", or "risky".......that you might be judged in a way that you don't feel comfortable with if you "reach" for something that excites you.
I wonder how many careers, hobbies, shopping expeditions, kick-your-heels up experiences, any kind of fun-loving opportunities, or even time to chill-out-and-do-nothing, people disregard for fear of judgement. Or for that matter, I wonder how many things people do out of obligation for fear of being judged otherwise?
So here are a few ideas I think it's worth considering about the judgement concept.
In acknowledging that we might be judged we allow what may be going on in another person's mind to control our lives. Something not even out there in the world but in their mind. And only maybe- because most of us can't read  minds! So how would you know anyway. Yet people let this idea stifle action that might bring them joy.
I am all about the moments of joy this life is meant to bring us.
Surely it has to be at least worth talking about your "dream", no matter it's size, before you make assumptions that judgement will follow any action.
 I think we care most about the judgement of those we care the most for....strange, because wouldn't our loved ones  want us to be happy? I certainly think the happiness of those I love is important and that they need to live "happiness focussed" lives. And yet we don't always remember that fact, when it comes to our own happiness.
I've also realised  that you can only "be" judged if you allow yourself to be. I mean, it's not like being caught in a shower of rain without an umbrella, or sprinkled with stardust(sadly, because that sounds nice). Judgement is not a physical experience. But people do allow it to manifest  physical symptoms- sadness, embarrassment, remorse, resentment. Those emotions are pretty damaging for relationships! Maybe better to ignore the judgement and be happy.....
For me, if the thought of any new course of action( no matter how "big" or "small") makes me smile or gives me a "buzz"  that's all the guidance I need to act and I don't consider how others might "judge" me for being ......who I am.
Whenever a thought of, " Oh, but what might others think ?" occassionally enters my head I remind  myself that they are possibly so absorbed with what others are thinking of them that they are not even concerned with my progress! And further, maybe if they do notice they might see the joy that ignoring fear of judgement brings me. They might be inspired themselves.
I imagine a lot of very happy, successful people are happy and successful because they have mastered the art of ignoring the concept of judgement.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

In the Eye of the Beholder

Trevor is an avid amateur photographer. We enjoy hikiing and bushwalking and he has taken some beautiful photos over the last few years.
Recently I was speaking to a lady who also enjoys photography- a georgous lady who has an inspiringly positive outlook on life. And she inspired me enough to share this idea of hers........
She told me that nowadays, whenever she takes a photo of a person, she asks that person what they are thinking about, at that moment? She feels this way she captures not just their physical form in the photographic image, but also a little of where they are emotionally and mentally at that moment as well.  Then, when she looks back at her photographs, she can often remember the thoughts they shared- and it creates a more enhanced "image" beyond that which she would otherwise see. Preserving more than just an image for her and reminding her of the "wholeness" of the person- and not only the 2-dimensional photographic image.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Mothers Way

Over my life I have had the tendency to try to control things/situations/outcomes.  I think that is a fairly common  character trait I developed raising a family and building a business and being responsible for more that myself. But in the last few years I have learned to let go of that urge. I have my Mum to thank for that......
 Not because of anything inspirational she has said, or any wonderful thought provoking "advice" she has given me.... but because the circumstances in our lives have changed quite drastically over the last few years and I have, to a certain degree, become a carer for certain aspects of Mum's life. Along with that comes the opportunity to make her life more comfortable/ liveable/ easy/ even occassionally fun. But I have realised that all of those things that I think she would enjoy in her life, are just the things that  I would like- if I were in her circumstances. For her it can create unease, and often a failure to enjoy.... because it is "sameness" that she so enjoys- not change
It has taken quite a few years for me to understand and accept that, but now that I have it is really very "freeing."
Now when I visit her and suggest we go out for coffee and she says she'd prefer to stay at home, I don't try and coax. I don't disregard her choice. So gone are the days of me feeling frustrated while she takes hours to decide what to wear ( short term memory loss is a bitch); locks, and relocks and double checks the locks on the doors; tells me everything I'm doing dangerously on the drive (36 years driving experience and no accidents!); then(God love her) walking in the mall with her poor arthritic knees at a pace that requires me to take a step, count to 5, then take my next step, count to 5 and on and on..... so as not to have her feel hurried.  Really, how did it take me so long to accept this was not something she enjoyed!
As I think back I recall coaxing her to buy a much needed new recliner chair for her TV was months before she accepted it to be anywhere near as good as her old threadbare recliner. I felt like I had tried to replace a beloved friend with an uncaring imitation!
Then there was the time a pipe burst and flooded her bathroom, warping all the cupboards and vanity unit. She was reluctant to phone the insurers to have repairs and replacements carried out (hates change), so months later I organised it, with her begrudging consent. Rather than being happy to have a new bathroom, she was unhappy with the white vanity - Mum still doesn't believe me that they don't make pink ones any more, at the price she was prepared to pay! She also swears a later increase in cockroach numbers was the result of cockroach eggs in the new timbers!
Each time I felt a little frustrated for what I considered to be her lack of gratitude and confused that she didn't appreciate her improved circumstances. But  now I realise I wasn't doing these things for Mum, rather I was doing them because they would make me happy, if I were in her circumstances- but I'm not! So how could I know what is best. She's helped me realise what is best, for any capable person, is the decision they have reached for themselves........
So, now, when Mum says "No thanks..." I don't push. These days I ask if there is anything she would like organised and only act if she ask. If I notice something is needed in her household I mention that, and wait for her direction. Finally,I accept her choice to make her own decisions. It's still a challenge not to coax- but on the other hand very freeing because it's a lot less self imposed effort, and I no longer get frustrated at outcomes I have not expected( i.e. her lack of enjoyment). I've noticed too, she now says "yes" more often! She even sometimes initiates! What's that about??:)
And beyond my family issue, this approach really helps me to accept the different ways people look at the world and the different ways they choose to live in it.
Thanks, Mum

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Living in this Moment

Today  I had a walk along the beach.
It was beautiful weather- a very mild autumn day.
As I walked I was thinking that I hadn't spent time meditating recently. I like to meditate, and I find it "grounds" me and unclutters my mind- makes me better! But I just hadn't made the time recently.
So I decided to meditate as I walked....
Over the years I have facilitated lots of meditation groups and a meditation technique that I think works well is a "living in the moment" meditation. This is not something I developed, I just give it that name.  I don't recall where or when I first heard of it- but I adapt it and use it often. I love it because you can use it anywhere for any duration. So you don't need to take yourself off to a quiet, darkened room.
"Living in the moment" is as simple as paying attention to every aspect of your surroundings. If you think about it life rarely allows us to do that!
 When you do take the time to pay attention you might notice aspects such as colour, texture, odour, sound, beauty, distinction, temperature.......the list is endless depending on your ability to observe, and the surroundings you are in. The point is you become absorbed in the process, which gives your mind a chance to slow down, stress levels to reduce, worries to subside. It doesn't take your worries away permanently, but I find at the end of time spent "living in the moment" I am more able to focus and more peaceful and effective when I resume "real life."
As I walked along the foreshore today I noticed so many aspects- the ways the grasses moved in the wind, the way the sunshine made the grass seeds sparkle, the wind on my face, the warmth of the sun on my body, the way my feet felt on the sand, on the water, on the grass, the temperature of each of those, the flocks of birds, their colours, their sounds, their movement in flight. The smell of the saltwater.  I touched some flowers and felt their moisture, the temperature, the texture, their colour. I noticed the change in my leg muscles as I walked uphill and then down. I sat on the beach for a few moments and felt the temperature of the sand under my legs,and noticed it's texture, it's dryness and how it fell through my fingers when I picked up a handful. As I walked I paid attention to everything around me. Really feeling I was there in both body and ( more importantly) mind. I walked for about an hour and, sure, at times my thoughts drifted away from the moment but when they did I just brought them back by being attentive to something nearby. Its such a simple way to meditate, and destress.
You can use this in any activity you are doing alone really- washing up, taking a bath, sitting in a garden, at a train station or bus stop, having a meal, lying in bed.  The things you notice will vary upon the activity, but the quality and usefulness of the meditation will still be wonderful.
In a class I conduct I have a bag of "living in the moment" objects. Small things of all shapes, sizes, colours, textures etc. I have attendees pass the bag around  and select one object. Then I talk them through a meditation that encourages them to look at every aspect of the object as they hold it in their hand. Try it just for 10 minutes. And, as with any meditation, if your mind wanders away, gently bring it back to the object. It takes some practise but it's so worth the time.

Delight in the "Rightness"

So many people I meet don't seem to have any expectation that we humans have every right to be happy. They seem to expect the worst from their encounters with others, and life in general. "Life wasn't meant to be easy" is quoted by many- as they give up on seeing joy in any interaction..... let alone believing they may find  joy in every interaction. Some people seem to go through life expecting the worst outcomes every time!
 George Bernard Shaw's original quote was "Life wasn't meant to be easy, my child; but take courage: it can be delightful." The Oxford dictionary tells me the word delightful is a noun and means "gives great pleasure."
Certainly many of life's experiences don't  immediately give great pleasure- often quite the opposite. But I firmly believe, and live with the attitude, that there is always a "rightness" in everything that comes my way (actually everything I bring my way is more how I look at life). I find that delightful.
 My attitude these days is not "Why did this happen to me?" but rather "Why did this happen for me?" It makes sense to me that each moment of my life is occurring,with purpose, for me. That opportunities are presented for me to, firstly, notice and then act upon should I choose. I find that even more delightful.
Let me give you an example.......
About 23 years ago my husband and I lost our unborn daughter. I was 21 weeks pregnant, her condition was "incompatible with life" and it felt like the greatest tragedy I had ever had to endure. I found that many of my friends just didn't know what to say- so many said nothing and that seemed kind of cruel to me at the time. Family, out of love, just wanted me to "put it behind me and try again." Of course the Doctor reassured my husband and I that this was "purely bad luck" and there was no reason to think we could not have healthy children because we already had a beautiful 1 year old daughter .
Blahhh! My mood felt very dark, but the cloud eventually lifted, and we did indeed have 2 more beautiful, healthy children. We "moved on" as some might say. But it was years later, after lots of living, experiences, interactions with others, observation and meditation that I realised that tragedy happened for me. You see, prior to losing our baby I had been involved in a community support group for new mothers and had been invited to train as a counsellor. I had declined that opportunity because I felt I was not emotionally equipped with the life skills to offer the kind of support required. But a couple of months after our baby died, I realised I had a sense of compassion that I now wanted to channel into that counselling. A few years of counselling then led me into training others within that community organisation. I remained involved for nearly 10 years. Over the years those counselling and empathy skills probably saved my marriage many times over, assisted me in being the best mother I could be (in fact probably the best person I could be), led me to studies in the areas of caring for others, and allowed me to develop a sense of empathy which greatly assists me in the business I now operate.
23 years ago I could not have imagined any "rightness" coming from the loss of our baby. But now I see how the sacrifice I believe that little soul made with her brief life, steered my own life in directions it would otherwise never have gone. It is with so much gratitude that I think of her. One event just seemed to lead to so many others......
Having had that experience, and seeing the pathway it led me along has allowed me to look for the rightness, rather than remaining focused on the difficulty, in life's challenges. Sometimes I just think, "what can I learn from this?" ( In that particular case I learnt straight away that it hurts more not to acknowledge a friend's grief than to simply say "I'm sorry for your loss." Now I do that.) For several years I have lived with this concept. It's not always obvious, and often not easy in challenging situations, but it gives me a sense of peace - and hope every time. on a day to day basis it works like this.....When I have a client cancel at the last minute I think " what can I use this time for, why was it given to me?" Perhaps bookwork, meditation, study, rest, catch up with a friend....  I always know there is a wonderful purpose for that time now available to me. When I am unexpectedly stuck in traffic, I consider that I am delayed to arrive at just the right time- perhaps to avoid or encounter some other situation than if I arrived on time. When my 16-year-old child suddenly became unwell, had to leave school and begin home schooling (that was a working parent's challenge!) I was able to acknowledge I was being presented the chance to develop patience, tolerance, and we spoke about how she would also gain tolerance for others "outside" the "normal" for teenagers. When our luggage got lost on an airline flight I was grateful it was a domestic flight, and felt grateful to think I had a gentle lesson to purchase travel insurance-especially on any future international flights. If rain puts an end to plans outdoors I think about all the indoor opportunities. When my darling Dad was dying and I travelled several hours to and fro to visit him each week, I felt blessed to have that chance rather than suddenly lose him. And on and on it goes...... find the rightness and you'll find some peace.