Recently in my print column for the Green Parent magazine, I wrote about the importance of remembering to focus on the good stuff. I’d become acutely aware of how easily the positive things we see in each other get eclipsed by the negative, and I made a promise to myself to do just that; to pay less attention to my son’s weak spots and cherish the good instead. Happily, the ‘Plate of Positivity’ experience (in which my son and I wrote nice things about each other on paper plates – see :59 seconds for more details) didn’t fade and I can say now, some months down the line, that I’m much more appreciative and aware of his talents, gifts and good nature than ever before. The other stuff is still there, but I’ve chosen not to focus on it. The changes are tangible.
I love this personal development stuff. Learning as we go. Experiencing some undoing of the learned habits and patterns of generations and lifetimes and replacing them instead with healthier ones. Or so we hope. In fact only yesterday I was talking on the phone to my favourite author, Isabel Losada. I’d mentioned the process I was going through with my own parents, specifically how being raised by two very loving parents who’d showered me with attention and positive praise had brought it’s own share of problems. She reminded me of a quote from her book, in which she says whatever we do as parents, we can pretty much be assured our kids will require some kind of therapy to get over it. I was reminded, again, that it always comes back to our own journey; doing the best we can with our available knowledge and understanding at the time. And, if we’re into personal and spiritual development, doing things that enable us to be more loving and compassionate towards each other and ourselves.
The Plate of Positivity was a monumental step towards being more loving and compassionate with each other (the ‘other’ in this case being my son). Naturally, the next fruit to ripen on the branch was the following part; being more loving and compassionate towards ourselves. After weeks of consciously practising being kinder and more accepting of others, I was suddenly able to see just how hard I am on myself. Underlying the outward projections and judgements of my son (or friends, or family) not being kind / clever / good enough, was the incessantly ranting voice in my own head that I was under-achieving. In all areas of my life. Not working hard enough. Not earning enough. Not parenting well enough. Not loving my boyfriend well enough. Not being a good enough friend. Not meditating long enough. I bet you’re exhausted just reading that list! And I was totally fucking exhausted from living my life in that way. That’s why I was tired. That’s why I was anxious. That’s why I was stressing out. And that’s why I was scared of dying. (Because how could it possibly be okay to die when I had so much to do? I wasn’t successful yet. I wasn’t married yet. And I wasn’t anywhere near enlightened yet!) So I sought help. Thankfully I have some great teachers in my life who helped me realise where all these beliefs had come from, and also reminded me of my ability to give this stuff away. I gave myself permission to give up my dreams. Because they weren’t really my dreams and they were causing me a whole lot of suffering. I gave myself permission to take LIFETIMES working this stuff out, because despite what I’ve been telling myself for years, there’s no urgency. I gave myself permission to be human, because I am.
Relief has since been sweeping through the open skies of my mind for days now. Huge, welcoming, soaring waves of relief. It’s all okay. It always has been okay, and always will be, only my mind got tangled up in the illusion that it wasn’t. But it is! And now I can choose not to listen to the taskmaster in my head, who regularly tries to lure me back into the familiar panic of Do More, Be Better. Of course I still want to do more positive things and be more loving, but I’ll do it without the stress, thank-you very much. In my own time. However many lifetimes or moments or breaths or pauses that takes. Because, and here’s the gem sparkling underneath all these layers, there is no reaching or getting or doing. There is just Being. Here. Now. I can still write because in doing so I find my peace, my joy and my heart. (Not to achieve this, that or the other.) I can lie next to the fire with Elliot doing his spelling, I can pay for his piano lessons and we can read for hours because we enjoy it. (Not because I need to raise a clever/successful/charming son.) I can do my practices each day because they bring me realisations such as these; freedom from the things that stop me from Being. Here. Now. (Not because I need to be an enlightened super-goddess in her last incarnation on Earth.)
I am dancing the merry dance of liberation. And it feels amazing. In this upwardly ascending spiral comes the increasing acceptance of others too; in giving myself permission to be a human being (which I still find laughable in itself!) I’m letting others be. No pressure. No big deal. No hurry. All is well. I can’t believe what a grip these wacky ideas have had on me. Since letting them go my shoulders have dropped an inch either side. I give thanks to the Gods of Reflection, Awareness and Letting Go, for sitting me down in life’s great armchair and reminding me how to sit still. Which funnily enough, is the more or less the name of the next book I’m about to read. But for the moment, here’s to simply Being. Here. Now.