Friday, January 29, 2010

Being here NOW

I simply cannot believe that I stopped working 4 weeks ago! People keep asking me how I am occupying my time and I can quite easily find some trite response or other; but the reality is that I really don’t know. I am reading a lot, thinking a great deal, writing, hiking, meditating, spending time with my partner talking about many things, but there is no way that the time collectively spent on these activities could possibly account for 28 whole days. The previous me would have been concerned that I would have found this new life extremely boring, but somehow that just isn’t my current experience of my reality.

Every now and then I feel a bit anxious because I haven’t really achieved anything (other than a deep sense of relaxation and contentment!) Of course I have reached many new understandings about myself and I have been through several processes of releasing old ways of being, but what have I really accomplished? And then I remember that that is an old thought - a thought no longer relevant to me. There is no externally imposed measure of accomplishment anymore. My measure of accomplishment is how I feel about my life and myself in this moment. And that is… pretty darn good!

So what are our new lives like? Well firstly, structure and routine are gradually disappearing from our lives. I never wear a watch anymore and I find that mostly I don’t even know what day of the week it is, not to mention what time it is. I eat when I’m hungry and sleep when I’m tired without concerning myself about the time of day. This often means that I have breakfast cereal at noon and lunch at 7pm and only go to sleep at around 2am. Our bodies are gradually settling into their own, natural rhythms now that we are not forcing them to conform to the demands of a working life.

The days are all merging into one another. Time has become more fluid, more flexible. I find that an hour can pass by in a moment or a minute can feel like an age. Time is measured now in activities and interests, in realizations and connections. I find that I am becoming better able to enter into the “is-ness” of each moment and actually experience it far more fully and deeply than before. Without the pressure of keeping to a schedule or the need for specific outcomes to be achieved, I can be far more present in the NOW.

Interestingly, the theme I chose for 2010 was:

I am here NOW.

My current reality is definitely starting to reinforce and reflect this decision. I am really starting to understand that here-now is the only reality that truly counts and that my entire life takes place in this moment, here-now. The shifting sands of my memories are unreliable foundations upon which to build my current reality. So often the clear memories we have of people and events are distorted by time and by the stories we tell ourselves in order to make sense out of our experiences. Equally, the future doesn’t exist either. It is simply a thought in the here-now. So, really, all we have is this moment. Doesn’t it make sense then to experience this moment as deeply and fully as we possibly can?

By fully entering into the here-now, I have started to identify the first steps along the path to finding an authentic expression of Self. I have started to suspect that the way to find, and express, my true purpose is to go within my Self in this eternal moment of NOW and not to search outside of myself for something that might happen in the future. In the here-now I find the truest, most authentic version of Self and probably the most meaningful and purposeful too.

And so the journey continues…

Next: Update

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The ties that bind

This post is a continuation of the theme I explored 2 weeks ago in my post titled, “On letting go”.

I never make New Year’s resolutions, but I do decide on a theme for each year that will inform and inspire all my actions and decisions for that year. Last year (2009) my theme was “Freedom” and I certainly achieved a great deal of freedom from many things last year!

Below is just a small list of some of the things from which I freed myself in 2009:

Freedom from debt and concerns about money
Freedom from the competition, conflict and stress associated with a career in the corporate world
Freedom from my own expectations and the need to achieve, perform or prove myself
Freedom from a number of foods and other chemicals that were not beneficial to my body
Freedom from relationships, situations and possessions that had lost their meaning and value for me
Freedom from fear that expressing myself would lead to ridicule or censure
Freedom from demands to be anything other than my truest, highest self
Freedom and space to discover and express the authentic me

However, over the past few weeks, I have felt somewhat like Gulliver when he awakens only to discover that he is held captive by hundreds of tiny Lilliputian ropes! I suppose that I had, somewhat naively as it turns out, believed that freeing myself from my corporate job and the expectations of myself and others, would mean that I would finally “awaken” into a new life in which I would be free to follow my heart wherever it might lead me. What I now realize is that quitting my job was merely the beginning! There are so many other ties that bind me to the socially sanctioned life, the life that conforms to the expectations and the needs of others. It takes a whole lot of concerted effort to extricate oneself from the responsibilities we so blithely take on when we are striving to meet the expectations of society. I am gradually cutting these ties, one-by-one, but it is an ongoing task that is certainly not easy. In the process I have also discovered that society is definitely NOT going to reward me for showing it the big middle finger!

We are rewarded for buying in, not for cashing out.

Aside from the tangible ties that bind, from which a clearly identifiable process is required in order to release ourselves, there are other invisible, and far more insidious, ties that bind us. It is not always easy to recognise these ties and it is even more difficult to release ourselves from them. These are the ideas we have about ourselves; the roles that we choose to play.

Some of us have an idea that we have to play the role of provider or the role of the person who sacrifices themselves and their happiness for others. Others find their value in seeing themselves as the victim of circumstance or perhaps as the rescuer of others. These ideas and roles are immensely powerful traps that keep us tied to the status quo.

I keep discovering new layers of previously unexamined concepts of self and roles that I have subconsciously believed that I must play in order to be acceptable to myself and to society; in order to be “worthy” of love. These include the roles of being the person who’s always on top of everything and in control of her emotions, her finances, her whole world; the role of the person who is always reliable and who cleans up everyone else’s “mess”; the role of the rescuer and many, many others. Now, there may not, at first glance, appear to be a problem with any of these roles, as, after all, they might seem to be quite positive and affirming, not to mention, useful, roles to play. However, many of these roles may no longer be authentic for the person I am becoming and certainly several of these roles keep me very tightly bound to my old way of being. For someone wishing to find, and become, her most purposeful and highest self, it is appropriate to discard any self-limiting beliefs and ideas. It is also important to interrogate whether the “love”, affirmation and recognition one receives when playing these roles actually contributes to, or detracts from, one’s quest for meaning and purpose. I will explore this theme in a future post.

So, what is on the other side of this process? Hopefully the outcome will be a more authentic, fully actualised self; a person who has discarded fear and pain as motivators. I suppose I’m taking a leap of faith into the unknown with only the gentle guidance of my heart to show me the way. But, if I become still and listen to the quiet voice within, I actually have a sense of knowing about the outcome of this journey. In any case, I am acutely aware that there is really no turning back now.

And so the journey continues…

Next: Being Here Now

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The story of Twiggy

We have recently become the adoptive family of a stick insect, which I have named Twiggy. Every night after sunset, Twiggy makes her appearance. She climbs through an open bathroom window and makes her way to the frond of ivy we have placed in a jug of water, which she then proceeds to noisily munch. When we wake up the next morning, Twiggy has already departed, leaving only stick insect poop and several eggs on the bedside table.

We know that Twiggy is female because of the eggs (obviously) but also because we did a bit of research. Apparently male stick insects are exceedingly rare and, for several species, have never been found at all. The females reproduce via parthenogenesis, which means that they simply produce fertile eggs, which hatch into baby stick insects without the assistance of any male input whatsoever. It seems as if stick insect sex is an exceedingly rare event! Gynandromorph stick insects (having both male and female parts) have been found; a sort of Caster Semenya of the insect world, I guess!

Twiggy is an Indian or laboratory stick insect, which means that she lives on ivy leaves, hence the snack we leave for her every night on the bedstand. Stick insects are part of a large group of insects called Phasmids (or Phasmatodea), from the Latin word for ghost. And Twiggy actually is a bit like a ghost, appearing and disappearing at will.

We wonder why Twiggy continues to visit us night-after-night. One cannot help but feel privileged that she has chosen us as her family. In the beginning she became very nervous if we tried to pick her up but now she is tame and is fine with us picking her up and handling her. Actually, I suspect that she has tamed us! After all, she gets us to provide her with a safe haven and fresh ivy leaves, which we carefully mist with water in a spray bottle, and we clean up her poop and harvest her eggs for safekeeping! Quite a smart little insect, I think.

We are choosing to see Twiggy as Mother Nature’s response to our intent to live a harmonious, conscious life. Perhaps she is simply a little sign that we are on the right path. Certainly Twiggy is generating for us a new awareness of the need to consciously take life-affirming decisions at every turn, as demonstrated by the following story:

We are trying the sell our house and, as such, we have to ensure that the garden remains as green and attractive as possible. Of course, city gardens are so out of balance with Nature that we have to keep making interventions to ensure that they stay alive and healthy. We have a lot of canary creeper growing on our walls, which provides a beautiful lush green backdrop to our garden. However, recently we have noticed that caterpillars are systematically destroying the canary creeper, so yesterday we sprayed insecticide on the creeper in an attempt to protect it against the hungry invaders. Shortly after spraying we heard a rustling in the leaves and, as we watched, several stick insects emerged from the canary creeper in an attempt to escape the poison that was infecting their source of food. The realization dawned upon us that we were stick insect murderers! Both of us felt like crying and we experienced immense remorse. We could inadvertently have been responsible for the death of our precious Twiggy!

Last night we were SO relieved when Twiggy made her normal appearance! Thank God we had not killed her after all. But what we realize is that nothing we do occurs in a vacuum. We need to be conscious of what we do and also to realize that everything is ultimately connected. We create ourselves and our experience of life through all of our thoughts, actions and intent. So, whereas it may be perfectly ok for others to use insecticides in their gardens, it is definitely not ok for us to do so. Therefore, we have discarded all of our broad-spectrum, synthetic insecticides and we will only use specific, targeted herbal insecticides in future. This is also yet another reminder that the city life is no longer appropriate for us and that we should move as soon as possible to a place where we can be in better harmony with the natural environment.

As we progress along our journey of self-discovery, we are sent some wonderful teachers to guide us, if we just pay attention. And some of these teachers can be extremely small indeed…

Thank you, Twiggy.

Next: The Ties That Bind

Friday, January 8, 2010

On letting go

This morning I said my final goodbye to my beautiful convertible, sporty dream-car. As I handed the keys to the salesperson and begged him to “… take good care of my baby!” I felt a real sense of loss, which could not simply be dismissed as regret at losing a much-loved possession.

This car was about pure ego-gratification for me. I loved the speed, the power, the maneuverability, the pure sex appeal of the car. I loved the way I looked and felt behind the wheel and the attention I received when driving the car. I loved the fact that I had bought, with my own hard-earned cash, the car I most desired. This vehicle was truly a tangible manifestation of my will and my ego. However, I know that a car like that simply doesn’t fit in with my dream of living in the forest. It would very quickly get ruined driving on dirt roads and it is completely impractical for the life I see myself living very shortly.

What I realized today is that I’m not actually saying goodbye to a car; I’m saying goodbye to yet another idea I had of myself. The idea of myself as someone aspiring to be a powerful, wealthy, successful businesswoman who’s made it in the world and deserves the very best. I needed people to know that I was no inconsequential “pretty little lady” and I realize that my car, my job title, my qualifications, my clothing, my lifestyle all contributed to the feeling of being someone who deserved to be taken seriously; someone who deserved respect. Now that these things are no longer there to confirm my status in the eyes of society, how am I going to be taken seriously?!

Well, I guess I’m going to have to find an ok-ness with whatever anyone chooses to think of me. All that matters is how I view myself, really. This thought does take some getting used to, though…

Actually it occurs to me that I’m mourning the loss of several things at the moment. Over the past 2 years I have had to give up many foods (meat, alcohol (except for wine), wheat, eggs, milk…), partying, several friends and acquaintances, and, more recently, my corporate job, my car, my domestic helper, who had been a part of our family for 11 years, credit cards in several metallic hues, loads of possessions and many, many ideas about myself. Next on the list will be our beautiful home. Alas, even wine, which was always one of my great passions, simply doesn’t taste so great anymore and it is definitely not agreeing with me physically. So, I guess wine is next on the list of things to let go of. I didn’t consciously decide to give up any of these things. One-by-one they simply became inappropriate to the person I was becoming and, actually, they gave ME up rather than the other way around.

My only remaining vices are potato crisps and cheese! Seriously! And even the potato crisps are gradually becoming less-and-less palatable. Perhaps shortly I will be wearing kaftans and shoes made of recycled tires and living in a shack off brown rice and lentils, as one friend recently suggested to me! How boring that sounds… So I guess here is yet another idea about myself that I have to give up – the idea that I have to be interesting, according to society’s judgment of what an interesting person should be!

The upside of all this letting go is that releasing my attachment to each of these things, once the pain of loss has passed, certainly causes me to feel lighter and freer. As I use my will and intent to, one-by-one, cut all the little ties holding me back, I find myself better able to freely visualize my new life and suddenly… there’s a little bubble of excitement traveling up my spine. Because the idea of my new life of unfettered, purpose-filled, creative expression of my highest self is a very exciting idea indeed!

And so the journey continues…

Next: The Story of Twiggy