Regaining balance, creating time.

29 05 2013

 

 

Writing about balance was, as you may have figured, inspired by real-time events. I was feeling off. Now my ‘off’ isn’t what it used to be. My ‘off’ has shifted upwards like my feeling ‘good’ has shifted. I love feeling really, really good, there is nothing better, until of course my really, really good will shift up a notch to really, really, really good, which it undoubtedly will some day.
My ‘good’ started to shift on the day I decided I wanted nothing more than to feel good. The more aware I have become of that, the better I have gotten at feeling good. Yet being somewhere between being an amateur and a top athlete, I still lose focus. You see, feeling good happens when you focus on feeling good, it really is as simple as that. But as life isn’t a hypothetical exercise, or maybe it is, I get distracted by things I perceive as real. Now interestingly, the distractions are always rooted in lack, usually deep-seated beliefs of lack. This is not surprising though as most of our societies operate under the paradigm of lack.
Several years ago, I made the conscious decision to live in a state of abundance no matter what. I believe there are endless possibilities and probabilities, it all depends on how I choose to view reality. No matter what the outside appearance of a situation may look like, I choose to see abundance, I choose to see the good that is present, I choose to find the bright spots. This is an exercise in focus. I guess it suffices to say that I am, after all those years, still training to master this and it remains to be seen if I will ever master it completely during this lifetime.

Recently, I got distracted quite some bit. Usually, it is enough to just refocus on feelings of hopefullness and optimism and positive expectation to get back to a mindset of abundance. Yet sometimes it is not. This time, everytime I got to a state of hopefulness, I got pulled back to feelings of frustration, to the point where I actually got frustrated and started to feel overwhelmed. I don’t like feeling overwhelmed, it does feel very, very off. The cool thing, however, was that this space between frustration and feeling overwhelmed  allowed me to emotionally and physically explore the aspect of lack I was perceiving to be true.
I felt tired and my body felt sore all over. My excuse was that my daughter had had a two-week school holiday and I had been to Istanbul for a long weekend with a friend. Apparently, it had been too much. It was normal to be tired, I told myself. I had expected to be tired and overwhelmed and I was. Then a voice inside of me said, “this is not in keeping with what you believe to be true. You are pure energy, when energy doesn’t flow something is blocking that energy. Yes, maybe your physical self is tired, and yes maybe you need time to rest your body and mind, but what if this runs deeper? What if this a recurring pattern caused by a belief you’re holding onto that simply doesn’t work anymore?”

This awareness allowed me change gears and I went from being frustrated over the mess in my home and the mess in my head to being the observer of what was happening. What I discovered was mind-blowing.
Life felt like swimming through molasse. My body felt heavy and dense, and was very literally holding on to weight. My brain processed thought so much slower that it became difficult to hold onto a thought for more than 15 seconds, and storing and retrieving data was nearly impossible. This resulted in my brain being easily overstimulated and I felt like doing nothing, absolutely nothing, I just wanted to lay in bed and sleep, or sit on the couch and stare outside. Normally, because, yes it is a pattern, I will fight this doing nothing, and then when I finally give in, balance is restored.

With my mind still and at peace, no matter how my body was feeling, I did a writing exercise. I started with ‘Wouldn’t it be great if….. I felt healthy and energetic.” I wrote and wrote and wrote, not lifting my pen of the paper, and before I knew it I was writing about having the time to do the things I want to do the most. That stirred some deep emotions in me. I realized I was onto something. And again I wrote and wrote without allowing myself to stop. I learned that at the heart of much of my stress is the old belief that I have not enough time. Inside of me still is a little frightened girl . She rushes everything because she is anxious of punishment if she doesn’t finish in a certain frame of clocktime. Every fiber of her being is stressed, the adrenaline and cortisol are running through her body, making it nearly impossible to concentrate, to do what she needs to do or make the right choices. Knowing that this past version of myself still lives inside of me, helps me understand why I so very easily come under the charm of ‘not enough time’, why it distracts me more than most things.
The incongruency between this old self and the self I am becoming creates an interesting mechanism. When I believe I don’t have enough time, somehow this creates a space frame in which time seems to be shrinking. It is as if I live in a bubble in which things start slowing down while on the outside things seem to speed up.  When I believe in a lack of time, somehow my body obeys this belief and slows down my movements, my metabolism and my brain function. This creates stress, because as I feel pressure to perform, to use every second of my time usefully and to do the things I feel I should be doing, I literally get done less and less in the same time frame. Yet, when I believe and feel there is an abundance of time, this creates an open space in which energy can flow freely, I do those things that make me happiest, I feel the freedom to explore and the whole dynamic changes. In my bubble, things start speeding up and outside the bubble things seem to down. When this happens, things go easily and I get more and more done in the same time frame. In me, this dynamic is very strong.

Isn’t that just perfect? Isn’t it just an ingenious mechanism? Wow! I just marvel at the perfection of all that I am, because when I was out of whack, feeling tired to the core, doing nothing brought me exactly where I needed to be again, it allowed me to regain focus and see the inherent goodness and abundance that is always available. I am now able to say that I love this piece of contrast, because it has expanded my awareness, I am now better able to see what is happening when I get tired, I can more easily find the words to soothe myself and to direct my thoughts to feeling better. This experience has opened up in me new ways to remain focused and to regain focus on feeling good. And when I feel good, time doesn’t really matter, it simply becomes a modality that I can play with. It is my perception that creates either a lack or an abundance of time. When I perceive abundance, I feel good, I want to do the things I love, and they just happen, like magic.

To close the gap between the older version of myself and all that I am becoming, to be more congruent, more in alignment with the All-ness of that which I AM, I have started to retrain this little girl by loving her for all that she is, unconditionally, telling her to take her time, to do the things she loves, reassuring her that she is safe with me, that time abounds in my Universe, I love her no matter what. It has only be a few days, but I  can feel that she is starting to relax already, ready to embrace this fuller and more expanded version of herself. I just love this newer and more relaxed version of myself, and, honestly, who wouldn’t?

 

photo by Colin Adamson

 

 

 

 





On being a tightrope walker

22 05 2013

 

 

This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I perceive balance to be. To me, balance is a sweet spot where I move through life easily, where I find it easy to connect to the dream that is living in my heart and live it. Life feels natural and good, really good. Imbalance, on the other hand, feels off, always. I perceive imbalance from the moment I experience boredom, a sense of listlessness.
Imagine we’re walking the tightrope again. For me, listlessness or boredome would be the moment when I feel I’m not one with the rope anymore, I become aware of the fact that I have lost focus. What happens next is the result of my training, whether I react or respond.

Reacting is going with the resistance, thinking things like: “I can’t believe that photographer used a flash, how stupid.” or “I can’t believe I got distracted by a flash, I’m such a cow!” or  “Here we go again, lost my balance, this is gonna take ages, now I have to regain my balance again before I can walk again, I hate this!” or “O no! I’m gonna fall! I’m never gonna regain my balance again, I suck at walking the tightrope!” Going with these feelings of resistance leads to more imbalance and before I know it, I am swinging back and forth on my feet, fighting to stay upright. Sometimes, my reaction to the perceived imbalance is so strong that I lose my balance completely and fall. What I have learned is that in order to fall I must have lost sight of my vision of all that I can be.
Getting on the tightrope, be it for the first time or the zillionth time, requires that you are aware of the tightrope. In order for you to live your best life, you have to know it is there, waiting for you, always. Then  you have to get up there. Getting up there means doing things differently than you did them before, instead of walking the ground floor, you have to climb the stairs, just a few steps or many meters, depending on where you are in your mastery of walking the tightrope.

Walking the tightrope literally is moving on a different level. To be clear, a tightrope walker is a top athlete. Top athletes are aligned with their vision, they have learned to stay balanced long enough to do their trick. What differentiates top athletes from amateurs is their ability to focus and their willingness to stay focused. Top athletes will do anything to make their vision come true. Their lives are in service of their vision, their lives are geared to excell. To excell they need focus and balance and they foster those by taking care of their body, mind and spirit through food, rest and physical, mental and spiritual exercise. They do what needs to be done, they live their vision to allow it to unfold. This seems paradoxical, but it is the only way to do it. For me that means that what I need to do – the quality of my food, rest and exercise – to get balanced and stay balanced are just as much part of my vision as walking the tightrope is.

Taking top athlete care of myself helps me to respond to imbalance in a constructive way.  When balance is part of my vision, when I focus on being balanced in order to walk the tightrope, I know that focus precedes balance. When I lose my balance, I can see that I have lost my balance because I lost focus, I am no longer aligned with my vision. When I am physically, mentally and spiritually fit I know that I can consciously regain focus by thinking a thought that brings ease, that relaxes my body and mind. You see, being balanced holds the middle between being focused and being relaxed. What creates instant ease and relaxation for me is compassion. I might need to play with my thoughts a bit before I hit a thought that feels right. The first thought I introduce might be: “No problem, everybody looses balance,” but when my mind retorts “what do you mean ‘no problem’!, it is a huge problem, because….”, then I start looking for a thought that may feel better and I might come up with: “you will be fine, just take a few slow breaths,” and somehow that clicks with me because that has helped me before. So I take few breaths, I feel my body getting more relaxed with each breath, I can feel the distribution of my weight on the rope.  And I think to myself: “That’s better, so far so good.” I relax my body and mind some more and I do feel more confident than I did a few breaths ago. “This may work. I may just pull this off.” Just feeling that thought creates more ease. “I think I will be fine. Just breath and focus on the rope.” Finding my balance. “I can do this. I am getting to the other side.”  Taking a step. “This feels good!” Taking another step. “I love walking the tightrope!”, walking with ease now, “There is nothing better than this. I am the master of the tightrope. Let’s do some tricks!”

Living my vision is not about doing tricks, but it is about a pure Love for Life that inspires tricks. Living my vision, walking the tightrope is about knowing my true, unlimited nature and living it, it is about being free and feeling ecstatic. That doesn’t mean I won’t loose my balance from time to time, or even fall off the tightrope completely, but that’s part of the thrill. If walking the tighrope would be completely safe, I might as well be exercising on ground level.

 

photo by Lies Meirlaen

 





Walking a tightrope

15 05 2013

 

 

Somehow most years come with a theme for me. Where last year’s theme was healing, this year’s theme is balance. I need balance to function optimally, to live my best life. I’m guessing that’s universal. The ingredients, most likely, are universal too – nurturing foods, rest, exercise, quiet time, play time. But what these are, how these are mixed and what balance looks like for you will be very personal.

My balancing act is not juggling as many balls as possible. My challenge is walking a tightrope, putting one foot in front of the other, not swinging more than I can handle, not falling off. Some days, I’m actually balanced enough to walk some steps. Those days feel awesome, I feel like I understand the trick and I’m invincible. But most of the time, I’m doing my best to stay on the rope, regaining my balance. I am getting better at regaining my balance and then be able to walk some steps again. Sometimes, I get out of balance too much and I fall.

Balance for me is a very fine line, I don’t have much wiggling space. My brains are more sensitive to input than most people’s brains, this means that my brains need to process more input and that takes more time. When I don’t manage this process well, I get overstimulated and I don’t function well until my brains get time to process it all. I am slowly learning to live with that, and interestingly it has allowed me to learn one or two things that I would not have come up with otherwise.

There is one ingredient that helps you keep balanced more than anything, and that is compassion. Compassion not only counteracts negative momentum, it creates mental balance when you need it most. Living without compassion is like walking the high wire without safety net. Compassion is reminding ourselves of what it means to be human. It is seeing that every person carries a unique story that has shaped their views and behavior, including you. Your story is as valid as everybody else’s story and vice versa. Everyone does the best they can, including you. Your best is not only different from my best, it also is different from moment to moment, and so is mine. Beneath our story, we are one.

When I am balanced, I know this, it is easily accessible. When I’m out of balance or have fallen off the rope, knowing this takes effort, but of all the things I could do to get balanced again, compassion takes the least effort and creates the most dramatic results.  When I’m out of balance, I don’t make the wisest decisions. When I fall, things are worse, and apart from feeling physically ill, I am upset with having fallen, again. It usually takes some time before I get to the place where I can say: that’s life, falling is part of life, and when you know better you do better. When I say those things to myself, I can feel my body and mind relax a bit and that feels so good that I cannot help but focus on it. And before I know it, although it doesn’t look like it, I know that I am doing the best I can at that moment, and that my best is different from moment to moment. Feeling the truth of these thoughts gives even more relief. It helps me cope with things like snapping at my daughter, it creates the space I need to help us both let go, and to do better next time. When you feel compassion towards yourself, you are forgiven upfront for your wrongdoings and you are able to love yourself for who you are, you are able to see the best of yourself and live the vision that is unfolding in your heart.

Balance is a state of mind. When your mind is balanced, body and rope move as one, there is no telling where your body ends and the rope starts. You know when to move and how to move. If you have ever seen an act on the tightrope, you may have noticed that after a risky move the artist waits before continuing. I imagine she waits for her body to merge with the rope again. Balance is created, always in the present moment. Balance is going with the flow, or rope in this case, moving with it, obeing it, trusting it. Balance is a choice that is made anew again and again and again. You cannot stockpile balance. You can create conditions that are favorable, but you cannot trick or cheat your way into it.

There is no balance without compassion, they are inseparable. Balance and compassion are one. Balance is seeing that your story is as valid as everybody else’s, that your life, however you choose to live it, is equally important. Balance for me is being at peace with not being able to do as much as I want to do, taking small steps in the direction of my dreams. And recognizing that, for me, nothing creates more imbalance than feeling resistance towards that. The thing I need to learn most is to wait for the rope and my body to merge again. I now know that I am capable of doing phenomenal things on the tightrope. And I am finally getting to the point where I see that the extent to which I allow myself to become one with the rope again defines the act I will be able to pull off. I can only muster that amount of patience when I feel compassion towards myself, when I don’t judge the parts that I don’t understand yet, when I dare to obey the rope and trust my body.

I really would love to learn from you. What does balance look like for you, how do you maintain it. What has it taught you? Please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.

 

photo by Taro Taylor

 





Living with purpose

1 05 2013

 

 

 

I remember really wanting to go to Art School. Instead I ended up studying French Linguistics and Literature. For all the wrong reasons. After a year of pushing myself, I knew  I made a humongous mistake, but not wanting to rock the boat, I continued to the point where I got my Master’s degree. After five years of hard work, I felt no pride, just relief.

As the people around me moved forward on what seemed to be a logical course, I had no clue who I was or what I wanted. I was stuck. For all of my life, I had followed other people’s directions. Now life had come to a screeching halt and nothing I tried worked out. Faced with my deepest fears, I hit rock bottom. A blessing in disguise, in retrospect, as it forced me to make a choice. I choose to live, really live. I decided I was going to get happy, not just happy, but as happy as humanly possible. The only thing was, I had no clue how. So, I went to the library and started reading self-help books by the dozen. Most of them didn’t make any sense, only some did, just a bit.

I worked out a vision for my life and started to pursue goals to get there. I did not realize that most of my vision was constructed, that I was pursuing goals that weren’t mine, or that I was numbing the pain pursuing them. But I did the best I could and I was happier and more empowered than I had been in over 20 years. I got fit, physically, mentally and emotionally, but the thing I still wanted most, a career, remained elusive. It frustrated me more than anything. When it came to work, everything felt backwards. Whatever I did,  I had this constant nagging feeling that this was not what I was supposed to do. What is it I need to do? What is my calling? I would ask over and over again. It felt like going in circles. I wasn’t finding any answers, at least not where I looking for them. Instead, I got answers in places where I wasn’t looking, and it took some time, read years, before I recognized a pattern.

When my daughter was born, the first time I looked into her eyes I knew that she was part of my purpose. I knew I was meant to be her mom. A few years later, when I was healing a series of life-long traumas, I knew that too was part of my purpose. I knew I was meant to heal the overwhelming pain that had been stored in my soul. And there was peace, deep peace in knowing that. And somehow that peaceful knowing gave me the strength I needed to go on. After years of searching for my life’s calling, last year I finally realized that it is our purpose to live the life our heart is dreaming for us. And that when we do, we unlock our calling. Our calling is a deep knowing that surpasses the mind. It can’t be grasped rationally, but it feels natural and logical. Our calling is in the things we keep getting back to. It is in the things that give us peace and joy. It is in the things where we feel most connected to ourselves and others. It is in the things that make us feel unequivocally good, because on the deepest level of our being we perceive a vibrational match. And because who we are in that moment resonates with the dream that is living in our heart, we feel purpose.

Sometimes, it takes years for us to see. Or at least for me it did. But once we are willing to accept that our vision can’t be rationally explained, once we dare to follow that quiet whisper off the trodden path, then things mysteriously start falling into place.

 

photo by Leonardini