As it is given.

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For many years now I have kept a daily journal, as so many of us do.

Sometimes I wonder what it is all for. All these notebooks lying around gathering dust.

They have travelled with me from home to home. One time I had a massive bonfire and burned a load of them, most where only half filled but some, as I look back now, where full of my thoughts and dreams and drawings and memories. Was I wrong to burn them?

Journalling has always been my secret escape into myself. It sets me on a journey beyond time and place. I enter another world that is not visible to anyone else. The words sometimes just come tumbling out at other times they have to be teased, coaxed, demanded. It is always an adventure into the unknown.

I have often wondered about this need to put things down in writing that only I ever see. Everyday, more or less, I sit in front of the blank page and let go and write. I have imagined a great novel emerging out of the plethora of syllables, but no, just my thoughts, my feelings, my hopes etc. What is the point of it all? Does there need to be a point? Can the exercise itself have its own purpose?

“I don’t want to live a hand-me-down world of others’ experiences. I want to write about me, my discoveries, my fears, my feelings about me.” (Helen Keller).

So why do we write? Why do we keep journals? some are about storing memories, some are a way of making sense of our feelings, some are the record of events. My mother kept a daily journal full of our appointments to dentists and doctors etc. She wrote about her world of family, shopping on a budget, little things we may have said to her, telephone calls when we had left home, dates of special events. All the minutiae of life through the 50’s/60’s/70’s/80’s/90’s. Even as she became weaker and her Parkinsons’ disease made it harder to write she would jot things down in a little notebook she kept in her bag. Writing was important to her, I think it made her feel that she existed, it gave her a focal point something to look back at and know that she had lived.

Freud recognised the importance of the journal as the key to the psyche and Jungian therapists ask their clients to keep a dream diary, which I have done from time to time. For me journaling is a form of self-therapy. When I feel uncertain, confused I turn to my journal and I talk to myself. I will sometimes feel an overwhelming urge to write, a deep inner prompting that cannot be ignored. Sometimes the writing itself comes from another place, a higher self that supports me and reminds me of greater truths.

There are times when I have no choice but to write and the words are put down as they are given without judgement. It is in these times that I feel most at peace with my writing and feel a purposefulness that I do not always experience in my daily format.

Journal writing has been my greatest ally when I have gone through difficult times. My journal has been the constant friend always waiting and ready to accept anything I want to share; through tears the words have splashed onto the pages and slowly the pages have absorbed the hurt, the anger, the confusion, the loneliness and they have given back a feeling of calm, peace, understanding and hope.

Writing out our traumas, our pain, our grief has been shown to have real health benefits.

“In 1986 the psychology professor James Pennebaker discovered something extraordinary, something which would inspire a generation of researchers to conduct several hundred studies. He asked students to spend 15 minutes writing about the biggest trauma of their lives or, if they hadn’t experienced a trauma, their most difficult time. … Meanwhile a control group spent the same number of sessions writing a description of something neutral such a tree or their dorm room…Then he waited for six months while monitoring how often the students visited the health centre. The day he saw the results, he left the lab, walked to his friend who was waiting for him in a car and told him he’d found something big. Remarkably, the students who had written about their secret feelings had made significantly fewer trips to the doctor in the subsequent months.” (taken from an article in the BBC news June 2017)

(Credit: iStock)

So there is scientific evidence for what I have instinctively known. Journal writing is an aid to health both mental and physical.

“A personal journal is an ideal environment in which to “become”. It is a perfect place for you to think, feel, discover, expand, remember, and dream.”  (Brad Wilcox)

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As it is given

Time and again I come to my yoga mat and each time is like the first time. `I begin again. Over and Over. I begin again. Today I stretch slowly, feeling the stiffness, wanting to escape the restriction. Yesterday I felt strong and I moved swiftly through the practice. Today is a different story. Today my mind is irritated and wants to get off the mat. My body wants to move slowly, hold the posture, feel the release slowly, feel the point of change, of transformation. My mind is challenged by this. There are things to be done. No! Today the body says take it slow, listen to me, feel what is going on in me. So the mind takes its place on the yoga mat and is breathed into quietness, stretched into stillness. This is the place. Here is the revealment, the unfolding, the unlayering. A gentle twist, a forward stretch, a backward bend, ah! says the body, so! says the mind! It is good.

As it is given.

“From the very beginning you are being told to compare yourself with others. This is the greatest disease; it is like a cancer that goes on destroying your very soul because each individual is unique, and comparison is not possible.” Osho.

I am unique. There is not another like me. I have twin grandchildren and they are each unique. I am fascinated watching them develop in their uniqueness. From the beginning they expressed themselves differently. They may have shared a womb for eight months but they are not the same. They have similarities as do all their siblings, but each one is unique. A beautiful expression of their own divine nature.

We are born unique, it cannot be otherwise. We carry aspects of our parents even our grandparents, our great grandparents and so on down the line. Yet each one of us is an individual. This is the gift we bring into the world on our arrival. Our uniqueness.

So then why is it that we so quickly are impressed by others to be like them. To conform to a way of being that directly challenges our individuality and encourages us to follow a path others set out for us?

We are told that we are made in the image and likeness of God; but who has seen God? Who among us knows what God looks like? I believe that when we are expressing our own unique nature and living a life according to our deepest, truest desires, we are then showing the world the image and likeness of God.

When we are using our individual gifts, expressing our own unique voice, walking our own perfect path, then we taste the sweetness of a life lived as it is meant to be lived. A life of purpose and pleasure in being our true self. A life of grace and beauty.

When we peel away the layers of conformity, sit in the silence, let God reveal Himself through the   unfolding of the petals of wisdom, a deep peace pervades our being and we come face to face with our true nature.

For years I have studied and searched and tried to understand the reasons behind the inner turmoils, the sufferings, the sadnesses, the despairs, the depressions. When I looked in the mirror I did not see the face of God, I saw someone who was not happy with herself, who was constantly wishing she was anything but herself.

I had lost my sense of uniqueness. I had taken on the mask that the world asked me to wear. I was afraid of myself because I felt different.

Then one day,  after many days, weeks, months, years, who knows how long, a light began to dawn. All I had to do was let the layers fall away. Let the image and likeness of God reveal itself. Let God Be.

I could drop the weight of the world and sing my song, dance my dance, write my poem, swim naked in the seas of my desires, lie in the warmth of my sun, open my heart to all that is Good, release the lie into the wind and walk along the path of truth.

God is good therefore nothing in my life exists that is not good.

“And God saw everything that He had made and behold it was Good”.

When we look with the eyes of God we see God in all things and it is Good. When we see the beggar on the street and we place our cents in his cup we see the eyes of God looking back at us, we do not see the poverty, we raise him up in our eyes. When we see the child lying in the hospital bed and we say our prayers of hope we see the the eyes of God looking back at us, we do not see the sickness, we raise her up in our eyes. When we hear about war and we see the images of death and destruction, we place God in the midst of it all, we remove the fear, the pain, the suffering by the knowledge that in the power and the presence of God there can only be good, there can only be life.

We are here to express something beyond what we see , hear, feel and know. There is a greater power at work and it is Good.

I am discovering, everyday, how wonderful it is to be me. I hope you are too.

 

Daily Prompt: Stylish

via Daily Prompt: Stylish

As soon as I saw the word STYLISH Maya Angelou’s wonderful poem, PHENONMENAL WOMAN, sprang into my mind. When I read this I picture the most outrageously stylish woman, one who doesn’t have to try because she just IS. So I share it with you today.

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Taking the challenge to write just because…

“It’s time. To dream boldly and imagine impossibilities. To conjure up words and phrases the world is waiting to hear. To turn off email and stop checking blog stats. To stop worrying. And just write. It’s time to begin.” Writers Manifesto. Jeff Goins. (Goinswriter.com/writers-manifesto/)

I have been inspired by Jeff Goins, Writers Manifesto, which is basically saying write just because that is what you must do not because you want others to read it, or have it reach the best seller list. Write because not to write leaves you feeling incomplete.

For me writing has been a love/hate relationship. Never really hate but more accurately pushing away. I have always felt better when I write but have never managed to discipline myself to stick with it till I have produced something which I think may be worth reading.

So back to this Manifesto. I have never been a published author and have always shied away from showing my writing to anyone so in a way this manifesto does not really apply to me, or does it? Here is a quote from the Manifesto which really resonates with me.

“Real writers wake up every morning with something to say.

Even if the words have yet to come.

We only have today. That is all we are ever promised. And today we must write.”

I want to write but I feel that because no-one reads my writing I am”wasting my time” and there are more worthwhile things I could be doing!! I now begin to see that the very act of writing is worthwhile because it comes from me. No-one else can put the words together in the way that I do and make the sentences that these words, that have come from me, make.

 

It is because I am too anxious about my writing to show it to anyone that I often avoid writing all together. What is the point of trying to be a writer if you aren’t going to let anyone read it? So in a way this manifesto is exactly what I need because it takes away the “pressure” of thinking someone should be reading this and let’s me get on with the joy of just writing and seeing what happens.

Words are wonderful; the way they form sentences and paragraphs and unfold into a story.

Sometimes it seems they do have a life of their own and come from some far away place and just land on the page. Sometimes it feels that I am just a channel for words to pass through and create their own design.

I would like to be one of those writers that knows exactly what they want to say and use the words systematically to get their point across, to give substance to their ideas and form a well rounded plot drawing the reader into their well thought through world.

Maybe this will come as I put more faith in the writing process, stop procrastinating and get on with the business of writing.

Someone once said :”I am a writer because I write.” Without actually writing one cannot call themselves a writer and for as long as I can remember I have wanted to be a writer, so what has taken me so long and where am I heading with it all? These questions serve no useful purpose as I have no answer and if I dwell on them I do not write.

In Julia Cameron’s great book The Artist’s Way she suggest Morning Pages, that is writing 3 A4 pages every day. Just writing whatever comes into your head at the start of the day before the busyness of the day takes hold. I have done this in the past, every day for months just because I like writing, no-one has ever read and much of it has gone into paper banks as I moved from place to place.

Jeff Goins also talks about the importance of writing every day only he adds that it should be published, it should be seen and then a commitment made to the readers to continue to write something everyday.

I have been writing every day for the last four months, give or take a day or two. I have enjoyed the process of pen to paper and making that appointment with myself. It is often the best part of my day. I feel I have accomplished something when I have spent time writing.

Now I am moving on and trying the publishing side of writing by just putting things out into this blog. There is no clear theme. I have worn many hats in my time and some of these will find their way into these blogs I am sure as I was told by a writing tutor “write about what you know”.

Writing is, for me, a process of self discovery. Through writing I access another part of myself that seems to get lost in the thrust of daily life. It gets put to the back of the queue in “things needing to be done”. I want to change that. I want that part to come to the front of the queue. To be seen and heard and respected and given its rightful place.

So “hello writer, how are you today?Let’s get on with it shall we? We have much to set in print and time is hurrying by!”

Daily Prompt: Recharge

via Daily Prompt: Recharge

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“We are tied to the ocean…when we go back…we are going back from whence we came.” JFK

A question arises from this single word RECHARGE: when was the last time you spent an early morning or an eventide just sitting and looking at the sea? When was the last time you sat and watched the children playing in the park or watched the wind pick up the leaves and run with them? When was the last time you spent a quiet moment just doing nothing?

There is a zen saying: “Sitting quietly, doing nothing, Spring comes and the grass grows by itself.”

The world does what it needs to do without our help. We can take time out. We can sit back and just watch. We can lie on the grass and gaze at the clouds. Not only can we! It is imperative that we do.

A senior member of staff told me once when I had become quite ill and was trying to get back to work “The grave yards are full of people who thought they were indispensable.”

Fifteen minutes daily just gazing at a candle flame, or fifteen minutes watching the flow of the breath, in and out like the waves on the shore, or walking slowly by a river or in the woods, fifteen minutes thinking about God; you can find your own fifteen minutes but make it good, make it beneficial to body mind and soul; fifteen minutes daily builds to five thousand four hundred and and seventy five minutes a year given to yourself to feel good, to recharge and to give thanks.

One of the best things I know to quickly recharge, shift up a gear, is to count my blessings. To give thanks for all that I have in the moment, it is a wonderful energy booster.

“At the age of 18 I made up my mind never to have another bad day in my life. I dove into an endless sea of gratitude from which I have never emerged”. Patch Adams.

How wonderful we would all feel if we swam in that same sea.

Helen

 

 

 

 

the longing for wholeness.

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There have always been, for me, two parallel quests.

The one to find ways to promote and maintain physical and mental health with as little recourse to the medical profession as possible and the other to explore as deeply as possible the inner/spiritual realms.

I suppose the link between the two quests is a sense of wanting to be whole in some way. This would imply that I felt I was not whole, that there was something missing. Certainly for much of my early years  not only did I suffer from physical illness but I also felt a sense of disconnection with those around me and as I grew through my teens into early adulthood this feeling of not being quite complete in some way or other became quite compelling.

I was definitely a searcher. I could not accept much of what I had been brought up to believe, therefore I needed to find what I could believe, find something that could provide nourishment physically, intellectually and spiritually.

This eventually came in the form of Yoga.  Not just the postures that we are all so familiar with nowadays from the pictures and videos on social media, but the essence of yoga, the teachings behind the postures, the deeper practices. As I got more involved in these practices interesting thing happened. The information I had been fed as a child began to make sense to me, it began to take on a shape, form and meaning that I could understand and it wasn’t about belief anymore but about knowing.

Someone asked me recently about God. Now I am no expert on God and my ideas about God have changed over the years but one thing I have come to believe is that the only way we find answers to these questions about universal truths, universal laws, God, is by self enquiry. The only way I know to come to any understanding is to search, to study, to meditate.

There have been times in my life when I believe I have sensed God, when I have felt that I am in the presence of something far greater than myself, far beyond my little comprehension. It is as Wordsworth says ” …I have felt a presence that disturbs me with the joy of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime of something far more deeply interfused, whose dwelling is the light of setting suns, and the round ocean and the living air, and the blue sky, and in the mind of man; a motion and a spirit, that impels all thinking things, all objects of all thought, and rolls through all things.”

These experiences far from bringing a sense of lasting peace and contentment have served to increase the longing for wholeness, for living from that place of “something sublime”.  The experience of being in that expansive state, of going beyond what is into an awareness of All that IS can in itself lead to a greater search for truth.

Till now these experiences I have had have remained internal with little to show for it externally. I have not shared them with others and they have not really expressed themselves in my external life which has lurched from place to place like a boat tossed about on the great ocean of unpredictability.

Now I come to think that sometimes in order to make sense of things we do need to share them. So here goes!

I am about to share one of these experiences which I am sure has happened to many people but it is always unique and deeply personal when it does happen.

I am standing alone on a beach in Kerala, South India. Back home in Wales my life is falling apart. I have no home, no money, no job. I have tried, unsuccessfully to build a business. I have tried, unsuccessfully, to get over the break up of my marriage. I feel as if I have been cast adrift.

My body hurts and every time I engage in my Yoga practice I am in tears. The tears never seem to stop. Sometimes they are on the inside but more often they are visible to everyone and that only makes me feel worse. I am a wreck. Which is sort of fitting as I am standing on a beach in front of the Indian Ocean. The water is calling, as water always does for me, and I am reminded of Stevie Smith’s poem:  “Not waving but drowning.”

As the waves pull the shore, and my feet, into the ocean , there is one thing I know;  I know it in the bones of my being. 

I love where I am.

In that moment of hurt and loss and pain and unknowing, I know, I love where I am.

I love this moment of intense awareness.

I love the ocean, the hot sand, the scorching sun, the cooling wind, the beauty of this place.

I love where I am.

It is one of the most significant moments of my life.

I have nothing and I have everything.

I am alone. I am connected to the whole.

I am unloved. I am loved totally and completely.

I am dying. I am being reborn.

I have never forgotten that moment. I even remember the dress I was wearing of Indian silk, the wind blowing it around me, the splash of the waves making it cling to me.

I don’t remember how long I was there. I was standing in the presence of God and time has no relevance, it could have been minutes, it could have been hours.

I wish I could say I returned home and my life got better and better.

My life got interesting is the best way I can describe it, and it continues to be interesting.

I know that through God “I live and breathe and have my being”, and God in me Lives.

I know that every day is another opportunity to express the presence of God in me and I know that most days I fail to do this and so my life bumps along often without a clear direction and yet I sense there is a purpose and God is trying his best to keep me on track and when I go off track I get bumped back often a bit unceremoniously and with those same feelings of “I have nothing,” “I am unloved,” “I am dying”!

My way back is through stillness, silence, surrender to the wave and the power of I AM.

My way back is  to remove myself from the many distractions and find the solitude of aloneness that allows me to listen.  Listen to that still small voice that is so easily drowned out by so many louder, more strident voices that “always know what is best for me!” Listen to the inner sound of the ocean, the rise and the fall that is the pulse of life, to be one with all that is, to return to the presence.

When I stood on that beach and felt that presence so sublime instead of entering the wave I became the wave, instead of drowning in the ocean I became the ocean, instead of longing for God I knew God was within me. 

No matter what direction my life has taken since then I have always known something greater dwells within me and that knowledge, that truth, makes me whole.

We cannot live on experiences of the past however wonderful they may be. We have to make every day a new experience, a new realisation of the presence of God in our lives.

Every day gives us an opportunity to express our Divine nature through our thoughts, our words, our actions.

Every day it is possible to to find that place inside and say: “I love where I AM”.

I am reminded now of the passage in the Bible that says about the place where Moses stood being holy ground; and I believe that means that wherever you are, if you are in the presence of I Am you are standing on Holy Ground.

Joel Goldsmith puts it like this in ‘I Stand on Holy Ground’: “There is but one God, and that God is within you. He is with you if you mount up to heaven; He is with you if you make your bed in hell; He is with you if you walk through the valley of the shadow of death. God will function in your experience in the moment of your recognition of Him.”

Ecstatic experiences give us something to return to, a point of reference if you like, a reminder that we are so much more that ever we imagine ourselves to be and that taking time out to experience “the joy of elevated thought” is where our journey to wholeness begins.

Where the heart leads – A spiritual Odyssey.