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….

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Emotional Healing through Conscious Awareness.

If you have been on a ‘mental spin cycle’ as I would call it, you know exactly what I’m talking about when you cannot get your brain to switch off. Endless thoughts that carry on endlessly without ceasing. When life has become too difficult, when stress has taken over, it is very easy to lose perspective.

What I discovered years ago was that you can make this cycle stop simply by being aware of what is going through your mind. Through awareness, you stop identifying with these thoughts. You no longer lose yourself in the ‘drama’ as it were. They are just thoughts and they will only have a say if you let them.

Take a deep breath:

Focusing on your breathing is the best way to centre and ground yourself when you feel emotionally anxious. When you bring your attention to something as simple as your breathing, you are directing attention away from your mind and into your body, into the present moment. Within this moment, is where your attention should be.

Don’t react to negative thoughts:

Allow yourself to become aware of your thoughts, just allow them to be as they are. You may perhaps feel anxious within yourself but just let those feelings exist within you. They will subside eventually when you stop reacting to them. When you react to negative thoughts, you give them more sway and one negative thought leads to another and then another and so the cycle continues. You can stop it simply by being aware of what is going on in your mind.

Don’t over-analyse:

Brooding, obsessing and mulling over thoughts endlessly diverts your attention from what you should be doing and robs you of energy. When you do this repeatedly, you will feel incapable of focusing on anything else. Your work and your relationships will suffer needlessly in the end. Stop thinking for a while and just be.

Emotions are transitory:

Feelings and emotions change constantly. Like throwing a pebble into a lake, they are like ripples in consciousness. They are fleeting and if we react to them, we are reacting to a naturally impermanent state and making it into a permanent one instead. Watch emotions and feelings come and go as they always do but remember they are ephemeral…

© 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

What is True Spirituality?

Religion, spirituality and faith are words we all know and are familiar with. To some of us, they are simply words. To others, they are a way of life. Something we do and practice every day. Being ‘in touch’ with something is implied. ‘This feels like a very spiritual place’. What does that mean? Most of the time, I have no idea. It implies there is some kind of unusual or comforting feeling we experience.

Usually, people have a sense that there is something quite powerful and wonderful at work when they feel a deep sense of spirituality. Many people feel incredibly peaceful and calm when they are in these places. If you have ever stood alone silently in a church or cathedral and just allowed yourself to sense those deep feelings, you will know exactly what I mean. It is the fabric of existence I suppose…whatever that is.

Growing up in N.Ireland, I saw life from a very strange and surreal perspective. I was brought up as a protestant which has as much meaning for me now as advanced physics and quadratic equations – I don’t have a clue what it means anymore. I was very conscious of neeing to ‘belong’ to a particular sect of belief though. Religion had created a sense of ‘us’ and ‘them’. In all honesty, I hated it. I didn’t feel like I belonged to any tradition really. I was a musicican (flautist) and so was immeresed in the flute band tradition. So -there I was at the tender age of 13 marching on the 12th of July, proud as punch. (Not because I was so proud of my protestant heritage but from the sheer amazement I could play a wind instrument and walk for miles on end – with very sore, hot feet I might add!)

Music was the only thing that had real meaning then for me and so it remains today. For me, music gave me that connection to something real, something much larger than my little self. That’s when my own discovery and journey to the inner me began – through music. To me, music was a pleasure that had the ability to open up doors into a completely new world of understanding.

I remember going to church every Sunday when I was about 7 or 8 years old and being completley bored out of my head. I was fidgeting, giggling and on some occasions, humming to distract myself from what seemed a mundane and very complicated sermon that simply went over my head. I didn’t want to be there, but HAD to be there. Oh the joys! I couldn’t have been less interested in what was being said. I was thinking (dreaming more like) of other places, other things I could be doing – anything to take me away from having to sit on what was becoming after an hour of lecturing, an increasingly uncomfortable church pew!

This is not to say that spirituality is confined to being in church. Far from it. These feelings can be sensed anywhere. It doesn’t require you to go to church (although that can certainly help). It is all so very abstract and defining it is not easy. If you have ever sat in meditation and sensed feelings of happiness and gratefulness for no apparent reason, that is how I would describe it.

It is something that reminds us who we truly are. The joy of simply being is found within the essence of spirituality. Nothing is dependent upon it, simply your awareness of anything that arises from worrying thoughts and distressing emotions that causes you to lose that inner sense of grounding. When I first started this blog, I was thinking about happiness and how so many of us make our quest for happiness in life the ultimate goal. It is the goal but I think too many people are dependent on other people and other things to make them feel that sense of happiness and contentment that can quickly be lost as soon as our circumstances change for the worse.

The vast uniqueness of human experience allows us to explore every facet of aliveness. The good times and the bad. The ups and downs. The laughter and the tears. Good decisions and bad decisions. You could call it ‘free will’. The many cycles of life that come and go are there to remind us always that there is a deeper message behind it all. What that message is… only you can know. That is the most wonderful part. Your own life, your story is yours and yours alone. Your journey, your lessons and your time. To me, that is what spirituality means.

Everything that happens to us, whether we interpret it as good or bad has a lesson in it for you somewhere. A lesson that cannot just simply be found by going to church every Sunday. Repeating the same routine over and over again without questioning it will not give a true insight into who you are. Conforming to beliefs that you do not really understand is not a belief.

Having faith is an active, not a passive experience. Who you truly know yourself to be is an instrinsic part of actually having a living experience of faith. Be right here, right now and you begin to feel what it means to experience true spirituality which is of course….your infinite connection to all there is.

© Christina McDonald 2014

Understanding our emotions as a path towards personal growth

We have all been given the ability to express emotion. Having feelings are how we respond to this vast and amazing world we inhabit. This also includes more negative aspects of certain emotional tendancies such as anger and sorrow. Emotions can be a nuisance sometimes and very destructive if not tempered by an ability to control what we are feeling which is very important.

Controlling ourselves when we feel angry is difficult to say the least. Punching pillows is one option. Kickboxing at the gym is another. If you’ve ever slammed a door really hard in a ferociously bad mood and felt good after, you’ll know what I mean! Anything to get rid of that pent up energy!

Oh the memories of losing my temper with someone and regretting it afterwards…

I would not say it is bad or wrong to experience any emotion. When anger boils over, that is when it has the potential to become severely destructive and harmful towards the people around you. We need to be aware of bad feelings at the earliest stages before they escalate uncontrollably. Some feelings may not be very pleasant but they have just as much validity as positive emotions. All feelings are a reaction to what we are experiencing and if we are aware enough, we can harness them in order to gain a higher understanding of who we actually are.

Emotions are not who we are…they are just a gateway to discovering who we really are. Who we really are is beyond that and it is something that transcends any description. If we base our existence and who we are on the many hundreds of thousands of emotional responses we experience daily, we will become like a small boat at sea without an anchor being tossed around by a violent storm…. the storm represents our emotional responses – if we react to them we will never be grounded and secure within ourselves…we need that anchor to work!

We are constantly reacting to the world around us via emotional responses. Asking ourselves ‘why’ we do the things we do is the doorway to personal growth. We then start learning about ourselves. What we should try to avoid is repressing how we feel. Carrying stress, anger and ill feeling will drag you down further than you need to be – and who needs that?

Everything we are currently experiencing from an emotional perspective is a signpost to another destination and level of understanding in regards to the still hidden aspects of ourselves. These may be positive and negative but you have to look at both, even if you don’t want to know something negative about yourself – for example:

‘I can be lazy, selfish, arrogant, conceited’ etc. There is also the flip side of the coin – ‘I can be caring, loving, supportive and helpful’. We all have our strengths and weaknesses and that is important to remember. Nobody is perfect. You will of course, take frequent positive steps forward if you can change the more negative traits you feel about yourself…

and therin lies the challenge! (It starts with ‘why?’…)

© Christina McDonald 2014

Thoughts on love and compassion…

Love. We all talk about it. It is the subject of many novels. Songs are sung about it, great symphonic masterpieces are written to its call. I would say it is one of (if not the most) beautiful and mystical force of our existence. To quote a famous star wars film, ‘it binds the galaxies together.’

Love is.

We are forever seeking love. Perhaps it is the great quest of our age. Finding that one person who completes us. A soulmate destined to be with us. Yeah – heard all that before.That all sounds a bit same old, same old to me.

We are seeking and seeking love and forgetting to act with love. There is nothing more important than opening ourselves up to not just the possibility of loving others, but loving ourselves. In fact, we cannot love others truly until we love ourselves.

Why?

If we haven’t understood what it means to love ourselves, we cannot know ourselves on the deepest levels of being. If we don’t know who we really are, how can we love ourselves and other people for who they really are?

That sounds all very straightforward and logical but the application is not as easy as it sounds. To really love yourself means searching and understanding every aspect of who you are. Understanding who you are means you can accept the good and the bad within you. You know yourself. Your strengths, your fragilities and vulnerabilities. To love with an open heart is to be completely vulnerable. Naked. Nothing to hide and everything to give without fear. With no conditions. That is why it is so hard to love.

True love is love without any conditions whatsoever. Something so all consuming and powerful requires us to be so vulerable and open. There is no such thing as freedom with limitations. You are either love completely or not at all. The ego is the only limitation and barrier to truly loving someone we have and it keeps our personal fears about it alive and legitimate. ‘What if they leave me? What if I’m not good enough? I know, I’ll cheat on her before she has a chance to leave and hurt me, then, I’ll feel better….’

That’s the small voice of the ego talking.

We dance the dance of love safely hiding behind the mask of our ego. Thinking, hoping and praying for love but never taking the step to be courageous enough to love in the first place. It’s like standing at one end of a very high rope bridge and talking about crossing over and over again, how well we could cross it and in what ways we might try to cross…and in fact never doing so. That is not the same as actually crossing the bridge…to cross it requires courage.

And love is the same.

“The Kingdom of God is inside you and all around you,
Not in a mansion of wood and stone.
Spilt a piece of wood and God is there,
Lift a stone and you will find me”

(Nag Hamadi Scroll – Gospel of St.Thomas)

© Christina McDonald 2014

What do you want?

Life is short. What do you want more than anything else? When you find out what that is, go and get it.

Don’t wait for life to bring it to you. You go and get it!

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive”.

Howard Thurman.

This quote says it all. Too many of us waste time in jobs that don’t suit us. Relationships that don’t work. Worrying about nothing. We deny our potential and limit the true worth of our existence.

Take a leap of faith and follow your heart. You deserve nothing less.

Aliveness is a feeling that connects you to an intuitive purpose. You know it is right because it feels right. Don’t question it.

Do what you love, even if it is unpaid and voluntary. Find a way to do it and if it makes you happy, there is a good chance it will make other people happy too.

Carpe Diem.

You just know…

Be you!

© Christina McDonald 2014