I don’t know how to have fun…better work on this. (Or maybe I should just chill out).

I have been given an amazing insight by my long suffering mother today. I am actually one of those people who doesn’t know how to have fun – this is true. I think I know – but I don’t. That’s the problem. I think too much. For the first time in this life, I have admitted this to myself. I take everything so seriously (well, not everything but a lot) and ‘fun’ isn’t something I would consider myself being or having. I can have a laugh and a joke with friends and have a good night but my entire mindset is geared up to finding the point and the meaning within everything I do otherwise, there is just no point in doing it. Everything has to mean something.

I really do need to have more fun. Just for the sake of it! This feels weird to me…how sad!

‘Don’t you ever do things just for fun?’ ‘No mum, I don’t see the point. You have to learn something about yourself and the world around you and acquire new skills and a certificate in the process. Otherwise, you’re just wasting energy. What are you achieving?’ (Comparing me to close family members in the process…’you know you’re exactly like your sister, your aunt, your cousin…’

How did I miss this?

‘Is there a course I can do in ‘having fun?’ (Only joking…) No! That one is down to you… just chill! Not everything has to be a trial.’ I blame my training as a classical musician. ‘If you make one mistake in this audition, you won’t get in’ I made a mistake. ‘Yeah, that’s why you didn’t get in.’ So – I spend the early years of my life believing mistakes cannot happen and that everything is just that serious. For some people yes – but I am not one of those people obviously. I have a lot to unravel….or maybe not..I’m cool 🙂 I don’t have to understand why all the time…ahem! (Fighting every natural (or conditioned) urge in my body right now…

I came home from work earlier feeling a bit blue, bored and a bit tired. I decided to call home. I was preparing my negative monologue. ‘Ah there’s just no point to anything…this is a mad life. I don’t know what I should be doing.’ It is a mad life of course. Yes it is. So mad I can’t even begin to tell you. You know yourself what this planet is like.

I get uptight about silly things. I obsess about stuff I shouldn’t really – but then I think to myself ‘well if I don’t do this or if I don’t take this seriously, nobody else will and then something bad will happen or we’ll make a mistake.’ Yeah. Maybe. But…maybe not. Obsessive? Me? Ha! If I relaxed a little more, what harm could it do? I like to think of myself as someone who knows how to have fun. Why should I have to ‘know’ how to have fun? Why can’t I just ‘have’ fun?

I feel quite odd as I write this. I know I’m very structured, organised and I like my routine. I am a creature of comfort but I want to be different. I crave to be passionate, adventurous, more of a dare devil and an extrovert – but I really don’t think I am. I pretend I am and that pretense is what has been driving me crazy over the years. If I can finally accept the fact that I am actually quite wound up sometimes – (I really feel uncomfortable admitting this), perhaps I might be able to loosen up more as a person.

I mean – here I am telling people to make the most of every moment and enjoy life when I don’t do the same myself a lot of the time. If I took my own advice, it would be a good thing. I’m stuck in my head, lost in thought and neglecting the very basic fact that life is there for enjoyment – this includes myself.

(almost forgot about that).

© Christina McDonald 2014.

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The power of thoughts…..

You may consider a thought about something is nothing important. Something transitory and fleeting and in many ways, this is true. Thoughts are impermanent but their effects on our entire wellbeing can be quite extraordinary. The power a simple thought has can be found in our reaction to it.

When we begin to identify and react to our thoughts, we allow ourselves to become what we believe to be true. ‘I am positive. I am rubbish at this. I can do this. Nobody wants to be with me. I am worthwhile.’ The list goes on. How many thoughts do you have during the course of a day that you would say are useful and positive?

You can think about anything you like. You can choose what to believe, what to feel and what to say. You are in charge of how you react to yourself and the world around you. When you are aware of this, it becomes so much easier to see that there is a choice when it comes to how we feel. We can choose which thoughts to react to and those we ignore.

Emotions are a constructive tool we can use when it comes to changing how we feel. Instead of reacting to emotions without an awareness of why we are experiencing them, we can effectively learn to watch our negative thoughts without reacting to them.

A lot of stress and anxiety can be managed simply through becoming aware of our emotional ‘triggers’. Only you can know what they are. Is it a thought or a feeling? An event perhaps? It could be anything.

What you need to remember is that the thought or feeling itself is just what it is. Your reaction (or non reaction) to it is the key point that will either create a good or a bad day.

And we all want to have a good day. It is easier than you might think….

Just be aware of your thoughts and the choices you have…..:)

Feel good and be happy….

I’m not perfect (nor do I want to be)

I’m not sure if it is because I am too tired (or getting too old to care anymore) but I feel as though the pressure to be perfect is just a crazy way to feel and live. I am all for high standards – don’t get me wrong – and it is extremely important to give your very best in life. If you stopped trying, things would just fall apart. Caring about what you do is paramount and sometimes, other people’s lives and safety depend upon it.

I just hate that feeling – you know – the feeling that everything you do hinges on being absolutely perfect. No mistakes, no errors, no room for failure. I make mistakes sometimes, even when I try not to. I’m not perfect – there!

Are there people out there who simply don’t mess up? How do they do it? Do they just cover it up superbly when they do make a mistake so nobody notices? (In other words – through ‘bull****’? I’m not saying I make mistakes all the time. Not at all. Sometimes when I do, I feel like it is the end of the world and it isn’t. I say to myself ‘Why did I do that, how stupid! I should know better than this!’ (And I should and do). So, why do I make silly mistakes then? Are mistakes the be all and end all? No, of course not. But – they feel like they are sometimes.

I don’t know about you, but I feel as though the drive for constant perfection in society is maddening. High standards, yes. Perfection – no (and it can sod off). The perfect body, the perfect image, the perfect holiday, the perfect relationship. The perfect amount of money, (Yeah, right).

The problem is when it comes to perfection, enough is never enough especially when it comes to materialism. You always think you can do better and have more, improve this, change that. To me, perfectionism is an illness perpetuated by fear that quietly resides in the psyche waiting to pounce the moment you feel just a little bit insecure or unsure of yourself.

(The fear of not/never being good enough – that is the driving force behind perfectionism – so we keep striving at all costs to prevent a realisation of this truth…that we might not be what other people think.

Who cares?????

I am not perfect and I don’t think anybody should feel guilty for it and feel as though they should apologise for their own perceived ‘failures’ and weaknesses. Realising you have a weakness is actually a strength because (if you feel you need to), you can then become aware of it and can change it.

When painting a picture and your paintbrush slips across the paper, do you score it all out, tear it up and put it in the bin? No. You simply include the ‘mistake’ as part of the creative process. You are the one defining what that mistake is. Perhaps I am also defining my mistakes – I am self-critical to the point where I can sometimes lose perspective of what really matters – the fact that I am human….

I remember years ago when I was applying for jobs after university, going through endless application forms and reading the requirements – ‘must have superb attention to detail, must be proactive, dynamic, a leader, a visionary, presidential material, quite simply – awesome, amazing and magical (of course, not forgetting to demonstrate excellent customer service, blah blah etc. Must, must, must must. Fine – I get it. You want someone who will try hard and do their best.

Reading those kinds of things just makes me not want to bother – why? Perhaps it is some kind of false sincerity on my part – having to care when I didn’t actually care that much. Correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t think I’m alone here – most people want to do their best, earn their money and go home at the end of the day and forget the fact that in their 9-5 jobs, they are actually superhumans in disguise of a person who makes mistakes from time to time.

At least now I have a job I love and really do enjoy – thank goodness. Even when I went for flute lessons as a student, my teacher told me once when I was auditioning for an orchestral vacancy – ‘you cannot make a mistake at all here, there are over 300 candidates going for this seat and there is no room for error.’ Well – I went to the audition, made one tiny mistake and hey presto, that was that. (I tried not to, but I did). So myself, and 298 other candidates bit the dust. That’s the way it goes….

So, I guess the theory is – try not to make a mistake but if you do, just let it go and try not to let it ruin the rest of your life….it doesn’t matter if you screw up. Having high standards is perfect enough. Striving for perfection in my case is very self-limiting and completely soul destroying. I cannot do that but I am sure there are others who can.

Be creative, make music, paint and write, even though people may never appreciate it and be joyful for the sheer sake of it. Life is short and very precious. Don’t make unnecessary sacrifices for nothing. Just be and do.

In life, it only matters if you stop trying. Whatever happens, do it for you.

© Christina McDonald 2014.

Living Consciously in a Stressful and Chaotic City Centre…

Living in today’s world means living in a way that requires us to be aware of not just ourselves but of other people’s feelings and needs. One of the problems that society is facing today is that nobody has time. Everybody is in a hurry and nobody can wait. The philosophy of ‘me, me me’ is consuming every aspect of being human. Yes, we are all busy and we all have problems, stresses and issues to deal with – who doesn’t? Is there anytime to live when we are all trying so desperately hard to survive?

When you learn to become self-aware, you realise that the world does not simply revolve around you. An awareness of how your thoughts, words and actions affect other people becomes second nature after a while. You begin living life from a different perspective which allows you to interact with the people around you consciously (with awareness). It isn’t as hard as it sounds. Just be considerate and understand that other people (yourself included) matter.

Living in a busy and stressful city centre, it is all too easy to see how the effects of stress can make people act angrily and irrationally. Emotion and tiredness takes over and logical reasoning flies out the window. Before you know it, you see people swearing, criticising others, beeping their horn as loudly as possibly at other car drivers, shouting at contractors for not doing their job properly…I’m sure there are many others instances you can think of. The joys of running in the rat race….

I would rather run in the human race. I don’t know what the difference between the two is sometimes. There is so much anger and hatred in society that it makes me question what motivates people to carry on like that. I am happy in myself but it saddens me to see so many people who are unhappy, stressed and miserable. Life is far too short to be anything but happy. I know it is not so simple sometimes but we can at least smile at others when we are having a bad day….it would be a start.

Friends and family are important, spending good quality time with the people we love is something that matters and none of us do it enough. Lets not forget that we should extend that love and care to the people who surround us. A moment in which we say ‘thank you’ to someone who holds a door open, a smile that brightens a stranger’s day, making cheerful small talk with the cashier in the shop…all these little things give people the incentive to keep going. There is nothing worse than feeling that nobody has the time to care and nothing that makes you despair more.

We can all make time if we really want to. It is the little things that make such a big difference in the end. Make sure the little things are a smile and not a frown….

© Christina McDonald 2014

The Healing Heart….

Listening to and following your heart sounds very romantic. Almost like an ideal situation that we have forgotten about and shelved for the time being as it doesn’t seem to get us anywhere. I remember years ago when a friend asked me what I wanted to do with my life and I said ‘I want to be a musician’. She said (actually she laughed) and said ‘That’s all very well, but will it bring money in? I doubt it.’ If I wasn’t stronger in that very moment, I would have listened to her and lost out on some of the best experiences in my life so far.

It is doing what feels right and natural that seems to be the most difficult of all.

Having a goal which involves following your intuitive feelings isn’t always easy especially when nobody else is on your side. I never had thought to myself that I was idealistic in anyway (perhaps in my youth) but I always believed I could achieve anything if I put my mind to it. I had the conviction of faith. I wasn’t particularly religious growing up but I always had a belief in something, that there was a meaning and purpose behind all existence somehow.

“All ideals are dangerous: because they debase and brand the actual; all are poisons, but indispensable as temporary cures.”

(Friedrich Nietzsche).

If we are constantly aspiring to an ideal, we are missing out on living in the moment we have been given. We become a seeker of a false reality instead but in some ways, it keeps us going. We keep moving in the direction of our dreams whilst all along forgetting to actually live out our dreams.

If we don’t listen to the heart, we don’t grow. We cease to live. We exist only in some kind of detached reality whereby we feel constantly unhappy and unfulfilled. We then make poor decisions instead that bring about a feeling of consolation for removing ourselves from the needs of our heart. I have always been a great advocate of personal growth and asking questions. Don’t just accept things about yourself at face value unless you understand ‘why’ you make the decisions you do. Every instance I wanted an insight into my behaviour, I asked myself why did I do this, why did I feel like this, why did I make this decision? Being completely honest with yourself is the way to living a life from your heart.

We are so very cynical I feel when it comes to taking the heart’s advice. Why would it put you wrong anyway? It is keeping you alive after all. If we ever allowed ourselves to stop very briefly, to sit down and have a rest for five minutes, we would become aware of the beating of our heart in the midst of a peaceful silence. Everyday, our hearts keep us alive. We know the heart is beating. We have night and day, the sun, the moon, the stars….we know what to expect. There is a force at work and everything seems to have a rightful place. A miracle of life that sustains all living things in existence. We know it through the mind. Do we feel it and experience it through the heart though?

We are surely understanding more in relation to the actual fabric of existence. The ability to learn about and analyse our surroundings is fantastic for sure. For example, the news that scientists had discovered the existence of light that originated from the the birth of the universe over 13 billion years ago is quite simply – amazing. We can learn more about the natural environment, ecosystems and wildlife. There are no limits to the possibilities within science. That’s what makes it so fascinating – pushing the boundaries of what is currently known and possible.

We are now fully aware of what is happening to the natural world. Our climate is changing rapidly and irreversibly. It is a reflection of how our individuals needs and desires are changing everything we see. Whether we could have avoided this situation or not will be debatable in years to come. Now, all we can do is hopefully adapt and overcome to survive the changes we are facing.

We can expand and increase our knowledge and understanding of the world and indeed, the universe we live in. The quest for knowledge and fact is the search for truth but if it is not tempered by the intuitive wisdom and guidance of the heart, I doubt that science will be able to stand fully on its own. Where is truth also to be found? In the human heart. Consciousness is a way of being. A way of living in the world with an awareness of the interconnectedness of all things. If you don’t believe me, then search your heart.

Within nowhere, is everything. The essence of spirit (or the possible key that science is continually searching for). I believe this can only be understood and experienced through consciousness. A realisation of the aliveness and being of everything in existence. What is consciousness? That mystical force that is behind all existence.

Science is the quest for factual truth. If we can see it and touch it, then it is real. Living in reality means looking at the facts of our existence. Evolution is a fact. Climate change is a fact. Facts are important and crucial to our understanding of the world we inhabit. There is however, another hidden aspect to our individual and collective existence on earth. Consciousness itself. We are not an abstract entity in relation to the world we inhabit. We are the world we inhabit. The same atoms, made of the same ‘stuff’.

Whatever this force is, this energy, I believe it is a natural part of our evolutionary process. We are part of it. We are energy. As a species, we are yet to accept this truth within us. There lies one possible direction we could take. Is this the key we are looking for? This simple key with which we need to unlock the eternal mysteries? A mystery that cannot be analysed, seen or touched but felt only through experience? I do not believe science can unite every aspect of existence simply by looking at facts. Facts can be misleading after all….

These are just my feelings and beliefs. We are all searching for clues to the answers we seek and making sense of it all requires us to embrace, consider and to accept all the possibilities. Rule nothing out, keep an open mind and where possible, look at the facts.

What is a fact? A fact is an element of truth. And what is truth? From the perspective of science, if you can see and touch it, so it is real. How can it be proven otherwise? Can’t truth also be an awareness of something? An intuitive feeling? Something that only you could be aware of without anyone else understanding? If only a specific individual can be aware of this truth in their own way and in their own time, is it then possible to evolve together as a species if truth is only part of a subjective experience?

Define truth? We could debate that one for centuries to come…

So, we are all part of this strange mystical energy but all of us seem to be travelling through it in our own way. When we finally learn to live in harmony with ourselves, we are falling in line in accordance with the natural law – simplicity. From our perspective as human beings, there is nothing complex about existence. It is not our struggle to understand the theory and meaning behind existence but our inability to feel that we are also a living part of that existence. As soon as we all experience this simple truth, the world will change. Our inner world will change…

When I say ‘travelling through it in our own way’, I mean to say that personal growth depends on the individual in question. Most of us are too stressed and busy getting through life to slow down and ask ourselves the most meaningful and significant questions life holds in trust for us. When we are ready to approach it (in other words, when we have suffered enough), then we consciously choose to change our life situation for the better. As soon as we do that, things begin to change for the better. Life and the choices we make begin to make sense when we truly listen to ourselves.

The environment of our planet reflects what is going on in our minds. If we have toxic thoughts, that will have a negative impact on the world around us. There is no way we can create a harmonious external environment when the environment in our own mind is in turmoil. We need to be in touch with ourselves on the very deepest levels of consciousness to ensure we are dwelling in a state equanimity. Every feeling and thought you have and everything you do in life will influence someone else.

Just like nature, human beings have the capacity to grow…if we allow the process to happen through our continued awareness of our thoughts and emotions. If we stop feeling, we stop living. The natural world is alive but we do not realise that we are such an intricate part of that aliveness. Living from a holistic perspective means dwelling in harmony with the world and when we do this, we find ourselves living peacefully with ourselves and others in turn. When we end the conflict within ourselves, we end the conflict with the rest of the world.

The question is – when (if ever) will our collective suffering reach a point where that change is an inevitability? Suffering is simply a signature of living in disharmony with oneself. If we look at the natural environment, we can see just how pronounced these changes are. War, poverty, hunger and disease are becoming more prevalent in the world as time goes on but they have no rightful place in the human heart. They are just illusory shadows of the mind caused by fear and isolation.

When we heal ourselves, we heal the world in turn. Listen to your heart.

© Christina McDonald 2014

Sex versus love…are we at war?

We are in conflict it seems….

This is a world where sex is everywhere. On tv, online, in relationships, on billboards, newspapers….life is dominated and permeated by sex it seems. It means a lot. Perhaps it means too much? I suppose it has every reason to be high up on the list as a priority. It is how we all come into life, into being. You cannot deny the power and appeal of physical attraction – without it, the species would not survive. It is certainly a force to be reckoned with. Is there anything more powerful than sex?

Apparently there is. According to a research study conducted by ‘live science’ in 2005 (which can now be found in the Journal of Neurophysiology), love is much more powerful than sex. The study states that even though love and sex are intrinsically related, they are quite different to each other. Sex and love trigger off different neural reactions in the brain. Love has been identified through a series of different studies as the more persuasive of the two. It even changes and matures over time depending on the strength of the relationship.

This fascinates me greatly. Love apparently has more power over the human mind than sex. Yet, I feel in society today that sex is revered more than love. There are so many break-ups, divorces, extra-marital affairs, etc. nowadays I often feel that love is struggling to do well in the survival stakes. Is it really going to stand the test of time?

In a society where sex always seems to have the upperhand and greater influence, love is the stronger force as it is the connecting bond we feel with another person. That must be why when we go through a break up with someone, we go through mild to severe heartbreak depending on the closeness of the relationship. We have bonded emotionally with someone else and that separation causes immense pain as a consequence of the attachment we once had and no doubt, still feel.

It is only natural to associate sex with a deep and intimate love for your partner. When you love and care for someone, sex isn’t really a priority but it is a very welcome part of expressing that love. A normal reaction based on how you feel about each other. Other feelings matter more – respect, trust, emotional intimacy, etc. to name but a few.

When I hear about couples who fret about how little they have had sex in the past couple of weeks and worry about where their relationship is headed, I think to myself…why are they focusing on that as the main issue? Are they happy together or are they just using sex as the connective tissue to hold the relationship together? Too many people do that I fear. Your relationship should be based on the strength of emotional not physical intimacy..and I think that is where we are going wrong. There is too much emphasis placed on sex and not enough on emotional intimacy in my view.

You can be physically intimate with your partner and feel as though you both emotionally inhabit different planets. Sex, therefore has little meaning, if anything at all. You might as well have casual sex and one night stands instead if you are going to feel like that. Nothing is stronger or better than love and being truly intimate with someone. Sex is sex. It has a biological function, place and purpose. It is not love but it is a very natural response to being in love.

If sex is all your relationship is based on, then…it isn’t love. Sex should be a celebration of how you feel about someone who means the world to you.

Not a tool used to cement your weakening relationship together…

How to end the war between sex and love?
Value true intimacy with another human being.

How to create intimacy? Be honest and open with yourself and your partner. Nothing will drive you further apart from each other than secrets and lies.

Sources:
http://www.livescience.com/3818-love-powerful-sex-study-claims.html

© Christina McDonald 2014

Understanding love….it’s a mystery?

Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet and my mood is blue…..

Valentine’s day. I’m sorry to say it, but I’m not a fan. I am neither cynical about love. I do have some issues though.  Heaven help us. It’s here again and every single year, the same thing. The same pressure, the same feelings of obligation to our partner. Another mini Christmas. Over in a flash, leaving a whirlwind of chaos in credit card bills and hangovers. I overheard a woman in a shop today while I was browsing on my day off saying something I can’t seem to forget. She seemed a little bit lost and confused as she was browsing through an impressive collection of gifts themed for the occassion. When the eager and very happy to please assistant asked if she could help at all, the woman said she needed a gift (obviously).

She was torn between one which was more reasonably priced and another that was more expensive. In the end, she chose to pay more as she said she had just recently got married and she has to make an effort. She wasn’t joking.Those words send a chill down my spine. Making an effort? Is love really an effort? Is it so trying and tiring to love someone? This person didn’t seem as if she was happy. Married for the sake of being married perhaps. Pressured into it maybe? It was the ‘right thing to do’  somehow or ‘it was the right time?’ These unwritten rules also seem to bend towards doing the ‘right thing.’ Or perhaps what is acceptable to society as whole. A sense of obligation was more than apparent. Questions were simply tumbling through my mind as to how she felt about the mystery we all call love.

I can never see the point or the real meaning of celebrating the encompassing beauty of love in one day. It’s totality and wholeness is not simply confined to buying a gift on one day of the year to the one person who are supposed to love and cherish. Take the words ‘supposed to’ out of the equation. What are we left with? A hell of a lot of insecurity. Without ‘having to’ do something, would we actually do it? I suspect many of us are living a little bit of a lie when it comes to love. Like children, if we are not chastised by our parents (society), would we be badly behaved? Perhaps, given the freedom to choose, we may act in ways that surprise ourselves and others.

That is too scary to acknoweldge. Freedom? You mean – it’s OK not to all do the same thing all at once like sheep? There is no joy in acting out of obligation – unless you like experiencing the feelings of resentment. If you genuinely want to do it, that’s awesome. Don’t split up, don’t file for divorce. Don’t get married, don’t stay single. Don’t have kids, do have kids. If the do’s and don’ts aren’t your voice and someone else’s, you shouldn’t even be listening. Don’t live a version of a life that isn’t really yours.

I am a cheerleader for love of course (whatever love is). Always have been. As long as you mean it…and as long as you really feel it.  But how do you know when it is love? Now that question will keep me typing all day…..you just know.

My verdict in regards to the mystery woman in the shop- very strange indeed. Perhaps not so strange if we understand the subtle pressure of obligation we live under. Nothing will sap the joy out of you so much.

Be happy.

© Christina McDonald 2014