Saturday, 29 December 2012

What Is The One True Path?

Since I started to write this blog, I have been pouring out many of my inner most thoughts and feelings.  Until I had commenced the process of writing, I really had no clear vision of what it was that I was trying to accomplish or the direction that my writing would take.  All I knew was that I wanted to begin writing and to see where it would lead me.  I've written previously that when I write, I connect with my inner most self and every word comes directly from my heart, from the very essence of my being.  As this connection has occurred, I have begun to release some of the thoughts and ideas that have, until now, resided only inside of me as abstract and not necessarily coherent thoughts.  The process of writing has fused many of these ideas together.  One such idea is that of the one true path.

The concept of the one true path is not a new one and I do not seek to lay claim to it.  It is a term that repeatedly emerges in my writing and it therefore lies right at the heart of the matter.  Following your heart and walking the one true path are for me, interchangeable terms.  When you walk the one true path, you are living out your heart's desire.  You are turning your dreams in to your waking reality.  You are following the path that lies at the very root of your soul.  The one true path is the way of life that represents your soul.  It is the true you.

Each of us has one true path in life.  It is that which causes the heart to sing out loud with pure joy, when it enters our thoughts.  When you are walking your one true path, then you are in complete harmony with your heart.  Everything that you manifest in your physical life becomes completely synchronised with your spiritual being.  You truly become one.  And in the moment that you discover this feeling of oneness, you will find the feelings of peace, tranquility, happiness, joy and love, that come to those that are walking their one true path in life.  The feelings come from knowing that what you are doing in your every waking moment, you are doing because it is what you truly want to do, that you were the architect of the life that you have created for yourself.  That you are fulfilling your true life purpose.  Simply put, that you have achieved your dreams.  To go in search of your one true path is the greatest gift that you can give to yourself.  By doing so, you are not only giving yourself the gift of love, you are projecting love back into the universe.  As we reap, so do we sow.

Although I use the term one true path, that does not necessarily mean that there is only ever going to be one single perfect dream for you to pursue.  As with all of life, every thing changes, and so it may be that your dreams change too.  What you set out to achieve might have been accomplished, or it was not as you imagined it would be when you arrived.  Then it is necessary to move on to the next dream.  If you look behind you, you will see one path leading back and away from you into your past life.  If you look ahead, then you will see a single path leading onwards into the distance where it disappears in to a veil of mist.  The path never changes and there can never be more than one path.  It is always, and forever will be, your own path.  As such, it will lead you wherever your heart wills.

Take a moment and imagine for yourself a path that leads ever winding through the trees of a dark forest.  You have never walked this path before, you are not sure where it leads, and you don't have a map to show you the way.  All you know is that you must continue on the path in order to reach your destination.  You look ahead, to see where the path is going to lead and, although you are able to see a short distance in front of you, quickly the path becomes obscured by the trees and shrouded in the gloom.  You have to trust that the path will not lead you astray.  You have to walk blindly on, never knowing for certain if you are going in the right direction.  Each step leads you further into the forest, each step takes you further away from where you have come from, each step takes your further from what you knew before.  But very importantly, each step that you take leads you one step closer to your destination.
Walking the one true path is like this.  You can never know exactly where it will lead you, all you know is that it instinctively feels right, because your heart tells you so.  It is difficult to describe when you know that a decision to be taken is the right one, or that the path you are on is the true one for you.  From my own experiences, I can only say that the feelings well up from deep within the core of your being.  You can feel a joy and an uplifting in your heart.  Instinctively and without conscious thought, you know that it is right.  I can think of two significant occurrences when I have needed to take a decision that would alter the course of my life and propel me forward towards achieving my dreams, even if I did not know that at the time.

The first, I have described previously and involved making the decision to leave my home in England and to move to Budapest.  During the day of my decision, I just felt it with every fibre of my being that it was the right decision for me.  It was not that I didn't consider anyone else in making the decision, it was simply that the feelings I had were completely overwhelming.  I said to myself, "I have to do this" and as soon as I spoke those words to myself, I knew it was the right answer.  It was as clear and as logical to me as 1, 2, 3.

The second time I was in Krabbe, Thailand and I needed to decide whether to continue travelling with my partner, or whether we should go our separate ways, so that I could pursue my new found passion of scuba diving.  Perhaps under different circumstances I would have made a different decision, but given everything that had led up to that point in time, I once again had a very similar overwhelming feeling that I had to choose to follow my passion.  It was so strong and undeniable.  I had to choose it for me.  It felt instinctively right to head back down into Malaysia and to go it alone.  There was no other decision I could make.  My heart told me so.

I was just thinking about how it is when I am at work now, doing the thing that I love to do, and I was trying to think how to describe how it feels to be doing a job that is your passion.  The easiest thing to say about it is that when I am at work, I project love.  I love what I do, I love being where I am, I love engaging with people and helping them.  Everything that I do is done with love.  That might sound strange but it is the only way I can describe it.  I gave myself the ultimate gift by choosing to follow my dream and to walk my own one true path.  The gift is love and so the love flows out of my and into everything that I do, when I am doing the thing that I love.  Perhaps it is easier to imagine how it feels when you are preparing a surprise or doing something for that someone special that you love.  You put the love that you feel for that person into the thing that you are doing. The way you might wrap a present, the way you prepare and cook a dinner, the message that you write inside of a card.  You inject the love that you feel into what you do for them.  That is the best way I can describe it.   

If someone were to ask me how do you know when you are on your one true path? I would ask them to tell me how they know when they are in love?  The answer is simply that you just know it.  You know it from deep inside of your heart, you feel it with every fibre of your soul.  You live it and you breath it.  The one true path is exactly the same, because following the one true path is an act of love. 

There is something else too.  When you are walking your one true path, the happiness that you feel runs incredibly deep within you.  It allows you to overcome obstacles and deal with problems that may have caused a major upset in your old life.  The happiness that you feel is so empowering it feels as though nothing can touch it.  It is not some short lived moment of happiness that comes from buying something new for yourself for example, it is a deeply entrenched happiness that permeates through everything that you do.  Disappointments still occur in your life but you are more easily able to overcome them because what you are doing is your dream and that is more powerful than you can possibly imagine.  Even if you have a momentary feeling of disappointment or sadness, it will be swept aside by the power that comes from following your heart.

Discovering your one true path in life is not the end of the journey, for the journey can never end. Finding your one true path marks the beginning of a life in perfect harmony with your heart.  A life full of deep, spiritual meaning and a life full of love. Why would you deny yourself such a life?  Awaken your heart for the heart leads us always true.  Listen to it, trust it, and never doubt it.  Rise to the possibilities of life.  Release the power of love.  Walk your one true path.

Friday, 28 December 2012

We Accept The Love We Think We Deserve

Last night, I watched the film, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, starring Emma Watson, Ezra Miller and Logan Lerman.  During one scene, the main character Charlie, asks his English teacher why nice people always chose the wrong people to date?  The teacher replies, "We accept the love we think we deserve."

As soon as I heard these words, they struck a chord deep within me, a chord which resonated to the truth of them.  I realised the truth of them because they applied to me.  After the film had ended, I thought on these words and I reflected on my own life.  I thought about each of my past relationships and I was able to see that always, I chose to accept the love that I thought I deserved, which in my case, has often been the wrong kind of love.  The pattern of my past loves has always been the same.  Until last night, I did not understand why that was.  Now I do.

All of my life, since those first impressionable days, when I was evolving my thoughts and my views on how the world worked, I have carried around with me a very poor residual self image.  I have suffered from low self-esteem for most of my life.  When I was young, around the age of seven, I began to put on weight.  Throughout all of my formative years, I was what would be classed as a 'fat kid'.  Added to this, I have always been short in height compared to my peers, something that has never changed.  At the age of 12, my group of friends and I were avidly reading The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.  At school one day, one of my friends said that I looked like the character Bombur from the story.  For those who have never read the book, and who have not yet seen the movie by Peter Jackson, Bombur is the fattest, slowest dwarf, who is always eating.  The nickname was picked up by pretty much everyone in my school year and it was used so much, that when one of my classmates was handing back our exercise books after being marked by the teacher, he stopped and had to ask, "Who is Andrew Smith?" 

Being short and fat tends not to make one attractive to the opposite sex.  As my friends and the other boys of my school year were going out on dates, getting their first kisses, getting their first girlfriends, I was only getting rejected.  Every girl that I asked out said no to me.  It took all of my courage to ask, only to have my dreams quashed in an instant.  Funnily enough, as I think back now, as I told my friends one day at school, how I had cycled around to the home of a certain girl that I had a crush on and had asked her out on a date, the friend who gave me the nickname Bombur said to me that I had courage.  Even back then, at the age of twelve, the spirit of carpe diem was alive in me.  Now that is a very comforting thought to me as I sit and write this.

Everything that happened to me throughout these formative years reinforced in me the ideas that I was ugly, that I was a failure, that I was worthless.  My self-esteem, which I can recall was high early in my life, was sank further and further.  Every time I received another rejection, it only served to reinforce this notion of myself.  I used to lay in bed some nights and cry myself to sleep, telling myself that I was short, fat and ugly and that no one wanted me, that I was unloved, that I would never find love.  By the age of eighteen, after suffering from years of teasing and often being the butt of a joke, I did something about myself.  I had another moment of carpe diem, I dropped all of my so-called friends, and I began to change myself.  I lost the weight that had dogged me for so many years, but by then, the damage to my sense of esteem was already done.  I had formulated the opinion that I was not worthy of love and that I was unattractive.

Eventually, I did enjoy my first kiss, my first date, my first girlfriend and I fell in love for the first time.  My relationships never last very long though.  It has been remarked to me that I always let the 'good ones' go.  Often I have had the opportunity to form a long term relationship and I have walked away from it.  Back then, I could never have said why.  I always said to myself it is because I was scared of commitment, but now I have come to realise that this is not actually true.  My long term relationships have all been for the most part pretty complicated affairs.  I have never been able to figure out why this is.  Why is it that these relationships never ran smoothly? Why do I always fall in love with women that I think I can fix with my love?  Why do I persist in chasing someone who has doubts about a relationship with me, in the hope that I can make them change their mind?  Why do I try so hard to make someone love me?  Why do I continue to persist in a relationship when all of the signals are telling me no?  Why do I feel the need to prove that I am more worthy than another?  The answer lies in that line: we accept the love we think we deserve.

Last night, the truth was revealed to me through this line in the movie.  As those words were spoken, so I realised the utter truth of them for myself.  I have, for so many years, felt that I was unworthy of love, that I was undeserving of love.  Therefore, when love came knocking, I rejected those relationships that had real potential and instead, I chose those that were always going to involve complication.  In retrospect, I can see now that perhaps deep inside of me, I already knew the relationships would fail before they had even begun.  I was never conscious of thinking that at the time because at the time it happened, I was swept away by the romance of the situation and by the act of falling in love.  But I think that on some very deep subconscious level, I chose these relationships for exactly one reason only: they would ultimately prove that I was undeserving of love.  I created a self-fulling prophecy, which always came to fruition.  In a way, without ever knowing it, I sabotaged each and every one of my relationships before they had even begun.

It is my belief that a strong and healthy relationship must begin on equal footing.  Often, my relationships have not begun in this way.  Early on in the relationship, something was already going wrong.  I could see it, but I would not admit to it.  I thought that I could fight for love and win.  I thought I was deserving of this kind of love.  A love that is not freely given.  It is never right to begin a relationship thinking to yourself that you can fix the other person, that you can help them with their problems, that you can be the solution for them.  You cannot be.  No amount of love can do that.  Each one of us must first fix ourselves before we have a chance for a solid, long lasting, meaningful and loving relationship.  To think that the relationship itself or the love you bear for your partner can resolve problems is a fallacy.  To believe that you can fix someone through your love is not possible.  Not unless they come willingly and find their own solution through the love.  I see this now.  I saw it before only I denied myself the truth of it in order to find love.  The kind of love that I thought I deserved.  I was wrong.

Each of us is deserving of love.  Love is the glue that binds the universe.  Love is at the centre of all things.  Love cannot be denied.  Love is life and life is love.  They are one and the same.  You are life.  You are love.  You are worthy of love.  You are deserving of a strong and healthy love.  Do not settle for anything less.  Search your feelings, look deep inside of yourself, speak openly with your heart.  Seek the answers for yourself and if you find that your relationships are always a struggle, ask yourself if you feel that you are deserving of a special kind of love?  I can tell you one simple thing: you are.  You always were and you always will be.

This is probably the most deeply personal of my blog posts to date.  I am sharing this because I believe there is real value in sharing it.  I share my thoughts, not because I am searching for sympathy or empathy, I share my thoughts because I wish to make a difference.  If only one person should read this and it triggers a moment of realisation for them, then it is worthwhile.

Knowing what I know now, I am ready.  I am ready for the love that I deserve.  I am ready for the love of which I have been waiting my whole life.  My journey is my journey and I would not trade any of it, I would not change a single thing about it.  It is what has taught me the lessons.  It is what has brought me to here, to now.  For those that I have wronged because of my self belief in that I was undeserving of love, I say sorry and I ask your forgiveness.  We all learn.  That is the purpose of life.  We are evolving our souls.

We can never go back, we can only go on.  The one true path is the path of love.  Search inside of yourself, discover the love, discover your own one true path.  And know that the love you find there, is all that you deserve.


Saturday, 22 December 2012

Discovering The One True Path

It's a Friday evening in February 1999.  I'm at a game reserve a few hours drive outside of Johannesburg, sitting around a campfire with a colleague from the office.  It's the first night of our weekend hiking the trails inside the reserve.  I first met Simon in Copenhagen on a project kick off meeting at the end of 1998, we spoke briefly at that time, we had exchanged some e-mails over the weeks leading up to my trip, and I've only been in South Africa since early Thursday morning.  I cannot remember how it happened, all I can recall is that I felt completely comfortable talking with Simon, so very at ease.  As time passed, our conversation around the fire that evening moved on to matters of a personal nature, and we began to discuss various aspects of our lives.  Perhaps it was because of where we were.  Perhaps being in Africa for the first time had cast a spell on me.  Perhaps it was because of the stars overhead and the fire burning brightly.  All I know is that at that moment, I felt an incredible peace and calmness within myself.  I did not yet know it or recognise what was happening, but my heart was beginning to stir, beginning to awaken to possibility.  At some point in the conversation, Simon turned and asked me. "What is it that you really want to do with your life Andy?"  I sat silent for a few moments and pondered his question, before I replied, "I really don't know."  Simon looked at me and then he just simply stated, "Yes you do."

I can remember sitting there, feeling frustrated at having someone I hardly knew, tell me that I did know what it was that I wanted to do, when I was unable to formulate or picture it for myself in my own mind, let alone give a voice to it.  How could someone else know the answer if I did not?  At the time, this made no sense to me.  I asked Simon that very question and he replied, "Deep inside of each of us, our true calling is locked away.  It is locked away by no one other than ourselves, and we each possess the power to unlock it, to acknowledge it and to set it free, if we choose to do so.  Some of us manage to do that in life and some of are unable to do it", he explained.  "You always know what it is that you want to do", he repeated.

That weekend in the reserve, a work colleague became a true, dear friend.  In fact, Simon was to be so much more than that.  He became the person that sparked the change within me.  He became not only a great friend, he also became a mentor and spiritual guide.  I found in Simon, someone I could talk openly with about all aspects of life.  I did not need to be guarded or hesitant in what I said to him.  He understood me and he understood where I was in life, because he had also been there.

I used the anecdote of sitting around the campfire with Simon to illustrate an important point.  Many of us do not understand or cannot acknowledge what our true paths in life are.  I was no different.  Even if I did know, I was not yet ready to do anything about it.  I needed more time.  In fact, it turned out that I needed another seven years to reach the point where I was ready to do something different, but even then, I still could not have said what my true path was.  It is very easy to look at people who say that they have discovered that thing in life which gives them joy and pleasure, who tell you that they are living their dream, and to think that it was easy for them.  It is easy to think that other people already knew what it was that they wanted to do and all they had to do was to simply begin.  But the truth is that this is not the case.

There will always be certain people in life who have a clear idea of exactly what it is that they want to do.  But for many of us, we simply do not know and in making our decisions on leaving school, or what courses to take at college or university, we stumble into something and we say to ourselves, well this isn't too bad.  It was certainly like that for me in my early life.  I left school with no direction and no clue.  I eventually fell into an accountancy role and I managed to develop a career from that point onwards.  Was it really what I had envisioned for my life?  Was it my dream?  No.  But it was something.  And once we start down that path and we advance our careers, then it becomes increasingly more difficult to make a switch to something else.  We start to become entrenched in a life that we are not sure that we ever really wanted for ourselves.  And because we become entrenched, making a jump to a different kind of life becomes increasingly more and more difficult.  Discovering your true path becomes even harder.  That does not mean that it becomes impossible.  It is never impossible.

It would take me a further seven years and five months from having that conversation in South Africa, to reach a point in my life, when an opportunity presented itself to try something different.  In the time between the campfire talk and the opportunity arising, I had been slowly changing.  From that trip to South Africa onwards, I began my spiritual evolution.  Very slowly at first, but that did not matter.  All that mattered was that it had begun.  I knew there was something that I wanted to do, I could feel it in my heart.  I used to speak to another colleague and friend of mine about it.  We would sit and chat over lunch on a weekend and often find ourselves watching the Travel Channel.  Jane would tell me of her times backpacking through Thailand and Australia and I knew it was something that I also wanted to do.  My sister had also done a similar thing on a gap year between school and university and I remembered how envious I was of her at the time.  Traveling.  Backpacking.  The allure was such an incredible pull.

Eventually, an opportunity arose to go backpacking to Asia and as soon as it became more than just idle chit-chat over beers in the pub, I said yes.  I quit my job, sold everything, and two months later I was in Bangkok, Thailand.  I was scared, I was lost, I was out of my depth and I was out of my comfort zone.  Everything that I had been used to in my life was gone.  All of the securities I had enjoyed no longer existed.  But I was doing something I had always wanted to do and because of that, I began to change and I became even more open to the possibilities of life.

At the moment that I said yes and quit my job, I had begun my journey.  I had taken my first tentative steps along my true path.  From that moment on, I gave life the go ahead to present me with opportunities that could never have existed in my old life.  A couple of weeks after I arrived in Bangkok, I was on the island of Phuket and I tried scuba diving for the first time in my life.  I loved it.  I had found something that made sense to me.  I reluctantly came back up to the surface after that first dive and I was unable to take the grin off of my face.  The corners of my mouth were stuck in a seemingly permanent up position.  That day, my life changed again and my path changed direction.  I had found something that I wanted to do.  I had discovered something that unlocked the passion within me.  I had found my calling.  My heart was happy and free.

Since that day in Phuket, my life has changed and changed again.  I have come to realise that what Simon told me that evening in South Africa was in fact completely true.  I had known all along what it was that I wanted to do.  The problem was that I too afraid to unlock it and to admit it.  I had always dreamed of adventure and travel and as a young boy, growing up next to the beach on the south coast of England, I had imagined spending my life on a tropical beach somewhere.  That was my dream.  It was very simple.  It may not have been overly ambitious, but that did not matter.  The only thing that mattered was that it was my dream.

You cannot and you will not discover your own path unless you put away you fears and try.  Even if you do not know exactly what it is you want to do, unless you try to do something different, you give yourself no chance of ever finding out.  The only way to discover your true path is to take a deep breath, steady yourself and then take that first step.  I can promise you this, it gets easier.  The path will lead you to wonders and miracles that you could never have imagined.  Take that first step and you are walking your true path.  Take that first step and you are one step closer to realising your dream.  Once you take that first step, you will never be alone on the path because your heart will awaken, it will sing songs of joy, and it will keep you company.

They say fortune favours the brave.  I say, fortune favours those of us who place one foot in front of the other, and who take that first step on the paths that lead to our dreams, that will lead us to glory, and lead us to treasures unimaginable.

Go on.  Go discover.  Go walk your one true path.  You have to try.  You owe it to yourself.  Unlock your heart.  Unlock the love.  Dreams do become reality.


Thursday, 20 December 2012

There Is No Going Back

A few days ago, I was sitting and writing about personal evolution.  During the process of setting out my views on that subject, I had a moment of revelation when a thought came unbidden to my mind: By following my path and going in search of my dreams, I have become the person I was born to be.  I have found my true self.  And that is the person who has always existed in my heart but who was denied their freedom, until I took my first step.

I find writing to be a very therapeutic process.  Whenever I write, I write from the heart and I spill out onto the page my true self.  I do not hold back.  It is impossible for me to do anything else.  My heart leads me where it will, as it always does.  Writing is the process I use as a means to uncover what I truly think about something, it helps to reveal my deepest, inner thoughts and feelings.  A short time after I had moved to Budapest, my sister gifted me the book, The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, and as I followed its methods, I began to write what Julia refers to as 'pages'.  Early each morning, before I headed off to the office, I would sit for an hour and write.  In the beginning, I wrote down anything that I could think of to write, just to fill up the lines on the page.  I wrote nothing more than descriptions of my sitting there, trying to write my pages, not knowing what to write, and how I was just simply trying to fill the required three sides of A4 paper.  But gradually something started to happen.  My writing began to evolve and I began to unlock my inner self.  I would sit down and start writing, initially unsure of where my writing would take me, just content to spill out my inner thoughts and, at some moment as I sat there, a poem would emerge from the end my pen.  I had begun to create.  Some months later, I sat and read those pages to myself and it was as though someone else had written them.  I did not recognise the words as being of my own hand.  I had found the way to unlock and release my subconscious being.

This is exactly what happened to me as I wrote the blog, Personal Evolution.  I unlocked my subconscious self and made a new discovery.  As amazing as this discovery has been to me, that by walking my true path, I have truly become myself, it also carries with it one very important implication: If I am only myself when I am following my heart and my true path, then as soon as I step away from my path, I lose myself once more and become the old me.

I recognise the truth in that.  Whenever I go somewhere to visit family and to catch up with friends, during the time that I am there, I notice that I do become a slightly different person.  I can feel it within myself.  It's as if by returning to the environment of my life before the path, I some how slip back in to old habits and ways.  Perhaps I feel that this is the person that everyone expects me to be.  Perhaps by being surrounded by the things that remind me of my old life, some part of me seeks to adapt, so that I more easily fit in.  Perhaps it is simply that without the ability to do what I love and to be where I am happiest, I cannot truly function as myself.  I do recognise that this is no persons fault other than mine, and I fully accept all responsibility for it.  But the truth is, that only on my true path can I truly be myself.  

Why is that?  It is simply because the path becomes an integral part of you.  Without the path, then you are not the real you.  It truly lies at the heart of the matter.  Walking the path becomes like taking a breath.  You no longer think about it, it is just an instinct, something tells you it is necessary.  If you do not, you will die.  If I do not walk my true path, then so to will my heart die.  And I am no murderer.

And this is why I know in my heart, that there is no going back to the old life.  I cannot lie to myself.  I cannot cheat my heart.  It is impossible for me.  That is something I have known for a very long time.  I simply cannot go against the wishes of my heart.  My heart is everything to me.  To oppose it is utterly impossible, since my heart is my life.  If I step off my path and go to a life that is not my dream, then I will go against my heart.  How could I do that now, knowing everything that I do?  How could I do that, knowing that only when I am on my true path I am able to be my true self?

Ask yourself the same questions.  If you had made the discovery of happiness and had found peace in your heart, could you give it up?  Could you go against yourself?  For many years this is exactly what we do, we fight ourselves.  Some of us submit, some of us do not.  For those who keep fighting, eventually the heart wins.  After obtaining the ultimate victory, after giving yourself the ultimate gift of love, could you honestly walk away from it, knowing everything that it gave to you?  Even if you could, why would you want to?

I am not saying that I will never return to England.  I never rule out anything.  Dreams change, the path takes us where it will.  What I am saying is that until the day that my dreams do change, then I simply cannot return to my old life and my old ways.  I cannot go back to the life that I once had, it was never my true calling.  I cannot go back to a life where I am unable to truly be myself.  I cannot go back to a life where I do not feel free to be myself.  On my true path, I am a bird that soars on the wind.  I would never put that bird in a cage.

Everything that I am today, is because I took leaps of faith and went in pursuit of my dreams.  All of the experiences that I have had, all of the people that I have met, all of the things that I have seen and heard, everything that has touched my heart.  All of these have shaped me.  They have been the hammer and the chisel.

So, this is a price I must pay for following my dreams.  Every choice in life has a cost.  The pursuit of your dreams is no different.  We all must pay a toll for walking our paths.  All I can tell you, is that the price to be paid is worth every single penny, cent or forint.

I'll finish with one of the poems that came to me one morning while writing my 'pages'. 

Creation Poem #3
I woke up one morning
To sit and to write
As my pen took itself
Across the paper
Forming shapes that
Became words that became
Sentences of meaning
I noticed that I was bleeding
My vein of creativity was open
Spilling its contents on to that
White paper nothingness
Staining the sheet before me
But I did not care
Flow sweet pen, my sword
My heart runs ever free.


Monday, 17 December 2012

Personal Evolution

Change is an inevitable part of life.  There is no avoiding it.  Whether you like it or not, no matter how hard you try, change will eventually seek you out and there can be no escape from its clutches.  Every single thing that happens sends out ripples that affect our lives in unforeseen ways.  Often, at the moment the ripple catches you, the affects can seem negative or even destructive, taking away all that you once held dear.  Just like a fire that ravishes the land, burning and decimating the ancient and mighty trees of a forest, that have withstood many summer droughts and the biting cold of winters, change creates a landscape for new growth and new opportunity.  Quickly do the first new green shoots begin to appear in that blackened and scarred earth.  Change is a necessary part of the cycle of life.  To hold it back, is to try to hold back the raging torrent of a river.

From my own experiences, I can say without a shadow of doubt, that at the moment I began to see the possibility of walking the path of my own making, I began to change.  It was an inevitability.  There came a moment in time when my heart was awoken to the chance of a different path in life, and I think from that moment on, I began to become more spiritually aware.  The pivotal moment in my life, was the moment that I stood in Vörösmarty tér in Budapest, on a bitterly cold early January day, and I knew that something significant was taking place in my life.  Until that moment, I had never felt the voice of my heart so strongly.  From this moment on, everything changed.

But even though I was not yet on my true path, it was a necessary start and it was a huge step in the right direction.  Unbeknown to me at the time, it set in motion all of the events that would open my heart to the possibilities of life.  I met new people, made new friends, experienced a new culture, and through these things, I began to see life differently.  Looking back, I believe that I needed this spiritual awakening to occur before I was ready to step out and discover my true path.  Before this time, I was not ready.  I would have tried and maybe I would have failed to discover my calling, because my eyes and my heart were not yet truly open.  I imagine myself at this point in my life as a newly born foal.  Try as he might, the foal is unable to stand on his legs and walk for himself.  He is alive, there is no question, he knows what he needs to do, but until he has the strength, until he is truly ready, he is unable to stand and he is unable to walk.  He needs time.

Budapest marked the beginning of my personal evolution.  I use the term personal evolution because I see all of the changes that I have been through as a positive, growth experience.  I have evolved into the person I was always destined to be.  Life has shaped me and I have adapted.  And I will continue to evolve and adapt with each step along my path.

I believe the same will be true for anyone who begins to walk their path in life.  When you commit yourself to the life of which you always dreamed, you will awaken spiritually.  Perhaps it is a form of rebirth or regeneration.  It matters not what you call it, the importance is only that it occurs.  You are going to begin to see life differently.  You will begin to connect more deeply with everything around you.  You will start to lead your life not from the head, but from the heart.  And the heart is where we find love.  Once you step on to you path, everything changes.  You'll change. You'll grow in ways you never thought were possible.  You'll fly free and soar, because the chains of the old life are no longer binding you and holding you back.  You are going to turn into the most amazing and beautiful butterfly that flutters freely on the breeze.

For me, I know that I have changed from the person that I once saw when I looked in the mirror.  I have grown spiritually.  I now have a deep residual happiness and contentment that lies at the core of my being.  It permeates into everything that I do.  Even though there are times when things go wrong in my life, I am more easily able to overcome them, because I walk my path.  I feel more content with life.  I enjoy what I do, when I am doing it.  I exist in the moment.  I no longer fret about material possessions or the accumulation of monetary wealth.  My wealth comes from my experiences and what I carry in my head and in my heart.  Those are riches beyond comparison.  I see the beauty of nature and creation and I marvel at the miracles of life.  I have learned to open my soul and my heart without fear of the consequences or of retribution.  I am who I am, and I am happy to be me.  I learned to accept myself and all of my many faults and I have learned to forgive myself.  And I think this is the most powerful thing of all: I have learned to love myself.  All this has come because I dared to dream and I began to walk my path.

Perhaps it does not happen to everyone in the same way.  After all, each of us begins our path at different times in life and each path is unique to the person.  Every experience that you had before you began will have shaped the person that you are now.  Perhaps I was spiritually immature.  Perhaps you are further along the spiritual evolution than I was, or perhaps you are further behind.  That is not for anyone to judge and it is of no real importance or consequence.  The only thing that matters is that you take that first step and begin along your own path.  And as you do, change and evolution will begin.

Spiritually, I know that I have changed from the person I used to be.  By writing this post, I have come to another, very startling thought and realisation: What if I have not actually changed at all?  What if now, by walking my true path, the path of my own making, I have simply become the person I have always been, the person that has always resided inside of me, the person that I have kept hidden all these years through a sense of fear?  If that is true, then more than ever, I can say that I have given myself the ultimate gift.  Not only have I learned to love myself, but I have also given my true spirit freedom.  I have set myself free.  Now, that is a powerful thought indeed.

Without change and spiritual evolution, we cannot grow.  So, do not fight change, since change is rebirth, change is regeneration, change is opportunity and change is life.  Do not fear change, instead, fear stagnation.  Through stagnation, you will forever be lost.  Your spirit will forever be a silent voice inside of your heart.  Let it free. Take a chance on life.  Change and chance are intrinsically linked.  Without change, there is no chance.  Create some ripples, create some opportunities. And see the world in a way you never knew existed.  Go on, dare yourself.  Begin your own personal evolution.


Thursday, 13 December 2012

The Power of the Stars

Every thing in this universe originated from the same place, at a single moment in time.  The stars were formed out of the same basic ingredients that created life on Earth.  Therefore, we are the stars, and the stars are us.  Every thing is One.  Every person possesses an incredible power that resides within them.  You can tap into that power to achieve anything that you desire.  The power is in your heart.  Believe it, find it, use it.  Make your dreams become reality.  Find your one true path.  Create the life that you want.  Live the life that you deserve.

The Power of the Stars 
Every star shines bright in the night sky 
The light from every star transcends the barriers of both time and space
Reaching across the vastness of the universe
And even though you cannot perceive it
Know that every star is on a journey of its own making
Each star is a miracle of creation
Look up to the heavens and wish upon a star
Because that star is you
The power of the stars is within you
You can shake the foundations of the universe
Unleash the power of the stars
Follow your dreams


Wednesday, 12 December 2012

The Love of Self

Love.  Whether we care to admit it or not, every person seeks love.  Every person needs love.  Those that say they do not are only in denial of themselves.  Love is the force that drives us, that pushes us to excel.  We can do many wonderful things because of love and we can do many equally foolish things.  Love can be the most incredible force for good and kindness, and love can be the most destructive force for evil and hatred.  Love can open our minds and love can close our eyes.  Love can come quickly, unforeseen, unbidden and love can creep away, seeping from us like water through a porous rock.  It is the high of elation and the low of heartbreak.  It is simple joy and it is excruciating pain.  Those four letters are at the heart of everything that we do.

To think of love, usually means to think of love for something that is external to yourself.  The love of your partner, parents, family, a pet, a treasured possession, your work (if you are lucky enough), a hobby.  All of these involve love that flows from within yourself, outwards.  You project the love from your heart and direct it towards its intended recipient.  I imagine this as a kaleidoscope of colour that shoots from my heart, arcing like a rainbow, being absorbed by the object of my affection, the air between us filled with an array of dazzling, dancing, colours.  But there is another kind of love.  A love that is of equal, if not more importance, yet is often overlooked.  A love that many people find difficult to comprehend, let alone admit.  A love that can make you feel guilty for pursuing.  It is simply, the love of self.

I wrote the short story of Anna and the Old Man so that I could highlight the importance of having love of self.  Towards the end of the story, the old man tells Anna:-

"You have to discover peace and love from within, then seek it from without. Only when you love yourself, only when you have forgiven yourself, only when you have accepted yourself, can you truly find meaningful love.  Until that time, you will try to fill the gaps in your own soul using the love of another.  Ultimately, that will never prove to be a successful relationship, since you place a responsibility on the other person for fixing you.  And that is an unfair burden for them to carry."

Self love might initially sound like a strange concept.  After all, people who put themselves first are often called selfish or self-centred.  Self love does not equate to either of these two things.  It is actually quite the opposite.  Selfishness is a lacking of consideration for others and being self-centred means to care only about yourself and your own needs.  Self love means that you love yourself and very importantly, by doing so, you allow yourself to love another person wholly and free of any burden.  By loving yourself, you give a gift not only to yourself, but also to your partner.  That cannot be the act of a selfish or self-centred person.

A lack of love for yourself produces feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness and these create low self-esteem.  Often in life, we feel guilty for giving ourselves treats or doing nice things for ourselves.  Think how you felt when you bought yourself a gift, had a dessert with dinner at a restaurant, ate a bar of chocolate or some ice cream, went to the spa for a massage, took yourself to the cinema one afternoon to watch a movie and so on.  When we do this, it creates within us feelings of guilt.  That guilt is your mind telling you that you do not deserve to treat yourself, that you do not deserve to be happy.  So you chide yourself for what you consider to be a moment of weakness.  You may catch yourself saying, "Just this once", or "It won't hurt".  It is as if there is something fundamentally wrong with being good to yourself, with making yourself happy.  There is not.  The ultimate sacrifice we make because we do not think ourselves worthy, is to not go in pursuit of our dreams.  We deny ourselves our only chance of truly finding lasting happiness and peace. 

When you look in the mirror, who is the person that looks back at you?  Do you like what you see?  I know that for many years, I would look at myself in the mirror and see only a short, fat, ugly kid staring back at me.  I possessed zero self-esteem, zero confidence in myself, I felt worthless.  I described myself in a poem once as being ugly on the outside and ugly on the inside.  I loathed the person I was and I saw no goodness in me.  I could not accept myself and I was very unhappy.  I did not like myself, let alone love myself.  And if I felt all of those negative feelings about myself, what kind of image did I project to the outside world?  Why would anyone else love me if I could not love myself?  Why would anyone else accept me, if I did not accept myself?

For so long, I continued to make the same mistake over and over.  I kept telling myself that I needed someone else to give me the love that I did not possess for myself.  I told myself that the love I received from my partner would fix the holes in me and make everything right.  In the movie Jerry Maguire, Jerry (Tom Cruise) tells Dorothy (Renée Zellweger) that she completes him.  This is often cited as one of the most romantic lines in a movie.  And it certainly is a moving scene.  Now think about it in this way.  The implication is that Jerry has something missing, that he is not a whole person.  He needs to obtain something from Dorothy.  That actually creates a burden of responsibility on Dorothy, because now Dorothy has become responsible for making Jerry happy.  Dorothy is now filling the hole, she is fixing Jerry, just as I thought that the person who loved me would fix me.  I'm not unromantic, far from it.  It is just that the concept that someone can 'fix you' is not correct.  The only person who can fix you, is you.  And the only way you can do that, is to accept yourself, forgive yourself and to love yourself.

I came to realise the truth only later, when I began to walk my true path.  It was then that I finally became a whole person.  It was only when I began to take those initial, fledgling steps along my path, that I finally began to accept myself and to realise that I always had everything that I needed.  It always had been inside of me the entire time.  Because I felt so low about myself, I had never bothered to look for it properly.  At the same time that I began to see the beauty and miracles of nature, so too did I begin to finally accept myself.  I'm not conceited enough to proclaim that I am perfect, far from it!  I make mistakes just like everyone else, but I always admit to my mistakes so that I can learn from them.  I may not be perfect but I too, am a miracle of life and creation.  Whenever I look in the mirror now, I see myself for everything that I am and it makes me happy.  I'll admit, there are still moments when I see myself as that short, fat, kid they used to call Bombur, and I know that this person will always be an integral part of me, because it was necessary to get me to where I am now.  Now, I accept myself for who I am.

Acceptance of self is a necessary step towards loving yourself.  You have to accept everything about yourself.  If you are able to change something that you do not accept about yourself, then take the courage and change it.  Become the person that you want to be.  Live your life in tune with your heart.  But if you find that there is something that you cannot accept and cannot change, then let it go and move on.  Only by accepting all of the things that make you who you are, can you love yourself.  True love is an unconditional act, so why place conditions on the love of self?

Forgiveness is another necessary step towards reaching the goal of love of self.  It is important to forgive yourself for the errors that you have made, not only for those wrongs against yourself, but equally as important is to forgive the wrongs that you may have made to others.  And it is necessary to forgive those who may have wronged you.  The Lord's prayer contains the lines, "And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us."  Those who trespass against us, includes ourselves.  Forgiveness is an act of love.  Forgiving yourself is vitally important if you wish to discover inner happiness and lasting peace and contentment.  Forgiveness is an expression of love.  Forgiving yourself is therefore an act of love of self. 

By going in pursuit of my dreams and by walking my path, I gave myself the ultimate gift.  I gave myself the gift of love.  I don't feel guilty for doing this because I know the hardships and the difficulties that I had to go through to reach this point.  My life was never easy and it still isn't.  I work hard to protect all that I have achieved and I am humble for the gifts and that I continue to receive, and for the lesson that I learn along the way. I give thanks for my journey every day.

I'll finish with a quotation that I wrote a couple of weeks back.  At the time, I had the idea of writing a post on the idea of self love, but like a lot of my writing, I have to wait for the right moment to arrive, when I feel at one with my heart.  

"When a person talks of love, they describe an emotion that is found deep in their heart. By following your heart, you are therefore walking the path of love. A true, lasting love is found first within each of us for ourselves, and then in another kindred soul, who walks in step with our own dreams and aspirations."


Monday, 10 December 2012

The Expectations We Place on Others

There are many times in life when we set expectations not only for ourselves, but also for the other people who share our lives.  I wrote a short story to illustrate what happens when our expectations are not met.

Sophia and the Power of Invisibility
Finally, Sophia could take a breath and stand back to survey the kitchen.  She had just finished preparing dinner and it was now in the oven cooking.  On the kitchen table that also served as the dining table, the bouquet of fresh, spring flowers she had purchased that morning were arranged in their vase.  Next to the flowers she had placed a bottle of Rioja, which was Patrick's favourite, ever since he had spent time in Spain attending a language course.  The table was set, the best cutlery and plates were out, and Sophia had even attempted to fold the napkins into some fancy designs she had seen in the internet, so that they would not be just the usual boring squares.  She placed her hands on her hips and smiled.  Everything looked perfect and ready.  It was a job well done she thought, and as she did so, she imagined with pleasure the delight she would see on Patrick's face as he walked in to the kitchen that evening.

This was no special occasion or celebration.  There was no birthday, no promotion, no anniversary.  Sophia simply believed strongly that she didn't need special occasions to cook a nice dinner or make a surprise for the man that she loved.  Any day could be, and should be, made special.  Besides which, she actually enjoyed doing this, thinking through the details, planning how to make everything right, and then putting her plans into action.  She had known that Patrick had been having a few rough days at the office, so she thought that a special dinner would be just the thing to cheer him up.  And afterwards, they would pick up their wine glasses and move to the bedroom, where earlier, she had placed scented candles and the massage oil by the bed.  She planned to give Patrick a massage to work out some of the stress of the day and then... Well, with the wine and candlelight, who knew what might happen?  The thought brought some colour to her cheeks, so she quickly dismissed it and checked on the dinner in the oven.

It was now after seven, which meant that Patrick was later than usual.  Probably another tough day Sophia speculated.  This was not a problem, she turned down the heat of the oven, went into the living room to put on one of their favourite CD's to create some atmosphere, and then sat back at the table to read and to continue to wait expectantly for him.  Now that the time of his arrival was imminent, she began to grow anxious, wondering if everything was going to proceed how she had imagined it in her mind.  Many times already that day, since the idea had first occurred to her, she had imagined Patrick entering the kitchen from the hallway, his eyes lighting up as he saw how the table was set with the flowers and the wine, and his nose would fill with the scent of the dinner she had prepared.  She would see his beautiful smile as he looked at her, she would be able to read the love in his eyes, and she would hear his words of appreciation and thanks.  That smile would make everything worthwhile.  There were days when she lived for that smile.  It was what had first attracted her to him and it gave her an incredible high when she saw it, as if her feet were no longer touched the planet and she was instead, soaring though the clouds.

She was quickly pulled from her reverie by the sound of a key in the front door.  Patrick was home.  Excitedly, she stood up from the table, straightened her dress, and waited for him to enter.  There was time enough for a last glance around to make sure she had not overlooked anything.  She listened to the sounds of him taking off his shoes, hanging his coat in the hallway closet, putting his bag down, and then the footsteps as he approached the kitchen from the hallway. 

"Is dinner ready yet?  I'm starving!", he called from the hallway before he appeared. "It's been a rough day, like you wouldn't believe and I'm absolutely shattered."

Before she could say anything, Patrick had brushed passed her and was already in the bedroom.  Sophia stood there, taken aback by the abruptness of his entry and was not sure what to say.  So she said the only word that came into her head.  "Hello."

"Hey", he called back from the bedroom.  "I hope dinner's nearly ready.  I think I'll just eat on the sofa in front of the TV with a beer and then crash out for the evening.  I'll tell you, my boss is a complete dick at times.  How we stay in business is anyone's guess.  It's certainly not from his brilliance.  I was talking to an important client on the phone this morning, real close to closing a deal, and he came in without knocking and interrupted me, telling me to hang up because what he had to say was more important.  Then he begins to tell me how Frank had been late to a meeting with one of his clients and how the client had called and complained and threatened to withdraw their account.  Then he asks me what I'd do about it?  I was like, are you kidding me?  What the hell do I care about Frank? I couldn't believe it Soph.  Seriously, what am I going to do about Frank?  I've got my own crap to take care of and a heap of it too!"

Sophia had remained standing in the kitchen all this time.  As Patrick had spoken, she had simply looked towards the bedroom and then looked back at the table.  This was certainly not how she imagined the evening!  Presently, Patrick came back out of the bedroom, now wearing a pair of loose jeans and a t-shirt.  "Hey", he said again to Sophia, who still had not moved, then swung open the door of the refrigerator, grabbed a bottle of beer and headed into the living room.  The music stopped and the sound of sports on the television floated through to reach Sophia's ears shortly after.  "Oh.  That's great", she thought.

Sophia looked at the table one last time and then, with the smile gone from her face and feeling crest-fallen, she began clearing away the place settings.  She unfolded the napkins and straightened them out, put the place mats back in the cupboard, and then took the dinner out of the oven.  She served on to a couple of regular plates, not the special set she had been planning to use, and took them through to the living room where Patrick was sitting in front of the television, the bottle of beer on the floor at his side.  They ate in silence, Patrick seemingly more interested in the game than in conversation or knowing anything about Sophia's day.  They finished dinner and Sophia took the plates out to the kitchen and made some coffee, which she took back through.

"Oh sorry Soph, I'm just going to finish this beer and crash out in bed.  I'm wrecked.  Can you try not to make too much noise when you do the dishes?  I really want to get some sleep and try to get to the office for an early start in the morning.  Try not to wake me up when you come in."

"I'll go start the dishes now", she said "that way they'll be done before you're fully asleep."  She stood and returned to the kitchen once more, put her coffee down on the side and began her chore.  She was almost finished when the television went off and Patrick came back through.

"Night", he said as he put his empty beer bottle on the side and breezed into the bedroom, closing the door behind him.

Sophia turned and stared at the door.  "Goodnight", she called.  Then quietly and under her breath she added, "I'm so glad you enjoyed your evening.  I'm so glad that you noticed the table, the wine and the flowers.  And you're welcome for the dinner and the dishes.  And by the way, my day had been pretty good actually, thanks for asking, it's just that my evening sucked a little."  She looked at the unnoticed flowers on the table and the unopened bottle of wine that still stood at their side.  "I guess there's always tomorrow", she thought.  But even with this thought she was unable to hide the sadness she felt because she knew a moment and an opportunity had been missed.  All of her plans were spoiled and in tatters.  Her heart was heavy and she knew that even if he saw the flowers and wine in the morning, the surprise had already been ruined by the events of that evening.  There was no soaring through the clouds tonight for Sophia.  This night, her feet remained firmly rooted to the floor.

In the story, Sophia set an expectation about how the evening was going to play out.  She expected to receive a smile, a look and a show of appreciation as the rewards for her efforts, and to know that she had pleased the person that she loved.  Were these unreasonable things to expect?

What is an expectation?
A search with Google provides this definition:-
1. A strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.
2. A belief that someone will or should achieve something.

So, an expectation is a belief in a future event.  They are created from our own personal belief systems, which are in turn created and maintained by everything that we perceive and experience around us, which began when we were infants and first started to understand the world in which we live.  The sphere of influence on our expectations includes: our family environment; our friends and social groups; the societies and cultures in which we live; and what we see, read and hear in the media (newspapers, internet, magazines, television, radio, movies etc..). 

One of the first expectations that we create as children is that if we do bad, then we will be punished and if we do good, we will be rewarded.  Slowly but surely, we add new beliefs based on what we observe and what we learn to be the right behaviours to exhibit in our family and society.

When we set expectations, what we are really doing is taking everything that we have learned and experienced and applying that to a new situation.  Essentially, our expectations are our own planned view of what is going to happen at some point in the future, based on everything that we know and have experienced in our lives.  They are based on our own set of personal beliefs.

Sophia had an expectation that by creating the surprise, her efforts would be appreciated and rewarded.  Clearly, her expectations were not met by Patrick's actions.  This resulted in Sophia feeling let down, deflated and disappointed by what happened.  What Sophia had done, was to create a set of expectations for herself and then to pass the responsibility for fulfilling those expectations to Patrick.  The problem was that Patrick had no knowledge of the expectations that had now been placed on him, so he could not possibly have been responsible for them.  Patrick had experienced another tough day at work and his head was still full of what had happened at the office.  He had created his own set of expectations for the evening, and he was able to meet those expectations, helped by the subsequent actions of Sophia.  Were either Sophia or Patrick in the wrong?

From an individual view point, neither of them were wrong.  In Sophia's situation, she would clearly blame Patrick for failing to notice that she had set the table, prepared the dinner and tried to make everything special.  He didn't ask her how she was, he paid no attention to her.  Essentially, he ignored her needs.  For Patrick, he had a rough day, he was tired and stressed because he was still stewing over the actions of his boss, his mind was elsewhere when he came home.  This caused him to fail to notice the things that Sophia had done and as his mind was so preoccupied with work matters, he was unable to think of anything or anyone else.  Each of them had their own expectations for that evening, which would not have been a problem if they were two single people, but they were not.  They were in a relationship and a loving relationship can only exist when two people are fully engaged in it and are appreciative of each other.

When we begin a new relationship, we each bring to that relationship our own set of expectations and personal beliefs on how the relationship should work.  These beliefs are based on every thing that we have observed and experienced in our lives.  For a relationship to remain healthy, each person must find in the other those same sets of behavioural expectations and beliefs, or they must be prepared to compromise and change their own, in order to accommodate those of their partner and to remain in the relationship.

What can you do if your expectations are not being met?
In a relationship, if your expectations are continually not being met by your partner, then you need to ask yourself why is that happening?  It could indicate that a problem exists in either you, your partner, or in both of you.  Ask yourself if the expectations that you are setting for your partner are reasonable?  If the roles were reversed and those expectations were placed on you, could you fulfill them?  If the answer is no, then you need to rethink your expectations and lower them accordingly.  Try to set realistic expectations for yourself and your partner.  But if you find that the answer is yes, then you need to take some actions.

Firstly, always talk with your partner and let them know what the effects of their behaviour is doing to you.  Let them know that your expectations in certain situations are not being met and ask them why?  This should not be a confrontational exercise, as you may discover that your partner is in fact oblivious to your feelings and had no idea that you were feeling that way.  By talking, you create an opportunity to come to a new and deeper level of understanding of each other, which will be of benefit to the relationship in the long term.

If by talking with each other, you find that your partner does not see the problem and fails to understand it, then you really only have two choices: alter your own expectations or, end the relationship.

In the event that you decide continue the relationship and that you will try to alter your own expectations, make sure you understand why you are doing that.  Ask yourself whether you compromising yourself and your own fundamental beliefs only to please another person?  Ultimately, that will not work and the relationship will not be sustainable in the long term.  You cannot go against what is written in your heart.  It is impossible to continue a healthy and positive relationship if your expectations are continually not being met and in this situation, it is better to walk away if there is no chance of compromise or a mutually beneficial solution.  A relationship is a partnership.  It requires give and take and understanding from both sides. It is rarely ever all about just one person.  Never diminish your own sense of self-worth by compromising on who you are and in what you believe.

A strong, long lasting relationship requires each partner to show care and attention to the other, so that each knows that they are appreciated.  That is something that is reasonable to expect from your partner.  When we are able to find this level of appreciation and care in our partner, then we have every chance of participating in a rewarding and a healthy long term relationship.  Why would you wish to be part of a relationship where you are not appreciated or do not receive attention?  That is not a healthy situation in which to remain.  Ultimately, you will suffer as a result, as will the relationship and your partner.

Don't always expect your relationship to run smoothly.  Every relationship will have its bumps in the road that will need to be negotiated.  But you should always maintain the expectation that your partner will give their best to you, as you give your best to them.  To accept anything less, is to diminish yourself and your own sense of self-worth, as well as that of your partner.  If you begin to accept that which goes against your heart, then at some point along the way, you will look in the mirror and fail to recognise the person that you have become.

True and lasting love is built on reflections.  Each person must find in the other a piece of themselves, so that when they look into the eyes of their partner, they see a part of their own soul reflected.  Our expectations are an essential part of what makes us who we are, they are created out of our personal belief systems, which in turn define us.  Always give to your partner that which you would like to receive and do so freely, without the expectation of reward.  With the right partner, those rewards will come back to you as freely as they were given, and your expectations will be always be met.


Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Anna and the Old Man

Anna sat at the table alone, it was an uncomfortable feeling.  Just moments before, her friends had all been with her, laughing and joking, sharing stories, and discussing who was the most eligible bachelor in the room.  There had been some initial debate, but it was finally settled that Oliver Brotherton, the son of a wealthy merchant was the winner, since he possessed both good looks, as well as an income and inheritance.  Almost as soon as the unanimous verdict was reached, Oliver and his friend Thomas had walked across to the table and asked Mary and Elizabeth to dance with them.  The girls had been dumbstruck for a moment, each lost in her own thoughts, wondering if they could possibly have been overheard?  The thought was too monstrous to comprehend.  It was Michael Hillard who pulled them from their reverie, by asking if he might have the next dance with Catherine.  And as the three couples walked to take their places on the floor, that left Anna sitting alone, looking on as the band struck up the chords for the next dance.

For short time she sat at the table looking on, letting her mind run.  What was wrong with her?  Why did she have to be so plain!  It seemed to Anna that she was always the consolation prize when there were no other girls left to dance with.  Her delicate dress, the dress she had spent the last days embroidering, was wasted.  It seemed that no matter how hard she tried to make herself look pretty, it was always destined to fail.  She had never been able to look in the mirror and think of herself as attractive, let alone beautiful.  Some days, she even felt horrified by the person she saw looking back, as if since the time she had last seen herself, she had quite forgotten how she looked, absorbed as she had been in creating her latest sketch or poem.  "Is that really me?", she would ask herself.  She had always felt the ugly duckling of the group and it felt that as time went by, this feeling took hold more and more, like the roots of a weed burrowing deep into the earth.

It is never nice to find oneself sitting alone at a table and to have to look upon others having fun, engaged with each other in fun and merriment, and Anna could bear it no more.  She stood from the table and as quietly and subtly as she could, she left the room.  Once outside in the fresh air, she felt relief wash over her.  It was good to be away from the anxiety and the humiliation that she had been feeling.  Her friends would look for her, she knew they would, but she also knew that they would understand and know that she had left on her own.  After all, it was not the first time such a situation had occurred.  Anna began to walk with no real direction in mind, her feet carried her aimlessly where they would, and her mind wandered in a similar manner. 

The sky of late summer was clear and, once away from the lights of the dance, the brightness of the moon cast shadows on the ground.  Before long, Anna found herself at the river.  Pulled from her reverie by the noise of the rushing water, she walked along the bank of the river until she found a boulder where she could sit.  She kicked off her shoes and hitched up the hem of her dress, so that she could bathe her feet in the coolness of the water.  She sat there for some time, enjoying the peace, tranquillity and the solitude.  Gradually, all traces of the stress from the dance evaporated and Anna began to become herself once more.  She lay back, keeping her feet in the water and gazed up at the stars.

She was still laying there some time later when a voice pulled her back into reality. 

"Hello. May I join you?"

Anna opened her eyes and looked up into the face of an elderly and kind looking man, who was smiling down at her.  He was leaning on the crook of his walking stick, was dressed in plain, grey, woollen trousers and a white cotton shirt with the sleeves rolled up to the elbow.  On his back, he carried a small pack, and through the straps, he had secured a brown jacket, so that he didn't have to carry it by hand.  He continued to smile down on Anna.

"Would you mind if I joined you for a little while?", he asked again. "I'm sorry if I woke you."

"Oh, no.  I was not sleeping, I was laying here looking up at the stars and for some moments, I closed my eyes to enjoy the peaceful surroundings.  Yes, please sit down if you'd like."

The old man slid the pack from his shoulders and placed it on the ground, before slowly lowering himself down to sit beside Anna.  "How is the water?"

"It's lovely and refreshing.  Just the thing for a warm, sultry night like tonight."

The old man removed his boots and socks, and placed his feet in the water.  The two of them sat there for several minutes, neither wishing to break the silence, perhaps neither knowing what to say to the other.  It was the old man who broke the silence first.

"If you don't mind me asking, why aren't you up at the dance?  Judging by the lovely dress you're wearing, you look as though you should be there with all of the other young people, not sitting by the river with an old man like me."

The question made Anna feel sad and momentarily, she was unable to hide it, until she recovered her composure.  "I was there, but I left.  It seems that no one wished to dance with me this evening."

"I find that hard to believe.  My eyes my not be as they once were, and if you don't mind me saying it, I know a pretty young woman when I see one.  It seems strange that no one would lead you out on to the floor.  If I had my day again, I'd have been proud to have a girl such as you on my arm."

Anna smiled.  "Thank you", she said, "that is very kind of you.  But alas, it is true that no one asked me to dance, and perhaps in the darkness, you do not see me too clearly.  I am no spring flower in bloom.  I am no butterfly on the breeze.  I am the weed in the garden and I am the caterpillar."

Having said these words, she became sad once more and a single tear formed  in the corner of her eye, and ran down her left cheek.  The old man produced a handkerchief from his pocket and handed it to Anna.

"My dear, you don't know how wrong you are", he spoke softly.   "Inside of every caterpillar is a butterfly waiting to escape.  And weeds are a plant just like any other flower.  And just like a flower, they play an equally important part in the miracle of life."

"Thank you for the kind words", she turned to the old man and smiled. "but they do not help me to get a dance or make any of the men interested in me."  Then she turned away towards the river so that she could hide the tears that had started to fall once more.

The old man watched her face grew sad.  He could see the sorrow that she was suffering and he felt pained to see such a young person feeling that way.  He wanted to say more, but he remained silent, waiting for the right moment, because he knew that every person needed time to collect their own thoughts, and sometimes the silence spoke more loudly than words ever could.

"It's no use", Anna broke the quiet, "I have to be honest and resign myself to not finding the love that I desire in my life.  It's always been like this.  I've tried so hard to attract a man, but they are never interested in someone like me.  As a young girl, the boys always ignored me.  When we would play kiss-chase in the school yard, I was always the last girl to be captured because none of the boys wanted to run after me."

She grew silent again and the old man let her have her silence for a time.  "And how did it make you feel when the boys ignored you?"

"I guess I felt that I must be ugly.  Just like the duckling in the story.  As time went on, whenever I looked in the mirror, I just saw an ugly face staring back at me.  A person that I did not know or recognise."  Again, she fell silent before continuing.  "I'm sorry, you don't want to listen to my silly prattle.  I'm sure you've got better things to be doing."

"What better thing could I wish to do, than to sit here under the moon and stars, with my feet in the coolness of the river, and with the company of a lovely young woman?"  He smiled, but he was not sure if she could see it.

Anna blushed and was thankful that the old man would not be able to see her scarlet cheeks in the dim light that was cast by the moon.  "I'm not used to receiving compliments.  I've just been feeling so worthless of late.  I was hoping that perhaps by meeting someone at the dance, it would help me recover some of my old spirit and make me feel better."

"I'm sorry to hear that you have been unhappy for so long.  And it is never nice to hear someone speaking of themselves so negatively.  You are far from worthless my dear.  How could someone who possesses such a talent for poetry and drawing be worthless?  The problem is that for too long, you have told yourself that you are ugly and worthless and you have made this the truth for yourself.  I can tell you, it is not how the rest of world views you.  As humans, we manifest on the outside, all that we hold on the inside.  As children, we are very vulnerable, we lack experience and knowledge and we are like sponges.  We take what we hear and what we experience deep into our hearts, and those things become the beliefs that we hold of ourselves.  They become our self-image.  These images of ourselves eventually become self-fulfilling prophecies that we play out throughout the rest of our lives.  I'm ugly.  I'm worthless.  I'll never find love.  I'll always be alone.  I'm not loved."  He paused for a moment.  "Do you recognise any of what I have said in yourself?"   

Anna thought about what the old man had said.  Yes, it did make sense.  She could see how, as a young girl, she had taken the feelings of rejection and made them the truth for herself.  From those feelings of rejection, she had come to the conclusion that she must be ugly.  And from being ugly, she had reached the point where she had felt worthless. 

"Yes, I can see this", she said.  "What you say is very true."  It made her feel very sad to realise the truth of what the old man had said, but at the same time, she felt as if a dark cloud had begun to lift and that a light, not seen for many years, now shone through and split the darkness.  Knowing that this is what she had done to herself, meant that she could now start to do something about it.  "I had not realised until now, that I had done this to myself."

"Yes, the unconscious self does this.  It plants a seed in the soul that grows and slowly takes hold of you, filling you with whatever ideas you formulated about yourself.  This is why all children need to be nurtured, encouraged, held often and told that they are loved.  Without it, self-doubt and worthlessness are created.  In adult life, you begin to seek all that which was denied you as a child, from another person.  You try to fix yourself by seeking out love from the another person."

The old man paused for a moment and looked away into the river and the darkness, as if remembering his own youth.  Anna could see that he was thoughtful and did not wish to interrupt his thoughts.  They sat there in silence for a few minutes, as the waters of the river continued to flow.  Finally, the old man looked up.

"You have to discover peace and love from within, then seek it from without. Only when you love yourself, only when you have forgiven yourself, only when you have accepted yourself, can you truly find meaningful love.  Until that time, you will try to fill the gaps in your own soul using the love of another.  Ultimately, that will never prove to be a successful relationship, since you place a responsibility on the other person for fixing you.  And that is an unfair burden for them to carry."

"I understand", said Anna, "If I do not love myself first, then how or why would anyone else wish to love me?"

"Yes, that is right", the old man smiled.  It was so nice to talk with someone who understood.  Love was humankind's greatest gift and at the same time, it so often proved its greatest Achilles' heel.  "The way to find true and meaningful love is simply this: always follow your heart."  Yes, that was always the best advice in life, the old man mused to himself.  It had always served him well.  "And now this old man must be going.  I still have a distance to travel tonight and it's such a beautiful night for walking."

The old man pulled another handkerchief from a pocket and dried his feet, before replacing his socks and boots, and then he pulled himself to his feet with the aid of his walking stick.  Anna offered him back the handkerchief he had given her and he waved it away.  "No my dear, you can keep that one.  Thank you for sharing the conversation and the river with me."

"Thank you for the talk and the advice.  Take care walking in the dark.  Goodnight."

"Goodnight Anna", the old man called over his shoulder as he faded into the darkness of night.

Anna was startled.  How on earth had he known her name?  Had she told him?  She could not seem to remember having done so, but it was possible that she had.  She sat there for some time, thinking on all that had been said.  She replayed the conversation in her mind, remembering the words the old man had spoken.  She was determined to do something about her life.  To do something about the way she saw herself.  Then something else the old man had said struck her as odd.  How could he possibly have known about her poetry and drawing?  She was sure she had not mentioned those.  Who was he? she wondered, as she started her walk back home, under the stars and with the bright moon for company.  A smile was now on her lips and the first shoots of a new beginning were taking root in her heart.


Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The Consequences of Walking the True Path: Letting Go of the Old Life

In my last post, I wrote about the rewards that come from following your heart and walking your true path in life.  That set me to thinking about what might be the consequences, if any, of following that path?  You'll often read or hear people extolling the virtues of following your heart and realising your dreams.  They will tell you how amazing it is, what a positive experience it is, how it changed their lives for the better, and all of this is certainly true.  I would never deter anyone from following their heart and discovering their true calling.  But there are things that I learned on my journey, that I did not consider before I began.  There are consequences in life to everything that we do, and walking your true path is no different.

For me, the hardest realisation to come to terms with, was that I had to let go of my old life.  I lived 35 years in that old life.  I knew it, I knew how to live in it, and I believed it was a trusted friend.  My old life was never bad to me, in fact, it had treated me pretty well.  I never set into motion the changes in my life out of desperation, I did it because I knew that I could no longer go on ignoring my heart and living a lie.  My old life didn't cause me any major problems and I could have continued along that old path for many more years, slowly cruising along, going through the motions, treading water, but never going anywhere that truly meant something to me.  When I set out, I had no expectations of how my life was going to change, and certainly no idea of how I would find the fulfilment and achieve the sense of accomplishment that I have today.  I was a blind man who dared to take a step into the darkness.

In the early days, after I left work and started out, it seemed as though I could stretch out my hand and take a hold of that old life.  I had contacts, I had left the company I worked for on good terms, and I was not going to work for a competitor, or any other company for that matter.  I felt sure that if I wanted it, they would take me back again.  Rightly or wrongly, this gave me a sense of security.  During that first year on my path, I felt the need to try to cling to the old world, like a child clings to their favourite soft toy or blanket for comfort.  I think what I was doing was looking for some sense of self-worth and I thought that the position I had reached in my career had given that to me.  I later came to realise that this could not possibly be true, since your sense of self-worth comes from within and it cannot be generated from external influences and factors.  You achieve a sense of self-worth by walking your true path.

After that first year, I began to see that the way back into the old life was closing on me, if it had ever actually existed in the first place.  The contacts were ebbing away, due to the fast changing nature of the environment in which I had worked, my knowledge and skills were slowly becoming obsolete, and my CV (resume) now had a one year gap to explain.  I either had to jump back in at this point, or I could probably kiss it all goodbye.

It is frightening proposition to consider losing all that once you held dear.  For me, the old life offered financial stability and security.  When I was at work in the office, I knew what to do and I could do it well.  I was trusted and respected for my knowledge, the way I applied it and for my professionalism.  I began to question what would happen if I did not have that financial stability any longer?  Everyone around me was building their lives up, always working towards a better, bigger home, a newer car, a nice holiday, putting money away into a pension.  Doing all of the things that society and culture told them they should do.  I, on the other hand, had systematically taken my life apart, quitting my career, selling my property and all of my assets, and downsizing dramatically.  I felt in some ways caught between two different worlds.  In one hand, I had the old life, stability and conformity.  While in the other, I had a new life, a sense of freedom and inner peace, and with that new life, came uncertainty.

I asked myself if it might be possible to combine both lives, by taking some of what I had discovered on my new path and by applying it to the old?  But I dismissed this idea quickly.  There was no way I could combine the two, and even if I could have done, I don't think I would have actually chosen to do it.  Whichever path I chose, I knew that I would have to be 100% committed to it.  There was no halfway measure.

Which did I choose?  I took the only option that was really open to me.  I drew a deep breath, took a leap of faith, and I followed my heart on to another new adventure and the fulfilment of another dream.  I closed the door to my old life and welcomed in the new.  There was never really a choice to make, only a reluctance to finally say goodbye to the old life, to turn once and for all from the old path.

It will be the same for anyone who chooses their true path over the one that they currently walk.  There is no going back once you leave the old ways.  If you could and you did, how long do you think you would remain happy and content, knowing that there was another way to live, that there existed a path that was more spiritually rewarding and fulfilling?  Could you honestly turn back to the old path and remain true to yourself and your beliefs?  Quite simply, no.

Once you start down the new path, you have to be prepared to say goodbye to your old life.  You need to be 100% committed to your life choice.  You have to be open and ready for everything that is going to happen to you.  Once you close that door on the old life, lock it and throw away the key.  You will not be going back.