Remembering your story

I’ve just had a lovely two week vacation, not only from work but also from my computer. It’s essential, in my opinion, to detach one’s self from the constant noise and hub of media and communication, for however long a period, whether it’s a day or two weeks, a month or altogether. I’ve known people who have given up Facebook altogether, and been much happier for it. I can honestly say that I didn’t miss it at all on my two week vacation (no social media, no emails or online communication), and I actually dreaded going back on there today to check for messages. I know that I will be spending a lot less time on there from now on, as the pull and tug of getting into other people’s stories just isn’t all that appealing anymore. Heck, if I could give it up completely I would, but that would be marketing suicide for a mostly self-promoted, self-employed author.

Having two weeks to myself, spending time with myself and my family, has enabled me to see more clearly the stories that really matter to me. While most of social media is filled with noise, things that don’t really matter (alongside really great cat videos), it also has its benefits, such as putting us in touch with high school friends, keeping us up to date on our nephews’ first day at school, and so on. I do Facebook and Twitter, because I like to keep in touch with my family and friends that I physically can’t see, being 3,000 miles away across the Atlantic, as well as feeling obligated for business reasons. But the amount of noise on there is staggering.

We can get so lost in other people’s stories, in the noise that social media produces. Stories that are inconsequential to ours. Stories that have no relevance at all to our daily lives. Stories that have no meaning full stop. We fill our mind with them, drowning out the sound of our story, of our own life, or vainly trying to compare ours to this fictional recreation that social media has produced, which is entirely inaccurate to say the least. I am not my Facebook profile or pages, not by a long shot. Neither are my friends or family. It is a narrow window into one’s life, should one be honest about it, but only provides a miniscule view of the reality that is the whole.

My story is important, if only to myself. But I have to listen to it, in order to be able to change the story, should I so choose. While there are many external factors that help to decide how this story ends, there are also a lot that are completely within my control, if I am able to hear them. I feel an even deeper connection with myself than I had before, because I stopped filling my brain every morning with pictures of what other people had for breakfast, who’s pissed off for whatever reason, etc. I stopped the constant influx of other people’s stories. I feel more me.

I don’t have a smartphone that enable me to check emails and social media wherever I am. I have a mobile phone that lives in my car should I break down. I do all my emails and social media early in the morning, to get it out of the way so that I can get on with my work and my day. I honestly can’t imagine constantly checking on a smartphone for emails and Facebook; that thought is just too horrific for someone as unsocially mediated as myself. What little time I did spend on there, I now realised was for the most part a waste of time. And I haven’t got time to waste. There are weeds to be pulled in the garden, walks to be taken, words to be written, cats to be played with, friends to visit, life to live.

Don’t be lured into the dulling effects of social media. Don’t be pulled into other people’s stories so that your own is neglected. Stay in touch, but don’t be a slave to social media or online communication. Your life is yours to live, so truly live it, don’t let it pass you by in a blur of emails or status updates. And above all, remember and rediscover your story.


Love Thyself

Love Thyself

Today I have the day to myself – no one else, just me in the house with my cat. For me, it is pure bliss. After the sometimes chaotic nature of the holiday season spent in constant company, whether that is with beloved family or friends, a little downtime is a blessing.  I love these moments, when I am free to do as I choose, when the house is quiet and no one needs anything.  I can write or listen to music, meditate without extraneous noise, or simply just sit in the conservatory with a cup of tea and enjoy the silence and the season. After busy times, I crave solitude.

In today’s society, however, I am seeing more and more evidence that people do not want to spend time with themselves.  There are constant distractions everywhere, the worst culprit being mobile phones.  Not only are they being used to call or text people constantly, but now people can tweet, check their facebook or email and never spend a moment without their “friends”.  I remember about six months ago going to my local pub and sitting at the bar, chatting to the bar staff. Other locals were around me sharing conversation, but once the bartender had disappeared they all lowered their heads and were on their phones, thumbs hammering away.  I have gone out to dinner on numerous occasions where I see other couples sitting across from each other not talking to each other but on their phones. It makes me so sad that people do not want to be together physically when they are given the precious opportunity. What I find perhaps even more distressing is the fact that people don’t know how to be alone either.

In a supermarket queue, no one can just stand there anymore and wait in line, either simply being and standing, or making eye contact with others, offering a smile, perhaps some comment on the weather.  I respect it when people don’t want to talk to strangers – I can feel annoyed when people want my attention and I don’t want to give it to them at that particular moment. It can feel intrusive.  Men who expect you to flirt back, for instance. But I digress – surrounded by real people in the supermarket queue, people would rather look to a tiny screen that acknowledge those around them, or perhaps even succumb to their own thoughts for the barest instant.

I know that I am assuming much here – I can’t know what really goes on in other people’s heads.  But I think it is a fair assumption to make.  Being alone is scary for a lot of people, especially if they’re not used to it. What worries me is that a whole generation of human beings is living without the blessing of time spent by and with themselves. They will never experience that exquisite silence when the gadgets are turned off. They will never know their own thoughts, being constantly distracted by the thoughts of others. They might never truly know themselves.

Time spent alone is precious time to look within, to check on our self and see if everything is okay.  Not enough time is spent doing this, in my opinion.  Giving this gift of attention to our selves, we can see where we are simply reacting to events, instead of acting with intention.  It gives us a chance to be compassionate with our selves, and thereby allowing us to be more compassionate with others.  We check in on others all the time with social media – what I suggest is that we check in with ourselves as well.

Mindfulness and meditation are two great ways to check in with the self, to see how you are doing at this particular moment in time.  Breathing in, being aware of the breath, you can do this anywhere – even in the supermarket queue.  Simply saying “breathing in, I am aware that I am breathing in, breathing out, I am aware that I am breathing out” in your mind as you breathe gives you a moment in time that is all your own.  I like to do this regularly, and also to see where I am holding tension in my body.  Often I will find that my right shoulder is raised, and I can make a conscious effort to relax my muscles, giving them a rest as well as my mind.  I am unconsciously tensing, perhaps protectively with my dominant arm against some unperceived threat. When I am aware of this, I see that there is no threat, and can relax and enjoy the moment better.

In meditation, simply stopping is a brilliant way to get back in touch with your self.  Sitting on a cushion, perhaps some incense burning as an offering, simply spend time with your self and your thoughts.  See the thoughts in your mind as they arise, but do not attach to them – let them go. See and discover how crazily the mind works, how hurried and fast thoughts arise. Just as quickly as they come, let them go, and slowly, with time and with effort, with a little discipline, the thoughts will begin to settle like mud in a pond, eventually allowing clear insight into the depths. It doesn’t happen all at once, and takes dedication, but it is so worth it.

Spend some time with yourself today, even if it only for two minutes. Breathe, stand outside after work and smell the night air.  Take a candlelit bath and really feel the water surround you, relaxing your body and noticing where there may be tension.  Sit at your meal and savour each and every bite, really paying attention to what it is that you are putting in your mouth.  Lying down to sleep, do a full body sweep with your mind to feel areas of tension, relaxing the muscles one by one.

And for the love of your self, turn your phone off. x

Beware the Green-Eyed Monster…

Social media can be a very good thing. It’s good at getting the word out, or for sharing ideas. It can also be a place where we can feel inadequate, where jealous feelings of other’s lives can creep into our thinking and affect how we live.

First of all we must remember that what we see online is not the 100% truth.  What people post on Facebook or Twitter or any other media or forum is not the whole enchilada. We look up someone on Facebook who doesn’t post anything negative, has beautiful photos and deep insights and feel that we are inadequate in our own lives.  What we have to remember is that this is simply a portrayal of a person and not the person themselves. To know the person, we must know them in person, spend a lot of time with them and connect, soul to soul. You can’t do that on a computer in my opinion. You can find a lot of commonalities with what you both have decided to put out there, however it is not the big picture.

Jealousy is an interesting beast.  What causes it? More often than not, it is through experiences that we have gone through that reflect upon our current and future situations.  Something may have happened to us in the past, an emotional pain that casts its pall over everything.  If we are jealous of what we perceive to be someone’s great life on the internet, what is it that is making us jealous? What is causing feelings of inadequacy, or anger, or resentment? Could it be someone in your past that you didn’t live up to, or dreams that you haven’t fulfilled, failings that have been brought to light?  Do they reflect our inner demons, perhaps of low self-esteem or external validation?

Catch yourself the next time you feel jealousy creeping in. Examine it. Why are you jealous? What is the root cause? It is not the person causing the feelings but your own inner self. Why should that be? The person is not the root of the problem – what’s happening in the mind is.  We cannot blame other people’s lives for our feelings of jealousy for they all stem from within.

Wouldn’t it feel better if we let go of these jealous feelings? What if we celebrated others’ successes instead of wallowing in inadequacy? What if we realised that others’ lives are not a reflection of our own? What if we stepped outside our narrow worldview, our egocentric perspective and honoured others for being what they are? The world does not revolve around you, so why persist in these feelings?

Letting go of jealousy is hard. It requires a lot of investigation into the darker regions of the mind but it is well worth it.  We can lead happier, more satisfying and positive lives when we are aware of the green-eyed monster and lay it to rest. So, the next time you are on Facebook and think “my life sucks compared to hers/his” remember, not only are you not seeing the bigger picture; you are also not seeing your self.