Tag Archives: perspective

LOOKING FOR THE CHINKS OF LIGHT

We are living in tough times. There is far more bad news than good – one thing after another seems to pile on the agony, in the world, in our country, even in our own lives.

It is easy to feel despair, but that doesn’t help anything. We need to look for the chinks of light. And in the midst of all this, they do still shine through.

In the world, the West is still supporting Ukraine, which may be politically motivated, but is better than has been managed in the past, when countries under attack have not been helped in any significant way. And the problems with gas supply have pushed many countries to move more quickly on installing renewable energy, which will help our planet.

In this country, the government is doing some terrible things, but at least it has stepped in to help with the cost of living crisis. We may not agree with their method or their philosophy, but it will help people to have more of a chance of paying their bills.

And above all, individual people bring chinks of light into our lives, with their kindness and thoughtfulness, their sense of humour despite everything, their warmth and affection.

Let’s keep looking for these chinks of light, and giving them to others whenever we can. It’s what will bring us through

DISRUPTION AND DISTRACTION

I am in the midst of disruption in my personal life – having a new kitchen fitted! It has made me think about what disruption is. The word originally means something that breaks you away from your normal patterns and routines.

I am not good at dealing with disruption, and I don’t know anyone who is, but on reflection, I realise with hindsight that often a disruption in my everyday life has had some positive outcomes, breaking some of my less useful patterns and making me reconsider what really matters.

A good example of this would be the lockdowns during the pandemic, when all our lives were disrupted. At the time it was difficult for most people, but it certainly made us aware of how important our connections with others are, and of the simple things in life we can get pleasure from.

On the other hand, there is distraction. I have been using distractions to help me cope with the disruption. Distraction means originally something that pulls you away from whatever is going on.

I have done jigsaws, worked on the garden, watched movies, because they all take up my attention and give me space from my busy mind. So distractions can be very useful for alleviating the effects of disruption and it is worth having that list of what works for you.

And of course, they can also have a downside. Sometimes we use distractions to avoid things we know we need to confront or get on with.

At present I am using distractions to help, and I hope to find the positive outcomes – besides a new kitchen! – in the coming weeks. I also hope that I will remember the plus’s and minuses of disruption and distraction so that I use them well in the future.

What about you? How do you manage disruption and use distraction?

THINKING IS OVER-RATED

I listened to a talk by a man called Rupert Shira a little while ago – a recommendation from a friend. He was talking about the difference between focussed seeing and what he calls seeing awareness, and it really struck home.

In this talk, he also described thinking as a form of focussed seeing, where we are pulled this way and that by our thoughts. Most of the time, we are following our thoughts about something and getting distracted from the essence of our experience by the thoughts.

As he said: ‘No-one says to themselves, I wish I could think more”’. We wish we could be happier, more at peace – the opposite of what our thinking does for us most of the time.

Of course, there are moments when a thought comes to us that is inspired – how to sort something, how to begin to tackle something, what something is really about. We call these thoughts inspired, or an epiphany, because they come out of the blue and resolve something for us, or make us feel as if we are moving forward.

And if you notice, they are not the result of a serious thinking through – they come when we’re relaxed, feeling calm, just being. Our serious thinking through may sometimes lead to a logical conclusion, but it doesn’t encompass the holistic needs we have for a really good resolution for us at the time.

I want a happy and fulfilling life, and thinking is definitely over-rated in terms of helping to achieve that. So let’s think less, not more, and let’s find the quiet places in us that allow inspiration to come to us.

THE JOYS OF BEING ALONE

It is a vital part of our lives to be in relationship with others – we need that connection with friends and family, and even strangers. And at the same time, we all need some time on our own, when we can just relate to ourselves and our own needs and feelings.

I love having people drop by to spend time with me, and I also really enjoy having days to myself, where I don’t need to consider anyone else’s needs and can just be however I am. Often, people fill that time on their own, so as not to feel lonely: going shopping, doing household chores, making phone calls, and generally keeping busy. I recognise this – I used to do the same.

But now I find that being alone is different from being lonely, and I think it is important to take advantage of ‘me time’ and celebrate the joys of being alone. It’s an opportunity to gather yourself, listen to yourself, and follow how you feel instead of how you ought to be.

You can eat and drink what you want, when you want. You can stop halfway through doing something and decide that’s enough for today. You can choose to make it a good day, whatever that means to you at the time, without having to explain or justify to anyone else. You can do little or a lot, depending on your mood, not the circumstances.

And you can relax for a little while into being however you are, giving yourself permission to move away from the drives of convention and habit.

So make sure you get some time every week where you’re on your own, and make it ‘me time’, not ‘catch-up time’. It’s good for your soul.

THERE ARE REASONS TO BE OPTIMISTIC

In amongst all the depressing news last week, the UN gave an award to David Attenborough – Champion of the Earth. It was a lovely recognition of all that he has done to advocate caring for our environment, and in his acceptance speech, he talked about the resurgence of whales, as an illustration of the value of continuing to campaign to reverse the damage we have previously done.

He pointed out that the population of whales had been devastated by hunting, yet now there are more than there have ever been in our lifetime.

It reminded me that we need to find reasons to be optimistic, and that things change for the better over a long period – it doesn’t happen overnight as a rule.

So, reasons to be optimistic:

  • We have all got better at recycling and re-using
  • Many have reduced their meat eating and turned to vegetarian options
  • The war in Ukraine is forcing countries to look at becoming more self-sufficient in energy, and work harder on developing green energy options
  • Younger generations are more aware of environmental concerns than most of us were when I was young
  • And on a different note, our governments may not be good, but their behaviour is now exposed for all to know

And I know there are more!

So let’s keep doing what we can to keep these trends going, and encourage others to do the same, because change for the better does happen.

When so many dire things are happening right now, it’s vital to find reasons to be optimistic.

A GLIMMER OF HOPE

I’m finding it hard to be positive or optimistic at the moment – there’s so much wrong in the world.

So I’m actively looking for the glimmers of hope, to lift my mood. And when you look for those glimmers, you find them.

In the current awful situation in Ukraine, amidst the destruction and heartbreak, there are the amazing acts of kindness, generosity, and care: ordinary people responding from the heart to other ordinary people in distress.

And the level of worldwide condemnation of Putin for his behaviour is enormous, whilst remembering that it is not the Russian people who are behind all this. It is good to see that we haven’t turned them all into the ‘red under the bed’ of the past.

This is also making many governments look more seriously at the potential for developing their own renewable energy sources, to make it possible to be self-sufficient – that will help with climate change more than any agreement or promise will.

At the same time, Volodymyr Zelensky is setting an example of true leadership. He hasn’t run away – anything but – and he is proactive in asking for help and encouraging his people. (Wish we had someone like him!)

And at a simpler level, I see all the spring flowers in my garden, and the new shoots and buds on the perennials, and I am reminded that nature goes on doing its cycle, no matter what we are doing, and that it is natural for things to restart, to flourish again.

Good things are going on, big questions are being asked – our job is to support both these things, help keep them going when this particular crisis is resolved. A crisis means a crossroads, a choice point, so let’s grow the glimmers of hope, and believe that the world can be a better place. We can take the right road at this crossroads.

DO YOU FEEL LUCKY?

I’ve rarely ever won a raffle prize or a lottery – but then I don’t buy tickets for them very often either! Yet I consider myself to be lucky. Do you?

I have met some amazing people who have helped me to live my life better, and given me new perspectives on things. I have some lovely friends who liven up my life. I’ve had homes I love, with great neighbours. The jobs I’ve had have mostly been enjoyable and fulfilling. The list of the reasons I feel lucky go on and on.

Of course, there have been some periods in my life where things didn’t feel great, but as I look back, I can see how they led to life improving in some way.

I was prompted to write about this by re-reading ‘The Luck Factor’ by Richard Wiseman. He is a psychologist who did research on people who considered themselves exceptionally lucky or unlucky. His conclusion was that it mostly depends on your attitude, unsurprisingly.

The ‘lucky’ people actively followed up on possible opportunities, and used their intuition to make decisions. They also believed things would work out, so approached them in a positive way, and they were proactive in moving out of bad situations and turning them round. And, guess what, ‘unlucky’ people had the opposite approach to life – passive victims of circumstance.

So the question heading this piece is the right one – it’s all about how we feel. And feeling lucky is so much better as a way to live our lives.

So look at your life, and count all the ways in which you are lucky. Do you feel lucky now?

DON’T LET AGE DEFINE YOU

It is easy to get caught by the story that getting older means that you slow down, are bound to have things physically wrong with you, and you lose your ‘bounce’.

There may be elements of truth in this story, but it is far from a necessary reality. Of course, it is unlikely that we will become great athletes in our 60’s and 70’s, but that is true of most of us in our 20’s and 30’s!

However, there are many areas where we can excel, and use our experience of life to help us to be creative, active, interested and interesting. I read a great line the other day: “ You can age or you can decay’.

Ageing means adapting to the part of the cycle of life you are in, and making the most of it, as opposed to bemoaning the fact that you have moved on from previous stages.

There are grand advantages in getting older, in my experience. I worry less; I am able to do what I want instead of being driven by the need to earn a living and look after my family; I have a clearer perspective on things; I can experiment with finding things I enjoy doing, rather than just a list of what I should or must do; and I care less about what others think of me.

All these advantages give us the scope to develop and shape our everyday lives to suit us better. We can bring out the best in ourselves and be the role model for ageing in a different way. It is a time in our lives when we can truly be the best of ourselves.

So don’t let age define you, don’t ‘act your age’. Be who you really are, and love this part of the cycle of life.

THE TORTOISE AND THE HARE

I was feeling pissed off with myself for not fitting in as much pilates practice as I intended – somehow five days had gone by and I hadn’t done any at all. I finally got round to doing it, and as I did so, I remembered that twenty five years ago, I didn’t do any pilates at all – it wasn’t even on my radar. And ten years ago, I rarely practised at all between lessons. And five years ago, I might do one practice in between lessons. Yet now, the new normal was practising three or four times a week, which is why I was disappointed with myself. Sod that! I’ve made lots of progress!

Most of us do not take great leaps forward in our evolution into being who we really are or how we want to be – we take two steps forward and one step back. So it’s easy to notice the step back, and forget to count the step forward we made anyway, and then we are discouraged.

So I think it’s time we noticed the overall trend, rather than the slips that happen along the way.

It’s as if we have a combination of the tortoise and the hare, from Aesop’s fables. We have a hare that rushes forward, and then gets tired and falls asleep, or gets distracted and goes in another direction, while our tortoise just plods along, slowly but surely covering the ground.

In order to recognise our progress, we need to pay attention to the tortoise rather than the hare, even though the hare is far more distracting and obvious, with its rushes hither and thither, and its frequent collapses!

Over the years, we get better at some things without necessarily realising it, because it happens slowly, small steps at a time. I know I am better at recognising reasons to feel good about myself and my life than I used to be. I am better at finding fewer things to worry about unnecessarily, and at getting past that worry when I do get caught by it. I am less prone to bad moods or being upset or miserable, and more prone to laugh at the absurdity of some aspects of life here on earth. And I’m better at Pilates!!

This form of progress is only really noticeable when you look back over years, if not decades – day by day it’s hard to notice because that tortoise of ours moves slowly!

So pay some attention to your tortoise: what progress has it made over the last five to ten years? It deserves that recognition, and will gradually help you to grow into who you really are.

ACCEPTING WHO YOU ARE

It is very easy for us to identify what’s wrong with us, what we don’t do well, what we fail at – we’re well trained in that! And we can try to counteract that by things like affirmations: I am beautiful; I am a good person, etc.

I don’t know about you, but I’m never quite convinced by that. So I tend to give up on affirmations quite quickly, and I needed an alternative approach.

I think there are three things that need adjusting for this to work.

  1. Don’t counteract, have both sides

By this I mean that we can have a list of our ‘failings’ and a list of things we do well. The first stage of acceptance is admitting to all of our strengths and weaknesses.

  1. Add in some qualifiers to make it easier.

The statements we make about ourselves tend to be all or nothing statements: I’m moody; I’m useless at being consistent etc. And we have the same problem with affirmations: I’m a good person will almost always bring to mind the examples when we’re not being a good person!

The qualifiers are words like: usually; sometimes; at the moment; often; mostly; occasionally; just for today. They allow us to acknowledge what we’re like without over-exaggerating it.

Examples would be: I’m usually kind; I sometimes have a bad mood; I mostly eat healthily; I occasionally have a bad day; at the moment I’m feeling miserable.

The qualifiers require us to look beyond the immediate feeling and assess ourselves on a longer-term basis, which gives us more perspective.

  1. Allow for progress

If we want to get better at being a certain way, we need to give ourselves a chance to develop it.

‘I’m beginning to..’ ‘I’m learning to…’ or ‘I’m starting to..’ will allow us to count those first steps towards improvement.

‘I’m getting better at..’ ‘ I now more often…’ allow us to recognise that we’re moving beyond first steps and towards habit.

These then become more realistic statements as well as being kinder to ourselves.

With these adjustments, we have a much better chance of accepting how we are, whilst helping ourselves to be more how we want to be.

I want to be more of who I can be, and this helps me to not get stuck on my failings, but instead build on what I have already. It also helps me to remember that it’s OK to not get it ‘right’ all the time – being human is different from being perfect!

So next time you decide to beat yourself up for being crap at something, have a go at this approach instead and see what happens.