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Why We Need To Start Taking Ourselves Where We Need To Go

“You have brains in your head,
You have feet in your shoes,
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You’re on your own, and you know what you know,
and YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go”
– Dr. Seuss, “Oh The Places You’ll Go”

I’m going to be bluntly honest here.
I come from a sheltered society where we were brought up very much in fear of the outside world and what it could potentially do to us, not for us. It’s an inherited anxiety about every little thing; a fear and ‘what-if’ kind of apprehension. It drains energy from the very notion of a thing before it’s even allowed cautiously come to fruition.
If it even makes it that far.
It kills creativity with a simple ‘oh God, no, that wouldn’t work’.
It silences yearnings for more fulfilling jobs or careers with ‘oh, I’m not good enough for that’.
It quenches a thirst for adventure and change with a degrading, belittling, and self-deprecating  ‘I wouldn’t be able for it.”
It’s exhausting. It’s not fair.
It’s holding us back.

After finally recognising it for what it is – which did not come easily –  I’ve now come to see this need for comfort and familiarity as a hindrance, instead of as a safety blanket.

Because that’s what it’s used as.
A safety blanket. A crutch. An excuse.

An excuse for things to remain as they are, even if ‘as they are’ is inherently less fulfilling than where that little part of our brains briefly tunes into every time a plane passes overhead, or we hear about entrepreneurs generating millions from one tiny idea.
(I’m not going to list examples of people like this, because at this stage, there are millions.)

It genuinely saddens me to hear my friends and family limit themselves with this fear; this anxiety; this assumption that the world is against them and that nothing outside of the little miserable bubble they’ve drawn up for themselves could ever possibly exist. Regularly admitting to their misery. Regularly stating dissatisfaction, frustration, wishing for another lifestyle, job, skill, or situation.

It saddens me because it’s so preventable.
We’ve been taught to ‘suck it up’, to ‘just accept it’, and are sometimes even seen as ungrateful for rebelling against the idea that what we get is all we’ll ever have.
But why?
Why not go and change it?
This mindset is so hilariously limiting that I’m no longer shocked when I hear of people my age doing things and taking risks older generations would genuinely shit their pants to consider. I’ve had my fair share of reckless rebellion, too. What else can be expected after generations of creative, emotional and mental suppression? One extreme will always warrant it’s opposite, and Irish society is still coming to terms with repercussions of living within rigidly adhered-to regulations.

We’re now moving from the phase of questioning our stifled customs, to actually acting to change them and as with any societal shift, it’s going to take a while. We need to start taking ourselves places, instead of waiting for society, or more independent, ‘successful’ (whatever that means), competent or qualified friends and acquaintances to show us the way.
We deserve to be happy. We deserve to live colourfully, originally, and without fear. We deserve to enjoy the fuck out of our short time in these bodies and this world.

A bit of trial-and-error is the only way to do this, and by being afraid of the ‘error’, we’re only proving that we’re afraid of progression itself.
Envision where it is you want to go, what it is you want to do, and start putting things in place for yourself to get there. It could be anything, and nothing is impossible. Just try. If I can do it, you can…one little baby step at a time.

As Samuel Beckett wisely stated:

‘Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better’.

 

Claiming Authentic Power – How Yoga Helps Us To Harness the Power Within

Claiming Authentic Power – How Yoga Helps Us To Harness the Power Within

“To the degree that we do not fully claim our own power to transform, we are more likely to be possessed by this energy in it’s shadow form” – Carol S. Pearson

I have not resonated with a quote on such an intense level for quite a while.
I’m also a firm believer that each one of us has the power to direct and redirect our energy in order for it to manifest itself wherever we desire in our lives – whether we realise it or not.
If we think about our energy in terms of both a negative and a positive force, the positive stream functioning as a catalyst for growth and progression, and the negative as a hindering and damaging force, we can begin to see how the expansion and contraction of the channels down which this power flows results in certain manifestations of said energies. While this is constantly occurring on both a conscious and subconscious level, there are certain things which can help us harness the power necessary to direct the energy where we want it to go, instead of letting it flail around excitedly from brainwave to brainfart.
Yoga encourages the expansion of these channels (or nadis, in the yogic tradition) in the right direction, opening up and creating space for the positive to flourish, while attempting to block the negative.
And so in simple terms, yoga gives us the awareness to pursue, direct and encourage the good power to succeed over the bad. With me so far?

Negative Cycles

When I first started doing yoga consistently, I was, for want of a better phrase, ‘in a bad place in my life’. To keep the anecdotal personal sob-story short, I was living at home, had no job, no clear direction where I wanted my life to go, weighed a hollowing and bone-shatteringly cold 6 stone and lacked the energy and concentration necessary to complete even the most basic of tasks, let alone care about them. I would wake with spasms of fright and anxiety at 3am. I would get brief bouts of inspiration mixed with terrifying insight that my worsening situation needed to change…and then the difficulty of doing so would ultimately prove too extensive and straight away I’d be lost again to the numbing blanket of fuzzy and fatigued negative thoughts, so ingrained as they were in my mind that any feeble form of resistance against them was immediately silenced with disturbing ease and logic;
“You’re full of shit. It’s not worth it. Don’t bother.”
In short, things were dark.

Wasting Energy

The energy required to process all of these thoughts and worries at such a startling speed and damaging ferocity was ultimately leaving me both mentally and physically drained, not to mention the preoccupation with ensuring I adhered to strict ‘rules’ which I wasn’t permitted to break – just in case a sandwich or fleeting social interaction would spark off another ricocheting thought-firework and disable me from leaving the house for the rest of the day. I was, as the above quote describes, possessed by my own energy ‘in it’s shadow form’. It was being directed towards the wrong things, and to be honest it’s exhausting just writing about it.

No Alternative

When we’re deep in the grips of a negative cycle, be it a habit, a thought pattern, or simply a way of being or conducting ourselves that we’ve gradually grown accustomed to, it can seem like the most alien thing in the world to even consider existing any other way.
The power which is being permitted to flow full-force towards supporting the negative spirals is just too overwhelming to be redirected elsewhere. It takes extraordinary force of will and repetitive, conscious, and ongoing effort to haul our minds (and bodies) out of the downward-flow of this toxic power, a fact made lighter only by the knowledge that this force is contained within us at all times, its incessant nature meaning it simply can’t sit still and watch the world go by
– it has to go somewhere.

Getting to Know It

As an alternative to other forms of physical or mental exercise which may encourage thoughts and awareness away from this authentic energy which resides within each of us – literally doing what we Irish people have done for years and just not talking about it – yoga requires us to sit with this energy and examine it in all its beauty and terrifying power. We learn how to move with it, allowing it to channel through the positive streams and manifest itself in actions, talents, skills, character, originality, and most importantly; authenticity. Our yoga practice requires us to listen to our bodies and the energies which reside within. After a while we realise that most, if not all of our negative tendencies and habits result from a subconscious lapse or disregard for the direction of the positive energy, allowing the negative to swoop in and take over.
They say that everyone’s struggle is different. This means that every individual’s ‘flourishing’ will appear slightly different too. This is why it is so important to know ourselves.

Harnessing Power

Each and every one of us possess the power within us to manifest our ideas – to create, to bring to the world something new; a new view or perspective; a new manifestation of human energy which has been harnessed to reflect the intellect alongside which it resides. Learning how to harness it is much easier said than done however, and while some people naturally excel with the self-awareness and realization necessary to project it into the world, the vast majority of us just don’t.
It’s through practices such as yoga and meditation that I have been able to finally access some of that authentic potential, allowing for the transformation of my energy down a more fruitful and fulfilling path than the one which worries how many crackers I’ve eaten or about a passing remark made by a colleague two weeks ago. Brief and miniscule slices of this potential have managed to slip through over the years, manifesting as specific achievements or the success of artistic endeavours, but it was only when I began to consistently engage with yoga and meditation that I finally felt the sensation of actually having some sort of understanding of and power over my capacity to engage with it.

Imbalances

Misunderstanding or neglecting the force of our authentic power can so easily result in dangerous imbalances of energies, along with distorted visions and versions of ourselves; our intellect, our talent, our potential. It can so easily get lost. I feel one of the great tragedies of our time is simply wasted potential.

This has led me to conclude that by helping us to carefully observe our energy’s expenditure, origins, and direction, yoga can help us gain a dimension of insight into our own potential, allowing us to live and cultivate a more empowered life rather than shying away from it.
We all have this power, and are entitled to exercise and manifest it into the world.
We just need to learn how to use it.

How Yoga Can Enhance Creativity and Productivity, in Business or Otherwise

“I am burdened with what the Buddhists call the ‘monkey mind’ – the thoughts that swing from limb to limb, stopping only to scratch themselves, spit and howl’ – Elizabeth Gilbert

It’s often been observed that a regular yoga practice can help promote a more productive and efficient work ethic, allowing practitioners to excel in their various specialised fields and carry out work with a clearer, more focused mind. It’s a mark of a good business man or woman to possess a natural spark or flare for creativity, allowing them to stay on top of trends and aware of competition, and it is this spark which must be nurtured by a consistent base and supply of healthy energy to succeed. In this case, we’ll consider that nurturing care and careful maintenance in terms of a yoga practice, and the spark a focused idea or task which requires certain circumstances to come to light.

When this focus and clarity is added to an already creative and highly-active mind its potential becomes magnified, as the existing creative energy can be harnessed correctly and more efficiently directed solely towards creative output, whereas before it may have been scattered elsewhere. The ‘monkey mind’ of overactive imagination and the ‘creative’ individual is successfully directed to a single task or idea at a time, instead of flitting momentarily from one to another and ultimately failing to produce anything worthwhile. This way, a smaller number of tasks or ideas get realised to their full potential, instead of a handful of incomplete or unfinished ‘maybe’ or ‘what if’ ideas being dropped half-heartedly along the way. Patanjali describes this focus in the Yoga Sutra as nirodha, a particular state of mental activity and function, characterized by consistent directed attention, and ceasing to identify with negative or damaging practices.

Yoga helps us to sit with our thoughts and ideas, focusing upon them as they come and go. We learn resilience, we learn persistence, and we learn how to recognise thoughts for the truth and potential they contain. It is this belief in our own potential and capacity to carry out tasks and fulfill ideas which allows them to come to fruition, and through a strong physical and mental core built up through our yoga practice, we have a stable foundation upon which to build them.

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Several asanas and inversions, such as Sirsasana (headstand) and Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose), are believed to enhance creativity and promote a healthy, productive brain, as they reverse the blood flow, relieve anxiety and present us physically with new perspectives. This activity can be beneficial in shaking up the often static office scenario we have become accustomed to in today’s working world, and allowing a new outlook to be explored in relation to pending issues. In this way, productivity and creativity in business can be approached differently, posing potential for further exploration and unique endeavours. In Cambodia last year I met a successful corporate business owner just after she had completed a yoga teacher training, and her initial response to my queries of whether she was going to leave that world behind completely was one of refreshing balance and reality – she told me she’d continue to manage her business and workforce, whilst teaching part-time, using her yoga practice to compliment her successful business and office routine. With its leader more balanced, centered, and productive, the entire business thrived and received inspiration and support stemming from this one woman’s own strength. It really does start that deep.

Justin Micheal Williams, musician, yoga instructor, and co-founder of The Business of Yoga has outlined how Sirsasana often helps him escape from creative ruts or blocks, allowing him to see things from a new perspective and return to his current task or creative endeavour with renewed energy and enthusiasm. Justin is just one of the millions of other artists and creative entrepreneurs who use yoga as a means of maintaining this temper-mental and unreliable creative energy, though many may not quite understand just how or why it has this effect. Sadie Nardini is another established yoga teacher, wellness coach and musician who has successfully recognised this energy and harnessed it to help achieve her creative goals. Having suffered severe illnesses in her youth, Sadie has described how she had a unique insight into the damaging effects of suffering from a severe lack of any kind of energy entirely. In her recovery and discovery of yoga, this energy returned with a new vitality. In learning to harness it, she has since established herself as a successful yoga teacher, wellness coach, and recently written, recorded and released a solo album, ‘Salt & Bone”.

As a creative individual myself, I have found since beginning and maintaining a regular yoga practice that my writing, musical, and other creative endeavours have succeeded altogether more thoroughly than they ever have before. And it’s not just the creative; all aspects of my life requiring an attention span lasting longer than a cup of coffee have improved. I have a newfound awareness and appreciation for my energy, and have learnt how to successfully delegate it to things, thoughts, activities and practices that will positively benefit me and my talents. Combined with a healthy, yogic diet and a particular emphasis on ensuring I get enough sleep every night, my energy and productivity has never been stronger. Mental, physical, spiritual…I now fully understand how intricately it is all intertwined!
In taming my own ‘monkey mind’ through my yoga practice, I have learned valuable crowd control. The ‘crowd’ in this sense being my thoughts; the anxieties that trample over one another on a daily basis if left unmonitored and uncared for. Although I’m not (yet!) a business owner, founder of a groundbreaking new company, or even secure in a well-paid office job, learning to delegate my energy to completely and fully realise creative endeavours has provided me with a similar sensation of fulfillment and satisfaction as I imagine those who have succeeded in other fields achieve. Creativity, productivity, and persistence are key to realising any business venture and maintenance, and they just happen to be some of the countless benefits a regular yoga practice can help you achieve.

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On Finding Calm in the Chaos – How Yoga Can Help in Managing Anxiety

 

A sweeping, dangerously powerful wind.
Big waves in the sea so strong they steal the sunglasses from your head.
Very loud, thumping music.
Crowded Saturday-streets, and flashing lights everywhere as night falls and you suddenly find yourself alone in your head; alone with your thoughts.

 Quick! Run! The bar! The fridge! The gym! ANYWHERE to escape spending time with this egotistical and self-centered, ugly body I’ve found myself inhabiting.

 Hold it right there. Breathe.
Look around.
Sure, it’s chaotic. The outside; everyone rushing to be here or there, meet so and so for dinner or drinks to discuss where they went for dinner and drinks with him or her or what’s the latest on THAT guy and how’s your mother doing and what about those politicians, eh? Sorry I have to dash I’m not too drunk I just can’t be around all these people and all the thoughts in my head at the same time because I end up spinning around before we even start to dance and then I look in the mirror and remember what I should have worn instead and also have to do tomorrow and where the hell is my purse and what is that guy staring at my hair must be a mess and dear GOD please just get me out of here.

So leave.
It’s ok to leave. It’s ok to stay. It’s ok to think these things, and feel that way.

I’ve been on both sides of this situation – I’ve been the one to leave and run away from my problems, finding other ways to forget about and ignore them, and, more recently, I’ve been the one to stay and push through. To remain where I am, and work through the unbalancing extremes of thoughts and emotions that send my head reeling and wobbling on a regular basis.

In yoga, what do you do if a pose makes you wobble?

You do your best to straighten the hell back up, is what you do. You push down through your feet, and certify your stance; your position; your space in the world.
Because it is yours.
It’s about the only thing we don’t have to pay for in this world – our bodies. It’s an involuntary, but rent-free location, that we somehow have to figure out how to stand up straight in, and learn to navigate through whatever environment we find ourselves.
It’s not an easy task. Don’t listen to anyone who pretends it is, or who pretends they’ve never struggled. Because every single person does.

 The asanas in yoga are merely a physical manifestation of our mental state – I know if I’ve had a particularly off-day or feel unusually anxious about something, my yoga practice is weaker than normal and I tend to wobble and lean and shake quite a bit more than usual. Because I have succumbed to the external chaos. I have assimilated it into my body, a place that has been created and cultivated for singular, simpler, and more straightforward thoughts, with no consideration for the external chaos that may or may not happen on any given day. I’ve let it in.

When we consider how many things in life are uncontrollable by our own bodies and minds – the weather, the financial state of the country, the popularity of a bar or restaurant or public place from which we suddenly want to hide, to list but a few, it’s remarkable how blurred the lines can become when we start thinking we have influence over more than just ourselves.

In taking control of our own inner situation, we are taking responsibility for the little space we inhabit on earth. Sure, we may not have asked for it, but we are here now regardless, and may as well make the most of it.

 My yoga mat has travelled with me, and shown me that it doesn’t matter where I find myself; chaotic, over-populated, noise-polluted city, or tranquil, isolated and balmy beach miles from anywhere – I am always, always within myself, and returning there is the only way to truly find this ‘peace of mind’ or satisfaction we so often seek in all the wrong places. Yoga serves as a reminder of this. A healthy, lighthearted little poke in the back that injects a sense of calmness into even the most uncontrollable and chaotic situations.

 Things don’t have to be so complicated.
Breathe. Just breathe. And Be. Even just that is more than anybody has ever asked of you.

Yoga for Self-Esteem and Confidence – Calming ‘Wilder Minds’

“If you get the inside right, the outside will fall into place” – Eckhart Tolle
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Yoga has so many health benefits that it only takes a glance at the nearest stand of ‘wellness’ magazines to list enough to fill a copybook – and all would be legitimate fact.
While ‘confidence’ is quite a broad term that differs in intensity and necessity from person to person and job sphere to job sphere, I think it’s widely agreed that it remains a fairly common trait of any ‘successful’ or content person who has been classed as ‘doing well’ in their lives or career pursuits.
Ew. I hate that phrase.
Really we’re all ‘doing well’ just by still being here and getting up to give things another shot when they go wrong, but unfortunately a lot of people still don’t see it that way.

A regular yoga practice is something that I have found to be of more benefit to my overall health and wellbeing than any diet, any crash-gym course or forced training-schedule, any well-established therapy or doctor, or intermittent variants of all of the above (and believe me, I’ve tried it all!). In coming to meet myself on the mat every day, for whatever length of time my mind and body is able to commit to it at a given time, (and not fretting too much if a few minutes is all I can manage!), I am greeting myself as a new acquaintance, and as such I am automatically polite and accepting.
Because here’s the deal;
I’m not a rude person. I like to think I’m not, anyway. I think we all strive for that in some deep-rooted, morally driven and sensible elder inside us. In greeting myself as I would any new stranger – a simple smile, nod of the head, and handshake (or air-kisses like the French do!) I am accepting fully the being that presents itself to me in that single moment. There is nothing I can change, and no power with which to do so – and that is perfectly ok.

In fact, it is amazing. It’s a freedom and liberation so strengthening that when you finally achieve it for yourself and accept your own reflection, limitations, talents, and situation for what they are, suddenly a whole space is opened up in your head that was previously filled with needless anxieties and personal limitations; unrealistic beliefs and ‘magical thinking’. There’s time to do things again you previously forgot you loved- there’s time to sing! To write! There’s energy and the belief with which to invest in these pleasures!
Hey there, confidence! Where’ve you been hiding?

 The result of this newfound self-awareness and acceptance is not merely ‘confidence’ in the traditional sense that is understood which allows you to be daring, take risks and be the first to do everything. It’s an internal strength – a sense that no matter where you go or what you encounter, you will be able to handle it. You will get through it. Life will go on. It’s not just the belief in this, but the knowledge of it as fact. The strong physical core resulting from a regular yoga practice forms as a manifestation of the strength in the mind; this confident, calm, and grounded version of a person who previously couldn’t decide what colour socks to wear without panicking. Guess what? Now she can hold a headstand for an entire minute and still feel great afterwards!
Take that, anxiety!
In sitting with physical stretches and challenges, the mental ones become easier to manage and recognise. To stretch out and observe patiently when they occur, instead of jumbling them all off in a ball and chasing them away on a treadmill.

 

Anchored…or what?! – How an Accidental Selfie Altered My Entire Perspective.

 

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor”. – Thich Nnat Hanh

 

Today something really weird happened. I’ll try to keep my explanation of it brief.

I was in a yoga class. (hello, Yogahub Dublin– !) and the teacher mentioned anchoring down against negative thoughts and allowing them to pass us by…a fairly standard mantra to base an extremely enjoyable class around.

 With me so far? Alright.

It just so happened that I’d recently discovered this picture on my phone, taken by accident of a canopy of trees above my head as I stood at Angkor Wat in Cambodia. I’d set it as my  screensaver on the train on the way into class. Inevitably I found myself thinking about it as we exhaled and rooted down.

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I now think it might be the most significant picture I’ve ever taken.

 It shows the trees as individual organisms, yes. But it also shows their similarities; the cracks and passageways between them. It’s difficult to tell where one tree ends and another one begins.

It’s made me consider my entire brain composition differently.
It’s made me see the cracks in between what I now understand to be tectonic plates of thought; continents of beliefs, passions, negative and damaging habits and feelings which make up the circumference of my brain.

 It’s like this:

Once upon a time, the continents existed as one individual and solid mass of being, consciousness, and innocent, untouched thought;
that of a child.
Somewhere along the way, this ‘pangea’, if we’re to use the geographical term, encountered some unexpected upset, resulting in quite permanent and irreversible damage. Either that, or just the continuos expansion and erosion resulted in gradual minor movement which in turn caused a larger break, causing the continents to float in all directions, and fall apart into the random assortment of misshapen cookies and their crumbs as we recognise them today.

 Puberty, you say?? Or something more uncontrollable?

 Hear me out, here.

Only one thought, idea, or passion has managed to reign over each continent. One thought, or else a vague confusion of several, has been marooned alone on each of these continents to fester; each landmass offering promises of a new and unique culture, perspective, opinions, lifestyle, and possibilities.
These ideas have however been declined the opportunity or space to spread out and moderate their extremity evenly, remaining instead stuck and concentrated solely on their own intensity.
It’s as if each passion, ideology and notion has been designated its own population, culture, and religion – wild tribes inhabiting each unique and promising island, waiting impatiently to pounce on any passing explorers or trains of thought in the hope of improving their own inexplicable situation.

 Enter, my train of thought.
Or in this case; a ship.

 Which, after years of leaping straight onto the banks of each new ideology or passion encountered and becoming so enraptured with the entirety of the initial apparent potential and/or ‘brilliance’ of a given concept, has finally learned to anchor briefly offshore, before plunging ahead full-on and succumbing to the enticing newness of each place. All seems well, until realisation hits that this place has fully-consumed any sense of individual thought or ability to reach other thought patterns.

There are no bridges between these continents.

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When the ship is in motion; when the platform of departure and arrival is uncertain and unspecified, any port appearing safe and trustworthy is going to appeal to latch onto if an anchor is not in existence. Trustworthy, that is, until advantage is taken of the deprivation it has experienced whilst at sea, harbouring urgently and wolfing down deficit supplies with no escape; obsessed and utterly drawn into the centre of this new continent and the exciting yet dangerous discoveries it promises. All resistance is ceased, and assimilation begins.

 Maybe I’m going too deep here.

What I’m trying to get at is that in viewing my thoughts as these isolated places I’ve finally learned to navigate the cracks which exist between them; the extreme passions, and ideas – enough at least to allow me to anchor briefly offshore to take a peek and try it out. The picture of the trees resembling a globe was only the beginning of it. There’s not much hope of getting the continents to reconnect or to return them to how they once existed – but that too would be against the natural flow of the streams I now live relatively comfortably upon.
By anchoring my ship and thoughts just slightly offshore within the cracks between the continents, I am embracing the damage that has occurred instead of avoiding it. I am leaving the islands accessible, completely within my grasp to feel and experience, yet still rooted firmly with the knowledge that at the first sign of any negative, infatuous, or damaging behaviours, I will be able to find my way safely back to return to the flow leading onwards.

 That I can leave the negative behind and remain safe and in control of whether I return or not is empowering, and I enjoy balancing the flow of this current.
This current which naturally bears me along from one emotion, breath and experience to the next, embracing them as I see fit, and leaving them fondly behind as I move onwards.

It’s mad that I got all this from an accidental picture taken whilst my phone was on selfie-mode and the sun was too bright for me to see the screen.

But there you have it. Angkor Wat and yoga have literally anchored me.

 

“Who Let The Birds Out?”

 

 

The most concrete memory I have from when I was smaller than the kitchen counter for some reason occurred to me again today, and I was struck with a realization so profound that I’m still reeling from it.

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Once upon a time, there were 5 or 6 yellow, fluffy, and sweetly-singing ‘birdies’ twittering about cheerfully in a cage on a wall. It was a time before tweeting became a silent and isolated online method of gaining false praise and fans, and the noise alone could lighten your heart and brighten your day – until of course you realized that the notes were caged and these birdies may as well have been empty- tweeting without an attention-grabbing hashtag or tag symbol to be seen. They were voiceless.

The cage was quite small (even to me as a 2-3 year old). It hung on a wall that divided the old ‘side garden’ from the ‘main garden’, or our permitted ‘playing’ area, and functioned as a distraction from the forbidden ‘side-gate’ and escape to the main road outside (in a perfectly safe suburban housing estate).

One day, I vividly remember staring up at the birds. I was still FAR shorter than where it hung fastened to the wall, having only just passed the point of needing to be lifted up to poke pudgy fingers between the bars in futile attempts to hold the poor creatures.

This particular day, that was all I wanted. I clearly remember the innocence with which I stared longingly at my ‘pets’. The poor caged creatures; evolved to fly, yet held back by metal bars. I was too young to comprehend this injustice of course, but my intent was simple and clear – to hold one in my hands, and see if the fluffy yellow down was as soft and comforting as it appeared.

Like my friends could pet their dogs. Unlike most kids were allowed to do – I simply couldn’t hold, touch, or interact with my ‘pet’ whatsoever.

So I reached up.

I’d watched my Dad replace their food and water enough times to understand how to open the door.

POOF. A whoosh of air, tweets and feathers about my outstretched arm, and suddenly I was running inside.

‘WHO LET THE BIRDS OUT?”

I had quickly pushed the door of the cage closed and made myself scarce. I knew I’d done wrong. But I somehow didn’t feel guilty about it.

When the empty cage was noticed, I denied knowing anything about the curious disappearance. But as sure as any bird will fly when given the chance, my 3-year-old wobbly chin dimpled, whimpered, and gave me away as I feared for my ice-cream after dinner. I like to think it was to do with an ingrained honesty and incapacity to lie within me, but the truth was as childishly greedy as this, and all I was thinking about was the restriction of my dessert.

I cried like a baby…because that’s what I was.

I cried not out of guilt, nor at the loss of my pets. I cried because I had attracted trouble. I had attracted anger, frustration, and inadvertently made myself the target and origin of the negativity.

When I think about this on a deeper level, and in terms of what little life experience I have now to date, I find it incredible, and extremely telling:

 

My earliest memory is of releasing caged birds.

 

Quite literally, letting nature into its natural habitat, and releasing innocent creatures to a life they were born for, instead of caged in a garden, a house…it really does say a lot about me, and about my successes and failures to date.

I never properly believed in the influences of childhood events, environments, and seemingly unimportant occurrences in the past on issues and problems experienced today, yet when I consider this memory and the events which followed in context to today, and how the me of today would deal with them as opposed to how I dealt with them then, I can fully believe that we are the products of our environment. Mannerisms, practices, and personalities to which we are exposed as children become part of us far more easily than those we may attempt to adapt later on in life. Because they are our first experiences, our first time to encounter life events in a certain way….we come to believe that the way they are dealt with then is the ONLY way to deal with them. Anger breeds anger. Anxiety breeds anxiety. Paranoia breeds paranoid and obsessive thought patterns, damaging only when you realize just how much they have influenced you up until now. How much time I have wasted worrying about things that didn’t really matter; anxious to improve, to always be the best, to come out on top, because even though ‘we’ll love you whatever the result’, there was always a larger bowl of ice-cream for whoever came out on top.

Home Is Where the Art Is

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Time has temporarily come to a standstill. The heavy, consistent and reliable beat of activity, functioning, and output which I have been keeping for the past few weeks has ceased to be so persistant; yet I know it to be only a brief lull. I have returned home to the house in which I spent my childhood, teenage years, and adult life up until now, after living away and working for a short while. While gone, I couldn’t have even considered returning to the stifling atmosphere of being back here, so freeing and liberating was the work, not to mention creatively stimulating and socially consistent, the last thing I wanted was to be forced to spend any amount of time here among my old clothes, things and rooms which I know inside out and back to front – where is the imagination here? Where is the newness? Where is the potential for progression and growth?

I have been so preoccupied with moving forward, with moving on and nourishing change and growth that I have almost lost the importance of that which is at the core of it. Instead of rejoicing at the prospect of relaxing and being at ease with things being exactly as and where I left them, both in my room and in my parents’ lives, I had become anxious with anticpation of how stagnant it all can feel, and wary that I would be ‘sucked into’ it again.

That is how it has felt before, in times when I have been progressing and growing steadily by myself in situations outside of my home life – it has seemed almost counterproductive to return to this state of apparent sameness, the begrudgingly slow process of progression being stifled just yards after it has finally made some noticeable headway, and anxiety at it’s proximity overwhelming any sense of productivity.

This time however, the lull has been noted, and my awareness of the temporality of all things has been strengthened. The beating of the creative drum had a good run this time – things were written, recorded, conducted in ways and on levels of success I never believed myself capable of. But just as seemingly endless and frustratingly peaceful as this visit home has been, the persistance of such a contrasting level of frenzied output can only be maintained for a certain amount of time, and will only be possible once again if I take this time now to recooperate, recharge the mental and physical batteries with good nutrition, a decent amount of sleep, and a couple of hundred words written to aim to keep the nudging elbows of anxiety at my lack of creative output bubbling under the surface away.

Because I have realised now that creativity has to come from somewhere. It may not be a gift or a trait that can be readily bestowed upon someone, or found in any single library, concert venue, practice room, or gallery; but through correct environmental factors and an unknown period of time, I believe it can be coaxed into existance in certain individuals, even in the most unlikely of circumstances. My home and life experiences up until now have clearly provided the seeds and tools necessary to glean new understandings and to present unique manifestations, angles, and viewpoints of our environment and lives, something which can be achieved by something so small as this paragraph of words on your screen. This, really, when it all comes down to it, is the essence of creativity as a concept in itself. I have used the environment and experiences I have been afforded to the best of my advantage, and for now, for this present moment in time, this is the best I can present you with – a few hundred words typed hastily in the middle of a bedroom strewn with half-unpacked washing. In my work up until recently, I utilised the bustling, chaotic atmosphere around me to coax new ideas from my core and take bold risks that may or may not have resulted in disaster – the nature of such an environment, however, allowed for these risks, as even if they had failed, the movement forwards is swift, and does not take long for the failures to be learned from and forgotten. For now, for the time being, this is what I have to show – a short piece of chaotic, excitable and progressive thought captured within a room full of old teddies, in a house that has been the same colour since I was first brought into it 23 years ago.

I Am a Candle – The Myth of ‘Recovery’

I Am a Candle

  • A Check-in With Maintenance About an Earlier Issue

The Myth of ‘Recovery’ .

I feel like the flame of a candle, sitting in a still room, no percievable draft or wind present to cause the incessant flickering of my soul from one thought to another. My light is here – it’s burning, alive, ready and able to keep shining a light for those around me – to help them see – yet I cannot seem to sit still. My centre is continually bending and reaching high, only to dip low again into the comforting depths of the wax beneath me that is necessary for my sustenance, yet also the reason behind my instability. The deep is scary, and too hot. Slipping down there for good would be the easiest thing to let myself do.

But no!

I must continue to burn. I must continue reaching up.

There is no breeze. No movement. So why do I flicker? Why do I dance around, frantically searching to catch on to another flammable substance, to breath the same as another and validate this confusion; to give myself a feeling of purpose?

I am a candle, and I bathe in the warm sea of my catalyst that’s always there in my times of light, yet which hardens me to an impenetrable force of solitude in moments of darkness.

I dance, seemingly carefree to all on the outside who breeze past. But it is only those who stay long enough to see my attempts to return to stillness that see this ludicrous dance for what it really is. It’s the uncertain, stopping-starting, trial-and-error kind of tiptoeing you do around a new place as you find your feet and attempt to balance upon them. Whatever this new place is, it serves as the foundation for all I must build on, from the bottom up. Yet if this wax is constantly burning, changing, shrinking away and bending to my heat – there is nothing solid ever in place for very long on which to build. It’s a constant struggle to acclimatize, to grow, to adapt. To allow the flame burn bright and high again after reaching so low a point that it almost extinguished itself.
The music to which the flame is dancing has ceased, and while we define ‘dancing’ as ‘the movement of feet to music’, it would suggest that as music and movement are in direct correlation to one another in this instance, and there is no music present, that what I am doing could not even be defined as dancing. It’s a flailing around desperately, trying to gain some sort of balance, stability, and peace, all the while worrying that the flickering light in my brain will never settle and I’ll eventually collapse and give in to the inviting hibernation of the dark pools below, forsaking the potential of the heights I have previously achieved.

This is why I believe that ‘recovery’ is not an accurate term or goal for someone who struggles with mental health issues to strive for. ‘Recovery’ suggests a solution. It suggests an unrealistic fix, a few days off work that will magically help the mind settle in a comfortable place, ready to burn and continue again where it left off before. An assumption that this will happen even though the circumstances have not been changed, and it is likely the confusion will start again once placed back in a similar situation.

In reality, being ‘in recovery’ from a mental illness is a conscious decision which must be made Every. Single. Day. A decision to not give in to the negative cycle of thoughts and retreat into the warmth of the deep pools of comfort that are of our own design and destruction. A decision to keep burning, to flicker around desperately from one thing to another until we learn to stand up straight by ourselves, fulfilling our purpose and lighting up a path not only for our own benefit, but for others to learn from too.

It’s as if people expect a bout of depression, a panic attack, a mental breakdown, or disordered eating patterns and thoughts to be passing phases, like a cold or flu that’s difficult to shake. Whilst it is encouraging to note the similarities between physical and mental illnesses in that they render a person incapable of going about day-to-day life in a similar way to others, I’m a firm believer that a mental health issue is something that, once identified, can merely be maintained and controlled – never entirely subdued. There will always be that fear, that awareness of the instability that once took hold, and a dark fear that the symptoms and suffering has merely been stifled for a time – the dance of the flame stilled by an unusual period of calm.

Because the flame can only react to that which surrounds it – a passing breeze, a draft, a stream of heat blowing in from somewhere that was not expected – as happens in life.
“Recovering’ from the draft does not mean the dance is going to cease completely. The burn marks will still exist. The wax will have sunk ever-deeper.
‘Recovering’ means realising that it’s ok to be that unstable spark of light, and beginning to accept that sometimes the beauty of the light itself is that it is constantly in motion, in a neverending and unpredictable dance.

This dance is of our own design. We swim in our own warm pools of comfort, dangerous in their depths, and always a potential place for us to drown should we push the boundaries too far.
However their depth and destructive nature makes the light above all the more desirable, and we reach for that, striving to maintain a solid balance between the two when a match does strike to signal a fire.

‘Recovery’ is not a state of being where you can look back and give a cheer that the bad guy has been vanquished, the dark cloud cleared and the path ahead looking bright and easy.

‘Recovery’ is the awareness that your candle is lighting in the corner of the room, and an awareness of the dangers posed by the open flame should it get knocked over or mishandled.

‘Recovery’ is the acceptance of this need for awareness, and regular, intermittent glances to make sure the flame is still emitting a healthy glow, unthreatening and balanced in it’s dance.

‘Recovery’ is remembering and being aware of the need to blow out your candle before you get into bed.

‘’Recovery” is an ongoing process, and some days are easier than others. I’m not going to promise I won’t knock my candle over tomorrow, because I can’t know that this won’t happen. All I can do is my best to ensure that I keep an eye on it right now as I sit here, and remain aware of it’s existence.