Passion Versus Peace

In the midst of life’s challenges and desires, there is always a subtle pressure to seek and do more whether we are aware of it or not. If people stopped doing things, what would happen to the world? Let me rephrase that – what if people stopped doing negative and destructive things and replaced them with positive acts and deeds? Good news instead of bad news. I think a lot of the choices we have and end up making in life depend on the quality and focus of our intention – what do we intend to happen?

Feeling restless and discontent is something I really don’t like feeling. I am not a person who finds it easy to settle down. I always have to be running around, doing new things and challenging myself. ‘This is too easy, I’ve conquered this, I need a new challenge, what can I do now?’

Is ‘easy’ a bad thing or does it simply mean we are not trying hard enough or pushing ourselves in the way we should? Perhaps we have all learned to fight contentment as it could mean we have nothing left to strive for, no more goals on the horizon. When people ask me what I’m passionate about, I don’t know what to say. I love life, I enjoy learning and exploring everything it has to offer but I don’t have this fervent desire brooding inside of me that seems to be needed to achieve things.

In a world where we all have to be passionate and driven to do well, is it any wonder we all feel restless and constantly worn out? Feeling and experiencing passion is amazing though. It really gives us the determination to succeed at what we do. The only problem is – it burns out very quickly sometimes. Rather than being passionate about what you do, I think it is better to love what you do instead.

Life seldom works out the way you thought it would. Plans and dreams tend to waver off course, just like a meandering river, the journey of life carries us through the choices we make. There is only the destination we choose for ourselves which means – life is in our hands. There is energy behind the flow of the river. If we combine our energy with a focused intention, we find more often than not that we will be able to achieve what we want. But that’s just it – what do we want?

Desire, lust and passion are intensely seductive and they have the power to consume and destroy. You can be enslaved by your desires and ultimately destroyed by them. Look at any addiction. (Watch Star Wars). It is filled with Zen wisdom! I don’t know what I prefer really. To be peaceful and content or to be passionate and driven. All I know is – I cannot have both. Perhaps we all go through phases where we prefer one over the other.

Love stands the test of time. Look at successful relationships for example – if love is the foundation, you will go the distance. Building a relationship on passion in life is like trying to build a house on a stormy sea. It just doesn’t work. The waves are turbulent, volatile and guaranteed to throw you all over the place. In a relationship, it may be exciting for a while but the excitement is eventually overtaken by exhaustion and tiredness as you try desperately to hold on to the passion which is energy – energy cannot be restrained. It changes from moment to moment. You cannot hold onto to it.

If there is anything in life we could say is certain is that nothing ever stays the same for long. Even if it does, eventually things will change. It is the nature of the world we live in. People come and go. Lives change and people grow. Surely to stand still is to stagnate? Like everything in life, it depends on how you look at things. If you feel stuck, perhaps it is all do with luck….

‘I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.’

(Ecclesiastes 9:11)

This says it all. So much in this world is uncertain even if we do plan things. Life can give you a hand that you didn’t expect. Time and chance have their role to play. Chances come and risks can be taken but you can still never know what lies ahead of you if you do take that leap and if you don’t. To me, contentment, happiness and peace are the main goals of life. What you want may not always be what you find. It could be better or worse than you originally intended depending on how you look at things. Are we all simply just ‘putting up’ with things and settling for less than we deserve in life or are we actually happy? Now that is a tricky one…

I’m going to go with peace.

Christina McDonald 2014.

Being Content

I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I feel content and peaceful, I feel like I want something else. The feelings of desire for some kind of excitement kick in and annoyingly so. There always seems to be something just around the corner to make me feel restless. With me, I often feel as though I could do more with my life and that I am not making the most of my potential. I think I am but I always have that nagging doubt – could I be more and could I do more?

I think the answer to that question is – yes. We can always do and achieve more but we don’t need to use that as an excuse for not being happy with ourselves and for what we actually have achieved in life. Contentment is something we feel when we happy with who we are and that doesn’t always amount to having to do more and more things to come to that realisation.

Everything we do in life is an experience. Having experiences (such as travelling) and not actually discovering something about yourself in the progress defeats the purpose. We need to learn to travel within and that is something we don’t often do. If life is a journey, then we are all travelling everyday. Writing our own story, discovering our own path.

The greatest voyage in life is walking the path towards understanding your own heart. When you reach that destination, everything in life has a new meaning and purpose – every step and breath you take has taken you to this point and beyond the discovery of your own heart, there is just peace, contentment and happiness. You no longer need to search for meaning.

To me, this is contentment. Living life from your heart and knowing that no matter what you do in life, your successes, your ‘failures’, your good days and bad days, this feeling will always remain the same.

Keep doing things but don’t forget to ‘be’. That is where true happiness dwells and where life becomes simple.

Christina McDonald 2014.

Secrets

I have a close friend who recently told me she had an affair. Nothing really surprises me when I hear things like this. Perhaps I have become too cynical. She seemed tired, drained and lost as to what she should do to make things better.

Sitting in a tiny coffee shop in Soho, Central London, I tried to comfort her but my words seemed to resound off some kind of emotional air-bag. Nothing I could say could change anything. I don’t think she could make sense of anything anymore.

Happily married (or at least what seemed to be) with a wonderful husband and two gorgeous children, I asked her why she did it. She didn’t know. All she kept saying to me was that ‘she needed to escape from things. Steven and I have being having problems,’ Lord knows I understand that feeling. Welcome to marriage!

I could see that she wasn’t happy at all. That was clear. Extra-marital affairs happen so frequently and I believe they are a symptom of living a life that has lost meaning somehow. We start searching for a spark, some kind of exciting realisation that reminds us we are alive and still able to feel.

The problem with having an affair is that we end up feeling more than just passion. What can often follow in the destructive aftermath is pain, fear, confusion, abandonment, emptiness and loss. Is it really worth it? I asked my friend if she had any feelings at all for the man she had being seeing and she said ‘not really. I’m just unhappy in myself.’

When the passion has burned out, what is left? Sex is sex. It’s great at the time. It can certainly masquerade itself as love with all the trimmings. That is the illusion. Love and passion are related but like siblings, they have similarities but are very different to one another.

How to tell the difference?

Passion is all consuming, It makes you feel exhilarated, alive, vibrant and on top of the world. Love is actually quite a calm feeling, It makes you feel happy, peaceful and content. It has a sense of completeness like nothing else. It is easy to forget the true bliss of being happily in love, Washing dishes, ironing clothes and running errands to the supermarket is not something that reminds us how lucky and happy we are.

Passion is like a wave crashing against the shore. Powerful, intense, full of energy – aliveness. The waves don’t last all the time though. There is ebb and flow, change and continual movement. There is no stability and no prediction. Everything is uncertain at sea.

My friend was certainly lost at sea and looking for a lifeboat. All I could do was offer reassurance with the classic line ‘things will get better.’ I hate saying that. How do I know things will get better for her? I don’t, but I can only offer her some comfort.

At this risk of sounding totally cliche, I have to admit that things usually do get better in the end. “Time heals all wounds” and all that stuff. Somehow, things eventually end up making sense when the time is right.

© Christina McDonald 2014

In praise of….nothing.

I think now, more than ever before people feel a tremendous pressure to do and be as many things as possible. Pressure is everywhere and it is not just about surviving this crazy life. Most of us being lucky have all the essentials we need – food, water, a roof over our heads and good health. There is another kind of subtle pressure that eats away at the core of us. You need to do better, be better, act better and have more. There is ravenous wolf chasing us away from what matters most.

Nothing is ever good enough. What if people realised that they can be content with themselves without needing to have more? Standing still of course is not a good thing either. I think it is important to learn, grow and experience what this amazing life has to offer. The other feeling I mention is something that makes us feel empty in a negative way.

I know this feeling. I don’t know why I feel it sometimes myself, but I do. I think we all do from time to time if I’m honest. Sometimes I feel literally swamped in my mind by ‘stuff’. Must buy this, must have that. It tries to suck you in and I’m tired of it. Even just browsing in shops, there are images of so-called ‘ideals’ everywhere – a poster or a billboard of a sexy, perfect woman or man with no physical flaws visible selling us perfume, watches or fast cars – ‘buy this, and you’ll be complete…it’ll make a difference to your life if you buy it.’ Yey capitalism. Make a profit, make a profit at all costs…

There is nothing wrong with having possessions of course. As long as you don’t define yourself by what you have. The images of aspirations society throws at us versus all our feelings of inadequacy. Images are all they are. Perhaps nothing is ever good enough because the concept of nothing is quite scary. Having nothing, being nothing, doing nothing. We fight to hold onto our possessions and the desire to have more and more at all costs. But within nothing, there is something extremely valuable at its core. Freedom to be yourself.

If we are conforming to ideals of how to look and act, we are not being honest with who we really are. As soon as someone you know has something bigger, better and more expensive, you will begin to compare yourself with that person and somehow, you will start beating yourself up again for not being good enough, for not having enough.

Call me crazy but I don’t think that’s a healthy or a fun way to live.

Some of the happiest people in the world have nothing (or very little). Because they have so little, they appreciate everything they have. My husband visited the Gambia a few years ago and he saw very severe poverty and sickness. The one thing he did notice was how many people were smiling and welcoming despite dire circumstances. They had so little – not even three meals a day and they were not complaining. They were happy and content with what they had. What a lesson this is to us all.

The things we take for granted are in fact, the best things in life. Not the ideals in life. We all know it but we forget it so easily. What’s amazing? Having the courage to be yourself. True happiness is simply remembering who you really are.

© Christina McDonald 2014