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This week

November 13, 2016
Autumnal walk

Autumnal walk

It’s been a challenging week for so many people in big and small ways. We’re all struggling to find our place in a rapidly changing and uncertain world. This is a good poem to return to again and again.

Desiderate

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others,
even to the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
By Max Ehrmann

A well known politician said something similar a while ago and got some stick for it. But I am amazed by how we think we know a lot about people we only see in the media and online. Despite my experience of therapy and being a counsellor I’m always surprised by how much I continue to discover about myself. Often we barely know what’s going on in our own lives let alone the neighbour or the stranger. Yet we are often quick with our opinions, good or bad.

For International Women’s Day in 2016 there are so many global issues that affect women. There are women who have chosen to be mothers, there are women who accidentally became mothers, there are women who for physical or emotional or life reasons have not become mothers. Whether or not we are mothers we’ve all had a mother, whatever her capabilities. Many women mother through adoption, fostering or even mentoring. We are all familiar with the African saying popularised by Hilary Clinton that “it takes a village to raise a child” but in reality the village is hardly ever there.

I am thinking of the women who are separated from their children because of migration, ill health, death and divorce.  So many women have been burdened by these difficult circumstances. I think too of   refugee children; away from home and living with very little food, shelter care and safety, the basics for a decent human life. Many mothers may be making a huge sacrifice to give their children a better or safer life and that looks different depending on where you are standing.

Others of us are stressed by trying to be great mothers and using our children to demonstrate this. We forget we cannot truly create a person, it is this wonderful alchemy between nature and nurture. Our children, however we came to have them, are a gift from God.

IMG_5290

I chose the title because I am amazed how much we can judge each other without knowing the facts. I have two recent examples to share here. First, our son is tall for his age so people tend to assume I have brought him to the wrong group. I keep assuring them that I do know when he starts school. On another occasion I bought my child an ice cream at midday and had an elderly lady looking at me as if to say I was perpetuating the problem with obesity in the world! Little did she know that he’s a great eater who loves to be active. Truth is he hasn’t yet realised that we could have ice cream at home as he only gets it when we’re out visiting museums, galleries, garden centres and play parks.

So what she saw as the whole story was only part of it.

If women are going to continue to make advances in the world then maybe we need to care more about each other’s children, judge less, and speak up more on behalf of those who have no voice. It is time too to be gentle with ourselves. We’re all stretched by modern life, whether struggling or just challenged. And yet we are good enough and we can do well to remember this. Does any of this resonate with you? Let me know what you think/feel?

Values

Welcome to my penultimate post from An A-Z for your life, discovering and revealing who you are today. There will be one more on ‘W’ and you’ll have to read the book for X,Y and Z.

Your values are the things in life that you hold dear: behavioural standards you hold for yourself and for others.

If honesty is a value then you don’t need to tolerate liars in your relationships.  Your most authentic response would be to let them know that you cannot be in a relationship with them because you have found out that they do not speak truthfully and you are unable to trust them.  Without trust the relationship becomes superficial and your time is too precious for that.  Maya Angelou observes that ‘Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage’.

Values are linked to right and wrong and moral codes of behaviour.  Sometimes we can figure out what we think and feel in conversation with others.  This relies on having quality relationships built on openness and trust, as discussed earlier. Where can you start?

Start by exploring yourself and maybe your unmet needs, those which you would love to have in your life but have not been able to attract.  It could be safety, trust, love and home.  This could then lead you to explore the values you hold dear.  My values are key to how I try to live my life.  It is about helping people to live the best and fullest life they can whether that is through careers advice, therapy, teaching or writing.  It is about healing our relationships and healing ourselves.  I am saddened by waste whether that is a wasted life, skills, resources or opportunities.  My values link to my belief that we are all created with unique gifts that we can offer to the world.  This book is my attempt to contribute.

What are your values and do these help you to make choices in your day-to-day life?  How do you respond when these are challenged?

I have come across so many clients who set unrealistic standards for themselves.  Are they your own values or ones that you have co-opted from other people?  It is important to find your own values to steer your life.

Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

If you would like to order ‘An A-Z for your life’ so you can work through it at your own pace then simply click on the book cover on the right or go direct to http://www.ana-zforyourlife.com and order your signed copy today!

If you are interested in my counselling services then check out www.envisioncounselling.co.uk and email me: shirley@envisioncounselling.co.uk

 

Understanding

As we are deepening relationships, learning and growing we will continue to change. As we change we affect our environment and life becomes less predictable and more spontaneous.

When we meet new people we cannot know where they are in their personal journey and the changes that might be going on in their lives.  We can’t yet know what they might need from us, or what we might receive from them.

It strikes me that we need a great deal of understanding of ourselves, and each other.  Some of us are good at showing understanding to others and tend to value individuality and difference.  Other people like everyone to be the same, preferably similar to them.  But we are all on different paths in our journey of life so why do we judge others by our own journey?  Understanding enables us to be more honest to the variety of choices and possibilities there are without needing to feel that our way is worst or best –  just different.  Appreciate your uniqueness and that of others.

Sometimes we give a lot of attention to visible differences such as race, gender, religion and disability, but hidden differences can have as big an impact on our daily experiences.  Think of someone who hears voices or has certain food allergies and how they would experience the world differently to how they would be viewed from the outside.  With understanding we can find empathy for others and empathy for ourselves.  Studies show that when we are harsh on others we tend to be harsh on ourselves too.

Do you try to be understanding of the people you encounter in your daily life? Would you say you have too much understanding, too little or just enough?

Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

If you would like to order ‘An A-Z for your life’ so you can work through it at your own pace then simply click on the book cover on the right or go direct to http://www.ana-zforyourlife.com and order your signed copy today!

If you are interested in my counselling services then check out www.envisioncounselling.co.uk and email me: shirley@envisioncounselling.co.uk

 

Thinking

Rene Descartes said ‘I think therefore I am.’  As you can see from what we have looked at so far, to be really engaged in your life you need to engage your mind in thinking about what you do, who you do it with and how what you are doing lives up to your beliefs.

None of us like the idea of sleepwalking though our life. Thinking is important. It encourages learning and using our individual skills to resolve our own problems rather than trying to be like everyone else.

There have been great thinkers in our world over many centuries.  There are great philosophers, politicians, scientists and mathematicians.  There are those who explain how the human mind works, how groups behave and how to design clever things such as spacecrafts, robots and submarines.  Neuroscience is discovering more about our brains, how they work and the potential for change.

We need to trust ourselves to believe we can solve our issues.  So many people have been told they are no good that they no longer trust themselves, which means that they are always looking outside themselves for their answers.  In my work as a counsellor I try to help people in growing their self-esteem and confidence so that they can trust themselves.  It takes time, mostly undoing all the negative comments they have received in their life to date, but it is possible.

Could you be making more of your capacity to think?  Are you continuing to develop by learning new things? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

If you would like to order ‘An A-Z for your life’ so you can work through it at your own pace then simply click on the book cover on the right or go direct to http://www.ana-zforyourlife.com and order your signed copy today!


safety

 

In order for us to begin to look internally we really need to feel safe.  From a place of safety we can look within at who we are and reach out to others in the knowledge that we can meet with them authentically.

Safety is crucial to our personal development. If you feel unsafe in your current situation I hope you can make changes so that your circumstances become safer.  Hopefully there is someone you can speak to who can support you in this.

Safety and food are amongst our basic needs.  Abraham Maslow refers to this in his hierarchy of needs.  He suggests that once we meet these basic needs, then we can work our way through our belonging and esteem needs. He sees the pinnacle as self-actualisation when we are achieving our full potential.

The bigger picture is about helping to make the world safer for all of us.  Certainly life has always had its fair share of danger but the possibilities seem to be changing all the time.  I am unlikely to be attacked by a wild animal or die of malaria but, unfortunately, I can easily be caught up in a traffic accident.  The people we know and listen to affect how safe we feel but we can’t really hide ourselves away from reality.   For me it is about making the best judgement I can, when considering activities, associated risks and pleasure.  There is no point trying to be completely safe but not living.

Many people are keen on taking bodily risks with adrenaline fuelled activities.  The body responds to the unnaturalness of the activity (e.g. bungee jumping) but the organised nature of the event means that it is likely to be safe.  This can be seen more like the organised play I mentioned earlier.  I confess to being scared of participating in many of these activities although  recently I pushed myself beyond my comfort zone in a water park; water was inhaled!

How do you feel about your own safety?  Is it something you worry about or does it not impact on your thoughts at all?  If you live in fear how is that affecting your life?  Is there anything or anyone that could help you to feel safer so that you can participate in life more fully?

So my alphabet soup of life is almost complete.  If you would like to order the book and work through it at your own pace then simply click on the book cover on the right or go direct to http://www.ana-zforyourlife.com and order your signed copy!

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.

 

 Quiet spaces

It is important to have time to reflect on our life, the journey we are on and where we are heading.  It is about stopping and enjoying the moment.

Many people are embracing the idea of going slow, which is an antidote to all the rushing around and multitasking that many of us try to do.  Since starting a mindfulness course I am finding it more difficult to multitask and that feels like a good thing.

I do not believe that human beings are designed to go as fast as we are trying to.  We are presented with hundreds of choices every day from emails, posters, supermarkets, outfits and travel options to name but a few.  I am like every one else – trying to absorb everything so that I can make the best choice.  Sometimes it simply is not worth the effort and takes up valuable down time.

Another way of slowing down is to engage in the practice of meditation (or prayer).  Many great thinkers and spiritual people find this a rewarding experience.  Although we think of meditation in the context of Buddhism I believe Christians and other faiths also have a place for meditation in their belief systems.  It is also possible to meditate and not belong to any faith group.  There are lots of resources and centres that can tell you more about the practice and benefits of meditation.  ‘Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again.’ Joseph CampbellI do know that it helps us to slow down and find peace within ourselves and we can then carry this into the world through our daily encounters.  I do not meditate as regularly as I would like but I am doing more of it and I do know that whenever I do I am never disappointed.

So we need to give ourselves time for being rather than only doing.  I think many of us can get caught up in the need to tell others what we did on the weekend, a bank holiday, for our birthday or an anniversary.  What will our friends say if we told them we spent the weekend listening to music, writing poetry or meditating?  Are we always busy so we don’t appear boring?    If we don’t give ourselves time to reflect how do we know why we are doing what we are doing?  I think that quiet times help us on our quest to a fulfilling life that connects to our values.

Throughout this I am also encouraging us to ask questions of ourselves, and those in our life.  It is not good to accept what others tell us we should be doing.  Socrates says that ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’. This whole book is dedicated to asking questions of ourselves and then honestly seeking out the answers.  This seeking is what makes our life uniquely ours and offers vitality, authenticity and genuine freedom.

What do you think?

 

Nature

Life is also about our connection to nature.  What does the word nature conjure up for you? For some it is a country walk and a picnic with beautiful scenery.  For others it might be about being cold, wet and exposed to the elements.

Having some sense of what is happening in our environment is healthy and nature is part of that environment.  Many studies show that we become a lot calmer when we have access to green spaces or the sound of flowing water.  This is an easy and often free way to recharge our batteries.  I am convinced that wherever we are we can find some connection to nature even if it is just going outside and looking up at the sky.

Like many of the other awakenings we have looked at you may decide that nature is quite important to you and this could affect your decision about where you live and the type of job that you do.  When I worked as a careers adviser I would discuss the impact of job environment – including indoor and outdoor work -with my clients.  If you enjoy nature you are more likely to become a farmer in a rural area than an office worker in a city.  An office worker in a city could still include nature by incorporating a short walk, going jogging etc. Looking after a pet, such as taking a dog for a walk, could also encourage engagement with the natural world.

I enjoy picnics and I have several friends who love camping.  I also like walking and for the past few years I have been getting into planting flowers.  There is something very affirming about planting something and seeing it grow.  Much of nature is free and available; we can enjoy it without owning it.

Are you someone who often pays attention to the changes in your natural environment or do you only notice the new buildings in your area?  Can you be still and feed your soul or do you feel uneasy when the birds sing and the rivers flow?

Here is a link to a current concern that you may find interesting and informative  The BBC on butterfly populations

 

Money

Money is something many of us get very excited about.  Generally people who do have money say it is not the most important thing in life and those who do not have money think it is.

Many of the things that make us happy cannot be bought but a comfortable lifestyle can make it easier to maintain relationships.  Only you can know what role money plays in your life and why it has this position.  How much of this is about you and how much is due to how you were brought up?  What was fine for you back then may not be appropriate anymore and you need to be able to see this and act on it accordingly.  If money becomes your only goal in life then, not surprisingly, other things will suffer and deteriorate.  How we relate to money affects our generosity, ability to receive, possessions, status and the choices we make.

Personally there have been times when I have earned a decent salary and wasted it chasing after ever changing fashionable clothes.  At other times I have had little money but enjoyed free pursuits such as a walk in the park or by the river.  I could be positive about this as I was never really at the risk of being homeless or starving and that must be a very stressful place to be.

In difficult times such as war, no amount of money can guarantee fair food distribution or home security.  Then money just becomes bits of paper whilst influence becomes the more valued currency.  So money is of no value in itself but only for what it can purchase.  Food, shelter and relationships are valuable in their own right: life sustaining.

What is your relationship to the money in (or not in) your life?  Is it the thing you spend all your time thinking about or does it come much lower down in your priorities?  There is no right or wrong answer here. It depends on where you are starting from, your expectations and responsibilities. Any thoughts?