Friday, August 30, 2013

On Life and Love (A Poem)

On life and love

The loss of a relationship
Is not grief or sorrow
As some might imagine
But rather the amplification of joy -
The sudden and overwhelming
Flavours of an intense bond
Recollected in fondness
Which having been steeped in hot
water, like tea
Provide a blast of succulent sweetness
That is nectar to the soul

(It was always there
You just never experienced it so fully and
Completely before)

For the loss is not an ending
It is a transfer of energy
An offering of gratitude for all
The shared memories
And a passing on of the baton
To someone new who is able
To take your beloved to new heights
And different peaks
That are necessary for the evolution
Of their soul

And so, we push past our reluctance
Prise open our clenched fist
And let the ladybird of that friendship
Fly free to the horizon, where
The dawning light
Of a new day greets us
Welcoming us back to ourselves

Inside our own skin again -
In stillness -
We pause,
Until in time we notice
That our heart has re-expanded
Open and ready
To nurture another companion again.

Photo credit: Photo by GaggieITMI on Flickr.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Why Taking Action Will Likely Teach You More Than What You Learnt in School

This year I started a business, and I'll be the first to admit I had no clue what I was doing. Now, just three months after starting the business, I am the remarkably odd position of choosing deliberately not to advertise my business, and deliberately keeping a low profile so I don't get more work than I can handle. Before the year is out I will likely have to start employing and training staff.

Now I don't share this story as a result of my business brilliance. Trust me - I'm not brilliant, and I certainly don't know everything, but oddly enough that is what has contributed to my success.

Normally I am the kind of person who likes to read every book on the subject. I read and I read, and I make plans to put into action, but never actually end up actioning the plan because I am so fearful of all the stuff I don't yet know. I was like this even a few months ago. But now I realise I could wait my whole life and I would still never know all there is to know. Sometimes you have to just do.

For example, I had no idea how to market my business. But I struck it lucky and landed my first freelance job, and as luck would have it, my first client was a marketing company. So in the process of writing for them, I learnt all about their business and how they do what they do. The knowledge I gained from doing just a few hours work for them gave me a lifetime's worth of practical skills, that would be far superior to the value of a marketing degree.

Now am I bagging tertiary education? Absolutely not. I myself am in school studying counselling. But you know what? Most of what makes me good at my study and counselling placements has very little to do with what I'm learning in school, and much more to do with the the number of years I spent in therapy myself as a client.

So here's to rolling up our sleeves, trying something new, and learning a whole heap in the process. Cheers!

Photo credit: Business of software - Alex Osterwalder by Betsy Weber on Flickr. (Used under Creative Commons licence).

Sunday, June 9, 2013

How Can You Smile After What You Have Been Through?

This is a question people sometimes ask me when they hear my story, and it is an important one. I hope to give it justice with the answer I write here. Before I answer though I need to put out a disclaimer: although I smile and laugh and always have in spite of what I have been through, I have also cried. LOTS. I have been depressed, and I have been suicidal, and I do not want to discount how hard those places are to be in. If anyone reading this is in those places right now, please know my heart goes out to you with the maximum amount of love.

So how do I smile, how do I laugh? Because smiling and laughing are symptoms of the only true healing medicine in the world: love. And no matter how much evil I have experienced, and seen, I have always known that love wins, that love is bigger, that love can always be found, even in the darkest place. Every time you choose to live, you are choosing love, and when you choose love the universe will respond with more love. At first it was hard to take on love. I knew deep within my soul that it was the only thing that would heal me, that would sustain me, that would enable to keep going. However I didn’t trust it. Everything I had been told as a kid about what love looked like was a lie. I had faulty mirrors. I thought love meant putting others before you, I thought it meant letting people hurt you, I thought love meant being silent, not having a voice, not being allowed to protect yourself. I thought that was the loving thing to do because I was putting someone else’s needs ahead of mine. I was wrong. Thankfully my soul never forgot the truth. You see truth is always deep inside us. Even when we think the wrong things, or have been told the wrong things, somewhere deep internally within us, knows what way up is. Hence why some people call it an internal compass.

Anyway, back to love. Love has always been around me. Love is how despite the number of times my life has nearly been taken from me, it hasn’t. At some point I realised I was a sponge, and it was my job to squeeze myself out, to release all the negativity I had been through, to not hold onto it, and drop by drop to soak up all the goodness around me. Sometimes it would just be a drop here and a drop there, but over time I realised that instead of filling my sponge from tiny puddles I could take my sponge to the ocean where there is an endless supply of water.

Goodness is everywhere and it is the only thing that matters. We do not need to try and stop thinking negative thoughts, we need to look for positive thoughts. Negativity is just an illusion. If you focus your attention on something else, it dissipates into thin air and disappears.

Of course this doesn’t happen overnight. It is a slow process. And one that you have to keep coming back to and repeating certain steps over and over. But over time that sponge of mine has filling up with more and more goodness, more moments that take my breath away and moments when I feel the presence of God all around me, and moments when I feel that I am living out my divine purpose moment by moment, which is the greatest feeling ever. So my answer is very simple and yet very complex to put into action at the same time. My answer to the question I am asked is that love is the only thing that is real and dependable and to be trusted on, and once you know this you can’t help but smile. The stuff I have been through doesn’t matter in the long run. It doesn’t define me. Of course it is a part of me and always will be. In fact it is a piece of me that I hold close because it reminds me to have compassion for myself and others. It reminds me of the brokenness of humanity and yet how beautiful that is, because moment by moment we get a choice to rewrite our history, to have a do-over. There is nothing that can’t be forgiven. So my very experience points me back to love. 

Love is all there is.

P.S. If you're new to the blog, and want to check out more of my story, check out here and here

Photo credit: I Miss Laughter Most of All by 'swanksalot' on Flickr (used under Creative Commons licence).

Friday, May 31, 2013

The Joy of Doing Things BADLY (and What Gets in the Way)

Last night at our flat we were bored and we got a little crazy. We pulled back the furniture, plugged in the Xbox Kinnect and played some crazy sports-based games as a form of flat bonding. And it was great! So much fun!

Yet, dare I say it, it is the kind of thing I normally avoid. Just like dance, just like writing fiction. It feels too risky, it feels too much like hard work, and way out of my comfort zone. Part of the problem is I like doing things well. And these things do not come naturally to me. So more often than out I choose not to partake.

Even last night my flatmate had to coerce and drag me to give it a go. I was content to watch, and cheerlead and laugh on the sidelines, but do it myself? Oh no! However eventually I gave it a go, and I had so much fun. Of course at the beginning I felt so awkward, but slowly that awkwardness was overtaken with a sense of freedom and wild abandon, things my carefully controlled and structured self rarely feel. In that moment the freedom was just what I needed. My cares and worries melted away. I felt connected, alive, vibrant.

Lately I have been reading The Rebel Chick's Mystic Guide by Lisa Marie Selow. In her book she has this brilliant quiz that helps you identify what gets in your way from doing the things you love. She identifies four main blockages:

  • Low self-confidence or self-esteem
  • Being overly concerned about what others would think
  • Being too focussed on the other people in your life to the detriment of yourself
  • Too much socialisation and not enough hard work

When I did the quiz I came out with the first two blockages as the main things standing in my way. Not surprisingly when I look back at our flat bonding experience last night, the same two obstacles were the fears and thoughts running through my mind that almost prevented me from giving it a go.

What about you? Which blockages do you identify with? Do you remember doing something recently that felt a little crazy/risky, but ended up filling you with a deep sense of joy. Would love to know! Share below!

Featured image: 'Dancing' by 'dicktay2000' on Flickr.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Power of Showing Up: How Your Presence Matters to Others

So I have a confession to make: I am something of a lone ranger. Always have been, probably always will be. I grew up effectively as an only child, as my older brother was placed in permanent foster care from the time he was born. My home environment was very abusive and dysfunctional and how I dealt with this was by retreating into my own internal space, the bubble of my soul where my organic self could find freedom, calm and protection. To make matters worse, I am an off-the-charts introvert, despite having a big heart and loving the people around me.

There are obviously many benefits to being this way. (Check out Susan Cain's talk 'The Power of Introverts' if you need a reminder of what some of these are). However there are some obvious downfalls too. I can be too serious, too self-absorbed, and I can forget the power and gift my presence can be in the lives of others around me. Check out the following case in point:

My friend's birthday party

So a friend of mine was having a birthday party. She wasn't a close friend, in fact I was more a friend of her mother than her, but nonetheless I was invited. I really didn't want to go - I was tired, it was a long drive to get to the party, her friends were very different people to the types of people I usually associate with etc. So I started making excuses to myself. "She's such a popular person - there will be tonnes of people there, she won't miss my presence". Wrong!

In the end, I felt compelled to go, so I pulled out my usual introvert self-motivation strategy. I would make myself go on the condition that I allowed myself to set a timer to go off after an hour. If after one hour I wasn't having fun, then I would give myself permission to leave. So off I went.

I arrived and I immediately felt so uncomfortable and out of place. I was sitting at a table of people who were discussing their pot-smoking habits. One of them said, "Well everyone does weed, right? Put if your hand if you have never done weed". Up went my head. The reaction: dead silence. Then slowly, people glanced sideways at the person next to them and the conversation continued again.

But then a miracle happened...

Having felt like a leper at that table, I moved to a seat inside by myself and pulled out a book to read (Introvert survival strategy #2 - always bring a book with you!). The girl whose birthday it was came and sat down next to me and poured out her heart. She was really emotional and told me how happy she was that I had come and how much it meant to her. She said "I know this isn't really your kind of thing, but I'm so glad you're here". We ended up having a heart-to-heart about some of our different values and beliefs, and she thanked me for being open, saying, "Despite our differences, I never feel judged or restricted around you; I always feel comfortable to just be me".

Finding the 'Middle Ground'

We never would have had that conversation, and our relationship wouldn't have grown by the leaps and bounds it did in that time, if I hadn't chosen the path of the middle ground. The middle ground for me in this situation was choosing to go even though I didn't feel like it, but not compromising my integrity or my sense of self. I tried to make conversation with people, but I held true to my values and beliefs, expressed the truth even when it would have been less awkward to stay silent, and in the end when it was all too much for me I retreated indoors and took refuge in a book. You might consider this antisocial. I choose to call it honouring my own needs at that time.

What does this mean in everyday life?

Obviously, we are not always going to be in such unfamiliar territory, and obviously we can't say yes to every single invitation we receive (otherwise we would be exhausted). Lately I have been thinking about some extra, more simpler ways that introvert me can show up and bless the people around me in day-to-day life.

A friend of mine has a great talent. Everywhere she goes she bumps into someone and inevitably she always walks away having obtained their life story and made a real connection with them. She does this everywhere: with the barista at the coffee shop, with the person who pumps her petrol, with people she is introduced to at a meeting, with people in positions of authority over her etc. And this has got me thinking: What if with every person I meet, I ask one more question than I normally would. What if as well of asking how people are, how their day is going, what they did at the weekend, and where they work, I also asked "How is your health?", "Do you have a family?", "What is something you are passionate about?".

The 'One Question More' challenge

People don't like to be peppered with questions of course, so my goal is simple. I am going to ask people one more question than I normally would. One more question than I normally feel comfortable asking, to find out one new thing about someone that can open up a point of connection. Because that is the key of life: connection. Humans are created to be pack animals. Quite literally, in fact. Our cavemen ancestors would have died if they had wandered off on their own without the protection and company of their clan. Despite the concrete jungle we live in today, deep down in our DNA we are wired for intimacy, just like they were.

So that is my 'One Question More' challenge. Who wants to join me? Feel free to document your experiences in the comments below.

Photo credit: 'Social gathering' by Benjamin Dobson on Flickr. Image used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 licence.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

"I am a child of miracles" : Lessons from a Schindler's List survivor

Two nights ago I had the privilege of attending a public lecture given by a woman named Eva, the very last remaining Schindler's List survivor.

She spoke of living in a Jewish ghetto in Poland, being in concentration camps including Auschwitz as a little girl (she was 2 when the war started), near escapes from being killed, and witnessing horrible, despicable things.

Being grateful for life itself

Overall the theme of what she said though was "I am a child of miracles". What an amazing statement. Here is a woman who has seen the very worst of life, but was still grateful for life itself. Here was someone who had every reason to see herself as a victim, but instead chose to see herself as a survivor. Here was someone who could have very well chosen to close herself off from life and others, but instead was being open and vulnerable and letting us all see her pain.

That got me thinking!

The power of affirmations

You see recently I have been listening to Louise Hay & Cheryl Richardson's DVD's entitled "You can trust your life". In these DVDs they talk about the power of affirmations and setting your intentions. Can you imagine how telling yourself "I am a child of miracles" would create a very different life experience to telling yourself "I am boring", "I am fat and ugly", or "I am stupid"?  Most of us, myself included, have negative scripts like this running throughout our heads day in day out.

Choosing a different path

Just for today, I invite you to consider a different message you could tell yourself - one which recognises and appreciates the beauty of life, and of YOU. One that considers your life to be a treasure and something worth fighting for.

What new message could you tell yourself? Leave a message in the comments below.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

What I have learnt about weight loss

I have tried to lose weight for years, and recently I discovered my own personal answer to why I couldn't lose weight: I had Hashimoto's Disease. (Now not all of you will have Hashimoto's Disease of course, but what my condition has taught me contains great wisdom that can help YOU finally get your weight under control - keep reading). So for years I kept putting on weight or being unable to lose weight and getting frustrated with myself thinking it was all my fault. I had messages running through my head like "You're so fat and lazy, Michelle. You're undisciplined, and unmotivated", all this despite the fact that I didn't eat very much and I worked out frequently. Here's the deal - it wasn't my fault, and it isn't yours either! Let me explain.

Now that I have learnt that I have Hashimoto's Disease I have learnt that in order to reverse my symptoms I need to eat completely gluten-free, dairy-free and egg-free to stay healthy. And it is working! I am no longer vomitting, constantly tired, and I have lost nearly 5 kg (10 pounds) in 2 months! Here is the key point: Once I realised how completely evil these foods were for me and how they destroyed my body I no longer wanted anything to do with them. So cutting them out of my diet was easy because I was fully convinced. My point is this: If you are trying to lose weight stop blaming yourself and start blaming the foods you are putting into your body. Read up on the dangers of sugar, artificial sweeteners, highly processed grains, butter - whatever it is that you put into your body that you know isn't healthy. The more you read the more you discover in intimate details not only how poisonous these things are for you, but also how food companies have deliberately manipulated the chemical structure of food to be addictive. Why is this important? Because it means you can forgive yourself and heal. You are not lazy. Large corporations have been deliberately deceiving you and trying to create a dependency in you so you will keep buying these foods. They do not want you to succeed in losing weight, they want your money. Once you realise this you can get angry and fight back and know fully in every fibre of your being that it is not your fault.

Dieting doesn't work because it operates on an "I want it but I can't have it" principle which means you feel deprived and because of this are set up to fail. But when you know and become fully convinced of the fact that the foods you are putting in your body are not in fact actual foods but toxic food-like substances you can change that statement around. You realise you don't have to starve yourself, you realise you are in control. You are empowered, you could eat anything in the whole world that you wanted to (no restrictions!), but those foods that used to hold so much appeal for you, you will find you no longer want. "I can have it but I don't want it." See the difference in power between those two statements?

So pick your favourite toxic substance, do some research and list some of your findings or the useful links you find in the comments below. Let's start our own resource to help empower others. Information is key.

Remember: you are not the problem, the food is.

Sending much love to you all today!

Photo credit: Scale-A-Week 5 July 2010 by puuikibeach on Flickr.