Archives For Balance

Welcome to my final extract from An A-Z for your life, discovering and revealing who you are today.  You can read the chapters for X,Y, Z in the book at your own pace.

Witness

Witness

Sometimes it is not simply who we are and how we are but what other people make of us.  Here I want to talk about being a witness to others, and being seen by others.  The term is used in religious and legal circles but I am using it in a therapeutic way.

It’s about really seeing another as we witness their life.  It is also about being seen by others as they witness our life.  What is it like to be seen in our happiness or sadness, joy or frustration?  Similarly, what is it like to really see others close to us go through the range of experiences and emotions that make up their life?

Before I became a counsellor I cannot say I was particularly conscious of this.  I now know how powerful it is to witness others in their pain, for example, and to be seen with my feelings.  We like to know that we are not alone and that people see that we are alive.

It’s healthy to be heard and seen when we are struggling, and perhaps celebrated with when things are going well.  Our peers may be in different situations and that’s where understanding, love and kindness come in.  But the challenge is to witness to others when life is difficult for them.  This is delicate and important.  If you are having a difficult time it is made even worse if others see your difficulty and ignore it.  This ignoring of your pain is like another blow, saying that your pain does not matter.

Maybe we could recognise the daily struggles of those close to us, and how bravely they deal with their challenges.  A compliment from us would let them know that we see their courage and vulnerability and admire them for it.  By witnessing to them we are saying “yes it is real, you are not dreaming”.

How do you feel when others witness you, in your joy or pain? Share your thoughts below.

You can order ‘An A-Z for your life’: simply click on the book cover on the right or go direct to http://www.ana-zforyourlife.com and order your signed copy today!

 

 

Relationships

Life is not all about seeking; we can relax and consider our relationships. Who is important to us and how would they know this?

I know it can feel embarrassing telling people that we care about them but we need to find our own way of conveying this to them. Imagine if they died and did not know how you felt about them. Similarly do you know the people in your life who really care about you? Regardless of how successful or rich we might become, life is enjoyed when we have people to celebrate our successes and empathise with our challenges. Good relationships are key to a fulfilling life.

As I get older this is something I have improved upon. I love to have intimate birthday parties where I invite close friends who are important to me. As time has gone on and life has presented its tragedies it is important to know that there are people who I can lean on and who could lean on me. This is not really about mutual support because different people offer different things to a relationship but it is about a sense of awareness, where we do the best we can to be good partners, friends, family, colleagues and neighbours. We can take responsibility for our part in our relationships. For Carl Jung ‘the meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.’

Your way will probably be different from my way but it is important for you that you know how to do it for your circle of relations. It’s okay to be a little awkward and let people know how you feel about them rather than risk them thinking you do not care. This is not about buying friendships or performing affection for onlookers but about having an honest encounter with people in your life.

If this sounds too cosy having good relationships does not mean that everyone is always smiles and happiness. It is about being true with each other. So many people go through life without getting honest feedback because no one in their life cares enough (or is brave enough) to tell them when they are behaving inappropriately. If the first time you are given such feedback is at school or work then it has a public element to it that may make it more difficult to accept. Challenging feedback is probably best delivered in love and privately.

It is important to have people in our lives who can encourage us to grow, learn, deepen and be our best self. What are you doing to attract such people into your life and to be that friend to the people in your life? For that you need honesty, trust, care and courage. I have experienced this through my counselling training and my small church group as well as with longstanding individual friendships and peer groups. The truth is that no money in the world could buy quality relationships.

How do you communicate to let people know that you appreciate, value and respect them? Do you spend time nourishing your relationships or do you expect them to stay alive by themselves? Let me know your thoughts.

 

 

Passion 

We also benefit from discovering our passion.  Many of the other things we have looked at so far could also impact on your passion such as your attitude, your beliefs, your sense of identity and your early environment.

Finding your passion can be achieved through careers guidance, counselling and some spiritual or other types of retreats.  It is not so important how you get there but that you do take time to discover what your passion might be.  Tony Robbins sees passion as ‘the genesis of genius’.

Volunteering is a wonderful way to explore your ideas and find out what you connect to at a deep level.  It may be that it starts off as a hobby before it grows into something you will be paid for.

That does not mean you must spend the rest of your life focusing on your passion to the exclusion of everything else. For most of us routine monotonous tasks still have to be done even if we have found our passion.  If you are wealthy enough you can hire people to cut your grass and do your laundry but sometimes those simple tasks help to slow us down and calm our minds giving us some reflective space. I’ve found that to be the case with my cooking as I become so engaged that other thoughts fall away.

If you are passionate about something you will happily do it for free.  People often say that about the arts in particular.  There are lots of people who create and perform just for the fun of it.  I regularly go the Edinburgh Fringe festival and I see so many students thoroughly enjoying presenting their productions even though they do not make much money from it.  We are so caught up with celebrity nowadays that it is difficult for some people to figure out if they are drawn to a path from within or simply because it is in the media and looks like fun.

There are also teachers, health workers, writers and advisers from many backgrounds who have a passion for their work and continue in the face of incredible hurdles.  It presents a wonderful reason for getting out of bed every day.  Are you passionate about anything at the moment?  Have you ever been passionate about anything? Would you like to be passionate about something in the future?

You can speak to a confidante, adviser, counsellor, therapist, to help you find your way. Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below.

Humour is part of what makes life pleasurable.  Smiling and laughing is good for our heart and helps us to de-stress. It does not get rid of the stresses altogether but offers some respite from them and is enjoyable in its own right.  It can make us feel happy.

Psychologists and others have spent time analysing humour and why we find certain things funny.  What you find funny can say a lot about who you are.  If you spend enough time listening to comedians you could see the punch line as it approaches.  That does not make it any less funny.

Laughter

Do you laugh because of what you hear when someone tells a joke or is it about what you see.  Many of the early silent movies are very entertaining to look at.  I don’t think humour is about picking on any one person or making fun of a group of people. That is unnecessary and cruel. Generally I prefer my humour in situation comedy or clever stand-ups with witty word play.  But often it is the silliest things that remain in our memories.

Comedy does not have to be performed for us.  Laughter can come from our everyday encounters with the people in our life.  This can provide many private episodes of riotous laughter. We can always laugh at ourselves too. In surveys women often say that they want a man with a sense of humour although men don’t seem to rate this as important for them.  I do not know why that is.

I am glad I know what makes me laugh and where to find it.  Is there a place for laughter in your life? Could you laugh with the ones you love?

 

 


BodyOur bodies are so important to the pleasure we get out of life yet we often take them for granted.  It is so important that we look after our body and have a good relationship with it.  Many of us try to ignore the reality of being in a human body with all its associated miracles and frailties.

So many people take better care of their possessions than their bodies yet bodies are not replaceable.  This is not about beauty or expensive treatments but about the simple everyday task of looking after the container that carries us through the world.  It is about a healthy diet, exercise, relaxation and sleep.  Although there have been lots of fads in this area the core messages remain the same.  We know we need vegetables and fruits (in a range of colours); regular exercise and a good night’s sleep everyday.  We also need to drink plenty of water to keep us hydrated.  It was some years ago when I realized that I was not drinking enough water and the effect that would have on my body.  I am still not very good at this but it has improved.

Thankfully I like other healthy drinks such as herbal teas.  It is not about being perfect but minimizing the bad stuff we do to our bodies and maximizing the good stuff.  Like most things balance is also important and health is more about sensible moderation than extremes.  Of course there may be times when we struggle to make healthy choices but that does not mean we should give up or feel guilty but just use our awareness to help us to do our best.  It’s never useful to think in terms of all or nothing, every bit counts.

We know that smoking is bad for us and alcohol is best consumed in moderation. There are many other substances that can cause varying degrees of harm to our bodies and it is up to us what role these have in our lives.  A lot is said about the addictive qualities of harmful substances but I think some healthy foods can be addictive too.  I love healthy foods such as nuts, seeds, fruits and fish.  The responsibility is back to you and the habits that you form.

Our bodies are very sophisticated.  They can tolerate much neglect in our teens and twenties but if this continues then our bodies find ways of telling us that they are not happy (e.g. headaches, backaches).  From eyes to teeth we need to have regular check-ups to know what is going on in our bodies and what we should be doing to acquire or maintain good health.  As well as physical health our bodies also link in to our mental health and sense of wellbeing.  If we are in physical discomfort then it is challenging for us to feel upbeat about life.  We can take in foods that that affect our bodies in different ways: lifting our mood (chocolate), getting rid of bad stuff (antioxidants) and introducing good stuff (omega oils from oily fish and various seeds) for example.

You may need to learn to love the body you have been given and not compare it to others.  Sometimes it can be good to think of what your body can do (e.g. hike, run, swim, give birth) rather than how it looks.  You may have more serious body issues that are linked with mental health concerns and I would suggest you seek help for this.  Eating disorders can be overcome. Whatever the case our bodies are key to our physical and, to some extent, mental health and we need to be taking notice of how they are functioning and what impact our attention or neglect is having.

How do you feel about your body and how you treat it?  Would you say that you value the body you have been given or are you more likely to be found neglecting or criticising it?   Do you expose your body to harm?  What might be your first step to looking after your body?

 

 

I recently enjoyed the film “A Man’s Story’, a documentary covering 12 years in the life of fashion designer Ozwald Boateng.  It covers highs and lows in his personal and professional life during that period.  His life is depicted as being full of continuous motion where he seems to have several projects on at any given time.  At one point he appears to be working in Paris and Los Angeles whilst living in London!  He certainly knows his passion and fashion seems to fuel him physically, emotionally and spiritually.  The problem is passion is not enough to encourage a balanced healthy life.

There are poignant moments in the film when he clearly desires an opportunity to stop and reflect but he is pulled, pushed, driven along by the commitments he’s made and something else deep inside.  It takes getting to the end of filming and watching himself on screen for him to reflect a little on his life during the 12 years of filming.  Hindsight often makes things clearer.

We may not have our own autobiographical projects but we also need to find ways to spend time reflecting and just being.  Constant activity is always about the next thing and does not allow for time to appreciate where we are now.

By stopping for breath we might also notice a conflict in what we say we value and how we actually spend our time.  I discuss this in my book An A-Z for your life; discovering and revealing who you are today.  Our values need to reflect the time we give to them.

 Weekends and holidays can be useful times to punctuate activity although these have become more action packed in recent years.  The counselling space is another place to stop, reflect and just be.  Sometimes painful experiences such as bereavement, illness or relationship breakdown force us to stop and see things differently.

How do you punctuate your life?  When do you take time out to reflect and just be?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.