Being Archives

relax_into_stretch

Photo courtesy Inge Duin. See more of her quilts here.

Have you ever done stretching exercises?

If so, then you know the wonder of going with the stretch. When you stretch, let’s say, you bend your spine down while keeping your knees straight till your hand reach the floor. Put the palms down.

This stretch should be experienced through the spine as well as the hamstrings. If it is easy for you, walk your hands further on to increase the stretch, till you can barely handle it.

Here comes the key point.

When you are stretching you are challenging the muscles for elasticity. If you get tense at that moment, the stretch is painful or, uncomfortable, to say at least. But… when you relax with the stretch and into the stretch, this very discomfort becomes nearly pleasurable. It is still discomfort, mind you, but your body is both allowing it and accepting it. It sees the purpose of such a conscious extension.

The ease follows, which is not the ease from discomfort, but a meta-feeling of a higher level acceptance and understanding. In the stretch, in the very pull of the muscles, the body sees a promise of something greater. The promise of graceful movements. It is a joy in disguise.

The extension gives hope for supple joints and the flexibility. The body loves it deeply.

***

When a problem or a challenge occurs in your life, you may choose to attack it head on. You may want a solution and you may want it fast. This may work out in some cases, but it does not, when the solution involves your transformation.

If the solution cannot be worked out straight away or soon, what do you do?

Well…  Perhaps…

You gather more knowledge.
You collect more understanding.
You test various approaches and try new ones.
You research and investigate.
You seek help from others.
You move beyond the obvious, the standard and the norm.

Yet, the progress is negligible. When you manage to solve an aspect of your problem, a new angle arises to complicate the whole picture even more.

You feel like paddling a canoe in a raging river.
It is wild and unpredictable.
The harder your try, the more difficult it gets.

Imagine now, for a change, that your problem is not a wild river, but a small pond that you have already investigated pretty well. The solution you want is a bright coin lying at the bottom.

When you attempt to paddle like crazy, get better equipment (say, knowledge) or techniques (say, understanding) or ask friends to paddle with you, you only stir up the mud and create the foam.

Perhaps …  in all your eagerness of paddling and the splashes you created, you have indeed mistaken a pond for a river. All these efforts, well-intended of course, and optimized for effectiveness, all the anxiety, and the action are in vain.

They all obscure the surface of the pond. The waters are murky. There is nothing to be seen.

How can you look for the coin?

Stop your paddling and stand still. Stay still long enough for the waters to get calm and clear.
Relax into the stretch.

Just allow things to be.
Live as if you have everything you need.
Live as if your problems have never existed.

Maybe it will take one day, a week or a year.
Let your coin reveal itself.

It will.

***

Have you ever had a child or a family member with an overwhelming health problem?
Have you ever encountered a sudden limitation,  a serious lack of money or a loss?
Have you ever had so much on your plate you could barely make from day to day?

What do you do then?

Do you get angry and rebel?
Do you keep hacking the problem?
Do you educate yourself to come out with new solutions?

Relax instead.

Relax into your challenge.
Open your chest.
Accept what is and live as if the solution has been found.

This simple step takes the pressure of you to come out with action or plans to hack it.

Sometimes loving attention is all that is needed. To yourself, your family member or a friend.

In the state of relaxation, your parasympathetic nervous system is at work. This is your optimal state.

Your intuition is enhanced.
Love comes freely.
You live in the zone.

***

Cherish your intentions.
Calm your emotions.
Look around.

The coin is there to be found.

***

footprints

Photo courtesy Footprints orphanage

I am a strong believer that empathy and kindness go a long way. Even small acts of kindness can have a ripple effect that will transform people’s life. It was certainly my experience in life when I was being helped unexpectedly.  Oftentimes strangers chose to open their hearts to respond to my needs.

This certainly made me decide to live by “paying it forward”, spreading kindness, when possible.

Kindness is necessary for us to make strong bonds within a family, community or a workplace. Kindness is a sheer act of giving without any expectation or judgement. Be it a cup of tea, your attention to other person’s needs or helping your old neighbor with household.

Of course there should be a balance between meeting our individual needs and the needs of others. However, many times, the acts of kindness can be boiled down to a loving attention given to another person/animal/ in a particular moment. Even a smile, a small talk, a truthful compliment can make a difference.

Kindness is contagious.  It inspires us to act kindly to others. It spreads easily because we make others feel good and, as a side effect, we simply feel good.

Kindness reduces the emotional distance between two people and so we feel more ‘bonded’.

Kindness is good for the body and mental health

Allan Luks has long been an advocate of kindness, helping others and volunteering. From  his website, we read:

People have known for ages that helping others is good for the soul.  But the study that Allan Luks conducted of over 3000 male and female volunteers has proven it is good for the body and mental health too. His research concluded that regular helpers are 10 times more likely to be in good health than people who don’t volunteer. And that there’s an actual biochemical explanation: volunteering reduces the body’s stress and also releases endorphins, the brain’s natural painkillers.

His book: “The Healing Power of Doing Good” explains the relationship between good health and volunteering, and the factors that make it possible to allow individuals to maintain their independence as they grow older and face both physical and mental health challenges.

When we study his book, or the book of David Hamilton, “Why kindness is good for you“, we can conclude that kindness (helping others) contributes to the maintenance of good health, and it can diminish the effect of diseases and disorders both serious and minor.

***

From another point of view, the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) teaches that organs have functions beyond the understanding of western medicine. Different emotions affect different organs. Anger and kindness effect the functions connected to the liver. The main task of the liver is to support the even flow of nourishing blood throughout the body. When the flow is smooth we are relaxed. But … when we are angry the flow is constricted. Since liver (through blood) is also connected to eyes, nerves and ligaments, as a result of tension and the blood restriction/stagnation, various health problems can occur. There may be tension, bloating, mood swings, eye problems, muscle spasms, dizziness, migraines etc. So, both kindness and a healthy way to express anger, come hand in hand with a happy liver.

Liver is perceived as an inner harmonizer. A well functioning liver supports the heart (according to TCM), and this may explain why kindness gives us healthier hearts. See also the book of David Hamilton.

***

Why kindness is good for you?
Because it is an act of deep connection to another person. It is ultimately human,  a recognition of her as your fellow traveler in life.
By helping her, you help yourself.
By giving freely, you free yourself.

You become a seed of gentle expansion of happiness.

Are you ready for an act of kindness?

If so, Kerrie Watson needs one. She is an English lady, I have just met, with a mission far bigger than herself.

Some years ago she worked as a volunteer in Kenya. She was so touched by poverty and limitations of the orphans there that she decided to make a difference. She started an orphanage in 2010. She did it alone. By her own money, persistence and against all odds.  She is now a “mum” to 24 kids, aged 0 to 18 who would have been abandoned, otherwise. Three years ago she started a school, which has now 140 pupils.

What a task! She feeds all the kids. Many of them from outside sleep at school on mattresses during a week. She runs it with the support of locals: Kenyan teachers, cooks and so on.

Life is really basic there.
No water.
No electricity.
No toilets.
If you want a piece of furniture, such as a bench or a bed, you have to make it yourself.

The majority of your time is spent of fetching water, cooking and washing. You have to walk 2.5 miles to fetch water from a river. There is a well, but the water is not always there, and even though they collect rain water, it’s gone in the dry season. Yet, kids’ clothes and bedding  have to be washed by hand, rubbing in a basket of water. Not even mentioning the amount of water you need to cook meals for all pupils and adults.

Some kids are HIV positive and their illness is manageable when they are provided with daily medication. It costs 100 pounds a month/child.

They lead a simple life, yet the changes Kerrie makes to these children are profound. They have a lifetime chance to grow in love and learn to spread kindness.

Kerrie runs this thanks to the financial support she gets from people. She has a well-founded charity and her family members in the UK support her behind the scenes. They take care of formal issues, the running of charity, accounting, Facebook presence, website etc. But money is short. She is a no-nonsense lady, very practical and highly optimizing her spending. Everything goes directly towards food and the running costs.

Just have a look at these lovely kids, and please support this mission of the Heart. Even 3 or 5 pounds will make a huge difference.

Make a Donation or spread the word. Allow yourself for a small act of kindness.

Many thanks 🙂

***

 

northern_lights

Image credit Malcolm Manners available on Flickr under Creative Commons.

One of my favorite little books of poems is “Northern Lights and Midnight Sun“. It was bought by my friend in Norway many years ago. Norway is a special country on many levels. It opens you up, mirrors back who you are and inspires you to follow a transformation from a caterpillar to a butterfly ;). Not even mentioning the gorgeous northern lights.

I keep reading these poems as they reflect more and more how I feel with Winter at the horizon.

***

I like the night. It’s as if night had no right to exist.
People are always harping on about the beauty of the sun and the day.
They’re a delight to the eye and soul, that’s true.
But there are hidden rooms in us the sunlight never reaches
but where only the night dare creep in.

Sigbjorn Obstfelder

***

I love the night, indeed. I adore her quietness. I love her magnetism. I feel her presence. I love the night, indeed.

The Night, the dark, the negative perhaps, is the fuel and restoration for the Day to come. We have learned to appreciate the Day and the light, but we keep forgetting how important the Lady Night is.

Night is a welcome for all the “in”s. Inward focus, intimacy and inspiration. Without the Night, the Day cannot exist. There is this never ending pendulum swing between polarities, Day and Night, action and rest, Out and In.

Day and Night have different qualities, similarly as men and women do. When Day produces energy and strives for results, Night produces form and strives for understanding.

Day has qualities of a man. There is the electric push for action, work to be done or responsibilities and duties. The spark, the pulsating energy, the outward spiral.

Night has qualities of a woman. There is this magnetic release and relief, reflection and restoration. The appreciation, dissolving and the inward spiral.

Producing and delivering is governed by Day. Nurturing and growing is governed by Night.
They co-exist in a rhythm and permeate each other.

In the rush for a day and things to be done, we forget that the quality of the Day depends on the Night.

Stop welcoming Night and your Day will suffer tremendously. Stop embracing the female qualities, and you will find yourself lost in the wrong stride. Skip the time for reflection, and you will break your leg by climbing the wrong ladder to success.

Day provides function while Night gives structure. Without structure, everything falls.

Appreciate the qualities of Night and restoration.

Embrace emotions. Welcome the dark side of you. It is still you.

Take the time to empower yourself with female qualities.

Look for the Night to nurture your body and spirit. It will ignite the Day!

 ***

I am Darkness. Darkness
that makes a thousand swaying lights
shine so painfully clearly.
I love those burning lights,
love the flame
that lies down
and trembles ecstatically before
the breath of night, I want to be
alive like that flame, but
I am darkness
that makes those lights shine.

Hans Borli

***

Being authentic

Photo courtesy Fe Langdon, available under Creative Commons on Flickr.

On being authentic

My son loves to talk to strangers. He starts conversations in buses, parks or shops, on playgrounds or even when passing-by a stranger. He has always something to share, discuss or ask about. As a child, he likes to get attention. Yet, at the same time, he gives attention as well. Grown out of his curiosity.

My son is truly interested in people and the world around. He is especially curious about things or behaviors that are new to him.

He wants to know. Immediately. No waiting possible.

He is truly authentic. He has no borders, no limits and no pre-conceived expectations. It is me now and then who jumps in and establishes some rules for him to obey. For instance, I keep telling him to start a conversation in a polite way. His usual approach is pretty direct: “Hey you, what are you doing?” or “You… you… what are you carrying inside?” or “What’s your name?”

“Is it the way to condition him for life?” I wonder at times.

My son especially adores tipsy (or drunk) men and grandma-like ladies. While the later choice is perfect for me, I find tipsy men uneasy. There is something sleazy about them. Yet, the recent few encounters blew me away. I will share with two of them as the other ones are similar.

***

In the first scenario we were walking on a street and there was a tipsy man at a distance. My son was staring into the eyes of this stranger. With total attention. It has taken us good 10 seconds or more before we approached him. The man was clearly disturbed by my son’s interest. He couldn’t stand this silent attention and asked my boy reproachfully “Why are you looking at me, you, little boy?”, “Why do you dare so?”. My son answered “Because I really like you.”

The man got flabbergasted. He couldn’t say a word for a while.

In another scenario, my son picked up a stranger and chose a nearby seat. He started a conversation about my hometown, travels, toys, lego, building, playgrounds and so on. The man happily joined in. My son asked the guy “Are you a good man? You know …  because my mum doesn’t like me to take up with bad men.” The guy nodded approvingly. 😉

The conversation seemed to please both of them. At some point the man asked my son, “Why are you talking to me?”. And my son answered: “Because I know you are a nice man. I really like you.”

The man was moved. He couldn’t say a word for a while.

***

Both men got shocked.  The words they spoke after a silence were: “It has been years for me since I heard somebody telling me to like me. Just like you.”

They got tears in their eyes. Their defenses melted away and they both stood before us as real humans.

Open. Vulnerable. Liberated.

I was surprised by such responses. I followed with little conversations. The men told me how much their kids stopped paying respect to them. How bad their lives were. How little hope they had. Yet, … at the same time, I saw a spark in their eyes. A little light that shines from acknowledgement and appreciation. It was beautiful.

I have been touched myself by these (and a few more) encounters. As a result, I’ve stopped interfering and conditioning my son on how to lead conversations. I just keep remembering that being authentic is transformational. The power of a real, unadulterated connection with another human is priceless.

It is touching the Core. It is liberating the Spirit. It is changing Life.

***

The next time when you make yourself or your child to conform to the norms, just pause and let things be the natural way. Perhaps a real transformation is behind the corner….

***

ugly_ducking

Photo credit Ulrik S.Christensen on Flickr

 

“I never dreamed of so much happiness when I was the ugly duckling.”
–Hans Christian Andersen

The ugly duckling

Do you remember the story of Ugly Duckling?

The ugly duckling was told to be ugly by his Mother Duck, siblings and even the hens on the farmyard. The Mother Duck was shocked by how big and ugly he was. The other ducks were teasing and pecking him. They were making fun of him until one day the ugly ducking flew away. He believed he was the ugliest bird under the sun. He wanted to die.

He wandered around looking for a place where he belonged. Yet, he was an outcast in everywhere. He was clearly different. And even though he was intimidated, he chose to respond with kindness.

In the spring, he saw graceful swans on a lake and felt an urge to join them.  When he was approaching them, he suddenly noticed his own reflection in the water. And he was taken back by what he saw. He looked alike. He was a swan, not a ducking. What a surprise! All other swans welcomed him warmly and appreciated him. And suddenly … they found him to be beautiful.
Even the kids playing around the lake complimented on the majestic look of the new swan.

How happy was he!

The metaphor

This little story is a metaphor how we feel when we are different from those around us. Even though these are lonely and painful times, it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with us.

Being different is about being an individual. And even though we long for confirmation and acceptance, our difference makes us special. It allows us to explore our unique traits and talents.

When we are different, we will likely not be understood, or appreciated. Perhaps we may even be intimidated or laughed at.

When we accept and embrace our difference with courage, we can better focus on seeing the value we bring in. It is a difference, not the norm, that sparks creativity and leads to progress.

When we find we are different than the people around, let us remember that there will come a time when we will find our flock. All the loneliness we have felt will help us appreciate the acceptance when we find it.

And in meantime, let us bring this difference into the world!

***

How can I appreciate the ways I am different from others today?

***

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