The pursuit and making peace

Where I am located, I sense a cultural impetus in our personal and professional life to be better and perhaps to be more. And there is much available to us for this pursuit of self-improvement of a kind which is observable and measurable.

I am curious by nature and love learning. For all the support I have for growth and development, I do stop and ask.

At what rate should self-improvement occur?

According to whose time? And to what end?

Should there be enough?

Do we need to pause from chasing the future?

What do the persistent evaluation of and judgment on our lives do to us?

Where is our felt sense of peace in all this? Is making peace (that is, being resolved and reconciled) with who we are now a necessary element to our contentment?

Is the pursuit of continuous improvement in opposition to being content?

Perhaps the issue is not in the pursuit, rather in what motivates or drives the pursuit. Why do you do what you do?

This poem speaks to a welcoming and acceptance of what is, now. Then perhaps what we set out to do will be done with peace.

 

Peace is This Moment Without Judgment
by Dorothy Hunt

Do you think peace requires an end to war?
Or tigers eating only vegetables?
Does peace require an absence from
your boss, your spouse, yourself?…
Do you think peace will come some other place than here?
Some other time than Now?
In some other heart than yours?

Peace is this moment without judgment.
That is all. This moment in the Heart-space
where everything that is is welcome.
Peace is this moment without thinking
that it should be some other way,
that you should feel some other thing,
that your life should unfold according to your plans.

Peace is this moment without judgment,
this moment in the heart-space where
everything that is is welcome.

 

© Transfigure Therapy 2021

A grateful year

Surprised by the fruit hanging on the tree covered with maroon leaves, I stopped to consider whether this tree has been there all along. I haven’t seen these cherry-like fruit before. I knew of course that the tree has been standing guard next to the entrance since I moved into this house some 5 years (!) ago. Now I can say I have a purple leaf sand cherry tree :-).

This little incident is much like 2020 – it takes something different and perhaps drastic to make us see what we’ve been blind to or missing.

This year has been a challenging year in many aspects, from adapting to different and often difficult work situations to increased demand in our homes and relationships.

Yet 2020 is also the year for which we can be grateful. This year helped us to

  • acknowledge the importance of stepping off the productivity wagon
  • embrace our capacity to live with uncertainty
  • rediscover the joys, great and small, our family and other relationships bring
  • appreciate the meaning of missing someone
  • reconnect with our passions and desires
  • realise the significance of our solitude and reflection
  • be aware of how little we actually need to be happy
  • reinforce the power of kind words and a smile.

Thank you for your community, the sharing of a common spirit and purpose.

You may wish to light a candle for the year passed and set an intention for the year ahead.

As we head to the final days of 2020 with hope that 2021 will be a better year, I ask myself this:

What does “better” mean? What does “a better year” look like?

Let us resolve to retain the positive changes 2021 has brought into our lives, and usher in a better 2021.

~ FlorenceT

 

© Transfigure Therapy 2020

Antidote – a rich internal life

Seth Godin, former dot com business executive and author, said,

Instead of wondering when our next vacation is, we should set up a life we don’t need to escape from.

What a challenge!

A rich internal life is an antidote to the pervading sense of dread and anxiety that we come across each day. When we are in touch with the richness of our internal life, we will no longer be dependent on an external life for escape.

The present external life

No matter where you are on this quest of setting up a life which you don’t want to escape from, you’re likely experiencing a degree of disappointment and dejection in the current environment. The prospect of the next vacation is bleak, and international travel almost non-existent.

Where do you go now, when options to escape from a high-stress or dissatisfied life are narrower than before? The distractions you allow yourself as consolations or rewards, the activities you indulge in to remind yourself that the way you live is worthwhile indeed, the activities you attend as temporary anesthesia – they are now severely reduced.

Even the most outward focused of us are compelled to reconsider our options. We now must find our respite from our work and in our home, and to maintain our sense of connection and belonging within a smaller social group.

Why an internal life?

This is the epoch to return to our internal life. 

It is time to return to greater appreciation of introspection, depth and meaning. It is necessary especially when we have to keep our own company more often than before.

And this internal life can be scary. Consciously or otherwise, many of us have taken quite resolute steps to not peek into this space while others have been oblivious to the need for it. And many more are tapping into it to varying degrees.

Where are you?

An internal life is the world within us, encompassing the mental and emotional spaces and spiritual by nature.

A rich internal life means you are self-aware and clear about your values, and well-equipped to manage your emotions. It means you have a calm and focused mind, with optimal level of resilience. 

To attain a rich internal life

Here are the preconditions to having a rich internal life:

  • time alone – in this place where  you are not performing nor entertained, and you are required to keep yourself company. 
  • independence – you must do this exploration and interrogation of your internal life on your own; no amount of discussion with close family and friends will assist in a resolution, in fact it may be counter-productive. Take time to nurture your ability to comfort, discipline, inspire, educate and entertain yourself.

Nothing, to my way of thinking, is a better proof of a well ordered mind than a man’s ability to stop just where he is and pass some time in his own company. ~ Seneca

  • curiosity – and here, you will give yourself permission to explore all aspects of yourself, the desirables and the undesirables. Let your imagination and fantasies take flight.
  • focus – you will spend time making friends with your thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. Learn to discipline your thoughts, and to choose what you pay attention to. Most importantly, focus and choose your daily behaviours and habits. They matter.

Remember that at any given moment there are a thousand things you can love.  ~ David Levithan

Necessary growth

When we emerge from the current environmental restrictions, will we be more aware? Will we know ourselves better? Will we like ourselves better?

This is the growth to aspire to. 

© Transfigure Therapy 2020

 

Busy is not a four-letter word

“Busy” is not a four-letter word. Busyness is not a badge of honour.

People have looked at me with “sad” eyes when I said I was busy, extending their sympathy to something perceived as negative and perhaps concluding  that I must not like it. Similarly on many occasions when I enquired about someone’s professional (or personal) life only to receive this reply – “oh, so busy”. These same people who seemed to be perpetually busy, as if proudly saying to the world, “look at me, I have much to do!” when what I could see was weariness and irritability.  

Have you encountered someone who is happily busy?

Many articles in recent times are denouncing the glorification of busyness, how being busy can negatively affect our mental health, that busyness  is unnecessary and that we ought to embrace the slow movement.

All true, but none is absolute.

The practical reality is, there are times when we are busy – necessary times when we work more hours that we’d like. There are times when accomplishing what we set out to do notwithstanding the long hours is fulfilling and a boost to our sense of self. Sometimes our perception is skewed in those moments when we are under intense time pressure and professional demands. Yes, busyness seems like an undesirable thing.

Yet if we pay attention and as we slowly zoom out for a wider view, away from our keen focus on the “harried life”, we may notice that we did work long hours or cram our day with many deadlines but only for a short period.

What we pay attention to, is amplified.

Through our perception and our narrative interpretation, we in fact create a world which becomes our reality. 

What does “busy” even mean? Busy is essentially keeping ourselves occupied or having a great deal to do. It does not speak of the quality of the occupations.

“It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” ~ Henry David Thoreau

The meaning and purpose of these occupations to us are what differentiate the felt sense of “being busy”. It can feel great or it may seem too much of a burden. 

What does “busy” mean to you, now? On this occasion? 

Instead of unknowingly defaulting to saying “busy” with a sigh or hearing “busy” with a flinch, perhaps we ought to find out the nature of this busyness and to have a conversation about being busy, with mindful awareness, within context and without the bounds of common narratives.

Are you the always-busy kind of person, or just busy at this moment? How do you tell?

Or are you determined to take it slow? Because the opposite is also true. Going slow is not a badge of honour, and slow is not a bad word either.

As we head to the end of the year, to the much longed-for break in the festive season, consider this.

Why are you choosing to be busy or to take it slow? 

 

 

© Transfigure Therapy 2019

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Preparing for self-awareness

Can you conceive of the “why” to what you  say or do? Beyond the reasons and rationalising.

To thine own self be true”, Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet. So how can we “be true” unless we know our self?

What do we mean when we speak of self- awareness and “being conscious” of our words and actions??

To be self-aware requires attention and effort. It is easier and quicker to evaluate others’ words and actions, or judge their motives and intentions than it is to decipher ours.

Perhaps unthinkingly or unconsciously we direct our attention outwards more often than we do inwards because it is challenging to look at ourselves, especially our Shadow (to use Carl Jung’s term) – this unconscious aspect of our personality which our conscious ego has trouble acknowledging or seeing.

Self-awareness will allow us to know our humanity and our place in it. We then are able to understand and know others .

So how do we learn to be self-aware? We have to be prepared

  • to be present to, and aware of our thoughts and feelings. A contemplative practice is useful, and over time, it will become easier. I have no answer as to the measure of time this may be for you nor even for myself.  It is not about arriving somewhere. I am not certain if there is even a destination we need concern ourselves with.  It is the contemplative practice itself which brings to light the judgement, blame and shame we hold and from which we act.
  • to hold our flaws gently in the palms of my hands, sometimes in playful lightness, sometimes in repose, always mindful to not judge.  In this I do not always succeed. That is okay too. The very act of being aware of my Shadow is by itself, empowering and humbling – to walk this life with consciousness.  The crux is to know when we are judging; if we can name it, we are more likely to be able to let the act or thought go.  

The essence of any contemplative practice is twofold – silence and stillness. As opposed to being ‘silenced’ by a fear, in protest or by resignation, silence in meditation is empowering because we come to sit in that space in which we are aware of ourselves, of our world and our relationship with the world; and we then have the choice to accept ourselves for who we are – to be true.

“The point [of meditation] is not to improve yourself …but to come back to who you are, the awareness that is your birthright” ~ Jack Kornfield

To do this,

  • we need to be prepared to turn to which is difficult in order to learn something of value,
  • be willing to seat ourselves in the middle of everything, joys and sorrows,
  • to trust this space of awareness with a loving and compassionate heart, and
  • to acknowledge this is our humanity.

Be still instead of perpetually chasing or running away. This is what it means to be present – to not look to our history and judge and attempt to fix it, to not look to our future and judge it against ideals we have inherited from our past or history.

Presence and awareness becomes the springboard from which we take our next steps – understanding and evaluating, inwards and outwards.

As Zen master, Suzuki Roshi, said,

I do not know anything about higher consciousness, I just try to teach my students how to hear the birds sing.”  

How beautiful, how simple!  Be here.

When we do not look to judge, blame or shame, perhaps then the task of becoming self-aware becomes less confronting.

~ FlorenceT

© Transfigure Therapy 2019