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Pain and Back (Part 1)

Looking out across the savannah, the young man saw giraffes and marvelled at their incredible grace and beauty. Far away to his left, the trail of dust left by a herd of wildebeest and zebra drifted and settled in new places. A pair of warthogs splashed in the ever-decreasing water hole after several elephants enjoyed an evening shower before going back to graze in the nearby bush. A flock of starlings appeared to fly into the setting sun.

“You’ve discovered a wonderful place to share a few moments my young friend. What
brought you here?”

Before sitting, the older man tested the dead tree by the waterside. Satisfied it
would take his weight, he made himself comfortable and indicated a place for
his friend.

“Giraffes are on the endangered list for the first time. At least that’s what I read
somewhere. But look at them; they seem blissfully unaware of any danger.”

“Humankind is their only real enemy; but I sense you aren’t here to discuss the extinction of another beautiful species.”

“You’re right, though concerned, I chose this as a place to think and reflect on the
day I stepped out of the darkness and into the sun.”

“Not literally I hope.”

The young man laughed.

“No, far from it. I suppose I should’ve said, stepped into the light. Yes, that’s a
better fit. My life today is blessed with positivity and opportunity. I strayed far from my path and experienced some difficult lessons and some extreme mental and physical pain. My family suffered too. Now the table is clearing for a banquet of all the beautiful things life has to offer.

Back in 1995, buried deep in my work; buried and lost for over twenty
years and living far from the land of my birth. Few friends and no life to
speak of outside the safe routine of work. I was in a dark relationship that
served neither of us and we were too scared to admit it.

I allowed myself to be controlled, didn’t even notice it happening. A visit to
the bar with colleagues at the end of the work week wasn’t encouraged. Life was
a balance of positivity at work and negativity toward everything at home.
Material things was our way of temporary respite; mountain bike racing and
skiing my stress relief.

When my workday finished at 10.00 pm on a Friday in August, I was excited because the car was loaded for a road-trip. Two weeks of psychology seminars at a university in
England. After five minutes at the wheel, I crossed from Germany into The
Netherlands aware of a subtle shift in my mood. Difficult to describe except to
say, I felt light.

The further away from base I drove, the lighter I felt. Interesting too that
although I’d given myself more time than I needed for the trip; I had few
breaks, no need of sleep and didn’t once review the information I had about the
Psychology seminars; despite my intention. Whatever had me, made everything
seem irrelevant. The feeling was wonderful.

It was early morning, a little after dawn when the French car ferry arrived in England
and I followed the scenic coastal route from the port of Dover to Brighton. I
knew most of the way but had forgotten how beautiful it was. I felt like a
child seeing the ocean for the first time.

Shortly before 8.00 a.m. I turned off the route to an area of dunes and a traffic free
space to park, lay out my sleeping bag and took in the clean salty air. The
feeling of light didn’t leave me for an instant; it was so persistent that as tired as my body should’ve been, the thought of sleeping still didn’t occur. The sun rising in front of me created an outstanding light show on the gentle waves. Illusions of little people and heavenly beings rode the surf and dived into the troughs between the waves as they broke.

Even after arriving at the university, I couldn’t sleep despite having until 6.00 pm
to do as I pleased. So, I walked, got to know the block world that was to be my
home for the next two weeks. Forgetting to find out where the campus restaurant
was.

Fortunately, a beautiful woman rescued the lost, hungry man in distress. She escorted me to an early evening meal and, although she had eaten, offered to keep me company.
It was like sitting in a dazzling room with the sun in my eyes. I could see her
but everybody else was shadow-like.

We found a bench outside afterwards and shared the trivia of our lives before she
dug deeper for the things that mattered. I went along happily and not one pause
to wonder why until the sides of our hands touched and a dynamic spark exploded
through my body.

Not sexual at first but incredibly lustful. Something took hold of me and it wasn’t
ever going to let me carry on living in the dark and on the wrong path.
Somehow, I knew everything was right; no analysis, no questions required.

Later that evening, we sat on a hill between the concrete blocks watching the stars.
The cosmos gave the most amazing display of shooting stars either of us had
ever seen. Our vibrations were up there with the stars and stayed there
throughout the following week.

Something deep inside of me awoke and there was no way I would turn my back on it. The feeling of somehow knowing became absolute. My soul spoke, and I heard its
beautiful song.

Eight months later, she and her amazing one-year-old daughter were living with me.
Shooting stars never stopped and five-months later, she was pregnant, and our
son arrived the following summer, five days after my birthday. What an amazing
gift being in that sunlight room with my beautiful partner and an earth-angel
in the guise of midwife. Together we watched and helped guide another perfect
soul into the world.

That same summer, I gave up the free accommodation that came with my job and we
moved to the nearby Netherlands. We made so many true friends and thinking about
their outstanding generosity and friendship brings a lump to my throat. Work
colleagues didn’t get it. How could I give up so much? What they didn’t know
was the symbolic giving away of the darkness that had plagued my life. I was
waking up to my Divine nature although still in ignorance of the true bliss
that could bring. My new-found energy propelled me forward.

Part 2 Follows soon

 

Not the latest fad or new-age fashion

Mindfulness is not the latest fad or new-age fashion. It’s been around for thousands of years. The scope of this post is not to explore origins, rather, how mindfulness works and what can be done to maintain positive mindful practice.

It’s like a diet in some senses; if you don’t do it, there won’t be any benefits.

I noticed considerable argument surrounding a UK television programme on social media regarding how mindfulness can be used to alleviate problems associated with Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Some say it can, some say not. I wonder how many of the “not” camp reside in the pharmaceuticals industry?

So, there you go. I’ve just blown my cover. I am proudly a member of the “yes it can” camp.  But don’t forget what I said; use it or lose it!

That’s a challenge with most children, young adults and adults alike. Generally, we’re brought up not living mindfully. For the greater part of our lives, we react to events. Worrying about what we did or didn’t do in the past and about what the future will bring, or not. Doing that we lose our attachment to the present moment. One of my favourite sayings is, “life is right now, in this moment.” This is mindfulness.

It’s about noticing what is happening right now in this moment.

Having awareness of what your body senses. Feeling emotions in your body, through positive or negative sensations. Noticing what’s happening in your mind.

What happens when you start noticing these experiences?

Awareness of what’s happening around you will enable deeper focus, and attention to your own senses will develop improvement in many aspects of life.

Improved focus can advance sports, educational or musical achievements for example. Any high-achiever will tell you that. Read about how great athletes prepare for a race. It’s not just about being physically fit. Mindfulness can help reach higher examination grades too. We always do better when we pay direct attention to our life-activities.

Noticing what’s happening around you, can help you to calm down when you’re sad, angry or frustrated. Mindfulness helps you deal with difficult emotions and can lift a dark mood. It can even assist recovery from chronic illnesses or addiction. I have my own evidence for that through personal experience which you can read about or listen to elsewhere. We will come to that.

Humans are pretty good at judging and reacting too. Think about it. How often have you seen somebody dive in and take apart a person or group because of something they’ve said or done? Here’s another aspect of mindfulness; without judgement and staying neutral yet maintaining curiosity.

That sounds tricky doesn’t it? It’s not as tough as it sounds but we may be carrying some baggage from our lives that makes it seem difficult at first. Once we parcel that baggage and learn to put it into our experience boxes and move on, it’s not so difficult.

So, if I could show you the space where mindfulness resides, I would point to this great quote from Stephen R. Covey’s bestseller, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”

Covey talked about Viktor Frankl, a famous psychiatrist imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp during WW II

“They could control his entire environment, they could do what they wanted to his body, but Victor Frankl himself was a self-aware being who could look as an observer at his very involvement. His basic identity was intact. He could decide within himself how all of this was going to affect him. Between what happened to him, or the stimulus, and his response to it, was his freedom or power to choose that response.” 

We all have that freedom or power to choose how we respond to any situation the moment it arises. It’s how we respond that matters.

How does mindfulness work?

When someone says something we don’t like to hear, we react. Sometimes we say something and wish to retract it as soon as it’s spoken. Or we are knocked down by the emotion caused by an event.

Mindfulness helps us create space between emotions and actions. We learn to deal with positive and negative experiences more calmly and by making better decisions.

If we are mindful of our thoughts and feelings, we respond positively and, without hurting our own or the feelings of others. Sometimes life packs hard punches. Practising mindfulness gives us the ability to recover faster and move on.

So, mindfulness works with the daily ups and downs of life and can also lead to outstanding results with major events such as chronic illness as I have proved to myself along with countless others.

It wouldn’t be fair to leave you hanging on a statement like that, but I will for now and until I get back to you, I encourage you to seek more information with an open mind. There’s plenty out there.

Additionally, I’m involved with a project called, “Courage To Connect” where you can read about part of my journey into mindful living and those of several other authors. Watch out for more information.

Peace, Love and Light,

Steve

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