Archive for the ‘Lifestyle’ Category

I have long felt that certain emotions are poison for the soul. Anger, hatred, jealousy, insecurity are but a few of these and I have talked of some of them elsewhere on this blog. However, this post intends to discuss another very malignant feeling, one that can actually exerts its toxin so far beyond its immediate sphere, that it often becomes impossible to check, or treat, its effects. I refer to bitterness that sort of corrosive, harmful bitterness that seeps through you and starts to be the bane of not just your mind and actions, but at a basic level, your very soul.

Some may feel it an exaggeration to credit bitterness with so much power. After all, we must all have fallen prey to one variation or other of this feeling when certain injustices (real or perceived) are meted out to us, by people or by life itself. However, I stick by what I assert. Bitterness is evil, it will hurt you far more than you may realise, it will spread through your life and lead to rot in otherwise perfectly healthy limbs of your “life tree”, until those branches that it has infected are good for nothing but destruction. I refer here to genuine bitterness, not a fit of pique or temporary upset or anger with a situation or person that hurt you or caused you grief or loss.

I sort of wonder why I choose to write this today, especially as I am actually finding this unexpectedly hard to do, unlike most of my other posts, where once I start, the flow of words is almost automatic. This is somehow different, maybe because I have very recently had to guard myself against the onslaught of resentment and bitterness at one of life’s latest curve balls thrown in my direction. Ok, let me be brutally honest. I did get angry, resentful and bitter for a while, a relatively short while I am proud to add, but still. The effects were almost instantaneous – that sense of loss of control, in turn causing mental stress, unhappiness and pointless regret on things ranging so far back, that I thought I had drawn a line under them a while ago. Thankfully, I checked myself before too long. Actually, I think it is more accurate to say, discussions with others near and dear to me reminded me of how unhealthy bitterness and resentment is, and that was probably my saving grace. I witness the effects of this sort of malignant bitterness at close quarters. I will not name names or relations, in fact, there is more than one person I have seen be a victim to such soul-destroying afflictions. They all teach me that it is essential to hone your “defense mechanism” against it and to ensure you are not corrupted by its effects.

It was an important lesson, a stark reminder of how, just as anger destroys the ability to reason, bitterness destroys the capacity to be happy in any meaningful way in your life. So how can you prevent feeling resentful, angry, hurt or bitter when something awful happens? I do not think you can, at least not momentarily, unless you are a truly exalted soul genuinely above any human vice. However, I firmly believe you can prevent these feelings before they deteriorate and spiral to a level that cannot be controlled. Ah yes, control – that is again the key. I found it very helpful to grasp my fear of losing control as one way to stop myself falling into the “bitterness trap”. See, the thing with feeling bitter is that you feel like that about one issue or a discrete range of problems that besets you, never imagining that this in turn is making you lose enjoyment in every other aspect of your life. And that to me is a real shame. No matter how bad things get, there is always hope and the world is subliminally beautiful and life is always worth living. By living I mean living with love and joy, not just empty meaningless existing. However, when your cup is already full of bitterness you simply cannot see the wood for the trees as such, that feeling becomes all-pervading and seriously impedes, if not utterly destroys, your capacity to enjoy other things, even if they are wholly unconnected to the situation or event that is the cause of your ill will. By consciously rising above it, just like you have to often force yourself to do with feelings of anger, you free yourself of its virulence.

It is the classic adage – you have to set yourself free from that vicious circle by genuinely recognising that bad things happen and we often experience things that are awful, hurtful, even belittling or crippling in any which way. If you can exercise your will and regain control of your being to the extent that you can abandon the bitterness without losing the experience and whatever it may teach you (good or bad), you will feel all the better of it. Good experiences will then be allowed to continue to filter into your life, in fact you can actively seek them out as you will not have abandoned positivity together with sweetness in your life, and then life will continue to demonstrate its numerous daily miracles to you. Oh, I have heard the counter arguments – you cannot help it, some things are so bad, you cannot control your reaction(s) to them. Yes, maybe, but I still maintain that you can, and should try to, control your long-term response to such events, situations or even people. After all, we are always co-conspirators in our destiny, that fine balance regulated by fate and free will. Maybe the tragedy that befell you was unavoidable and caused by some cosmic occurrence, but your reaction to it, is yours alone and you need to own it. It has always been my eventual realisation in the concept that by rising above my situation at any point, I get an empowering perspective and this allows me to look forward with hope and positivity, rather than backwards with regret and bitterness.

I would like to begin concluding with this wonderful short quote by Terry Brooks: “Hurt leads to bitterness, bitterness to anger, travel too far that road and the way is lost.”  Therefore, don’t lose the way, find yourself and a beautiful future for you and yours.


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It has been a while since posts but I have realised that writing is like that constant and true friend that no matter how long since your last conversation with them, you can pick straight up from where you left off and it was like it always was – uplifting and positive.

Back to the blog post now. I have been fermenting something in my mind of late. It was there, just lurking around the edges of my conscious thoughts, but still slightly out of reach, probably muddied by the confusion generally surrounding my “head space” of late due to stress. Today, like the sun shining through a previously cloudy and murky sky, it finally broke through! It was the realisation that tend to cling on to the negatives so easily, we crowd out any possible space for what we really need – the genuine “positives” in life. The things we all have, be they our health, our friends, our families, our homes or anything that is of honest and intrinsic value, generally divorced from a materialistic association.

Most of us do it unconsciously and would be horrified if we realised what we were really doing. We let hate, anger, grief, loss or a multitude of other unhealthy experiences or emotions “stick” to us, they were generally unavoidable when they happened to us but they made such an impact on us, we reacted to them so intensely, they became almost a part of us. We often think we have moved on, we congratulate ourselves for having coped with a really “bad” life event, we have our near and dear ones pat our back, telling us we are through the worst and that we should be proud of what we have overcome. Yes, we should be proud I suppose, as any step towards truly letting go of that which locks your genuine potential and thwarts your progress in life’s inexorable but exciting journey, should be celebrated and applauded.

However, have we really “let go” in the real sense? We may think we have, but how many times do we still re-visit those bad memories and even worse, do we actually let those hurtful past memories and experiences affect not just the present, but also pollute the future? It is like slow poison, it lingers in the veins and insidiously exerts its malignant effect on not just us, but those around us who care for and love us. I am not professing it is easy especially as we may often not even realise that something we believed long dead and buried still haunts us. Like with anything that is more introspective than solely reactive, we can only address it by being conscious that when we feel negative or react in an unreasonable manner to something that does not really justify such response, there may be an explanation for that connected to some previous event or experience. Your brain and heart may fight against this self-realisation, after all, acknowledging something often opens the floodgates to those hurtful traumas most of us work very hard to lock away as soon as we can. Only once you get past that natural “flight” mode (in a psychological rather than physical sense of course), can you start to constructively address what it is that truly plagues you.

Memories can often be like those niggling burrs, embedded somewhere in the recesses of your psyche, not constantly painful and thus requiring immediate removal, but just there; they flare into inflamed and “infected” state when prodded. The stimulus for this can be anything, it can be a current occurrence that just reminds us through often very indirect association of the often consciously forgotten past incident(s). The difficulty is with understanding this and then dissociating the past experience to whatever is happening currently so that in a truly clichéd sense “the past does not damage the present and future”. There is no universal method of doing this of course, different methods will work on different individuals, the “how” is not the main consideration, it is the eventual result of making this effort and successfully overcoming any crippling effects from the previous negative or traumatic experience.

However, if done properly, the effects are like amputating that rotten limb, you may feel like you have lost something, but if you had kept it, it was only going to keep spreading its poison until it destroyed the rest of you that was not gangrenous in the first place. Therefore, to constructively live a life and attain a future that is divorced from unhealthy association and unhampered by negativity going forward, reflect, analyse and honestly address what memories and feelings you want to take forward with you, and which ones you are best leaving behind.  You cannot wish away anything that happened to you, after all, every experience in your life, good or bad, shapes who you are and dictates your strength and character (again for the better or worse) but once you start exercising conscious choice, you can dictate what shape your present and future can take.

To remind me of this, I think about the wonderfully inspiring and indomitably spirited Helen Keller, who so beautifully encapsulated this theory:

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us. “

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Jealousy seems to be an extremely common affliction. Every time I explain that it is a feeling I am generally unfamiliar with, people (especially those who do not know me well), are struck with surprise. It is therefore quite hard to write this piece, as it is always difficult to express feelings you have not felt, and certainly never felt with any level of intensity to do justice to a particular emotion. Such is my brush with jealousy, I simply do not tend to get jealous. Maybe, it is because I am not at heart a possessive person, I feel love is an emotion bountiful enough to go round and the more it is shared, the more it expands. I am also not attracted by the theories of all-consuming love that makes you want to own a person (or even worse, an object), to the exclusion of all others. The supreme form of all-encompassing love must be that for God, it can of course also be for your parents, family, partners, children and others, but all those latter relations are transitory and will end with the span of our limited lives. The love for God, in my opinion, transcends those, but that is somewhat beyond the scope of today’s post.

Coming back to envy, the majority of people I know, seem to treat it as an inevitable consequence of loving. If you love intensely, you get attached, and this then almost automatically translates into making you feel like you are entitled to undivided attention from the object of your affections. This is all supplemented by the romantic notions, much flaunted as demonstrative of epic love, where we believe that being jealous or possessive, especially in a romantic context, is almost necessary to demonstrate depth of feeling for your loved one. After Mills and Boons have been running this formula with huge success over the years. Most of us will sigh in delight at a “hero” getting insanely jealous over his love interest. Jealousy has been almost glamorised as a prerequisite to an expression of deep love. On the other extreme, jealousy amongst friends, siblings, colleagues and even that of parents for their children, are all vilified and people feeling such emotions allegorised as almost demonic or at the very least, guilty of deep moral failing.

Either way, jealousy is a negative emotion and identifying it and trying to eliminate it can have some real immediate benefit for your emotional and mental well-being. It is really important to recognise that jealousy has to be one of those totally wasteful and self-defeating feelings one can experience, it destroys the very relationship you are anxious to preserve. What gives birth to jealousy? Probably too wide a consideration is required to be done justice to here, but in a generalised context, it seems to me to originate from our own insecurities. If we were confident of ourself, our feelings and their reciprocity, it is difficult to see how the envy can take root. If only we were able to work through that often almost automatic rush of felt shortcoming that births its progeny, jealousy, we would realise that the very person we feel jealous of is possibly also suffering similar feelings, if not for us, for someone else. For, as we are generally quick and able to perceive our own inadequacies, others are also affected, albeit their insecurities may stem from another area.

Further, we then enter the realm where that envy blinds us and makes us suspicious and unhappy in every which way. We begin to see our spouse  simply admiring someone as concrete evidence of infidelity and of-course once trust erodes, it brings down the whole foundation of your relationship. The same can be true of any tie, I have only exemplified the most common and obvious one that springs to mind. Of course we must view this in perspective, not every jealous or insecure pang we have, will have disastrous consequences, it is fairly easy and also very understandable to succumb to such concerns as affect most of us on various levels. It is, however, the form of envy or jealousy that can easily result in genuine spite, that we must guard against. Its onset can be subtle, but its grip is oft unshakeable. Nowhere is this more dramatically emphasised than in Othello. Shakespeare had the right of it of-course. That gradual poison spreading through the psyche, causing the unbearable angst, and finally the overwhelming and utter destruction, not just of the person you love above all else, but of yourself too, is so vividly portrayed, it always frightens me with its implications.

How can one prevent feeling jealous? I am afraid I cannot adduce a ready answer to it. All I can say is, recognising the futility of your illness (for jealousy more often than not manifests itself as an actual illness), may make it easier to deal with it. There is no pill to swallow that will make it better, it must be something that needs to be identified and then rooted out. You could do this by being self-analytical and examining the root of what is causing you to react in that manner. Most complexes are of course girded from the loins of a lack of something, real or perceived. For example, feeling ill will towards someone your partner praises as beautiful is usually caused by an insecurity of your own appearance. As I said above, remember that whilst you are fighting these emotions towards someone, they may be looking at you (or could be) and feeling equally inferior. You are bound to have some quality or gift someone else may be/ can envy so try to pierce the veil and examine all the things you have to offer and what life has gifted you. Further, understand that no matter how much you may dislike someone’s attributes, whatever they may be, your envy will not yield them to you. If you want to attain something you covet in others, try to achieve it through your own honest efforts. Why not be radical and try to take pleasure in someone’s success or achievements, you will inadvertently be sharing it and as far-fetched as that sounds, such thinking really works.

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Tempus fugit or time flies – a phrase most of us will have used or identified with, many times in our lives. Does it sound as trite as “Time and tide wait for no man”? Well, common place and much-used these sayings may be, but they are none the less true for that. Most of us wonder where the days, months and even years went when we occasionally sit back and take stock. We bemoan lost times and get nostalgic or often sad, that we seem to have let a long phase go past without any seeming significant achievement or memory to remember it by. Yet, every moment we pass is one moment less in our relatively short life span, so should it not have been treasured for all it is worth?

Most of are slaves to the clock; in fact it is difficult to imagine how we can have any structure to our days or formulate anything meaningful without reference to that often little ticking device, that consumes us from the minute we wake. It is drilled in to us that time is money and there is often that almost natural tendency in humans to try to cram in as much as they can, to maximise all possible benefit from an available resource. It may be an extension of an intrinsically materialistic disposition, or it may be an innate recognition that our life is also a finite resource of a sort and we therefore “need to make the most of it”. Whatever it is, the reality often is that we are doing the very opposite of what we set out to do.

Many will disagree and argue vocally that they are proud of their time management. They manage to fit all their requirements into their days. Yes, it is hard for them, but with careful planning and precise implementation, it is achievable. Aha – perhaps, but I am attempting to probe deeper here. I am trying to suggest looking beyond the veil and to genuinely analyse if in that hectic rush of activity you create and immerse yourself in, whether you are losing yourself. Are you  simply working so hard to aim for that elusive “complete” lifestyle that you are left with no time to really know and absorb what it is you are, or are not, attaining or enjoying? A classic example to the of the point I am trying to make is when we are so intent on capturing a special moment on camera or video, that we spend the whole of the time that we are meant to be “living” that experience, posing and getting the exact angle correct for that wonderful pose that will be our memory in days to come. Yes, I agree that those aids are very helpful and it is wonderful to look at pictures after the event and especially many years later, but surely not at the expense of actually becoming an effective spectator at the very event you are the star in?! I do not exaggerate, I have seen people fall out spectacularly over the simple issue of how a photograph is taken and its details, which you would have thought should pale into insignificance at the enormity of what the occasion should signify.

Another manifestation of our possibly subconscious fear of time passing us by may be the generally rigid deadlines we set ourselves by which we determine to ourselves that we are to have achieved set objectives. Bad enough that we all have these at work and need to meet them to get pay rises or promotions or other forms of recognition, but the majority of us will have set targets for personal and lifestyle aspirations as well. We often mask these as “dreams” or goals, which are of course important for all and must be present to motivate and instil within us a sense of purpose. However, my concern is over the inflexible timeframes we almost always set to these. I take my own example, a much younger and more naive me (I am not ancient despite the imagery that this statement must conjure up!) knew what her priorities were. I knew what age I wanted to complete my education by, when I would be married by, my promotion progress at work was charted and generally most major life events possibly until what I then viewed as the ripe old age of 40, were all “fixed”.

 However, in my 30s now, it is clear my life took a totally different course to that I had subscribed it for. In the past that would have worried me, I would have fretted that this implied failure on various fronts but now, I am grateful that nothing “went to plan”. I am – I do not say this as some form of “sour grapes” effect. Life threw me a few curve balls and they forced me to re-analyse what I thought I wanted, and to work with what I got. It also (I like to think) stopped me stagnating and turning old before my time (I mean old in spirit as many aged people are genuinely “young at heart”) . If you achieve all you think you wanted to, by when you had planned to, what else is there to aspire to? No, achievements are never prescriptive, your requirements should be not only realistic, but more importantly, flexible. Anything is possible, I do not dispute that and I do not suggest by the mention of realistic aims, that you cannot seek to obtain what seems difficult or almost impossible. No, what I mean is that you may need to allow a considerable degree of adaptability so you can tailor them to ever-changing circumstances.

Focus on the today and enjoy what you are accomplishing. By no means abandon the constant pursuit for betterment, but do not get so swamped by the elusive gleam of the future you want, that you lose out on the present that is yours. Throw away that list and especially that bucket list, and focus instead on liking and loving what life is giving you and what you are gaining from it, here and now. In other words, really “live” life, not just plan to live it.  You may find that even if is momentary, you may manage to somewhat slow or pause time momentarily for yourself, to forever capture perfect happy moments in your soul, to provide those mental photographs no-one can deface or destroy in the years to come.

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Do not fear – I am not advocating a fast route to obesity, there is a method (sort of) to my madness. I have been thinking recently about how you can keep sane in situations where it all seems to be like a bad episode from a horror show. When chaos reigns supreme, there are deadlines hammering your door down, the phone will not stop ringing, more and more work is landing by the minute, and you still have a hundred other tasks such as filing those all important tax returns or renewing the car tax, that must also be somehow fit in. You constantly feel as though life is a treadmill and you are on it in high-speed, steep incline mode, and cannot even come off, for fear of falling flat on your face, and suffering permanent damage.

Sounding like a “usual” day in your life? I am sure it is not uncommon for most of the populace, trying to juggle demanding jobs, families and a whole host of other activities every day. I had one of those frequent moments last week and was beginning to despair as to how everything on my “to do” list, which was as long as my arm, was ever going to get done in a week, let alone a day. So, sitting in during yet another lunch break, staring in panic at the dreaded list and computer screen at alternate intervals, I glanced at my currently favorite drinks mug, a present from a close friend for my last birthday. A simple mug, yes – albeit, a pretty pink and white colour, with the words, “Keep Calm and Eat Cupcakes” emblazoned on it, crowned with a cupcake, replete with the obligatory cherry, in case someone did not get the point.

It made me automatically smile, the first step to arresting the panic before it runs away, with you in its grip. I then took a deep breath and forced myself to get up and walk away from my desk for a much-needed five-minute break. I made a tea and yes, resisted the urge to eat an actual cupcake, but simply reminded myself that unless calm prevails, in some form or another, productivity cannot result. Oh, it did not make the day magically better – not at all, there were still more “hair tearing” moments in the day, but that little jolt which allowed me a moment of respite and in an odd way, allowed a slight re-charge on otherwise flat “batteries”, did its work well. After all, the cake can be consumed but the sweetness lingers awhile, right? It certainly worked for me and I found that I was able to get through the day, managing various commitments and achieving what was strictly required, despite having to re-organise deadlines and tasks.

It also reminded me (at the end of that particularly hectic day) to reflect on whether I could identify any other associative tools that may be of help in the future when the weight of various pressures seems to weigh down with crushing impact, causing panic and thus putting an end to making any meaningful progress, thereby exacerbating the original reason behind the onset of the anxiety – too many tasks and too little time. It is always tricky and sometimes probably impossible, to stop yourself feeling overwhelmed. However, recognising the “danger signals” before it is too late, may be of some help. This may at least help to somewhat stem the flood, if not divert it totally. Even panic, as long as it is in manageable proportions, can be controlled and in some cases, may actually become an aid to spurring delivery despite unrealistic but immovable deadlines or focus the mind to ensure that the work being produced is actually focused and to the point, in the way that it sometimes is not when there is no urgency underlying it.

I found a variety of techniques, some of which I had myself been using almost subconsciously and probably daily, to beneficial effect. After all, what else was practicing deep breathing as taught in my yoga class, if not an instant relaxation aid? No wonder, we are often told to take a deep breath when we get agitated – I have found that many deep but systematic breaths buy you the time to calm your responses and of course also have the universally acknowledged health benefits we all know about. There is then the other obvious, but still effective methods, such as taking a quick moment to have a drink, looking at a picture on your wall or even computer screen that you associate with serenity, other seemingly silly accoutrements such as the poster I spotted recently in our offices which contains a wide circle on a page, with the words, “Bang Head Here” and a downward pointing arrow above it. I love those types of implements, as they do their work but also afford some amusement to the observer. Another very obvious mechanism for me is to almost forcibly remind myself that no matter how much I stress, it will not make the tasks any easier or the time it will take them any shorter, unless of course, I actually get on with them, rather than sit or stand there, worrying myself ill over them.

It is after all, about perspective and no matter what happens we must also try to remember that in most cases, if something simply cannot get done today, we need to organise and re-prioritise and ensure it is done as soon as it can. (I caveat this by clarifying that I am not referring to tasks of life saving importance – those are well beyond the scope of this post). Of course, one size will never fit all, and those very basic techniques I describe above may seem laughable to some, but I always believe that if a simple formula can solve the equation, why try to devise a more elaborate one?! If you are of a more intelligent disposition than I am and only feel fulfilled by a more challenging methodology, if it still causes the desired effect, i.e. that of inducing much-needed calm in difficult situations, it is all for the good. What is indisputable is that, only by conditioning yourself to this state, can you ever successfully master it. Once attained though, the benefits from remaining calm under pressure cannot be adequately described here. After all, as James Allen reminded us, “Calmness is power.”

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I believe the concept detailed below has been much explored and nothing I write here is new, so I shall not be surprised if most find this post quite uninspiring and trite, but as a lot of you will know by now, I often write to reason things out for my benefit, so please bear with it if you can.

We are all warriors and are constantly at war. Each new day brings a battle or continues one we already find ourselves in. No, I have not got so lost in my preferred realm of fantasy fiction that I am actually turning delusional. I also do not mean that we are in some parallel mediveal universe, garbed in chain mail, brandishing impressive weaponary and fighting legions of enemies. Yet, fight we do – not only amonst ourselves, but with our own selves, daily. I refer to the battle that rages internally in us all, where the evil within rears its head in many guises and many forms, and needs defeating, if it is not to defeat us.

This should be no surprise as it has been the subject of myths and sagas since time immemorial.  Many will disagree – those epic battles I allude to were fought between armies, both human or supernatural, often a combination of both. They were spectacular tales of individual and cohesive bravery, displays of inspiring feats and skills of reknown, even Gods joined in some of them, or indeed were the subject of and participants of, some of those wars. I am not convinced. Yes, of course some of those battles may have been fought in fact, and some cleary were historical events. However, the depiction of most mythical battles, to me, are symbolic and mainly intended to represent the eternal battle that rages between good and evil. This is extended to encompass not just the extrinsic conflict between these two elemental forces, in each age and each day, in the guise of the constant struggle we all undergo, with our own selves.

For is it not a war we fight daily and is there not evil, not just around us, but within us all to be defeated?  What else are our vices such as anger, jealousy, greed, and in some cases, hate, to name but a few, other than the soldiers of evil, the forces of what is “dark” not just in the universe, but residing within our own selves? Often, it is harder to fight those elements within us, than it is to face up to people, situations or fears that are around us. Do not mistake me – I do not subscibe to theory that all, or even most of mankind, is evil. Quite the contrary, I believe in the inherent goodness present in each soul, or at least the potential for it to be present. However, whether that righteousness manifests itself or comes to the fore, is a matter of free will and choice for each individual, shaped by many factors and perhaps, to some extent, dependant on the level of self realisation achieved through personal effort, and possibly even strife. Otherwise, that very purity or virtue can be masked, or even totally subsumed by its antithesis, which also co-exists in all of us, at least in the form of its potential. Put simply, there is great capacity within each of us to do  “good” but there is also the possibility of considerable “evil”. What path we eventually choose, is up to us.

Indeed, sometimes we may not make a conscious decision. The grasp of evil or malice is subtle but tencious nevertheless. We may find that the negativity in us gradually sneaks up on us, eventually corroding everything that was shining bright and pure within our soul, if unchecked. For example, what may start as a simple craving for material betterment could become greed if we are not self aware and contained. It must be universally acknowledged that greed is poisonous, it exerts its influence powerfully and can easily strip away a significant part of, if not all, of the sterling qualities within us such as the desire to share, be content, be selfless. The same could apply to any other failing or iniquity that we may, and have the potential to be, capable of.

How then, can we guard against these often unseen enemies? Are we simply hostage to good fortume or perhaps a higher power, to ensure we do not fall before these foes and emerge the survivor from their onslaught? I do not believe so, as the danger is the greatest for those unaware and also perhaps careless. I suspect the answer may lie in constant vigilance. Just as a sentry cannot afford to sleep on guard duty, we must train ourselves to self-inspect and remain guarded that those negativities do not creep up on us, finding us complacent and defenceless, thereby being able to overpower us. Once we are captured, escape is extremely difficult, if not outright impossible. By policing your own actions and more importantly, your thoughts, you win a major skirmish, if not the battle itself. Other things may help – surround yourself with people similarly self-aware and dedciated to staying on the “right” side. The sentry on duty, can after all, be relieved at least temporarily by a comrade, whom he can trust. This is because he knows that should danger strike whilst he slumbers, his companion will raise the alarm and rouse him. Similarly, practising the art of positive living or exploring spirituality in whatever guise that appeals to you, could help you identify in time if you are at risk of giving in to any corrupting influence, and could well help you arrest its progress before it is too late.

If all else fails, ask yourself whether what you are doing, or thinking, is the right thing to do. Your innermost soul will seldom lie to you, and if it does, the battle I have been rambling on about may perhaps be already lost! However, for most, it is never too late and hope is eternal, so I remain very postive that a lot of us can learn and train ourselves to master the art of this warfare and yes, even win.  As described by Sun Tzu,Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories” and also by the great Aristotle who said, “I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self“.

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Aashi – this one is specially for you. Aashi, one of the sweetest people I have come to know recently, raised a really good question, or questions really, whilst commenting on my “Glass Houses” post. She essentially asked how you deal with the pain of those who let you down or outright hurt you, behave in a way that breaches every acceptable remit of what trust implies – how can you forgive such betrayals, let alone forget? I expect we must extend this to include those who may not have in any way directly wronged you, but have merely drifted apart from you due to any number of potential factors and you thus view this as an abandonment. How do you deal with the loss of such relationships, without bitterness corroding he once happy memories you must have shared with them? I use the word relationships deliberately, as ended friendships can hurt or scar as much as any broken bond with a romantic partner, so the scope is wide but can include any person or persons you had a significant bond with.

This discussion reminded me of the phrase, “Friends can be for a reason, a season or a lifetime”. I used to struggle with grasping this concept as I suppose everyone I counted as a true friend, I assumed would be a “lifetime” influence or fixture. This cannot be so – thinking like this is another manifestation of attachment that binds us to people in a way that often overlooks our cosmic connection with them. We befriend or meet someone, or they us, we get on so well, they help us in ways that cannot be defined, we then start to believe they are an indispensable part of our existence, we form an attachment to them that transforms them often into a ‘human crutch” for us. We sub-consciously believe that we cannot do without their support, our well-being and success is somehow incomplete if they do not share it. We often give this the label of love, but true love should not be a slave to possession or reciprocity.

Anyone who has had an extremely close friendship or other relationship must have at some point experienced the pain and despair of it ending, or at least fracturing, so I hope that what I describe is something they can relate to. However, if we think about friends who are no longer friends, either due to some disconnect or discord, or simply due to time and distance or circumstance, as still having been our one-time teachers, that might help. They enable us to remember the lessons we learnt but not be corrupted by pointless pain or anger at their departure from our life. We do not hate our teachers, good or bad as they may have been, for having “left” after having imparted whatever lesson or knowledge that was their forte. In fact, in many cases, we owe them, and afford them heart-felt thanks for making us what we are. It is after all, the lessons we learn and how we learn them, that shapes the course our lives often take.

Think of your friends, both past and present, or any relationships really, in the same manner. You were meant to meet some people at a certain point in your life – you will not accept this if you do not subscribe to the inescapable theory of “karma”, but I cannot otherwise account for why we meet some people and not others, from the multitudes that prowl our universe. Why do some lives intersect with ours at any given point and why are we only meant to walk a certain distance with such companions, before their own paths diverge and they accompany us, or us them, no longer? Why, because it was fated to be and yes, our free will may, and will, impact on a lot of our actual interactions with the other “passengers” on this “journey”, but it will not affect the overall outcome or destination of our quest or theirs.

Put simply, accept that not everyone who means a lot to you at any given point in your life, will be a constant throughout your existence, or theirs. After all, change is the only constant in life. Just take from them and your relationship with them, whatever good you can extract, let any “bad” serve as an experience that helps the future and overall, let them go. Focussing on, and remaining affected by, the pain, anger, loss, grief, frustration or any other negative feeling you associate with them long after your relationship has played its course, only shackles you in a meaningless prison of your own making. As Ann Landers described: “Hanging onto resentment is letting someone you despise live rent-free in your head”.

However, I extend this slightly further – do not despise, despise implies hatred and continued negativity, any trace of this will continue to keep you chained to the very person or memories you need to part with, so do not hate, resent or stay angry. Simply understand that even any pain caused to you is a part of the full range of experiences we must undergo to have really “lived”. The feeling of release from letting go extends its benefit by causing an immediate lightness in your own spirit and being. It then sets you free to like, love or live again, and hopefully all three. Simply love, live and learn, it is a fluid process that only ends with life, and maybe not even then. I read a wonderful quote recently, source unknown – “If someone you love hurts you cry a river, build a bridge, and get over it”, which really struck a chord with me, I hope it does with you too.

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