Matters of the Heart

It’s 4am here in Australia. I awoke at 3am and was unable to get back to sleep. As I am lying in bed trying to get comfortable and go back to sleep, my mind drifts back to the day before. I involuntarily revisit my trip to the supermarket to buy groceries. Why am I thinking about such a boring task that’s already been completed? As the scene plays out in my mind, I realise something important didn’t happen that could have, if I had been paying attention.

I had loaded my groceries onto the conveyor belt and was vaguely aware of the young woman in front of me. She was holding up the line because she didn’t have enough money to buy her groceries and a packet of cigarettes. The cashier was being very patient and they were discussing the price of various brands of cigarettes to determine which ones, if any, that she could afford to buy.

I was feeling slightly irritated but kept myself in check because, you know, I’m a good person – or so I tell myself. I kind of noticed the elderly gentlemen behind me was not happy about the delay but I paid him no attention. Eventually the situation was sorted and it was my turn at the cashier. Groceries paid for, home sweet home!

Recently I heard a wise man say, “the day is ruled by the intellect but the night is ruled by the heart.” I resonated with this when I first heard it and in the wee hours of this morning my heart had something to say to me and it went something like this;

You could have offered to pay for her groceries, why didn’t you? Is it because she was buying cigarettes, did you feel you would be enabling her addiction? Where’s your compassion? What about the elderly man? You had some awareness that all was not well with him. You could have looked him in the eye and offered a kind word.

You saw them but you didn’t see them, you heard them but you weren’t listening. You were on auto pilot, impatient to get your groceries home and get on with your day. But those two people were a part of your day, you just weren’t aware of it. You had an opportunity to make the world a better place, just for a moment, for two people and you missed it. It was a chance to genuinely connect with two strangers, no strings attached and brighten their day.

It was true, I was on auto pilot. I was not in the present moment. In the past, I have paid for someone’s groceries when I saw they were struggling. A young mother was buying baby food and basic staples and was in the process of determining which groceries she could go without so that she could afford to pay the bill. She literally cried with gratitude when I offered to pay for her groceries but I know I was the one who benefited the most.

My heart wasn’t berating me for missing these opportunities. It was gently reminding me that it’s human encounters like these that add texture and richness to the mundane aspects of life, like grocery shopping.

So, next week when I write my shopping list, the first item on the list will be a reminder to “pay attention” to the people I encounter as I do my shopping.

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Dream Healing

I was always a prolific dreamer even as a child. As an adult I started having prophetic dreams. At one particular stage of my life the dreams turned into nightmares and were often a precursor to the death of someone I loved or of something horrible happening to someone I cared for. Over a period of one year I lost four people that I was close to. I was scared of going to sleep and developed insomnia. My dreams came true so often that my partner also found them unnerving. It was a very difficult and confusing time. I was constantly playing catch up with my grief as each death occurred.

That’s when the blind dreams started. I wasn’t blind in the usual sense. I was blinded by light. The dreams were about normal everyday events like driving a car, going grocery shopping or being at work. Suddenly I would experience a blinding light inside my eyes that forced me to shut them. I would struggle to open my eyes but even when I did manage to force them open for a split second the light was so blinding I would end up on my knees, totally disabled. A feeling of panic would overwhelm me and wake me up. This continued approximately three times a month for two years.

One night I went to bed as usual and had the most amazing dream. At the time we lived in an apartment at Manly Beach overlooking Sydney Harbour. In my dream I got out of bed and flew out of the little stained glass skylight in our bedroom and headed for the harbour.

It was daytime in the dream, a beautiful sunny day. I soared over Sydney Harbour marvelling at how awesome it was to fly and wondering why I’d never done it before. It was so liberating and so much fun. I raced the Manly ferry making its way to Circular Quay and declared myself the winner. Over the Opera House I went, and spiralled around to make the journey back to Manly.

The ocean was so incredibly beautiful, sparkling with light. Then I noticed something that filled me with the most intense fear I have ever experienced. A dark patch in the water, that I somehow knew was pure evil. The fear caused me to falter, I lost my confidence and started to fall. I was scared I would plummet into the malevolence below and get sucked under.

Then I remembered – all I had to do was send light from my eyes into the murky darkness and it would dissolve the evil. Yep, just like a superhero! So that’s what I did, I turned my eyes on high beam, aimed them at the evil and it dissolved. I was so exhilarated I flew all over the harbour looking for more evil to dissolve. When I finished, I flew back into the bedroom through the little stained glass skylight, climbed into bed, checked the time on my nightstand and went back to sleep.

I slept for twelve hours and woke up the next afternoon feeling happy for the first time in a very long time. I’ve never had a blind dream since or a prophetic nightmare and the insomnia disappeared too. In hindsight I probably should have sought grief counselling but it just never occurred to me at the time. Somehow my psyche found a way to heal the nightmares and insomnia anyway.

Healing can come when you least expect it and in a manner that you would never foresee. Don’t give up hope if you are seeking healing, it could be just a dream away!

May all beings be blessed with beautiful dreams!

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Photo Credit: Samantha Lynch via Unsplash

Coffee made me do it!

I started drinking coffee at the age of twelve, needless to say I became an addict. Over the years I gained enough self-control to limit my intake to mornings only. My partner never drank coffee and told me he thought it was evil. A bit of an extreme point of view you might think. Stay with me, you’ll see that he had his reasons.

Coffee was my very first thought every morning. It lured me out of bed and look out if you got in the way of me making my first expresso. Until I had that first cup of coffee, the whole world could go to hell for all I cared. After my coffee I went back to being the nicest person in the world or at least the neighbourhood. There were quite a few coffee ‘incidents’ over the years but this one I’m about to tell, was the most revelatory for me and disturbing for him.

One beautiful, Sunday morning I walked into the kitchen as my partner was washing the dishes from the previous night’s dinner party. He was singing along to a chanting tape of Om Namah Shivaya as he was elbow deep in suds. I couldn’t stand chanting, it really set my teeth on edge, so I turned the tape off as I made my way to the expresso machine.

Uncharacteristically defiant, he turned the tape back on. This was a little disconcerting but nonetheless, I hit the stop button again. We glared at each other, as his finger hovered above the play button. I told him in my haughtiest tone, “there will be consequences” if he turned it back on. I mean, I gave him fair warning but this only spurred him on. He hit the play button with an exaggerated flourish and exclaimed “bring on the consequences lady”!

With a deftness I didn’t ordinarily have, I hit eject and ripped that tape out of the player. Temporarily possessed, I made my way to the window and hurled the tape out with all my might. I watched with glee as it clattered onto the roof of the bungalow next door. I took in the look of open-mouthed horror on my partner’s face with a sense of smug satisfaction. Then, I nonchalantly continued making my coffee as if nothing had happened!

After my caffeine hit tamed the beast within, I was appalled at my behaviour. What the hell – who was that crazy woman? I had to concede that my partner might be onto something. Not that coffee was evil as such but it seemed to bring out the worst in me.

So I switched to tea, Earl Grey to be precise. Two months later, I realised that I wasn’t anxious anymore. I’d suffered from morning anxiety my whole life or so it seemed and now it was completely gone! Obviously coffee doesn’t affect everyone that way. But if you have anxiety issues you might want to consider giving it up or switching to decaf – it could do wonders for your relationship!

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Photo Credit: Mike Kenneally via Unsplash

Inner Smiling

Inner Smiling

I was deep in meditation when I became aware that I had a great big goofy smile on my face. Luxuriating in the sensation for a few minutes, I had a sudden urge to mentally project the smile into my chest and let it radiate through my body. It was the most wonderful healing feeling, I was beaming from head to toe as I went about my day.

Later, when I was playing on my iPad, the phrase ‘inner smiling’ popped into my head. I jumped on the internet and googled it and sure enough there’s a Taoist Meditation technique called inner smiling. This didn’t really surprise me but as I searched through the results I was amused to find out that I hadn’t done it right!

Apparently, I was supposed to sit in an upright position, feet flat on the floor with spine erect instead of being relaxed in my recliner with my feet up. My hands were meant to be clasped in my lap, not relaxed by my side. I didn’t know that I should have brought the smile to my third eye and then place it on my thymus. Clearly I needed some guidance but alas the inner smiling experts on the internet gave slightly different instructions. Who was I to trust? Oh dear, perhaps I should buy the book The Inner Smile and it will give me the definitive answer!

I have to laugh or otherwise I’d cry at how we humans complicate things. Do we really need instructions on how to smile inwardly to ourselves? Will our body reject our smile if we don’t have our feet flat on the floor? Nobody taught me to smile when I was a baby, I figured it out for myself. Screw the inner smiling rules! I’m doing it my way!

May all beings enjoy a great big goofy smile!

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Photo Credit: Brooke Lark via Unsplash

Feelings

I read a post this morning giving advice that we should not use our feelings as a guide in decision making. I think the writer means well but may have some confusion about the difference between emotions and feelings. One reason could be, that the dictionary definition of these words leads us to use them interchangeably.

Dictionary Definition
Feelings: an emotional state or reaction.
Emotions: a strong feeling induced by an event or circumstances.

This may be correct linguistically but spiritually speaking, emotions and feelings are very different. Although emotions can be split into two groups, positive or negative, each emotion corresponds to a very specific label – anger, sadness, happiness, excitement, guilt etc. We find them easy to label because of the thoughts that occur simultaneously with the emotion that we are experiencing. For example, we do not feel anger without having corresponding angry thoughts. We can differentiate feelings of resentment from anger because of the thoughts we are having in that moment. Just to complicate things we ‘feel’ our emotions.

When spiritual teachers advise you to follow your feelings they are not asking you to follow your emotions or to make decisions based on transitory emotional states. In spiritual terms there are only two feelings, one feels good, the other feels bad. There are no corresponding thoughts as such, although the mind will scramble to find a reason for the positive or negative feeling. These feelings arise from a deeper place within you and come from beyond thought. The bad feeling is like an inner pulling away from and the good feeling is like a pulling toward – essentially this is what intuition feels like.

Perhaps the following story will illustrate my point more clearly.

Many years ago I needed to find a new rental property. I had a very good friend who was going overseas for twelve months and she asked me to rent her two bedroom cottage whilst she was away. It seemed like a good idea, it was the easiest option and the most logical. I didn’t have to go through any sort of selection process or pay a bond, the rent was affordable and she had no issues with me having a pet. It was close to work with several public transport options and lots of good local restaurants and shops. I couldn’t think of a single reason not to rent the cottage but every time I thought about doing it, I had a bad feeling. This bad feeling didn’t make any sense, it wasn’t an emotion that I could label, so I ignored it.

We made arrangements for me to move in, a few days before her scheduled departure, then her departure date was delayed by a month. We shared the cottage in the interim, during which I discovered a very unpleasant side of my friend. It was the longest and most stressful month of my life. Finally she left, what a relief, or so I thought.

A few days later I woke up one morning and the bad feeling had returned with a vengeance. Just as before I couldn’t make sense of it with my logical mind. I had an appointment that day in town and I had a feeling to cancel it but I ignored the feeling and went to my appointment anyway. When I returned, as I was walking up the street toward the cottage, I suddenly felt overwhelmed with a terrible feeling and knots in my stomach. When I opened the gate I saw why. The fly-screen had been ripped off the window and the pane smashed in. My home had been burgled.

I moved out two days later but it took me years to get over it. I became hyper-vigilant in regard to the security of my home and feared leaving it to go to work. If I had paid attention to my feelings I would not have experienced such unpleasant events.

Since then I’ve taken up meditation and over time I learned to distinguish the difference between my emotions and my feelings. I do admit though, it’s not easy to follow your intuition when your logical mind doesn’t back up your feelings – it takes practise and mistakes will be made but hey, that’s life!

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Photo Credit: Averie Woodard via Unsplash

Secrets

 

we dance around in a ring and suppose
but the Secret sits in the middle and knows

By Robert Frost

 
The first time I read this verse I got goosebumps. It felt like an invisible finger poked into my heart and mind and swirled them all around until I was dizzy. Some type of mystery was being revealed that was so slippery, I couldn’t quite grasp it. Years later when I took up meditation I realised the true significance of this verse to me.

Speculation on what the poet meant is rife, there is dissension all over the net. Some even dispute the authorship of this verse. Yet the beauty of poetry, is that it is open to interpretation. Once the author releases his poem to the public, he no longer has ownership of its meaning. It resonates with something that is already inside the reader. The fact that so many argue over the meaning of this verse, is laughably ironic!

If I was ever abducted and transported to an alien galaxy faraway and they asked me to sum up my comrades on earth, I’d quote this poem. It is way more profound and succinct than I could ever be.

On that note I’ll leave you with another verse written two thousand years earlier. It’s not quite as elegant as the one above but it’s just as wise and beautiful.

 
when we understand
we are at the centre of the circle
and there we sit
while Yes and No
chase each other
around the circumference

By Chuang-tzu

 
May all beings find their centre!

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Photo Credit: Ashley Batz via Unsplash

Enhancing Creativity

Initially, I was a creative kid, a bit of a dreamer who loved painting and making up stories. That all changed when I started school. I was one of those left-handed children who was bullied by the teacher into using my right hand to write with.

Almost overnight, I went from being a creative kid to an intellectual one. Now I was more interested in reading other peoples stories rather than making up my own. I no longer painted as reading had become my main interest. I was often praised for my reading abilities but not for my art.

When I grew up I worked in an office, spending most of my day on the computer. I had no creative abilities or interests apart from cooking. My hobbies were more of the intellectual variety, studying naturopathy, astrology and psychology etc. Interestingly, most of my friends were arty, creative or musically inclined but alas, I was not.

One fine day, I left the office to buy lunch and I saw a new store called Bead World had opened. Something bubbled up and erupted in me, an intense itch that needed to be scratched.  A creative force was unleashed in me and it wanted to make jewellery! On impulse I went inside and found myself immersed in another world made of beautiful colours and pretty beads. I spent up big, on tools, beads and all the other paraphernalia required to make earrings, bracelets and necklaces.

My colleagues were curious when I returned to work (late, oops) and showed them my goodies. A few days later my work mates gave me a gift – a book on how to make your own jewellery with beads.

Armed with their encouragement I set to work and soon I was wearing my creations to the office and receiving lots of lovely compliments. I started getting requests from friends and colleagues to make items for them and now I was earning a nice little income on the side. It was a wonderful boost to my self esteem, people actually liked my stuff and wanted to give me money for it – amazing! Finally, I was good at something creative. From there I developed an interest in photography and scrapbooking and other paper crafts.

About a year later I was marvelling at this sudden change in me – how and why did I suddenly become so creative? Then I remembered a conversation I’d had with my Osteopath. He commented that I was too right side dominant and that my posture would benefit if I practised some left sided activities.

I took his advice and trained myself to use my left hand to operate my mouse instead of my right. It took a week or so before I became as dexterous with my left hand as I had been with my right. From then on, I aways used the mouse in my left hand, in fact it became so natural that if I was working on someone else’s computer and used my right hand to operate their mouse it felt really awkward.

This happened approximately six weeks before I had my creativity re-birth. Seemed plausible to me that there was a correlation between the two events. Perhaps, by using my left hand I had stimulated my right brain and woken up my dormant creative abilities.

Fast forward five years and my creativity was still going strong. Then I left my office job, I no longer worked at a computer five days a week. Six months after that I realised I had not been at all creative for the past four months. I no longer got down and dirty with the glue, the scissors or the pliers and beads. However, I had returned to reading a lot and started writing book reviews on Amazon. Very weird, as I never had any interest in writing before. Clearly my left brain was reasserting itself.

So I draw the following conclusions;

Right-handed people who want to be more creative could profit from using their left hand more often to stimulate their right brain, the creative side of the brain.

Left-handed people, particularly aspiring writers who are having difficulty in organising and articulating their story ideas may gain some benefit from using the right hand more often to stimulate their left brain, the logical side of the brain.

Give it a try and let me know if it works for you!

I wonder, if I had been allowed to write with my left hand when I was a child, would I have turned out differently? Had a different personality or occupation perhaps? I suspect so.

 

May all beings be encouraged in their creative pursuits!

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Photo Credit: Aaron Burden via Unsplash