Step one: Relax…

When we can relax, the change that needs to happen occurs of its own accord. ~ Nick Totton

Kaspa writes: Read below about the importance of relaxing, if we are ready to change. I also wanted to let you know that I have two slots available for therapy clients, via Skype. If you’d like to find out more or book an initial session visit kaspathompson.co.uk or email me.

The facts are always friendly, every bit of evidence one can acquire, in any area, leads one that much closer to what is true. ~ Carl R. Rogers

Early this morning I was sitting in the garden under grey skies, watching a couple of solitary bees buzzing to and from the bee box I had installed earlier in the year, and thinking about a conversation I’d had the night before.

A friend had been worrying about something in their own life and I was encouraging them to see the bigger picture. The more I tried to do this the more their worry increased; this was the exact opposite of what I’d intended.

In the quote above Carl Rogers encourages us to pay attention to all the evidence we can. It is this that will lead to understanding and acceptance, to moving on or to making changes. I thought that’s what I was encouraging my friend to do last night. I thought that I could see some of the facts that they were missing, but I was missing a more important fact: my friend’s anxiety.

We are not rational beings who can impassionately gather up the objective external clues and come to a neat conclusion. The facts we gather can produce emotional reactions as they remind us of something that happened long ago, or plug in to an irrational fear. When this happens we can feel derailed, and fact-collecting on its own is probably not enough to get us back on track.

It often seems to me that the central function of therapy is to support the client in relaxing – as simple as that. When we can relax, the change that needs to happen occurs of its own accord. When we are in a state of tension, it doesn’t matter how much we understand our stuckness – we still stay stuck. ~ Nick Totton  

I should have listened to my friend’s anxiety last night, and given them some space to unwind and relax. They’re not stupid and they would have figured out the facts, the big picture, for themselves. In was also doing the same thing this morning as I reflected on our conversation.
I picked up a pair of secateurs and smiled to myself as I started to dead-head the sweet-peas. I had allowed myself to relax in the garden, and seen that I’d been unskillful in the conversation the night before. It was the combination of collecting evidence and of being relaxed that allowed me to come to the truth and to accept my own unskillful behaviour.

I wanted to rush my friend out of their anxiety for my own sake, and not for theirs. With clients this doesn’t really happen. We meet for an hour once a week and I’m happy for them to work at their own pace – but perhaps I need to keep an eye out for rushing my friends.

Visit my therapy website or leave a comment here.

Image by Line Sabore used under a Creative Commons licence, with thanks.
 
 
 



Find joy at the edge…

Under the tree…for more smiles this month, join Joyful July & write something joyful in your notebook every day. Register for the daily emails here. And here’s what we’ve been up to…

Satya writes: As we walked around our house yesterday it was as if we were visitors, seeing it for the first time.

In a way, we were. We were just back from a fortnight’s retreat in France, during which we sat round in circles like this one, walked the meditation path through the woods, spent time practising together, opened our hearts, witnessed each other’s pain & tenderness, and changed into slightly different versions of ourselves.

One of my working edges is in the area of learning to be supported by others, as well as being the one who supports everyone else (or who likes to thinks I am!). I have a strong story that if I don’t pay attention to everything, things won’t get done and situations and people will fall into chaos.

Over the past couple of weeks on retreat I’ve felt the anxiety of this and waited, observing, as other people have supported me and others. I’m beginning to know in my heart (and not just intellectually) that I am safer than I always thought I was, and that other people will be there for me.

Allowing this kind of change to flow through us is hard work. Me & Kaspa could both do with a holiday, now that we’re back! It also brings us into closer relationship with others and the world, and so everything seems brighter and sharper than it did before – our blooming garden looks even more beautiful, and our cat’s happiness in seeing us is giving us even more joy.

Where is your learning edge? What do you need to let flow through you, in order to come into closer relationship with the world? If you pay attention, you’ll be shown the way.

Happily, as you unfurl and stretch out those kinks and suffer the growing pains, your learning edge will also bring you much joy.

“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.” ~ Thích Nhất Hạnh

Turning ourselves towards what is good

Daisy

Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day. ~ Henri J.M. Nouwen

What does it mean to choose joy? How much control do we really have over how much joy we feel?

In life, some of us are dealt a better hand of cards than others. Most of us are lucky enough to have been born in an affluent country, to parents who fed us and kept us safe. This isn’t always true. We’re not all starting from the same place.

A Buddhist way of looking at this phenomena is to see it as ‘karma’. Bad actions from the past (from our ancestors, unethical government, society etc.) have resulted in bad consequences in the present, and bad actions in the present will result in bad consequences in the future. The same is true of good actions.

This is true of our own actions. I believe that if we sow good seeds, we can trust that they will grow and blossom in some form – whether or not we are around to see the results. I also believe that even if we think we’ve ‘got away’ with unethical behaviour, we will still suffer the consequences – even if this is just someone being upset with us, our own feelings of guilt, or the energy it takes to repress this guilt.

Karma is also working in circumstances that are outside our control. Our parent’s dysfunction was partly passed down to them from many previous generations, as is ours. Sometimes the slugs eat our seedlings or we get caught in a rainstorm or we get ill and there’s nothing we did to ‘deserve’ it and nothing we can do to change it.

We could say that we control our future karma when we’re looking at our own actions, but not when we’re in the realm of the actions of other people or of the world.

But I don’t think it’s even as simple as that. I often don’t experience myself as having any control at all when I snap at a friend or take the big piece of cake for myself or avoid looking at my financial situation or the mess in the kitchen cupboard when I should be sorting it out. We often act from strong subconscious prompts, and only justify our actions to ourselves later when the deed has already been done.

In amongst the capriciousness of what happens inside us and outside us, we do have a choice. We can turn ourselves towards what is good. We can slow down and pay attention to what is true. We can be grateful for the beauty that is all around us (yes, right now). We can recognise when we’ve acted unethically, feel contrition, and say sorry. We can remember that we are foolish human beings like everyone else and forgive ourselves for our foolishness. We can make friends with people who support the good in us. We can start again when things go wrong.

We can turn ourselves towards what is good. Just like a flower, turning its face towards the sun.

If we can make this little choice, over and over and over again, then joy will bubble up in us when we least expect it. We will be open to receiving the joy of seeing those huge poppies shedding their papery red petals, or watching our baby being curious about her own foot, or hearing the words we really need to hear when we listen to our friend talking about his own life.

As I type, I’m watching Kaspa plant out the last of our home-grown flower seedlings in the front garden. He has just exchanged a few words with a man and his young daughter as they walked past with their dog. They all looked happy. Their joy has infected me. I hope it might infect you too.

If you’d like to practice joy during July, read more about Joyful July here.

31st of Grateful May – post your gratitudes here

31Our very last day of Grateful MayWhat are you thankful for today? Tell us in the comments & on the blogs appearing here every day.

Satya writes: Today I am grateful for… every single person in my life – the ones who have taught me, the ones who support me, the ones who challenge me! That includes you. Well done for getting to the end. Now – Grateful June?!!

If you’d like to stay in touch with Writing Our Way Home, sign up to our newsletter on the right.

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31 by Hannah Aviva, with gratitude

Cat poo & enlightenment

When slugs attackSatya writes: This morning I led people in kinhin – walking meditation – v e r y slowly around our garden. 

We stepped through the dew-laden grass taking in the purple spikes of erysimum, the sugary scent of the sweet-peas and the giant red skirts of the poppies. 

If you haven’t had your breakfast yet, you might want to stop reading at this point.

Yesterday we discovered that our cats all had worms. They’ve taken their medicine now, but it had already upset their little tummies. We scooted around the garden last night, clearing up all the poorly-cat poo we could find. It was not pretty. I tried to bury it all under a bush, but it still stank.

This morning, as my unsuspecting Buddhist colleagues followed me in silence, I was on the look-out for any fresh poo. There were copious amounts. My first thought was, ‘it is my job to lead these people away from the poo’. 

And then I thought again. As a Buddhist priest, is that really my job? To pretend that our garden (and life) is all weed-free and fragrant? To protect people from the poo?

At first I wondered if I ought to be leading people towards the poo instead. But, in my experience, there is enough poo in life without having to point it out. They’ll stumble across it themselves sooner or later.

And so, what is my job?

To step gently through the garden. To notice the iridescent water-drops on the white papery sun roses, and to watch the slugs as they drag their slime train behind them. To be present. To connect with the world. To love everything.  

Sometimes we have a mini-enlightenment experience when we truly encounter the twirling birdsong sprinkled through the morning air. Sometimes enlightenment is when we step in a big steaming pile of shit.

Deep bow _/\_ 

If life has been handing you more poo than usual, you might want to try our self-study e-course Writing Towards Healing. Or, to point you towards enlightenment, 31 Days of Waking Up.

29th of Grateful May – post your gratitudes here

29Nearly the end of Grateful May… What are you thankful for today? Tell us in the comments & on the blogs appearing here every day.

Satya writes: Today I am grateful for… your company over the past month. We’re nearing the end… are you running out of things to be grateful for? Or are they appearing all around you?

If you’d like to stay in touch with Writing Our Way Home, sign up to our newsletter on the right.

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29 by Sulamith Sallmann, with gratitude

28th of Grateful May – post your gratitudes here

28 by szczelJoin us for Grateful MayWhat are you thankful for today? Tell us in the comments & on the blogs appearing here every day.

Kaspa writes: Today I am grateful for my younger brother, who still seems to like me, despite having to share a room with me when I was a teenager….

If you’d like to stay in touch with Writing Our Way Home, sign up to our newsletter on the right.

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28 by szczel, with gratitude

27th of Grateful May – post your gratitudes here

27 by TomusanJoin us for Grateful MayWhat are you thankful for today? Tell us in the comments & on the blogs appearing here every day.

Satya writes: Today I am grateful for… chocolate. Whoever invented it, whoever grows the cocoa beans, whoever made it into this yummy stuff I’m enjoying right now!

If you’d like to stay in touch with Writing Our Way Home, sign up to our newsletter on the right.

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27 by Tomusan, with gratitude