What Katy Louise Did...

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Katy Louise writes about health, wealth, happiness and relationships, and the spiritual insights she gains along her path. She is currently editor of Top Sante magazine (www.topsante.co.uk). Prior to that she was editor of Bodyfit magazine (now Your Fitness www.yourfitnesstoday.com) and the launch editor of Soul&Spirit magazine (www.soulandspiritmagazine.com). Katy is also a certified Fitsteps and STOTT Pilates instructor. She is the go-to girl for all matters relating to health, wellbeing and spirituality.

Saturday 25 September 2010

Neale Donald Walsch - did The Secret get it wrong?

Last night I went to the opening key note speak of the 2010 Hay House ‘I Can Do It’ weekend conference in London. It was by Neale Donald Walsch, whose book, Conversations With God, I read this time seven years ago when I was living in Sydney. Listening to his talk was inspiring and enlivening and I want to share some of what I got out of it.
For those of you not familiar with his work, Neale was having a bit of a mid-life crises about 15 years ago and asked God/the universe/Source, why nothing was going right for him. What he didn’t expect was to hear an actual voice, outside of his head (though it later became in his head, he says) asking him whether he really wanted answers to all his questions. He said he did, and so began lengthy conversations with who Neal came to believe was God, who would tell him why he was here and what was the purpose of life. These conversations make up his three (it might be more now) books in the Conversations With God series.

We are all spiritual masters
So what did I learn from last night? Neale’s turning point came when God told him: ‘your life is not all about you’. To which Neale replied? Well who is it about then? And the answer was ‘everyone else’. In essence, Neale told us that once we realise our lives are not about us, not about fulfilling every little whim and fantasy we may have, and start to realise we are perfect as we are and to help others wake up to their own brilliance, then everything will automatically change for us for the better. He says we are all spiritual master, or can be, just like Buddha and Jesus. He went round saying to individuals “you are here in the room to heal the room” making each and every person aware of their importance in creating a better world. No one is better than anyone else; everyone can shine their light (though it did also make me think that as we live in a dualistic world, we can all also be the darkness, too; we all have good and bad within us).

Is The Secret wrong?
Neale also talked about The Secret, which has sold millions of copies, but which, he thinks, does humans a disservice by focusing purely on getting material abundance. He was featured on the DVD but only very briefly, he says, because he kept mentioning God so much and they had to edit it out! But his view is that God/Universe/Source, whatever you want to call is, is the energy behind why we can manifest abundance, and that should be credited! He says we can all tap into this pure energy and create the lives we want, but after we’ve got the man, the car, the job, the house, the kids, the pension plan, the holidays abroad, the better house, the better car, the right clothes, etc etc, then what? Why did The Secret not address the really big life issues that we can all change with this magnificent power of abundance, he asked? World hunger, repression of women, abuse of children and animals, etc. It’s not that he says we have to be all pious and abandon all our aspirations, and get rid of all our worldly possessions though; he says we can have great fun in the physicality of life, and that this very physically is the starting point on the journey. We need the physical world in order to learn. So he doesn’t advocate going and living like a monk or a nun on a mountain. But he says there is so much more to life than what most people get so pre-occupied with.

We are all one
Our task, he says, is to wake up to fact that we are all one. Those four little words, he says, are life changing. If we all acted like we are all one, then the above problems would begin to disappear as we would treat each other like brothers and sisters, not strangers.
He then told us a story about The Sun and the Little Soul, which in a nutshell, is about this little soul who wants to understand who he is, as being a small candle that makes up the sun, he cannot see himself clearly as he is part of the bigger whole. So God creates the darkness, so that he can see himself contrasted to it and understand who he is. And this is a metaphor for our lives: we are all light, all brilliant Divine beings but some of us, most of us, have forgotten this and are plagued by the ‘darkness’.

To summarise his message, Neale was telling us that we have all come here to change the world, and that if we get too caught up on trying to ‘fix’ our health, love lives, bank account, jobs etc, then we are missing a trick as there is a much bigger mission out there: for us to love ourselves exactly are we are, As God would, he says. And then to go and make others see the light in themselves. I felt so inspired when I left the talk that I went and told some strangers in a pub all about it! And it also reminded me not to let myself get so fixated on my so-called ‘problems’ and to relax and let go a bit more (it’s that F**K It! philosophy again!), and to instead focus on helping others live a great life.

Visit http://www.hayhouse.com/ for more information

Friday 24 September 2010

The ‘crazy Russian’ lady...

What can we learn from each and every situation? This was something I asked myself yesterday, after I took a call from a disgruntled reader – I’ll call her crazy Russian lady (though she may not have been Russian, as I am terrible at discerning accents – so no offense to Russian people!). Anyway, she was complaining about the fact that the month on the front of the magazine does not match up the actual month it is, i.e. the October issue, out now, is out in September. I told her all magazines do this but she was having none of it, and proceeded to complain about how disruptive this was to her life as it confused her for some reason.
After about five minutes her voice started to sound familiar – it was very distinctive – and I realised she had called about six months ago to moan about the magazine then, when she had told me in no uncertain terms that Soul&Spirit would only be successful if I followed her advice: to take away most of the pictures, to make the text all huge, reduce the number of pages as most of it was “rubbish” and make it cheaper. And yet again, she launched into a tirade of insults about the magazine, telling me the exact same thing she told me last time!
Now, I consider myself to be a pretty placid, easy going type of person, so I listened politely though my heart was racing and my blood was boiling and I wanted to tell her to p**s off. This anonymous woman is one of only two or three people who have ever managed to really rile me and make me angry in my entire life. And boy did she do a good job. My colleagues, who were by now all intently listening to this conversation – well, my replies at least – were telling me to put the phone down, and I did try on one occasion to say I was very busy and really didn’t have time to chat right now, but I let her get her rant out of the way, while I held the phone away from my ear but about half a metre – like I thought they only did in the movies – until she had got it all our of her system.

God grant me the serenity…
When she finally did let me go, I had the usual conversation with my colleagues about how mad she was and how irritating. But later I got to thinking: what was the lesson for me here? Everything is an opportunity for us to learn, or so people say. This is my conclusion: this poor old lady, in her seventies, and who used to work in publishing apparently, so she delighted in telling me, was clearly upset about the magazine; so irritated in fact, that she saw fit to call me and tell me how much she hated it. Once I can understand, perhaps, and it’s not like she is the first to complain about something: we’ve had similar people moaning about the size and type of images used (apparently they are not ‘spiritual’) and about the small font especially when it is on a dark background (people who can’t read so well find it hard to see it – and I take their comments on board). But this lady was in a league of her own, issuing forth a string of complaints without letting up. And I realised what my lesson was, and was reminded of that famous saying, ‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference’. For anything else is madness. OK, firstly you could say she was courageous in her actions to call me and tell me her point of view and try and get the magazine changed, but having done so, and then seeing the magazine not change to her specifications (which quite frankly were ridiculous) she was infuriated and saw fit to tell me – again. She was clearly not serene about it! And wisdom was clearly lacking too, as she could not understand why on Earth I would not agree with her suggestion.
If she calls again, I will do something I never normally do, which is to suggest she stops buying the magazine, as it is clearly causing her distress. After all, if you are unhappy with someone or something, the only sensible thing to do – if trying to change it has failed – is to remove yourself from the situation so the irritation is no longer there. Or accept things as they are. But if you won’t accept things, and then continue to get annoyed about them, well, that is just causing yourself to suffer, as the Buddhists would say.

Personal lesson
And then I thought perhaps this was a reminder for me in my own life. I had been in a personal situation that, while wonderful on many accounts, was not in line with one of my life goals. And I tried to change the situation many times the only way I knew how, through logic and rational reasoning, but to no avail. So in the end, I physically removed myself from the situation, as much as it hurt.
So thank you, ‘crazy Russian lady’ for reminding me of this important teaching. You may have gotten me worked up and angry, but you are also a reminder to me, and everyone, that if we can’t change things, we must accept them or let them go.
I hope my ‘Russian’ reader will learn to find peace with the magazine, or just stop buying it. But to keep buying it when clearly you hate it? That is madness. She obviously gets some enjoyment, even if from criticising it; I just hope she doesn’t call to tell me anymore!

Thursday 23 September 2010

Will you ascend to a fifth dimension?

I’ve just been reading an article about a new book called The Annunaki Plan or The Human Plan? By Chris Thomas. It’s in this month’s Cygnus Review (a free newsletter about spiritual books). Initially I thought ‘what a boring book cover – just white with the title on it’ – but something made me read it as it was relating to 2012, and I am really interested in that subject; I’ve read a number of books about what the significance of 2012 is, i.e. the ending of a great age, or cycle of time, and the birth of a new era.
Chris talks about something I have never before heard: a theory that the ‘ascension’ everyone is going on about in 2012 – raising our vibration to ascend to a new dimension or something like that – is in fact a trick. His theory states that there is an alien race, called the Annunaki, who claim to have created humans as a slave race, to one day be transported off the planet and taken ‘away somewhere’ where all our troubles will be gone: no more worry about global warming, no more food shortages, inequality of wealth, nuclear threats etc. Sounds idyllic on the one had (this is supposing this were even true), but what he warns us that by abandoning our planet Earth, we will be abandoning the task God has set out for us, which he says is to answer the question: is human life possible? I think we have proven that it is, or we would not be here, but I think what he means is, can we live in harmony with the planet and other species? And so far we have proven a resounding no. All this talk of ascension to another dimension is a trick, he says, to get us to abandon our grand plan as humans.

Life imitating art?
Yes, part of me – a big part of me – thinks it sounds mad to even be contemplating the idea of an alien race called the Annunaki who want to take us off the planet and make us their slaves. Yeah right! Surely it’s the script for the next blockbuster staring Will Smith? But there is also something in me that thinks well, why not? Speaking of popular culture, this sort of things is explored al the time, and life and art often overlap. The first example that comes to mind is The Simpsons, in which I saw an episode where Homer and his family are captured by aliens and taken onto a spaceship, where the aliens treat them very well and dupe them all into thinking they are going to have a wonderful life. It’s only when Lisa catches one of the aliens reading a book called ‘how to cook a human’ that she realises they are to be made into a feast! Eventually they escape, of course. Science fiction is also abound with stories of humans existing in space ships and doing battle with other races. And maybe these stories and TV programmes are actually alluding to what might one day happen. After all, hundreds of years ago no one would have believed humans would fly, or talk to each other through little devices called mobile phones. Space travel must be on the agenda for the future, and when it is, perhaps we will encounter such events as we see in Star Trek. Why not?

Is ‘ascension’ really so great?
But back to the article; Chris doesn’t state what the answer is (I am sure the book explores that, but I have yet to read it) but he does seem to be suggesting that rather than concern ourselves with alien races and star gates and what is happening ‘out there’ in the galaxy for 2012, we instead keep our focus grounded, and on how to solve the problems we have already created here on Earth. He says if it is true that an alien race want to help us ‘ascend’ and move off the planet and to a higher dimension, then it could be a trick. Not only this, but he says abandoning Earth would be a mistake (if and when we get that option), because we have to face up to our own mistakes and not run away from them. Creating problems – in this case global ones – and then washing your hands of them and running away just leaves the people that are left behind with a big mess to deal with. And perhaps that will happen one day. Perhaps these spiritually ‘advanced’ people who are so concerned with ascension and contacting other races will one day get the choice to leave Earth (or their forebears, more likely), believing themselves to be ‘evolving’ in some way. But maybe they are being misled? For as Chris says in the article, there is no saying where they will be taken. Maybe the real challenge is to stay on Earth and learn to live in harmony with one another. Who are these angels and higher beings that are supposedly ‘channelled’ by a whole host of writers for our advancement? Maybe Chris is asking us to be a bit more discerning, and question the motives of such writings? If we are being ‘guided’ then is it really for our highest good? How can we be sure? These are just some of the things I wonder when reading about all this stuff. Books on 2012 will tell you that it is both ‘the end of the world and destruction of the planet’ yet also a ‘time for spiritual evolution and rebirth’. You can read good and bad about anything and everything. 

A message not to shirk responsibility?
I know I have veered into what would be considered by most as completely wacky territory, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg of a whole host of writings I get to read about ascension and aliens and the like. Like a true politician, I like to neither confirm not deny anything, and I tend to be open to all ideas and discount none, just in case. Who knows, maybe one day the aliens will come – they did in the film Independence Day – or maybe they are already among us, as in Men in Black (hmmm, both Will Smith films. He does look slightly odd – maybe he is one of them?!). Will we fight them or go with them? Will they help us or kill us? Will we even ever have to face these questions? Is the author of this book just a mad man? Who knows…
But perhaps it’s all an allegory, with the message being this: don’t shirk responsibility. Being lured off the planet, which is struggling and dying from our stupid mistakes, by the temptation of ‘spiritual advancement’ might just be a metaphor: for not accepting offers that are too good to be true – as they often are. Perhaps spiritual enlightenment, whatever that means, is just another object of desire, a shiny golden prize we strive for that will, just like material possessions, not lead to happiness and just to another downfall (and in the theory above, into the hands of an evil alien race who want to turn us into slaves!)

The Annunaki Plan? Or The Human Plan? One will kill you and the other will save you, by Chris Thomas – available through cygnus-books.co.uk

Tuesday 21 September 2010

NEW Angels magazine!

Angels - on sale now in WHSmiths and at www.soulandspiritmagazine.com/angels
Brand new Angels magazine is on sale now! Contains interviews with and articles by: Doreen and Charles Virtue, Jacky Newcomb, Cassandra Eason, Jenny Smedley, Joylina, Daisy Foss, plus many more. Includes real life angel stories, plus exercises to help you connect to your own guardian angel.The package also includes a DVD and book by Jacky Newcomb.
On sale exclusively in WHSmiths, as well as online at www.soulandspiritmagazine.com/angels. Priced £12.99

Monday 20 September 2010

Hearing the spirit of my great grandmother?

There is one experience in my life that I can’t quite explain and was perhaps an angel, or a spirit of some sorts. I was aged 24 and living in Sydney at the time in an apartment near Bondi Beach, with another girl, who was out that evening. 
I had taken a bath to relax before going to bed. Despite living in what was pretty much paradise, I confess I was in mental turmoil at the time, as I my head was filled with stress over various things, including whether or not to stay in my well-paid but non-stimulating job, and also whether to not to stay living in this apartment (which was tied in to whether I stayed in the job, as one paid for the other). I wanted to leave and go travelling but basically was gripped with fear: fear of not being able to support myself financially if I did leave the job (in the end I did leave the job but ended up back in the UK – but that is a long story). Anyway, I had been falling asleep in the bath and kept jolting awake, so when I got out and got into bed, I was in that sleepy, very relaxed state between consciousness and unconsciousness. And because of that, my mind, unusually, was very quiet. After about a minute of being in bed, I ‘heard’ what seemed like a two syllable word spoken very close to my head. It sounded a bit like my name. I knew the ‘voice’ was not in my head, as it scared me and made me pull the covers up and over my head out of fear! My heart rate also shot up as I was freaked out. But after around ten minutes I did fall asleep.
Months later I was back in the UK and had a reading with a medium. She told me my great grandmother was always around me, supporting me. I asked her whether it could have been her over in Australia, and she said yes, it probably was. I guess I will never know, but that is the closest I’ve gotten to a ‘spooky’ experience of sorts.

For more real life stories, read Soul&Spirit magazine. The October issue is on sale now! Visit www.soulandspiritmagazine.com.

Friday 17 September 2010

FREE angel book by Diana Cooper!

Do you believe in angels? I confess I knew nothing of angels before I started working on Soul&Spirit but have since become acquainted with the many names of the archangels, and their different purposes through the writing of the experts in the magazine.
The October issue, which is on sale today, contains a free booklet we put together containing the words of one of the UK’s best-known and loved angel experts, Diana Cooper. In this extract from her popular title, A New Light on Angels, Diana recounts numerous experiences of seeing and hearing angels, who came into her life some 30 years ago at a particular low point. They even showed her that she would one day be on a stage teaching angel wisdom to the masses! She writes about one workshop, in which a business man had his guardian angel behind him; the man leaned backwards and felt enveloped in the warm, protective wings. Diana also includes some short exercises to help feel connected to your own guardian angel.

I believe in angels
I have never had an angel encounter myself, but I do believe in them as I’ve talked to a number of, to my mind, credible people who have seen and heard them, including Lorna Byrne (there is also an interview with her in the October issue about her latest book Stairway to Heaven), as well as many others. And I don’t doubt their experiences. I have found white feathers before, which are meant ot be an angel sign. The most recent was probably the most unexplainable, too, as I was arriving back to the place I was living at at the time, and opened my bag and picked out a white feather! My mind instantly thought ‘well I must have found it last time I used this bag and put it inside’ but I don’t’ recall doing that. This was a bag I hardly ever used – only for festivals as it was an across-the-body style and very small. How had the feather got there? It was a at time when I was emotionally stressed and upset, and in the process of leaving my boyfriend at the time, so I wondered whether it was a sign from the angels to comfort me? Who knows. My logical minds still does not accept it as there can be rational explanations for it to be there. What I really want is a huge bit angel to appear in my room and give me a message!!! Is that asking too much? Most people tend to get angelic help and messages in times of danger or stress, and neither have ever really applied so far so maybe you have to be in big trouble for an angel in intervene? But that’s not the case with Diana, and Lorna, who see and hear angels on a regular basis now. Maybe I need to invite them into my life and believe in them more, as I’m a strong believer that the saying ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’ is backward and should really be ‘I’ll see it when I believe it’.

The October issue of Soul&Spirit is on sale now in Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury, Morrison, WHSmiths, McColl, and other independent newsagents. Visit www.soulandspiritmagazine.com

Also, Soul&Spirit have published a one-off magazine, DVD and book box set, called Angels, which is available exclusively in WHSmiths, and online at www.soulandspiritmagazine.com/angels

Monday 13 September 2010

Drawing can be meditation, too!

Can you use drawing as a means of meditation? Or even problem solving?
Well, earlier this year I met up with Cat Bennet, an artist based in Boston, USA, to put my out-of-practise drawing skills to the test. Having not drawn a single thing since I finished my art GCSE, I thought trying to draw anything more than a squiggly line would be a challenge. But that is exactly how we began: drawing abstract squiggles. Cat said most people are scared of drawing because they think it has to be a masterpiece, which is exactly what I had been thinking. But, Cat told, me, I was being way too hard on myself. To me, my squiggles were a mess, but to her they were beautiful and expressive! Next she got me drawing her glasses, then a tea pot, before ‘graduating’ onto the chair in front of me (until someone went and sat on it!).

Moving meditation
I was really starting to get into the creative spirit, aided also by a large glass of malbec wine, and I was getting more confident at making large, expressive pencil marks. Cat explained that I could use it as a means of problem solving, as utilising the creative right brain means you are able to see things from a new angle. And, she said, it is like a moving form of meditation, as you become lost in the process so that outside worries no longer seem to important. The drawing certainly was like a form of meditation, as I was either concentrating on copying an object, or was in the flow of creating something abstract.
Thanks to Cat’s constant praise for my humble markings, I started to gain confidence, and it was the most fun I’d had in ages! I can't believe I had neglected this creative part of myself for so long.

Cat Bennet is leading a Confident Creative drawing retreat in Covent Garden, London, onSeptember 25th & 26th September. Find out more at www.theconfidentcreative.com

Cat Bennett is the author of The Confident Creative: Drawing to free the hand and mind (Findhorn Press; £8.99) Visit catbennett.net. The Confident Creative: Drawing to Free the Hand and Mind

Monday 6 September 2010

Are you quick to judge people?

Do you judge a book by its cover? And more importantly, do you form first impressions of people based largely on how they look? And are you ever surprised to find your initial judgement of someone might have been wrong?
I had a stark reminder the other day of how we all judge people. It was the Bank Holiday Monday and I had gotten chatting in the street to my elderly neighbour, who was just arriving back home as I was leaving. He was telling me about his 90th birthday party a few days previously, and how good it had been. Although he has family who live close by, I can tell he just wants some company sometimes as he always wants to stand and chat for ages, and although I enjoy talking to him, I must admit I am sometimes keen to get going, as in this case I was off to see my own grandparents. So anyway, I thought I would play the Good Samaritan and offer to go round to his place the next evening where we could have a proper chat. After all, how many times do we actually find out anything about our neighbours? And as I knew his wife had died just before I moved into the street, I knew he must have been very lonely at times.
And so the following evening I turned up at 7.15pm, expecting to stay for an hour or so but we ended up talking until quarter to 11. He was the one to do most of the talking – about his life in the army, his family, his wife in particularly – but every so often he would stop the conversation and look at me in a peculiar way, then say ‘I can’t work you out’, which I found rather odd. It turns out he had spent his life thinking himself a very good judge of character (as it had been important for the type of work he used to do), and he admitted to me that over the course of the two years I’d lived next door, he’d decided, presumably based on my appearance and mannerisms I suppose, that I was ‘cold’ – and not in terms of temperature either but in terms of my personality. I found this rather hurtful and wondered why he had formed this opinion, especially as we had chatted on more than one occasion, either over the garden fence or out on the pavement, about various things: family, work, events going on etc. So it’s not as if I ever ignored him.
Later in the conversation he admitted that his initial impression of me had been wrong, and that I was very friendly and he had enjoyed chatting to me, yet I could sense his bemusement at trying to ‘work me out’ as I clearly did not match up to his expectations of how he thought I would be. And although I enjoyed the evening, I could still not shake off the feeling of being told I come across as distant and cold. Do other people think this too, I wondered? Clearly some do, as in the past (and I think I already wrote about this) men have told me I seem ‘aloof’. And I find it really odd because I don’t think I am like that at all; so what is on the surface obviously does not reflect what is underneath.

The moment of ‘a ha!’
But all of a sudden I thought ‘hang on a minute’ – and then the penny dropped: I judge people all the time as well! If anyone says they don’t judge other people mainly based on appearances then they are lying. We all do it all of the time. How many times have you formed a negative impression of someone without ever actually talking to them and getting to know them? I did this very thing when on holiday in Australia over New Years; the friend I was staying with had a visitor who I quickly labelled as a ‘typical Aussie lout’, as he drank, smoked, swore a lot and seemed rather uncouth (yes I am a snob sometimes). However, the next time I met him, and actually got into a proper conversation with him and another member of the house, I realised that he, too, had dreams and aspirations – of working with troubled kids, or to be a fireman – and that the outer bravado and swearing was really just a mask or perhaps even a shield to survive in a macho environment. It was just the surface appearances. And I felt guilty for having judged him. So, it was interesting to have the tables turned on me, and to find that I, too, am judged; and it was also a good reminder to remember not to always necessarily go with initials judgements. Because while sometimes our judgements and intuitions are correct and useful – particularly when we are weighing up whether a situation is dangerous or not – at other times, they can prevent us from seeing that another person as a human being, with the same hopes and fears as we have.

It’s easy to pass judgement on someone you hardly know – we can’t help but do it as it is part of being human – but what you can do is at least become aware of your judgements, acknowledge and admit to them, even if only to yourself, and then decide whether or not you might be wrong. Looking for the similarities between people is far more compassionate and productive than looking for the differences, after all. We all like to think we know what other people are like, purely by our first impressions, but sometimes we are wrong.

Friday 3 September 2010

The world is not the way you think it is

How can you drastically change your life for the better? Well, I’ve read about many ways in which to do this but it was only this morning, in literally a split second, that I really understood how to do it. You see, I’d arrived at work in a mood. I got out of bed later than I wanted to, had a shower and had to really rush breakfast, and ended up being five minutes late, unable to get a parking space in the place I normally park. I arrived under a cloud, so to speak, feeling a mixture of emotions from annoyance to anxiety and confusion – all before the day had even really begun! However, it was a comment made by my colleague that totally switched my perception. She has this thing about writing words down and hearing them said aloud either on the radio or by someone else in the office at the same time – a sort of synchronicity thing – and it just happened again. So she told me, excitedly, and added ‘it’s going to be that kind of day!’ which she meant that in a good way – a kind of magical, synchronistic day. And in that instant I understood what I had learned on the Landmark Forum months ago, which had been repeated in the book I just finished reading yesterday – Happiness at Work, by Srikumar Rao – which is this: it is your perception alone that determines your experience of life. In other words, no one else is experiencing today in the exact same way you are. Only you have your unique thoughts and emotions and subsequent reactions. So to me, this morning was ‘bad’ as I had been in a rush, I didn’t have time to do my hair properly, had to rush breakfast, felt annoyed at myself for being so disorganised, and my head was full of thoughts about my personal life – still trying to work out what to do. Whereas my deputy editor was obviously having a whole different version of today, as she seemed buoyant, enlivened by her little synchronistic moment, and guess what, she even just complimented me on how nice my hair looked, when I had been thinking how horrible it was as I didn’t’ have time to straighten it. So even my perception of my hair was totally different to that of another person!

Your view is unique and not ‘real’
My point here is that if we only experience life through our own ‘lens’, we could, if we wanted, choose to take a different view. Events in our lives may occur to us one way, but occur completely differently to another person. This is true – always. Take the example of a rainy day: for a farmer desperate for water on his crops, this rain would be ‘good’. For a family planning a picnic, this would probably be ‘bad’. For a saver, the low interest rates are ‘bad’ but for someone with a tracker mortgage, they are ‘good’. There is always a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ interpretation of the same event, depending on who you are. And it’s the case with everything. And even if there is a general consensus that an event or thing is ‘bad’, that same thing might in turn lead to ‘good’ consequences later down the track, meaning it wasn’t so bad after all, i.e. losing your job (bad) only to be offered an even better position by another company later on (good). The Landmark Forum teaches this exact thing; that life is just life, and it’s your perception of events that makes you feel the way you feel; change your interpretation and you can change life dramatically. Because your view of events is not ‘real’ it is just your view.
So, I suddenly realised that perhaps I could change my perception of today and focus on the positives: the sun shining, the fact I do have a job to come to (and a car that works) etc. Or, if changing your thoughts seems too hard, then try this: pretend to be an actor for the day (Srikumar Rao says we are all actors anyway, playing a role) and decide to act like someone you would like to be, with whatever traits that person would have. And see how this works.

Practise makes perfect
I must admit, I just got dragged back into negativity on realised that one of the large features in the magazine we are currently being put together has been designed ‘wrongly’ (or maybe that is just my interpretation!) and this is because the person who wrote it didn’t make clear enough notes on the top for the designer, and ultimately this is my fault for not realising they had not done it. So I have asked for small adjustments to be made, rather than it to be all resigned as there is now not time. So this on the one hand is annoying, but on the other, does it really matter in the grand scheme of life? No. It just goes to show that you can do your best, but some things are out of your control and it’s easier to let them go than try to change them to your liking. So, for today I aim to be a person who is pleased with and appreciative of everything!!!

Wednesday 1 September 2010

The season for letting go

Letting go of the past is easy for some, and not so easy for other. I belong to the latter camp, and tend to cling to the past with grit and determination, feeling somehow sure it was better than anything that is going to replace it in the future.
But as I stepped out of the house this morning to go pick blackberries to eat with my porridge, I felt a definite autumnal chill in the air, which reminds me that nature is moving into a new season, and that I – and we – must do the same. I love autumn: the freshness in the air; the leaves as they turn to russet reds, oranges and browns, and that feeling of... actually I’m not sure what the feeling is but it’s a definite move from one phase to another. It’s that back to school time, a fresh start, but also a time to let go of the past. Last autumn as I was walking along one day, I decided that I would try to mimic the trees - not by turning to wood and waving my arms around! (though actually, in Chinese astrology I am the wood element) but to shed my own metaphorical leaves so I could then grow fresh ideas and opportunities for the coming spring. So, letting go can relate to the physical world as well as the non-physical; it’s a great time to clear out your house, as I have been doing already, but it’s also useful to work on letting go of the things in your life that no longer serve your spiritual growth: perhaps unhealthy eating habits, relationships, friendships, jobs – anything that keeps you stuck in the past.

Sentimental old fools
Clearing out, letting go and moving on is something I have always found difficult. I was chatting to my gran at the weekend and we are both very similar in that we get sentimental about things. I was telling her how I find it so hard to move house, or move on from a relationship, as I always end up going back (to the house or the man!) and then lamenting what once was, and wishing for it to be so again. My gran said she found it incredibly upsetting to leave her first house in Felixstowe and move to the one she currently lives in (and has done for about 50-or-so years) as she was so attached to the previous place. She said she was upset for at least three months in the new house but then just had to get on with it in a typically British, stoic way. And I am just the same. Any big change often causes me anxiety and upset; I can get very stuck in the past, perhaps because I view the past through rose-tinted glasses or something; it certainly seems to provide me with much comfort, anyway.
But to come back to the tree analogy, you have to let go of the past in order to follow the life-death-life cycles of nature; a tree must lose its leaves and then grow new ones in the spring (apart from evergreens, so not sure how they fit into this analogy!). And humans must move on from their past and shed their old ‘leaves’ in order to grow. I mean, our bodies renew themselves constantly. As Deepak Chopra reminds us in his book Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul, our bodies are completely new every seven-or-so years; in fact, many organs and tissues renew themselves much faster than that. Cells have to die off and be replaced for us to grow and evolve. So why do some of us find it so hard to let go of non-physical things?
This will no doubt be a life-long project of mine: to continually clear out the past and move forward (and to stay in the present moment). And what better time to be reminded of this than autumn, which epitomises the releasing and letting go part of the cycle.

Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul: How to Create a New You