Essential Principles, Practices and panaceas, A – Z: Honesty

honesty haiku

You know, there’s nothing you can do about your public image. It is what it is. I just try to do things honestly. I guess honesty is what you would call subjective: if you feel good about what you’re doing, yourself, you figure you’re doing the right thing. Christopher Walken

Are you unapologetically, unashamedly yourself 100% of the time? Is it even necessary?

We all play different roles, wearing individual masks to suit each one – parent, sibling, colleague, friend etc. These masks collectively add up to the persona we present to the world.

If appropriately developed, our persona protects us and helps us to be effective in the various situations we find ourselves in. Problems arise, however, when we become over-identified with an aspect of our persona, for example feeling a need to be the perfect child and conform to unrealistic expectations in order to win the approval of our parents.

Parents who don’t validate their children for who they are stifle their child’s capacity for spontaneous expression. At worst, the defensive wall built by the child to feel safe can result in a personality disorder. At the very least, the child hides their real self within a protective shield of denial. If you swathe yourself too much in denial you run the risk of losing all sense of your real self.

How many ‘adults’ today, I wonder, are rejected children in grown-up’s bodies, afraid to own their feelings and intuitions, inhabiting illusory existences that leave them feeling empty and purposeless? I’ve been that person, and I know of others still imprisoned in this way. Can you honestly say that this state of being doesn’t ring remotely true for you?

We shroud ourselves in denial to make our reality more bearable, using it as a coping strategy. But denial only masks the truth: if I say X is true, then I don’t have to face up to Y. Y, however, still exists, no matter how much I pretend it doesn’t.

Being in denial doesn’t only shackle you; it affects the way you are with people. A friend of mine recently ended a relationship with a man who was blind to the reality of their situation. For months they had been sniping at each other, each trying to get one over on the other. When she finally decided to confront the problem, he point blank refused to acknowledge that there was anything wrong. My friend tried hard to communicate honestly with her ex but he insisted that their relationship was fine, when the actions of both of them so clearly said otherwise.

What are people so afraid of when it comes to acknowledging truth/reality? That they won’t be able to cope with it? For me, remaining in ignorance is a far worse fate. If you can’t be honest, you’re living as a false self; this makes your life an ego-trip to hell. Dishonesty and denial are ultimately life-denying.

Deciding to undertake a fearlessly honest evaluation of your past helps you to make peace with it and clear any unfinished business that is holding you back. Depending on what is lurking back there, this is best approached with professional help.

Then discover and act on your passions – even if they don’t conform to what your family and friends are used to seeing from you. Why smother your essence to fit in, especially if toeing the line doesn’t bring you contentment? Prove to yourself Danielle Pierre’s assertion that: The need to prove who you are will vanish once you know who you are.

Cultivating honesty within yourself, knowing who you are and what you want, develops your character and improves your life.

Honesty and integrity are absolutely essential for success in life – all areas of life. The really good news is that anyone can develop both honesty and integrity. Zig Ziglar

Honestly? You owe it to yourself.

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Essential Principles, Practices and Panaceas, A – Z: Gratitude

gratitude haiku

Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude. Ralph Waldo Emerson

On a scale of 1 – 10, how grateful would you say you feel right now for the people and situations in your life?

Is your appreciation intellectual (you think you’re grateful, so you must be), or do you feel it at your core?

If you’re not grateful for what you’ve got, you’ll never be grateful for what you get. I’m not sure who said that but if you think about it, it’s true.

Looking for gratitude in as many situations as you can helps to keep your spirits up; being unwilling to appreciate anything in your life victimises you.

Research shows that there are seven proven benefits to be gained from practising gratitude:

  1. An increase in, and generally improved, relationships; showing appreciation makes you more appealing to be around.
  2. Better physical health; being grateful makes you more likely to take care of yourself.
  3. Better psychological health; feeling grateful leads to improved emotional intelligence.
  4. Increased empathy and decreased aggression; being grateful makes you more sociable and less sociopath.
  5. Better sleep; keeping a gratitude journal has been shown to improve sleep.
  6. Greater self-esteem; being grateful for what you have reduces envy towards others.
  7. Enhanced mental strength; being grateful reduces stress and helps you to develop resilience.

I can attest to the power of gratitude in helping you become resilient. When I was traumatised and unable to function due to shock, I came across this statement by Tecumseh:

When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the morning light, for your life and strength. Give thanks for your food and the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies in yourself.

I repeated Tecumseh’s words to myself at least once a day; reminding myself to focus on what I could feel thankful for definitely kept me afloat and contributed to my recovery from PTSD.

And when you go to bed with a panic attack most nights, convinced that you’re having a heart attack and won’t wake up the following morning, you’re usually pretty grateful to hear the alarm going off!

Robert Emmons suggests ten ways to become more grateful:

  1. Start a gratitude journal; regularly appraising and recording the blessings in your life helps to make gratitude habitual.
  2. Recall bad times; now is better than then, right? And remember: This, too, shall pass.
  3. Practice Naikan, a meditative technique in which you ask: What have I received from ____? What have I given to ____? What troubles and difficulty have I caused?
  4. Say prayers of gratitude; you don’t have to be religious to pray.
  5. Heed your senses; the gift of life comes to us through what we see (the face of a loved one, a stunning sunset), hear (your favourite music, waves crashing on a beach), touch (a hug from your favourite person, the warm sun and soft breeze on your skin), smell (your favourite meal cooking, the salt-tang of sea air) and taste (eating your favourite meal, relishing a crisp, juicy, sweet apple).
  6. Have visual reminders; post-its, photos, whatever will prompt feelings of gratitude in you.
  7. Pledge to practice gratitude; write yourself a contract.
  8. Practice grateful behaviours; say ‘thank you’, smile!
  9. Be aware of the power of your words; monitor your self-talk and what you say about others.
  10. Think creatively; expand your capacity for gratitude. Make a game of finding things to appreciate.

You can’t fake embodied thankfulness, but if you want to live essentially, that is, the life for which you were born, it helps to do whatever is necessary to embrace gratitude. Then you will discover the truth in Stephen Richards’ assertion that: Gratitude… opens your eyes to the limitless potential of the universe, while dissatisfaction closes your eyes to it.

You choose; which is it to be?

Essential Principles, Practices and Panaceas, A – Z: Freedom

freedom haiku

The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first. Jim Morrison

Sitting down to write this post, I have two songs playing in my mind: Rozalla’s Everybody’s Free and The Soup Dragons’ I’m Free. Of the two I’m more inclined towards the message in Rozalla’s song, as I believe that we are free to feel good; I’m not sure that being free to do whatever you want is either desirable or advisable.

Rozalla sings about inner liberation, which is what is referred to in the Jim Morrison quote above. This type of freedom is often missing because of conditioning; families, societies and cultures can create invisible barriers in some people that are as imprisoning as a maximum security jail.

Conditioning, along with the inability to cope with unpleasant life experiences, contributes to the formation of a wounded/fragile ego, which is itself extremely restricting. The unhealthy ego is so concerned with looking good and caring about what others think that it keeps us locked in fear.

Jean-Paul Sartre said that Freedom is what we do with what is done to us; if we’re ill-equipped to handle life’s trials and tribulations then we become knotted up by anxiety and bitterness.

When my son was at primary school, he had friends whose mums were so protective of their children (perhaps projecting their own frail-ego fears onto them?) that they interfered in the slightest disagreement between their children and their friends. This is not empowering for the child as it restricts his or her ability to deal with conflict.

Then there are the parents who impose their wishes and dreams onto their children; some through desire to secure their child’s future, and others to live vicariously through their offspring. My son played football from an early age and several fathers stood on the sidelines, pushing their sons to perform to their satisfaction. I know of one father who wasted his own opportunity to play professionally; it was as though he was trying to make up for it by putting pressure on his son to fulfil his dream.

It’s hardly surprising that people grow up confused, unsure of who they are and what they want from life.

Signs that you are a prisoner in your own life include:

  • Intolerance: other people irritate you. Why are they so inefficient/slow/stupid etc?
  • Exhaustion: everything is such an effort.
  • Self-righteousness: I wouldn’t say/do that.
  • Overwhelm: it’s all too much for me.

It is possible to liberate yourself from the man-made restraints that curl around your feet and ankles, tethering you to your post. It takes fearless, scrupulously honest self-examination to determine who you really are. Then you are in a position to identify what inspires you and are able embody Aristotle’s maxim that: He who has overcome his fears will truly be free.

Some questions for reflection:

  • Are your thoughts and actions always your own? Or are they informed by opinions and beliefs that others imposed on you?
  • What does freedom look, smell, sound, taste and feel like for you?
  • How can you free yourself from the limits and restrictions that bind you?

You will know you are on the freedom footpath when you feel:

  • Engaged: you’re interested in what you are doing, it excites you.
  • Energised: you’re enlivened by whatever you are engaged in.
  • Motivated: the engagement and energy you feel spurs you on.
  • In the flow of life: things fall effortlessly into place.

Voltaire said that Man is free at the moment he wishes to be. What do you wish for yourself?

Essential Principles, Practices and Panaceas, A – Z: Forgiveness

forgiveness haiku

To err is human, to forgive, divine. Alexander Pope

People who hold bitterness towards those who have wronged them are hurting no-one but themselves. Someone clinging to self-righteous anger, for example, isn’t harming the person towards whom that anger is directed. The rage is contained within the person who won’t forgive (it isn’t can’t – forgiveness can be incredibly difficult but it’s always an option); those toxic emotions are circulating in the body and psyche of the injured party.

It’s the wounded/fragile ego that won’t forgive; it distorts your perceptions, making you think that holding on to a grudge is somehow beneficial for you. It isn’t – it victimises you. Forgiveness frees you from victimisation and reconnects you with your essence. It’s as simple as changing your mind – which isn’t to say that it’s easy.

Some people’s behaviour is inexcusable – but you are in charge of your response to that person’s actions, no matter how appalling they are. I’d hazard a guess that anyone who sets out to deliberately harm someone else has to be suffering inside, either through unhappiness or even mental illness. If you’re at peace within yourself then you feel no need to lash out at another person.

Can you forgive someone for being despairing, or ill? Or does holding a grudge make you feel better?

Forgiveness fosters resilience. It’s easier to bounce back if you haven’t been punctured by wounds that you received from what amount to scared, sad, unhappy or poorly people.

Are you empowered enough to rise above another’s failings? Nelson Mandela is one of the greatest role models for forgiveness I can think of; through forgiveness, he was able to develop compassion towards his oppressors. This made it possible for him to rid his country of the evil of apartheid and bring democracy to all South Africans.

In the words of the distinguished gentleman himself:

As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison… Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.

It is vital, too, to forgive yourself for the mistakes you make. Are we hard on others, because we deem ourselves unforgivable? Condemning others is more often than not a projection of the judgement we feel we deserve. It stands to reason, then, that if we can forgive a wrongdoer it will be easier to forgive ourselves; tolerating shortcomings in others makes it easier to tolerate them in ourselves.

It comes back to David Richo’s five ‘givens’ of existence – this is how life is so it’s in your interest to let go of resentment and anger when things don’t go your way, or when people don’t behave how you would like them to. The choice is yours.

One way to practice forgiveness is to write a list of the names of people who you feel have wronged you. (If it’s a long list then it might be an idea to select a few people at a time, starting with the least destructive transgressors) Beside each name, write in as much detail as you can what they did, describing how it made you feel. Don’t let your ego stand in the way of your expression – if someone really hurt you, fully sense that vulnerability.

Once you have vented all of your feelings, take your list outside and set light to it, saying as you do so, ‘I release all of the pain you have ever caused me; I am no longer willing to be held captive by your heartless behaviour’ (or feel free to devise your own statement, using whatever language helps you to let that s*&% go!).

Then it’s time to absolve yourself, this time listing the names of those you feel you have mistreated, apologising and asking for their forgiveness. When you burn this list, say words to the effect of, ‘I forgive myself for any sorrow/trouble I caused’.

You can repeat the exercise as many times as it takes for you to be able to wholeheartedly forgive.

Is it possible that embodying forgiveness can transform our world? Gordon B. Hinckley seems to think so:

The willingness to forgive is a sign of spiritual and emotional maturity. It is one of the great virtues to which we all should aspire. Imagine a world filled with individuals willing both to apologise and to accept an apology. Is there any problem that could not be solved among people who possessed the humility and largeness of spirit and soul to do either – or both – when needed?

Gandhi said that the weak struggle to forgive, that forgiveness is a trait of the strong. What’s your preference?

Essential Principles, Practices and Panaceas, A – Z: Evolution

evolution haiku

Without Psychological Evolution there cannot be any form of revolution. The self is constantly changing. Be involved, be evolved, be revolutionised as lucent and fresh as the new wave hitting at the shore. Become the Sea of Changes. It starts from within. Grigoris Deoudis

Evolution is a processthe origin of the word  process being: fact of being carried on, a journey, continuation, development…, a going forward, advance, progress, continuous series of actions meant to accomplish some result. What evolution is not is an end result.

Bill Hicks got it right when he said:

Folks, it’s time to evolve. That’s why we’re troubled. You know why our institutions are failing us, the church, the state, everything’s failing? It’s because, um – they’re no longer relevant. We’re supposed to keep evolving. Evolution did not end with us growing opposable thumbs. You do know that, right

To evolve is to develop gradually by natural process (Oxford English Dictionary); psychological evolution is, for me, about ascending Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and moving towards self-actualisation.

Psychological evolution is the principle underpinning Essential Coaching Inc. I’m passionate about personal transformation and fulfilment of potential. What are we here for if not to grow, blossom and be all that we can be?

A fundamental psychological transformation concerns healing and integrating the neurotic/unhealthy/wounded ego and befriending our shadow – which contains untapped potential, not just those aspects of ourselves that we do not care to admit to, much less accept.

Think about a behaviour or character trait in someone that irritates you; then consider how you might also possess that same characteristic. If the thought makes you bristle, there’s a good chance that trait is lurking in your shadow, clamouring to be recognised.

Perfectionism is a sure sign that the dark side of your shadow has the upper hand. I know people who become angry at the slightest criticism; nobody likes to think that they have any faults, but if you find yourself constantly on the defensive then perhaps it’s time to look inside to see what needs to be reconciled.

I don’t see how anyone can ever be truly happy unless they are prepared to undertake this work. If there are aspects of yourself that you disown, then you are denying your own humanity. Think about that.

What stands in the way for many of us is shame – that it’s not okay to be human, that is, to be fallible. I believe that until sufficient numbers of people address this problem, we will keep failing, to the detriment of some more than others.

Idris Shah claimed that we all have limitless potential for both self-development and self-destruction – our rejected shadows hold us back, drag us down, whether or not we realise it. In this way we fit Idris Shah’s description of a human being who is clinically alive and yet, despite all appearances, spiritually dead.

It takes courage to look unflinchingly into your psyche, to concede that within you is a range of human attributes, from the worst to the best. That is what living from your essence entails – fully immersing yourself in the human experience and condition.

Acknowledging that you’re imperfect doesn’t mean that you have to act in accordance with what you perceive as your undesirable traits.

A wise teacher of mine once said that nobody is all good, and nobody is all bad; there’s always room for improvement, which is why I’ll leave you to ponder Jonas Salk’s words:

When things get bad enough, then something happens to correct the course. And it’s for that reason that I speak about evolution as an error-making and an error-correcting process. And if we can be ever so much better – ever so much slightly better – at error correcting than at error making, then we’ll make it.

Essential Principles, Practices and Panaceas, A – Z: Empowerment

empowerment haiku

How would your life be different if…You could control the outcome of your day, your week, your year? Let today be the day…You embrace the truth that you DO have such control to label every event in your life, and create an agreement with reality that empowers you and propels you to greatness. Steve Maraboli

An empowered life is a life lived on your own terms, one in which you don’t have to pussy-foot around others in an effort to please them. Taking charge of your own life doesn’t, however, mean disregarding the important people in your life; it’s about finding balance between doing what’s good for you and your commitments to others.

How empowered do you feel regarding your own life? Would you say that you set the agenda, or are you following someone else’s?

Even though their intentions are good, parents can disempower their children through fear; it’s natural for a parent to want the best for their kids, but what if what’s best for them is to let them find their own way, even if it means them making mistakes (and dealing with the consequences of making those mistakes)?

What is more empowering for a child – to do their best with their homework and learn from the teacher’s feedback, or for you to ‘help’ (i.e. do) the homework? I’ve known of parents taking schools to task because they are in denial of their child’s shortcomings (and we all have those); blaming the school for their child’s poor behaviour is the easier option, I suppose, than playing their part in addressing the problem. But then perhaps the parents themselves are disempowered.

Fear for our children, and their futures, can result in us trying to control their lives, which is certainly my experience (as a child and as a parent); sadly, it doesn’t work, in fact it can have disastrous consequences (as I know only too well). When you’re empowered you don’t feel the need to control others.

I’ve heard lots of criticism of Gwyneth Paltrow, but one of the wisest things I’ve ever heard any parent say came from her; in an interview with Amanda de Cadenet, Gwyneth said that she looked forward to seeing who her daughter becomes.

How empowering would it be for all children if their parents provided the love, food, shelter and nurturing they need, allowing them to blossom into the unique individuals they are? To be there to catch their children when they fall – as they surely must – but to help them get back on their feet without having to be a crutch for them? To wholeheartedly accept the choices their children make, even if they would much rather Diana be a lawyer than an electrician, Freddie a doctor than a nursery nurse?

I once knew a counsellor who would say of my attitudes towards life: In an ideal world… But we live in the real world which, paradoxically, imposes impossible ideals on us via the media. Images of surgically ‘enhanced’, airbrushed (yet largely talentless) ‘celebs’ are ubiquitous; they are illusory and mock those who aspire to imitate their idols.

Is the desire to attain a celebrity lifestyle what drives folk to spend vast sums of money on the National Lottery and its offshoots? I’ve seen people leave shops (on more than one occasion) and immediately fish for a coin with which they can start scraping at the multiple scratch cards they have bought and that they hope will change their lives. This seems like quite desperate behaviour to me; it’s certainly disempowering.

We give our power away because we’re not made aware of our inner strength – and I have no doubt that it is something we all possess. You ARE capable – all you have to do is connect with your essence, your innate spiritual force; it gives you unparalleled personal power. So, too, does taking full responsibility for your life; thus, there comes a time when we have to take the decision to empower ourselves – unless we want to remain enslaved .

You are the writer, actor and director of your own life story. Is yours a tale of achievement of potential? It can be.

Essential Principles, Practices and Panaceas, A – Z: Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

eq haiku

We all have the same pallet of emotional paints. It is how we pigment them on the canvas of life that dictates our artistry. Ged Thompson.

Are you in charge of your emotions, or are they in charge of you? Consider the following scenarios:

  • Your son attains a ‘B’ in his French A-level, whilst his best friend is awarded an A*; this, for you, takes the shine off your son’s achievement.
  • You discover that your daughter’s boyfriend has cheated on her; your daughter decides to give him a chance, but you brood on his treatment of her and think she should dump him.
  • A colleague loses weight and has a makeover; you agree she looks great but the compliments she receives irritate you.
  • You’re convinced your mother is trying to sabotage your wedding; she seems determined to help your sister upstage you on your big day.
  • Your brother’s wife has left him; you and he never really got on and he was quite smug when your marriage broke down so you’re secretly pleased that his has now failed.
  • Your sister-in-law has asked you to babysit – again; you say yes, but you complain about her behind her back and resent being put upon.

Would you say that the (fictional) people described demonstrate high levels of emotional intelligence?

On a scale of 1 – 10, how would you rate the happiness levels of people who feel this way?

Spinoza said: When a man is prey to his emotions, he is not his own master. I know several people who behave in similar ways to those I have depicted, and not one of them can be said to be his – or her – own master. Not that I’m judging; I’ve been that person who always says ‘yes’ when they really want to say ‘no’. Being a doormat is a codependent trait.

What jolted me out of that particular behaviour was an exchange I had with my dad in which I grumbled about a favour I’d agreed to do for one of my sisters.

‘Either do it, or don’t do it, but don’t moan about it’, he snapped at me.

At first I was upset by what my dad said, but after reflecting on his words I came to the conclusion that he was right.

Emotional intelligence, then, helps you to transcend your unhealthy/neurotic/wounded ego; it’s about responding to rather than reacting to life. Cultivating EQ helps you to accept what one of my favourite authors, psychotherapist David Richo, calls the ‘givens’ of life: the things we cannot change. (See David’s website for some excellent free resources, including Human Becoming, a collection of excerpts from his inspirational books).

The five givens specified by Dr Richo are:

  • Everything changes and ends.
  • Suffering is part of growth.
  • Things do not always go according to plan.
  • Things are not always fair.
  • People are not loyal and loving all of the time.

If we have emotional maturity we are far better equipped to cope well with the unavoidable life events that these givens represent, such as the death of a loved one; the breakdown of a long-term relationship; the job promotion that falls through; the child born with a disability; the betrayal by your best friend.

We have to take 100% responsibility for how we behave in response to the emotions we feel; for example, it is common for abusive partners to blame their victims for their actions: ‘You made me angry because you put too much milk in my coffee.’ The truth is that no-one is forcing an abuser to lash out; they don’t have a gun to their head, just a lack of self-control.

Understanding your emotions is part of knowing yourself – what triggers you and why. When you have this awareness you are in a position to stop yourself being hijacked by inappropriate stressors.

An added bonus to managing your emotions is that it makes you easier to be around; be honest, who would you rather spend time with, a self-pitying whinge-bag or a good-humoured character?

Emotions are contagious; what mood are you spreading?

Essential Principles, Practices and Panaceas, A – Z: Divination

divination haiku

Divination is the quest to understand more about the past, present, and future. In other words, Tarot readings are an attempt to understand ourselves better and discover how we might live better in the future. Theresa Francis-Cheung

Divination, usually described as esoteric practice concerned with foretelling the future, is actually a method by which you can shine a light into your unconscious and find answers to your most puzzling questions.

There are those who are suspicious of occult practices; ‘occult’, however, simply means ‘hidden’, ‘covered over’, ‘secret’. As such, divination practices enable you to uncover that which is concealed and is an excellent means of exploring your psyche. As Benebell Wen suggests:

Fear is dangerous, not the tarot. The tarot represents the spectrum of the human condition, the good, the evil, the light, and the dark. Do not fear the darker aspects of the human condition. Understand them. The tarot is a storybook about life, about the greatness of human accomplishment, and also the ugliness we are each capable of. 

I have used various means of divination over the years; when I was suspended in the shockwave of trauma I found comfort in the ancient wisdom held in the I-Ching and the Tarot in particular. So relevant was the insight and encouragement they provided, I continue my practice to this day and find it not only illuminating but also deeply satisfying. Whenever I feel unsure about a decision, or the direction I want to go in, a reading always brings clarity.

The I-Ching, also known as the Book of Changes, operates from the principle that everything in the universe is in a constant state of flux; it shows us how to look for the opportunities inherent in change and helps us to shed our fear and resistance in the face of uncertainty.

Jung said: Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate. In other words, patterns of behaviour tend to repeat themselves until you address the cause of the behaviour. Jung himself utilised the power of the I-Ching with his patients as he believed that it reflects the hidden inner knowledge we all possess.

Trauma survivors often bury distressing memories deep in their psyches, I know I did, but long-term this can do more harm than good. I’m grateful that I had the desire and support I needed to overcome PTSD; I have no doubt that divination complemented my therapy.

An example of the guidance offered by the I-Ching can be found in a reading of mine from 2014, in which I asked the question: How do I best help myself?

The coins produced two hexagrams, transforming lines in the first emphasising the possibility of change. The first, 55: Abundance (Feng), urged me to do what I feel to be right, to share what I have with others, to rid myself of sorrow, melancholy and care, and to shed light on all shadows in order to eliminate them. The second, 16: Enthusiasm (Yu), counselled me to listen to my intuition, speak my truth (communicating it in such a way that other people understand it), to reimagine my situation, identify a purpose and act on it.

It could be argued that generic advice such as this is relevant to anybody in any situation; I wouldn’t disagree. What mattered to me at the time was that it was meaningful to my circumstances; it inspired and helped me to move forward.

In addition to regular I-Ching readings I’ve found the Tarot invaluable as an aid to self-discovery, healing and personal development. The cards of the Major Arcana describe the Everyman journey, from our beginning as The Fool, through life stages that encompass difficulties, seduction, frustration, grace, love, fear and growth, until we reach completion as symbolised by The World. This is a spiral journey, each culmination leading on to higher level paths as The Fool seeks greater enlightenment.

The more I use my divination tools, the stronger my intuition becomes, enabling me to have complete confidence and trust in the decisions I make. It occurs to me that practicing divination provides alternative perspectives on challenges, bypassing limited ego thinking and tapping into universal truths, ancient (essence) wisdom that is as necessary and pertinent today as it ever was.

If you would evolve your consciousness, take Sasha Graham’s advice:

Tarot is always whispering to you. Tarot weaves truth, stories, secrets, and tales. All you need to do is slow down and listen. 

Essential Principles, A – Z: Detachment

detachment haiku

To be able to enjoy fully the many good things the world has to offer, we must be detached from them. To be detached does not mean to be indifferent or uninterested. It means to be non-possessive. Life is a gift to be grateful for and not a property to cling to. Henri Nouwen

Do you consider yourself possessive with regard to the material things in your life?

Do you ever find yourself obsessing or worrying about people, or circumstances, that you have little power over?

How many times have you tried, unsuccessfully, to influence situations that are beyond your control?

How did that make you feel?

I’m guessing it wasn’t a satisfactory experience.

Detachment is related to acceptance, in that it means you have to practice letting things be as they are. Detaching from whatever is beyond your control has nothing to do with being uncaring or unhelpful; it is about releasing ourselves from any stress brought on by undue concern over outcomes that we cannot influence. It’s about disentangling yourself, rather than disengaging, from affairs.

I was brought up in a family that I now know was codependent (in an unhealthy way). Psychological boundaries were weak, unenforceable, particularly where my mum, my sisters and me were concerned. Under the mistaken assumption that we were ‘close’, it was as though we were one and the same person – if my mum could have had her way, she’d have dressed us in the same clothes not just when we were children, but also when we became adults!

Fearful that we might make the same mistake she did (unmarried and pregnant at seventeen, a shameful state in the 1950s), mum constantly worried about what we did, where we went, who we were with… you get the picture. Of course, her concern didn’t stop my sisters and I from doing exactly as we pleased and there were frequent rows about our behaviour (which wasn’t that bad, although mum didn’t actually know the half of it).

If only my mum had been able to detach from her need to control her daughters; we could all have saved an awful lot of time and energy had we not been constantly engaged in power struggles. And no doubt our relationships would have been the better for it.

If you’re overly attached to an outcome then you probably have idealistic expectations which, if unmet, more often than not result in dissatisfaction. For example, at the women’s refuge where I volunteer, residents on the list for social housing have to bid weekly for suitable properties. Unless they’re number one on the list it is unlikely they will be successful, but this hasn’t stopped certain residents from visualising themselves moving in – they’ve decorated and furnished the place before bidding has even stopped. When they fail to win the bid they are devastated.

An ability to detach helps you to view people and situations objectively; this leads to a more realistic perspective and greater peace of mind.

I’ve wondered about fans’ attachment to outcomes of football matches – do we project our frustrations at our own (perceived) failure to achieve onto our favourite teams when they play badly and/or lose; similarly, do we feel a vicarious sense of accomplishment when they play well and/or win?

I love football and feel passionate when watching my beloved Manchester City; dodgy referees’ decisions make me swear and I’m always disappointed when the result doesn’t go City’s way. Once upon a time a bad performance or result would have ruined my day (or longer); however the score doesn’t have the same power over me that it once had. Nowadays, once the beautiful game is over I can let go of the result, be it good or bad, and turn my attention to what I can actually influence.

To detach from conditions you don’t have much say over isn’t about doing nothing, rather it’s about doing what you can appropriate to the situation, then mentally, emotionally and spiritually letting go of any attachment to the outcome. This is incredibly difficult when the unhealthy/neurotic/wounded ego is in charge, but not when acting in accordance with your essence.

If you can’t quite get your head around the idea of detaching then don’t worry. Allow awareness of the concept to sink into your subconscious where it can take root and then flower when you are ready to embrace it.

The ability to detach brings relief; however, even when you totally ‘get’ it, i.e. you can embody it, there is still a need for conscious practice (unless/until it becomes automatic).

Practising detachment is a habit that’s worth cultivating – it is ultimately freeing as it releases you from burdens that don’t belong to you. Relax!

Essential Principles, Practices and Panaceas, A – Z: Curiosity

curiosity haiku

Curiosity is the essence of human existence. ‘Who are we? Where are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going?’… I don’t know. I don’t have any answers to those questions. I don’t know what’s over there around the corner. But I want to find out. Eugene Cernan

Curiosity about life leads to greater participation in it, and the more you engage with existence (or anything else, for that matter) the more satisfaction you will get from it.

We are innately curious; I’m frequently amazed when considering the discoveries and inventions that have come about because a questioning individual has gone beyond their immediate knowledge and experience. One such person was the genius known as Leonardo da Vinci; how I’d love to be able to travel back in time to meet this incomparable innovator.

I wonder what Leonardo would make of the World Wide Web and its capabilities? I used to find it mind-blowing that my son could play online games with people all over the globe; I’d find him speaking simultaneously to people in America, Japan and Sweden. Recently I have participated in Google Hangouts with people in Vietnam, Austria, Poland, Suriname, Brazil and South Africa; it astonishes me that many thousands of miles separate us and yet we are all able to come together in one place.

One area of curiosity that is, conceivably, neglected is curiosity about self-discovery. I know people who are so oblivious to their potential for growth that their curiosity falls more into the category of nosiness than interest; a kind of ego-based intrusiveness that includes prying into others’ business so that they can judge, criticise and (temporarily) feel better about their own perceived inadequacies.

Are these folk, some of whom fit Oscar Wilde’s assertion that: The public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything, except what is worth knowing afraid to know themselves? An absence of essence-based curiosity, that is openness to wider, more stimulating, interests, can lead to boredom – and worse.

My mum used to be quite closed-minded; in addition, my step-dad did everything for her with regard to the running of their household, to the extent that the term ‘learned-helplessness’ is applicable. When he died, she refused to write a cheque, or learn about even the simplest things, such as reading the gas meter. She was youthful-looking, a physically fit sixty-five year old who is now in a care home where nerve cells and tissue in her brain are becoming ever more mangled because she has Alzheimer’s.

I tried everything I could to help my mum realise that although she might never get over Bailey’s death, she could come to terms with it and make a life for herself, but to no avail. What happened with my mum gives credence to Tove Jansson’s statement:

It is simply this: do not tire, never lose interest, never grow indifferent—lose your invaluable curiosity and you let yourself die. It’s as simple as that.

Think about yourself and the people you know – would you say that you have an appetite for life? If not, what might whet your taste buds?

Eleanor Roosevelt suggested that it would be a good thing if, when a child is born, its mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow the child with the priceless gift of curiosity– but children are born with an abundant supply of the stuff. Then we ‘educate’ it out of many of them – sometimes before they’ve even gone to school. B. F. Skinner pointed out that: No one asks how to motivate a baby. A baby naturally explores everything it can get at, unless restraining forces have already been at work. And this tendency doesn’t die out, it’s wiped out.

It’s up to us to discover what sparks our curiosity; a mission made easier by knowing who we are. And it occurs to me that the more you know about yourself, the more you can know about humanity in general, which can only be a good thing. Curiosity, furthermore, leads to development in every area of your life; it stands to reason, then, that satisfying your curiosity is a path to fulfilment.

I’ll leave you with a thought from a curious chap, one Albert Einstein, whose probing led him to formulate theories that changed the way we view our universe:

The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvellous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day.