Saturday, 20 May 2017

7 Days of Soul: Love on You

Day 7 of Alexi Panos' “7 Days of Soul” challenge was to do a guided meditation to reconnect us with an innocent, childhood version of ourselves, and then to write a letter from our higher self to that vulnerable earlier stage. I’d recently done an exercise similar to this meditation and found it incredibly powerful.

As a child, I had an incredibly loving and supportive home life; so encountering mean and cruel children at school (and adults who failed to protect me from them) was a shock from which I think I’ve never really recovered. If I could reconnect with that child, I would want to pass on the message that it’s all OK and that none of the cruelty of the schoolyard matters and that meanness essentially comes from how people see themselves, not how they see you. I’m happy to share the full version; here’s what I wrote:

Dear Rüdiger -- we lost touch somewhere along the way, didn’t we? I saw the walls go up -- the defences you put in place to protect that huge heart and big feelings. I’m not blaming you or judging you -- I know your fears and why it seemed necessary.

But it’s OK -- it’s safe now. Those people are long gone and -- I’m sorry to say -- you’ve been maintaining those battlements for nothing. More than that -- I’ve learned that people’s cruelty comes from how they see themselves -- it’s not nothing to do with you at all. You are not defective, or lesser, or worthless, or unlovable just because somebody believed those things about themselves and then tricked you into believing those things were about you instead.

If you trust me enough to lower those defences, I can help you see that too.

Your heart is big and you have so much love to put into the world. It’s so big that it sometimes blinds or overwhelms people! That’s a rare gift and you diminish the world by hiding it behind walls and barriers.

Fear is all the separates us -- it is all that stands between you and your best destiny. It makes your world smaller and darker and colder and leads you to seek and accept less for yourself, and also shuts down a source of light and life for those around you.

Peek out through the cracks. Where are the people who projected their own unhappiness and inadequacy onto you? Nowhere to be found. What’s more -- even hampered by the all the heavy armour that you still carry with you, you have climbed above all of them. What more you could you achieve, what more could you give, if you gave up the things that are now just holding you down?

The siege is over, and you not only held out, but you prospered. Now, please, step out with me into the light, and let your own light shine. It’s OK -- I promise you it’s OK out here. You are safe. You are loved. You are accepted. You are more than enough. The world needs to feel your love. Please trust me. Please become me.



Friday, 19 May 2017

7 Days of Soul: Secret Service Agent

Day 6 of Alexi Panos' “7 Days of Soul” challenge was to do something kind for someone in secret. Most of the suggestions involved leaving a note or gift for a stranger somewhere. I went with one of the suggestions to leave a positive note on someone’s car.

And… to be honest… this choice was not a great fit for me. Although my intention was to brighten someone’s day, I couldn’t stop thinking about how it might backfire. Might it seem creepy to the anonymous recipient? Might they be someone who has dealt with or is dealing with a stalking situation and so this is even traumatising? The best I could do was to console myself with this was “probably fine” and that if the recipient didn’t like it, the worst *likely* outcome would be thinking “OK, that’s weird” and binning the note.

The only thing that helped a little was someone else’s “7 Days of Soul” post. They said they had faced similar doubts but chose to stop “focusing on what other people might think of me and focused on my intention to offer love and value into the world.”

So, my intention was good and kind, and I just have to hope and trust that I did more help than harm in the world.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

7 Days of Soul: Soul Sabbatical

Day 5 of Alexi Panos' "7 Days of Soul" challenge seemed pretty unappealing to me: we were asked to go sit with nature for at least 20 minutes.

Now, I have to say… I’m thoroughly urbanised and just not a nature person. I never feel the need to get out of built environments, I usually feel that beautiful scenery is kind of wasted on me, and there are few things I can think of that I’d like to do less than walking in wilderness. So, even thinking of where I would go or what I would do for today’s stretch was… a stretch!

I reflected that there are two things in nature  that do resonate with me: the sky (particularly the night sky) and large bodies of moving water: rivers, seas, and oceans. My home city is built on a river (the Brisbane River), and for practically my entire life I’ve never lived more than 2km (just over a mile) away from that river. On just about every day of my working life, I have commuted alongside it for most of my journey. So, I decided I would go and just watch the river from one of its many bridges. 

I sat for about 30 minutes, watching the ripples in its brown, estuarine surface, as the wavelets travelled and collided with each other, and observing how the wakes from passing watercraft would propagate and then rebound off the banks or various structures. And the longer I watched, the deeper I relaxed. There was something mesmerising in this activity. After about ten minutes, I completely lost consciousness of time. By the time the half-hour was up, I felt a deep peace and an unexpected clarity, similar to what I’ve experienced inside float tanks.

What’s more, that sense of calm and clarity is something I associate with the better, future self that I’ve been led to imagine in life-coaching sessions. For the third time this week, I’ve gained an insight into how to embody that self.

So, watching the water is something I’m going to do more of.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

7 Days of Soul: Shake that Ass

For day 4 of Alexi Panos' 7 days of soul challenge, we were asked to go dancing... 

...and OK, I’m sure this wasn’t what she had in mind! But my ballet class is always one of the highpoints of my week, and my barre class was the highpoint of my day today. Few things give me so much energy or love for life, and that’s what I wanted to highlight here.

But it wasn’t long ago that my relationship with dance was fear and loathing! You can read the story of that transformation elsewhere on this blog.

I was sad today when I heard someone much younger than me wistfully say that they were “too old” to take up ballet. I was quick to point out that if I could start, so could they. Not that I make any claims to being any good at it… yet. But I’m a beginner, and beginners need to give themselves permission to suck!

The worst thing in class is to see another newbie unwilling to try a combination because (I assume) they’re afraid that they’ll suck. Last week, I attempted an assemblé for the first time, and I feel sure it was not only completely unrecognisable as an assemblé, but as anything balletic at all! This week, my assemblé was horrible, but I think that my intention was probably clear. And next time I try, I will be better.

So, keeping the gratitude going this week, thank you to all the people who have brought the joy and magic of dance into my life recently. I owe you so much.

Monday, 15 May 2017

7 Days of Soul: Gratitude Gush

For day 3 of Alexi Panos' "7 Days of Soul" challenge, we were reminded to express gratitude to somebody in our lives. I chose a few people to write “thank you” cards to. 

Sincerely expressing love and gratitude isn’t an obstacle for me: I pretty much wear my heart on my sleeve. If anything, I’ve sometimes erred on the side of too much expression, and I’ve had to learn (the hard way, of course) to be more sensitive to other people’s different emotional landscapes.

Although it wasn’t a hurdle, today was a good reminder to express gratitude more often. I would like to make more of a habit of this.

As I write this, I also wonder if I set the bar too low, and perhaps should have thought harder to find people in my world I have more trouble expressing gratitude to or for. I will think further on this.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

7 Days of Soul: Makeover Mojo

For day 2 of Alexi Panos' 7 Days of Soul challenge, we had to change something about the way we present physically, externally in the world.

Again, I thought about the future, better self I'd been led to imagine during life coaching -- and what that self would wear, even around the house (it’s a Sunday after all).

I don’t even own clothes entirely like what I pictured, but I dressed as close as I could, which was dressier than what I would normally have done. And I pampered myself by breaking out a more “special occasions” shampoo and shower gel.

It felt good to wear “nicer” clothes, and ones more aligned to my future vision. And I got compliments from my family :)

It reminded me of my last big wardrobe makeover: when I needed new clothes after losing a lot of weight (63kg, 139lb). That time, the transformation focused on my work and university attire, but I never carried it through into my home life. Today taught me that I could benefit from going further with that transformation.

So, the lessons of the last two days: eat and dress like that imagined better self, to facilitate becoming that self. This reminds me a bit of method acting!!!

Saturday, 13 May 2017

7 Days of Soul: Stop the Suck

This is day 1 of a 7 day challenge being led by Alexi Panos -- each day we’ll do a “stretch” -- an exercise in living more soulfully and joyfully.

So, today, we’ve been asked to identify at least one “soul suck” that we’re going to eliminate for the next 7 days -- something that takes us away from our higher selves. I’m going to try for three: two that I know how to eliminate, and just need practice, and one that I’m not sure how to do. Please help me with all three -- hold me accountable on the first two, and I’d love to hear ideas on how to accomplish the third. OK -- here goes!

Soul Suck 1 -- processed food

Less of the top;
more of the bottom

I’ve been on quite a journey with food over the last couple of years, from a place of fear and really destructive eating patterns (restriction and binging) to a place of eating purposefully, mindfully, and joyfully (most of the time anyway!) I have the expert guidance of my dietitian to be thankful for transforming my thinking about food and taking my fear away. I’ve come to really enjoy fresh food, and eating things as close to their natural state as possible, and actually eat very little processed food any more. These days, the processed food that I still consume is usually in the form of protein bars, and the occasional dessert treat.    So, why target processed food this week?     

  • While I no longer think of any food as “good” or “bad”, I know that when I respond to my body’s hunger signals by eating something processed and out of a packet, I’m losing an opportunity to eat something that I know I would enjoy more. So, first, there’s an opportunity cost every time I choose processed over raw or fresh.

  • Second, I have had a couple of really powerful experiences where a life coach has led workshop participants to imagine a future version of ourselves -- one we would like to be -- and to think about how that self lives. When I imagine what that self eats, I see them eating fresh, whole foods, not stuff out of a packet. So ditching the processed food will bring me closer to them and how they live.
  • Third, I have been inspired by a different life coach who teaches the importance of eating purposefully and in alignment with your values. Eating a protein bar serves no purpose that a handful of raw nuts won’t. And a piece of fruit surely fulfils the purpose of “a refreshing treat” just as much as an ice-cream does… and in each case, one is more in line with my current values than the other.
So… no processed food this week! Please remind me if you see me slip!

Soul Suck #2 -- negative talk (without action)

So much for what’s going into my mouth… what about comes out of my mouth?

I don’t think of myself as an overly negative person, but I do know that I could do better. This week, I want to stop saying negative things: about people, about businesses, about politics UNLESS it’s in the context of contributing to a solution, or raising awareness with a view to taking some kind of actual action on an issue.

This one was inspired by one of Alexi’s prompts: that for some people, the “soul suck” they might need to remove for a week might be a person or a particular relationship.

I’m lucky in that I don’t think I have people like that in my life. But it made me turn the challenge around and think: “what role do *I* play in spreading negativity in the world?”

I want to do better. Again, if you hear me doing this, please remind me that I said I wouldn’t!

Soul Suck #3 -- Being critical of my body

This is the one that scares me. I know how to do the other two, but this is the real “stretch” and to be honest, I don’t know what to do here.
I’ve lived most of my life hating the way my body looks. And all the big changes I’ve made to it over the last two years haven’t cured that.

Yes, I’m definitely happier with my appearance than I was, but I discovered that somewhere along the way, my hate became disconnected from objective reality. And, I’ve found new things to be critical of.

So, escaping from a place where I just thought I was too fat, I’m now found a whole heap of new things to be critical of. It’s like the overall amount of criticism hasn’t gone down at all, but becoming leaner has just displaced most of that criticism to other parts of my body (while still thinking that I’m too fat). These are things that had never bothered me before, and consciously, I know that some of them are just completely objectively untrue. There are some fun cognitive distortions at work.

At the very least, I commit to challenging these thoughts this week, and borrowing another technique learned from life coaching: each time one of them surfaces, I will ask myself “Is that true?” and “how do I know?” That should be a starting point at least.

But if you can think of any other way to block or derail these ideas, please help me with suggestions. Has anything worked for you?