The Sacred Centre

sharing – daring – caring – writing from the heart

Category: Totally Honest

Back into Darkness

P3201418.JPGI still mourn the loss of my most cherished follower who left my blog while I was recounting my last stay at Plum Village, now nearly two years ago. However much this upsets me (incredible that it does at all) I can see why he unfollowed me. My writing and my experience of life, more so of Plum Village, had changed.

It was the start of a new journey for me. Out of the depths of darkness that is depression, into a confusing time of change with medication that I never intended to take. You might as well mourn my death as well, as the person I was and the believes I once held have changed.

It is not so much the medication that did this, contrary to my own popular belief, but simply me, deciding to take the medication in the first place. I was always against medication, believed I could get along just fine with a healthy diet, yoga and complementary therapies. To make the decision to take medication was a last resort, there was not much else left at the time.

After I got out of the initial adjustment phase I enjoyed a few months “normality” where life was good and I got on well with the world. Then I began to feel the anxiety return, triggers hit harder and deeper and when I felt myself return to that dark and exhausting place, I literally begged for a higher dose.

Everything went a little bit lighter and easier again for a while, but never again quite so beautiful as when the medication first worked. Once you have the direct comparison between how beautiful life can be and how bad it can get, you will do almost anything to get back to the good time. Your every addict’s explanation for hitting that next high just one more time.

So up went the dose again but not much changed, the little lighter phase hardly recognisable. Then I had my first proper panic attack with blackout and A&E. All tests returned normal. It is clearly all just in my mind…

Then I got started on a different type of medication with terrible side effects, leaving me even more tired and yet strangely motivated to voice my darker inner world and follow my suicidal ideations, with the only positive, albeit not a positive at all, being that instead of bottling up my anger it now shot out of me at any opportunity, unpredictable like a dragon spits fire. And I still had yet another panic attack.

At my wits end I write a long letter to my GP, explaining what I find difficult to put into spoken words, who finally refers me to the local mental health team. I’m in a very dark place, they think it is not because of the new medication but rather that the dosage isn’t high enough.

“Hang in there, we’ll get you the help you need. You will feel better”, they say.

So I’m hanging in there, half dead, half alive. Live has turned pretty meaningless and it is my job that provides stability and routine to get me out of bed and gives me at least some sort of purpose and sense of meaning, however difficult it is at times to focus and put on a smiley face.

Then someone sais: “It can’t be that bad if one can still go to work…”

And the struggle continues, walking on that tight rope above the deep darkness, one minute hoping to make it to the other end, the next just wanting to give up and let myself fall into the darkness, where I can simply give into the tiredness, to sleep and not having to struggle no more to keep it together for society’s sake.

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I have so far avoided to write such dark thoughts onto this blog which was meant to be uplifting and enlightening. But the Sacred Centre was also meant to represent my inner self, to acknowledge what is there and let it come up to be healed. This is my attempt to acknowledge this shitty dark place inside of me. Even though it isn’t a very likeable one, it is still a part of me, and it deserves a voice just like the others do.

Another reason I haven’t posted anything for a while is that I seem to have lost everything I have believed in. So this might well be the biggest personal and spiritual crisis I ever had or simply an undiagnosed mental health condition that I have tried to cover up by focusing on the positives in life with the help of practical self-help solutions, which to be fair did help. But I now feel that I’ve exhausted all avenues of conventional and alternative treatments and still feel worse.

“It’s normal to feel like this at times”, is a common well-meant encouragement.

But it portrays nothing of the very “unnormal” struggle inside myself, or for any other person suffering from a mental health condition. So what’s the solution? Other than simply follow my suicidal thoughts, I’m yet to find out. I will sure keep you updated once I do. In the meantime I’m pondering on the thought that I need to allow myself to fall into the darkness and live it because otherwise I will never be able to truly be myself.

If you would like to read more about mental health, I have written more under “Mind over Matter” on my blog “The Cycle of my Life“.

As Yet Untitled

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I think I’m finally on the mend.

I had a little cry today (while watching “The fault in our stars”).

I’ve been longing to cry since an “accidental” outburst nine months ago when I learned that my boyfriend had spent all afternoon alone in our hotel room in New York just in case I would come back and didn’t have to be alone after I had disappeared in the nearest underground after what I would call an episode of sorts in which my nerves just snapped and I had to get away from our friends while on holiday and legged it to the Brooklyn Bridge on my own.

Since then I’ve been having a tough time keeping my act together for another couple of months until my GP urged me to accept that being singed off work was a good thing to allow me to rest and recover, of which the recovery itself took a further three to four months until I finally found another job and escaped a stressful job that had plainly been making me ill.

And suddenly I not only had a new life ahead of me, but also a surprising amount of close friends, I found my distant dad and had a first real conversation with him, began painting again, joined a really lovely supportive new working environment, started to cook and bake a little more, and quite frankly am pleasantly overwhelmed by my sudden busy social life after years of social anxiety and persistent tiredness and lacking motivation.

I had found myself again.

So for me, finally being able to allow my tears to fall, is synonymous with allowing myself to feel a range and depth of emotions, which supposedly had somehow got blocked, either through my own pride of not admitting my weaknesses to myself and others or because I didn’t know where to direct them.

In the past month I had incredibly eye-opening talks with individuals, whom I never considered to have stories like those they shared with me. But by opening myself up, showing my own vulnerability, they must have felt save to share theirs with me, which added a whole nother connection between us, adding depth to growing friendships.

I’m still experiencing occasional bouts of anxiety but I now am aware of when they arise and am able to use new found tools to keep them under control, even if that means simply having to sit and breathe with the horrible wave of nausea instead of following the strong urge to run away and hide somewhere save.

Having been wanting to put all these suddenly emerging emotions into words over the past few months had proved difficult for me, there just weren’t enough appropriate words to describe what I was suddenly feeling. And I’m not even sure what I want to say, just that I am incredibly lucky to be alive and to be able to feel what I’m feeling, see what I’m seeing, hear what I’m hearing, taste what I’m tasting and sense that this life is a gift, that I should cherish and not waste with worrying about the future or past, but to just live it one step at a time while keeping in touch with myself and those around me, to connect with the world, its people and nature.

That is the simple truth of life: just live it.

With love
Anna

First Impressions

A fairly high-ranking individual from our work place once described her experience on the first day of starting here. Since nobody knew who she was she was treated accordingly, with little attention and getting mostly ignored. I know that I myself walked past her a few times one day, because I was busy, because I didn’t know who she was, because in my eyes she didn’t seem to be very important.

Why would you only pay important people the respect you think they deserve? When is someone important enough to warrant your immediate attention? What is it that signals our brains how to react and who to pay attention to? Is it their appearance or our past experience?

I felt bad that I was just as guilty of ignoring her, although I usually pride myself in greeting anyone I meet with at least a smile and ask if I can help when someone is clearly looking lost. Could it be that our important lady didn’t look lost enough? Did she maybe have a subtle demeanour of reassurance about herself, the kind that only she knew about, the power to sack you on the spot, yet which nonetheless seeped through and radiated a sense of not really needing directions?

This humbling experience made me even more conscious of the fact that you just don’t know who you have in front of you. And it really doesn’t matter whether it’s the Queen of Timbuktu or a street dog that crosses your path. Anyone deserves a certain amount of respect. And ever since I have made a double effort to treat everyone with the same respect – not anyone any more or anyone else any less.

Today I went to all the different departments at work to distribute a leaflet for a regular gathering of a certain grade of employee. The multitude of different reactions I got from every single department still goes through my mind. Mostly I encountered the expected initial few moments of being ignored. Some I had to tap on the shoulder after waiting patiently a few more moments, others decided to see me and ask if I needed something. Some reacted stressed, others disinterested. A few looked at me suspiciously, a few others were really open and interested. One barked at me what it was I wanted now, another wasn’t quite sure why I was talking to them.

I was at all times open, friendly, smiling, asking for the kind of employee I was after. The difference in reactions was astounding, interesting and most of all exhausting. Such is the human genius I suppose. I like to think what it would be like if I was someone with a high influence that would deserve an equally high level of respect? And again, why don’t I deserve that kind of respect as a simple enthusiastic individual on a mission to unite a workforce of employees and to help them have a voice? Are we humans really that ignorant to separate low-ranking from high-ranking people and treat them accordingly?

According to what?

May I suggest you stop judging others and start respecting them instead? The world would definitely be a much better place that way.

Love
Anna

When Happiness Returns

Suddenly I felt this pure happiness wafting through my body. Like as if a window had been opened in a stuffy room to let the fresh spring air in and awaken the sleeping mind. I admit it had been a while since I last felt it. We’re probably talking a good 5 years. My goodness, what had happened that I spent all that time semi-unhappy?

What kept me going those past years was that last memory of a sunny morning that I woke up early in my little studio flat, refreshed after sleeping sound through the night, went for a run along the seafront and settled with a good read on the sofa. I had a little patio on which I grew as many vegetables as possible in pots, even a little apple tree. And I felt happy, really happy. And ever since have I tried to get back to feeling happy just like that.

The decline followed on after a big depression which was the result of an emotionally abusive relationship, the shockwaves of which would follow me around more or less for most of those years. The foundation was fear. The fear of either living a life under the control of someone, which I didn’t want or living with the consequences of leaving the confines of control and be subject to harassment. I chose to break free but from then on didn’t sleep properly, couldn’t eat properly, got an adrenaline rush every time I heard a noise outside or spotted someone in the streets that looked like my ex and my menstrual cycle was all over the place as well. This naturally is a disaster recipe for unhappiness.

I have come a long way since then and sensing that glimpse of happiness made me realise how much work I had done on myself and on my surroundings. It would be great to assume that happiness is something that is freely available, but I don’t think it is. And it may also be interpreted differently by everyone. What happiness is to you might not be happiness to the person next to you.

Opening up to a new partner was hell for me and I only got through it because he was so patient and understanding, something I will be eternally grateful for. What I have learned over the past years is that if a relationship has no mutual respect and understanding for both parties, neither will be happy and sometimes the only way to be happy is to get out, however hard it may be.

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Sometimes you have to make sacrifices to find lasting happiness. This means to give up something you like or release people from your life who get you down. My sacrifice was to move in with my new partner into a small second floor flat along a main road to safe money for a better place. There were always people shouting and suspicious groups of people hanging out outside and I missed my connection to nature and to grow my veg. Together with my fear of commitment based on my last experience this meant another dip in spirits. But now I have been rewarded with a lovely little house and beautiful garden in a really quiet area with views onto the magnificent green hills of the South Downs. And here it was that suddenly my happiness perked up. Totally and completely 100% undiluted happiness.

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My menstrual cycle is still a bit out of sync but thanks to acupuncture treatments as well as my own applied acupressure, healing, meditation and yoga I’m not as affected mentally, the ups and downs of which were the biggest obstacle to happiness. Food is also still an ongoing battle because I find that there are more and more things my body reacts to with tiredness, fatigue, aches and pains.

So, to keep your spirits up and be truly happy it is crucial to be with people who appreciate and value you, who listen to you and who understand who you are and what makes you tick. To release people from your life that cause you unhappiness isn’t an easy one. When I was in that situation I read somewhere that by raising your own happiness, to be yourself, to not let yourself get down and to surround yourself with people who contribute to your happiness will quite likely lead to the natural disappearance of those who don’t contribute to your happiness. The Law of Attraction says that you get more of what you put out. It sort of worked like that for me. We’re all annoying at times, we all have our ups and downs, but if you can reflect on yourself and acknowledge those around you, to laugh with them and sometimes even without them on your own, just for the sheer joy of it, then you will have found happiness.

If you then support yourself and others with a simple diet that is full of fresh ingredients, swapping common sugar with natural sweeteners (read my “Sugar Hangover Diaries” if you would like to know more) and enjoyed with “gusto” you will find that your body will be a good vehicle from which to shine your light of happiness. We well and truly are what we eat and food has a big effect on us, how we feel, how we act, how we present ourselves, which I belief isn’t nearly given as much attention as it deserves. We’re all such individual personalities that one rule doesn’t fit all of us. So what I find important is that you figure out who you are, what you need to be truly happy and to give you more of what you need, not only in food but also in people around you and the space you live in. It all starts with the simple thought of what you want.

You can change and create your life just how you want it. Down to the very T 🙂

Love
Anna

The Extrovert Detox

I was born an introvert, quiet, highly sensitive to my surroundings with the purpose of changing the world for the better. These might be at odds and you might wonder how a quiet introvert can possibly take on the challenge of changing the world. The answer lies in the adaptability of life, the life choices I make and the actions I take on the way.

Being highly sensitive means that I take in more than others of clues and information that I encounter every single waking minute of my life. At night I have vivid dreams that seem to overcompensate for the quiet life I choose to live. Because of my highly sensitive nature I can often feel overwhelmed. A simple conversation or group activity can leave me feeling mentally exhausted and ready to hide somewhere alone, just to try and recuperate.

Being like that, however, also has its positives. It means that I spend more time thinking and evaluating what I encounter. I read more, learn more, study more. A self-confessed know-it-all, this is the best preparation to challenge the world to change its thinking. Mainstream doesn’t work with me, not very often anyway. I tend to question, wanting to know the whys and hows and what ifs. Often this approach hasn’t gotten me very far in discussions with others because they either couldn’t understand the complexity of my question or didn’t know the answer. All too often I was told not to ask such silly questions.

Self-doubt has been, and still is with me most days. But again, it helps to evaluate myself, my behaviour and the reactions from others. One might say that it is a lonely path I chose, an idealistic freedom fighter on the way to unknown territory. The fact that only about 20% of the world population is introvert makes it harder for us to prove our validity and to explain why we choose quiet solitude over crowded parties. The majority of people loves to go out clubbing and listen to loud music and to talk exuberantly as if there was no tomorrow. And they have come to understand that most people like that sort of thing. That’s what today’s mainstream marketing is aiming at. At the extrovert fun and action loving people.

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This makes it even harder for introverts to stand up for themselves and say it is okay to be like I am, because all through their life have they been told that it is not. That they were too quiet, that they were geeky, that they were boring together with plain weird and not worth wasting time on. But if you ever spent that time on that quiet person in the corner, you will not only find a really interesting personality but also a friend for life that you can trust and who will listen deeply, offering good advice and who would will inspire you to be more like them and less like the actual boring drunken people who scream and shout before stripping off and jumping naked into the pool. I suppose it adds a little excitement to your life if that’s what you need.

Evaluative question: why am I writing about this? Maybe because I feel so misunderstood by society. My whole life have I played some strange copy of Jekyll and Hyde in a weak attempt to adapt to people around me. And whereas there were times when I enjoyed drinking and exhausting laughter I remember mostly that this were times where I wasn’t truly myself. But it is a long and arduous trek to accept that you are simply different and don’t want to play this game no more.

I have all but given up table sugar and changed my diet to a great deal to avoid food groups that I don’t agree with, which was a battle of its own. And I am now ready to give up on that false reality of pretending to be extrovert and wholly accept my introvert and sensitive nature and not so much avoid extrovert groups but more so make choices to participate in activities that I feel happy with and to not just do what others expect of me because it suits their idea of fun.

There have already been times where I declined going for a drink or to a club and had to undergo the exhaustive discussion to explain why I didn’t feel like it without offending anyone. I was often lost for words. The more true to myself I become, the less I begin to worry about the complexity of words. A gentle smile, a grateful word a gentle decline. Not a problem, if you learn how to.

This whole topic on introversion and high sensitivity have been much clearer to me after reading the book “Quiet” by Susan Cain and “The Highly Sensitive Person” by Elaine Aron. It was almost as if I was reading books about myself. All the confusion about who I was and who I was supposed to be settled and merged into a much stronger version of my quiet self. “Quiet” even explained that it is possible to grow out of being shy and to adapt a much more dominant mannerism, something that I had already observed in myself.  The more you practice something that causes you stress, the more your nervous system, particularly the amygdala, will calm down.

Reading this reaffirmed to me that it is indeed possible as an introvert to conquer the world. When I was younger people said about me that I was shy. I didn’t like it, but not knowing the difference between being shy and being a highly sensitive introvert I accepted my shyness, maybe even hid behind it at times when I couldn’t be bothered to do something. In recent years, however, have I morphed into this outspoken individual that reaches for as many stars as she can reach and doesn’t stop at a barrier. Instead she carefully dissembles any barrier and carries on with her quest to the infinite answer.

The important clue in this is that you can do anything, however shy or introvert you may be, as long as you are standing up for something that is close to your heart. It’s almost like as if your heart itself will give you extra power to succeed. Try it! The next time you have to do that presentation or lead that talk or whatever else it may be that makes you feel insecure and causes you to go blank and trip over your tongue, make sure there is something in that talk that really inspires you and that you feel will create a positive change in the listeners. And don’t forget to breathe, as this is vital for your brain function 😉

Read my associated posts on “Seeking Solitude in a Loud World” and “Dizzy Bliss vs Forgetfulness“.

To a happy and quiet life!

Love
Anna

Accepting Grief

The days rushed by without coming to a conclusion whether I should take the trip to the continent for my Godmother’s funeral. And when the day came I was still struggling between the stress of travelling on short notice and the worry I would feel that I had missed out on the last opportunity to spend time in my Godmother’s surroundings.

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So this morning I went up onto the rolling green hills of the Sussex South Downs and flew a small kite as my very own little memorial service to an inspirational individual who has had a big impact on my spiritual growth. To the kite I had attached Tibetan prayer flags and a little bundle of flower petals. The weather couldn’t have been better, blue sky and a warm spring sun. A soft wind blew my prayers and flower petals towards the East, towards the continent where the funeral was being held.

I had also draped my little stone Buddha in flowers and petals and attached the prayer flags to the bushes around it. I felt thoroughly happy with it. It looked joyful. The celebration of a new beginning, not the mourning of an ending. That works for me. Though, once again, I wonder, how much it matters what the person that has passed on thinks of it. How much is their own belief paramount to my belief when it comes to dealing with the passing of a soul?

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This does kind of prove my thesis that it is much more about those who stay on. And I see in my own behaviour how important it is to come to a closure, however trivial it might seem. The feeling to do something extraordinary and beautiful for the passing soul is quite common. And little rituals like this can make the transition a little easier. I took the day off work as well. It just didn’t feel right to simply carry on with the ordinary when something out of the ordinary had happened. I felt that I needed that day to fully come to terms with it. My closure.

My little kite excursion felt like something my Godmother would have been up for. And I’m more than convinced that she thoroughly enjoyed it too. I don’t class myself as religious. I simply picked up a few ideas here and there and feel comfortable with some Buddhist practices. “You don’t need to be a Buddhist to practice Buddhism” I was once told by a Buddhist monk.

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Acceptance, as part of the five stages of grief, is coming to terms with the passing and to move on. Does taking part in a belief system make it easier to accept death? Or even, does it help to carry on living our life and to fill the hole a passing soul has left? And getting back to my thoughts on denial: do we need faith and religions to come over the denial phase, the inability to accept that someone is simply just not here anymore? Would we break if we didn’t have anything else to look at than an empty hole? Is that why I decided to feel their presence after their passing, or do I just happen to sense them anyway?

I don’t think I will be able to answer that question any time soon. I need to experience more, learn to listen more deeply to other dimensions of existence.

Love
Anna

P.S. It would greatly interest me to hear form any atheists out there who have undergone bereavement and to learn what their thoughts and emotions were.

Understanding Grief

The last few months I found myself increasingly more so occupied with thinking about death and the influence it has on those who live on. I came to the understanding that it isn’t only about those who die, but also, maybe even more so, about those who stay on after. Because it is them that have to deal with the gap the passing of an individual leaves.

More and more did I develop compassion when caring for my patients at work, opening up, becoming vulnerable, to be able to understand what others feel. A couple weeks ago did I attend a training session on end of life and advance care planning. A week ago I was talking to someone about my personal, insignificant, experiences with bereavement. A few days ago I received the news that my godmother had passed away.

It felt a bit like this was all a cunning plan. Another piece in the puzzle to understanding human feelings and behaviours. And although the news were sad and accompanied with the old lump in the throat, I still feel like I didn’t have much time to think about it properly. Almost a little too sober.

But then I have to say that there are different rules at play. A good 30 years ago, my godmother had been given about six more months to live, if at all. She dedicated every single minute of her life to helping others. She was very ill, sometimes gravely, for most of those 30 years. Still, she loved what she was doing, loved to help. She was deeply connected with the subtle world, the energetic dimension of our existence. She made good use of it, since her physical body wasn’t always very helpful, extending her sense of helping others by mere thought when unable to leave her bedroom due to another bout of illness.

Explaining this in more detail would take me away from what I try to discover. But it might help understand why I feel this deep connection with her despite the fact that I haven’t seen her all that often in the last few years. We lived in different countries. She in Denmark, I at first in Germany, now in England. When I was a child my mum and I visited her about once a year. It got less as I grew older. The last time I visited was two years ago. We spoke on the phone last at Christmas. She had sent me a book she had written.

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I do miss her. And I’m asking myself whether all my past recordings of sensing those around who have passed on are a mere denial of the fact that they have simply been and gone. Talking about the different stages of grief. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Denial is nature’s way of letting in only as much as we can handle.

Whatever I think, whatever I want to express, whatever I want to write it is not happening. Tears have started to well up unexpectedly but not come out properly. It is building up while I’m trying to make sense of it. The situation is made more complex by the fact that “normal” grieving just doesn’t fit in here. I know that she is still around, I can feel her. I know that she is able to do an even better job now than she was ever able to while still in physical form. It is just that the communication is a little more tricky now.

The day I found out, I was at work, and after putting the phone down a trusted colleague came in and I told her. She hugged me and I felt understood. I was called away to another phone call straight after for someone to meet me. Then I had another meeting, with the chaplain (completely unrelated to talk about their work and bereavement!) and when I got back to work my boyfriend suddenly appeared saying he was in the area and popped in to say hello.

Now, this is a very untypical few hours to spend for me at work! And may I say that it really does feel like my godmother had her say in the running of it. To send another phone call straight away after I had received the news (I only very rarely get phone calls at work), as if to say that I shouldn’t start worrying and simply carry on. So typical of her! The meeting with the chaplain ( which had previously been cancelled) was another way of giving me the opportunity to talk should I feel like it (I didn’t). And then to send my boyfriend in the area (who was on work duty himself, and only did this about three times in 5 years) felt like yet another sign of ensuring I had someone there to make me feel supported. When I arrived home after work, a book I had ordered on my brothers recommendation was waiting for me. It is written by someone who was diagnosed with cancer and talks about the travels and experiences he had for the years to come. Very apt in line with her own life.

I like to see signs in things like that. Especially when they accumulate like this in a short space of time. She was always the one I thought of asking when something strange and unusual happened that nobody could explain. She was the expert in that field. Understanding and reassuring. We didn’t have enough contact, but both knew full well that the connection we had was always there. Tight and strong. And it still is.

I find it difficult to make it to the funeral. Travelling from England to Denmark on short notice is a bit of a trek. Driving is long and flying I find uncomfortable. On top of that is the university commitment, which I could skip for a few days. The unconventional thing is that I don’t need to go to someone’s funeral in order to…whatever you do at a funeral….say goodbye? I don’t need to do that. But I long for feeling her surroundings one more time, as if she was still there. Waiting for me, welcoming me, making me feel at home.

Is this what bereavement is? That this comfortable sense of belonging is broken? I worry that I will regret not going to the funeral. There will only be one. I whish life was easier than that.

As usual, I’m probably making more of a fuss about this than I deserve. I also realised that the older I get, the more these experiences will occur, the more I will learn about them. I suppose this is all part and parcel of life. A never ending cycle.

Love
Anna

Personal Profit

With an alleged 18% rise in births and an expected 10 year housing crisis, I see the planet suffocating by concrete buildings, streets and many billion feet. Having established that I thrive of simple solitude (Seeking Solitude in a Loud World) and also having been driven to near insanity in the supermarket today while “hunting” for food (just don’t go shopping at the weekend!), the idea of overpopulation is frightening to me. If I was in charge, which might not be such a good idea after all,  I would put a ban on births for about a year, or lets say, to not completely suppress a person’s personal need to bear children, set an allowance of total births.

By now, those of you who are well into business and financial stuff will start getting nervous, seeing that this means that there won’t be enough young earners to pay your pension when you decide to begin the solitary part of your life after having wasted most of your waking life working your butt off.

To vaguely quote the “insightful” newspaper commentator on the birth rate rise: “In the short run this might mean a lack of school places, but in the long run this is a small price to pay in the name of prosperity.”

Yikes, the upward spiral again. There doesn’t seem to be a stop in sight for humanity, ever. Until our planet has enough and simply collapses. Humans are the worst that could have happened to our planet. Comparable to a disease, selfish, egotistic, self-destructing and vengeful. I realise more and more how much I hate Homo Sapiens, which ironically in Latin means “wise man”. But it seems that our wisdom has taken the better of us and has taken the wrong turn. And on the way it has forgotten that it can turn around and take the other route after all.

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Sadly for today’s profit driven society this would mean a loss and is therefore not an option. So it is left to those idealistic individuals to fight for their right to turn around, which is a tough journey, sometimes takes many years, but will in the end be worth it, with the personal profit (better health, healthy soil, fresh food, permaculture, renewable energy and the like) being invaluable.

To me, turning around and changing is what makes up the essence of life. Simply just following others up the spiral and cashing in on others success is not healthy for your soul. Your soul wants to live. And money making, however useful it may seem, is not what your soul longs for.

And just to clarify: when I say that I hate Homo Sapiens, I don’t mean this to be an insult, I even include myself in the mass. For being “not bothered” when I should, for not speaking up when it matters, for not being truthful to my own feelings, for not living as fully as I would like to and finally for fearing of being seen as a fool for breaking out of the system and turning the other way.

Now then, “wise wo/man”, what does your soul yearn for?

Love
Anna

Seeking Solitude in a Loud World

This moment I feel complete. I have dug up my vegetable patch in bright sunlight while a strong wind had ruffled my hair. Now I’m sitting in serene stillness at my big window, a wide smile spreading across my cheeks, rosy and cold from the wind, as I look out over the adjoining gardens toward the green rolling hills of the South Downs. This beautiful stillness is accompanied by the occasional scream of birds, flittering beneath the open sky, and the creaking roof boards caused by the wind that is blowing huge white bubble clouds across the wide, blue sky.

That’s all it takes to give me a sense of peace. And I think it is one of the advantages of introversion: one doesn’t need much to be happy.

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Seeking solitude to recharge batteries is something introverts long for. Yesterday I conquered the town centre with a big list of things I needed to do. I came home feeling totally drained and agitated. Too many people, in the way, not looking, not aware of their surroundings, pushing, bumping, stressed.  This is another reason why I feel less and less inclined to go out for a drink with others. It gives me the feeling of being trapped in a cage and prodded with sticks by loud people who laugh at me.

And I have more recently come to the conclusion that this is not just a social phobia, insecurity or seriousness (“you’ve become so serious”), but simply a way of life that doesn’t suit me. As society has developed, introverts have more and more been misunderstood, pushed aside, moved out of the way and simply not listened to by loud extroverts who can’t comprehend quite solitude and misjudge those who are quieter than them as being of lesser value, lower IQ, simply not worth their while.

Why? Only because louder is heard better? Because pushing forward into the limelight is seen as stronger? Says who?

Reading “Quiet” by Susan Cain puts this into perspective and analyses just what happened that the world has become such a loud place in which the quieter people are generally ignored. She looks at schools, universities, big companies, who all claim that putting yourself out there, showing initiative and work in big groups is the way forward. But she also talks of many quiet interesting individuals, who made a massive contribution to the world, because being introvert, they took the time to sit and think on their own, giving them the opportunity to change the world.

Bill Gates, for example is said to have been just that, a quiet introvert. And this is really not an insult, as it may sound. It is something to be proud of, something that generates a lot of clever ideas, as opposed to the loud group work brainstorming, team-work exercises, which generally seem to create a lot of great ideas, however, if compared to the work of individual people, it doesn’t generate nearly as much.

So if you are of the quiet type, don’t stress yourself by feeling you have to be louder to be heart. Whatever it is you are doing, as long as you give your best, you will succeed. And for those of you who belong to the louder population, don’t write someone off straight away because they sit quietly in the back row. Try to listen to them, hear their story and I’m sure you will be amazed.

Love
Anna

The Half-Life Epiphany

Let me explain why the stories outlined below make me think about a topic that might at first not be obvious.

Yesterday’s newspaper told me that asthma is now the most common chronic disease in childhood. Together with increasing numbers of babies surviving a premature birth, childhood asthma is set to become a major problem. On the opposite page I read about Syrian refugees, women, children, elderly, who are trying to escape a life of suffering. Another article right next to it talks about a 21 year old Syrian soldier who got shot and lies in hospital with a shattered leg.

May I begin with the thesis that prolonging life at all circumstances, defying our natural tendency to die at some point or another, is once again our priority, despite the fact that life is what it has always been and always will be: a cyclic event of living and dying that only the universe can bear witness to, if only it was able to give us the reassurance we crave.

“Half-life is used to describe a quantity undergoing exponential decay, and is constant over the lifetime of the decaying quantity.” (Wikipedia)

Our population is growing fast, very fast (watch this if you want to get an idea of it). At some point we will run out of space. Maybe by then we will be going “outa space”. A thought occurred that if you survive your birth and other possible illnesses during your life you stand a good chance to be shot or encounter a similar danger to your life at another point (every watched “Final Destination”?). And the truth is that we could encounter the other side at any point in our life. For some it takes longer, others get there earlier. We won’t know. And we shouldn’t, because we would be spending all of our life dreading that one unavoidable point at the end of our life instead of simply living it.

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To come to the point, I do not mean to be pessimistic and all doom and gloom. Quite to the contrary, I believe that if we were to open our eyes fully and learn from early on about the significance of life and death, as a joint responsibility of our existence, that we will have a much more comprehensive understanding of our purpose in life. We might even be living our life much more responsibly, valuing each other, acknowledging death when it knocks on the door, grief deeply instead of suppressing our sadness but also appreciate the impact those around us have on us together with our responsibility towards our planet.

But we don’t talk about death. We simply close our eyes when it comes to this fundamental, essential, obvious part of our life cycle. But the thing is, the more we close our eyes to it the less we are able to see ourselves, our future, our unique purpose in life. We will spend our whole life living in semi-darkness, denying such a vital part of ourselves access to reality. A reality that we are living every day of our life. Why close your eyes to it?

Don’t just live in half-light believing that someone with a defibrillator will surely come running when your heart gives up, because the truth is that your heart simply gives up because it can’t stand the twilight of your existence anymore. It was never allowed to live fully, enjoy the sunshine, good honest food free from chemicals and hidden fats, dancing in the rain, denied to feel emotions to the full, to discover the world without fear or stress and to have a proper good nights sleep. It yearns to be free, it yearns for happiness. That’s why it is giving up on your half-lived existence.

These words are not meant to offend anyone, nor are they true for everyone who might read this. But in essence I hope they will wake you up from your half-life state and make you want to live your life to the full. Right here and now.

Because it is worth it! 😉

Love
Anna

A little Analogy on Change, Health and Evolution

A curious idea occurred to me. It began with the thought that never ceases to amaze me when I see how quickly the human body repairs itself. How all the cells muck in together and start working to bring the body back to a normal state as best possible.

This thought becomes abstract when I relate it to my place of work with the accompanying irony that I work on an acute surgical hospital ward.

Recently there have been major changes to our working environment. Some departments, including us, have been moved, others, luckily not us yet, have been axed entirely. Staff are understandably shaken and stressed with the uncertainty this brings about. Even though the main aim of all this is to ensure safe staffing levels, mostly these changes are seen as a personal attack to each individual member of staff.

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However, sometimes I wish that every single member of staff would simply just muck in and contribute their best to the whole, just as the cells in our body do when they try to get their systems back on track, maintaining homeostasis – total balance despite surrounding chaos.

Just imagine our bodily repair systems refusing to work, crossing their arms, stamping their foot and saying: “We are not going to do a single thing if you keep upsetting our work!”

Our health would rapidly decline. Unfortunately, so does my place of work. Staff morale and support are at its lowest, not many are prepared to take responsibility for anything outside their narrow view of a job description. Most blame others for mistakes instead of looking at themselves. They run against walls and closed doors, which seems to infuriate them even more, ears and eyes closed to any suggestions of change.

It somewhat amuses me, if it wasn’t so sad to see the mental  toxicity that comes with it. The constant bickering, slacking each other off, blowing news out of proportion, making it more difficult for themselves and for others. They seem to have lost the connection to themselves. The only way to stop bashing their head against walls is to simply change their thinking. This may allow them to see the door that has just opened. If only it was that easy.

At the centre of all this sits a vulnerable adult who really needs your help and relies on your support because his body is undergoing a tremendous amount of repair work. And it does this all on its own, while you are kicking and screaming at the injustice around you instead of pulling yourself together and focus on the individual who is in your care.

So the moral of this little analogy may be that we are only as strong as our will. We can achieve tremendous things, if we want to. At the same time we need to understand that the only thing that is certain is that nothing is certain. Change is inevitable, just like human evolution.

If a creepy crawly at the very early beginning of our human evolution had refused to change, we would probably still be crawling along the floor. And I’m sure that a lot of those crawling creatures found it very daunting to change their habits. And so it is for us to this very day and likely will always be that way.

When you understand this and take in the change of perspective this offers, you can make the decision to use it to your advantage. Going with the flow wherever it may take you. Or let it be your disadvantage and drown in sorrow, a choice I personally would not recommend 😉

Love
Anna

Dizzy Bliss vs Forgetfulness

I am nearing the end of my two week annual leave. The first half I spent excitedly exhibiting photos and decided it would be a good idea to spend the second week nurturing my soul, resting, slurping linseed tea (look here for why) and taking on Maya Fiennes “Journey through the Chakras“, the box set of which I had bought over a year ago, had received twice by mistake, given the surplus away to dear friends and never gone further than the heart chakra.

As my skin got smoother from the linseed tea, I ignored the arising anger after the base chakra workout and the dizziness from the sacral chakra routine while my body got more toned from the exercises and even though I still have the last DVD on bliss to go tomorrow I am already feeling pretty blissed out today.

On top of all this did I down a glass of warm water for breakfast each day, which turned into an intricate green consistency by adding wheatgrass powder, the effect of which I’m not quite sure but it had been sitting in my cupboard for a while now, similar to the yoga DVDs, and I was secretly hoping it would have some cleansing effect on my liver, which, according to my acupuncture lady, is pretty exhausted.

Fair and square, you know you had a good resting holiday if you are looking forward to seeing people again. So I joined a group of colleagues for a drink one evening. My peaceful state of bliss wasn’t so much shaken as that it simply rejected the stories of the last time everyone got drunk and the excitement of doing the same again tonight.

Not only did I feel like an alien invader to an unknown planet but at the same time I also felt like the biggest spoil-spoil for being all sober, trying to hide my insecurities behind my rather small glass of orange juice, defending my lonely position of non-drunkenness with lame excuses that I simply didn’t want to feel hangover and ill anymore. Also didn’t I want to revert all the good I had done to my body, most of all my liver, over the past few days.

I did have a shot because everyone had one and I thought it would be fun, but once everyone had put their empty shot glasses back on the table, ensuing a moment of silence in which the sweet strawberry-red liquid burned it’s way along our oesophagus, just about causing a heat sensation in my thighs and upper arms together with a very short moment of euphoria, nothing else happened.

Most of the people got more and more glass-eyed, hugging each other wildly and I simply wanted to go home, seeing that 10pm was way past my bed time. Did I really turn into a boring young adult that can’t see the fun in drinking anymore? Or did I simply find another tool to cope with the stresses of life so I didn’t feel the need to drown my sorrows anymore?

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What is it people try to hide or forget when drinking themselves out of this world? The last time I got drunk was when I had come out of an emotionally abusive relationship and didn’t give a shit about anything. I was emotionally dead, or rather, didn’t want to feel anything. Looking at my colleagues, one after the other, I could see a similar pain in them. Maybe I made this up but I could understand why they felt the need to get drunk, to hide “just for tonight”.

And I also saw that they didn’t know any other way. Other ways offer themselves, but once again it is up to each individual to embark on another way. It can be challenging, they will need to want to change. Not everyone wants to do that.

And all the while I am well aware that to some this may sound like some boring spiritual talk, I did find another way, I did find myself and don’t need to hide myself, though I very much would have liked to on this evening.

I am somewhat socially awkward, avoid situation in which I might feel uncomfortable. For me, sitting on a table at which everyone is drinking alcohol and ask why you don’t, recounting their past moments of drunkenness doesn’t count to my most favourite situations.

On the other hand, meeting interesting new people during the week of the exhibition was fantastic. I learned so much from and about these people without actually talking about anything other than random, sober, moments in our life.

But whether forgetting about my past hurts with my dizzy bliss caused by Kundalini Yoga and Linseed Tea is any different than the forgetfulness caused by excessive alcohol consumption and group hugging I’m not sure, other than that your body suffers subsequently more during the latter, though hugging is generally considered nurturing to the soul.

I personally prefer a method that is least invasive and causes least stress to my body, the vehicle that is supposed to carry my mind forth as long as possible to make a difference in the world. Do what you like as long as your heart is in it! If that means loosing yourself in an illusion of yourself, then so be it. Only you yourself can get you out of it by a mere choice of heart.

Love
Anna

A Button Society

And no, I still cannot simply ignore these strange embodiments of seemingly ordinary people that appear to be powered by small hand-held devices. They seem to otherwise be detached from their surroundings yet carry out every-day tasks as normal.

As if on auto pilot do I see them pushing prams, walk dogs, go shopping, exercising in the gym, walk along footpaths or through parks, sometimes holding an equally surreal being on the other hand, driving cars and even riding bicycles with their gaze transfixed on the small screen in their hand.

What is it they have that I don’t have, I wonder. Am I missing out on something here?

I daren’t say that it might be them missing out. Not noticing the change in weather or even the seasons. Not seeing the smile on other’s faces, nor the frown when suddenly stopping in their way. And then they suddenly look up and talk, eyes glazed, staring into nowhere, yet talking as if an ordinary person.

It reminds me of the quirky movie “The World’s End” with the notorious Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. There the world is being taken over by alien robots, which kindly gave the world internet and mobile phones, yet in the process hollowed them out and turned their brains into blue gloop, all in the face of eternal youth.

I wonder if we would be happier filled with gloop instead of a self-functioning brain and proceed to conclude that it is hardly happiness, more a bland neutral state of interbeing. How boring.

Why is it then that there are so many people psyched up about computer games, a complete illusion that does technically not exist. Do they give them something real life can’t? Please don’t let me get you down simply because I can’t comprehend.

It’s just that I have come to understand the difference between essential living and non-essential living. The first can live on its own, the second depends on an array of electronic devices, a tangle of cables, artificial electricity and some surreal invention called the world wide web.

All clever stuff, don’t get me wrong, just maybe don’t rely on it too much and base your whole life on it. Because what will you do if one day it won’t exist no more? What will you do while pushing prams, walking dogs, going shopping, exercising in the gym, walking along footpaths or through parks, sometimes holding an equally surreal being on the other hand, driving cars and even riding bicycles?

Would you feel bored? Or would you be overwhelmed by the sheer beauty and variety of the world and people around you? And would you be able to use the absence of distractions to find inner peace?

Would you know what to do when someone smiled at you in the streets? Would you know how to talk properly to someone? Would you be able to live with the consequence that you won’t be able to quickly call up your best friend? And would you be able to cope with the fact that you quite likely won’t even be able to get to your best friend at all unless you started walking now and maybe get there in a few years?

It’s a scary world we live in, either way or the other.

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The other day I went into town for a few errands and I managed to go into several shops, buy things and leave without talking to a single person. This was greatly thanks to self-checkout tills. On the other hand, when I went into a games shop to pick up the latest release of a computer game for my dear boyfriend, I found myself staring dumb fold at a shop assistant who had asked me something that simply didn’t register in my mind nor did it resemble anything I have ever had to do with.

Oh boy, I had stepped into a completely different world and felt accordingly alien while cuing patiently, yet mortified. No, I am not saying that one is better than the other, just that one depends on so much electronic equipment to sustain itself. We live in a “button-society” where I can’t just go to the canteen at work and buy a small bowl of stew to top up my lunch because there is only one button on the till that charges for meat stew with rice and vegetables and it went beyond the comprehension or capability of the person operating the button to simply charge me half the price.

We loose our individuality, being reduced to a mere number in the system. When I need to check someone’s blood sugar level at work I not only have to first scan a barcode that is dangling from my ID card but also the other’s barcode on their ID bracelet and then the barcode on the test strip. I can also do bladder scans, avoiding the old scanner because it is way too complicated for I have the choice to use one that can be operated by, you guess it, a simple button. And then there is the heating that can not be regulated as and how needed but is controlled by a computer somewhere in the basement. Even when I want to order a photo in a certain size and go into the shop to ask for help because I couldn’t find the size I wanted online, all I got was a friendly shop assistant that was eagerly pushing buttons on the “self-service point”. And it only took her 10 minutes and several nervous sighs to find a size close enough to the one I wanted.

This is not me being picky! This is society being controlled by norms and guidelines that simply don’t fit. So the half-decent result is a reasonable product that we get to keep for a regular amount of money until it is deemed not worthwhile or not good enough anymore, considering it was actually never what we wanted in the first place. So it ends up littering the earth we walk on because it is cheaper to buy another half-decent product than fix a broken one and near to impossible to get one we actually really like.

Once the world collapses, and I rather wish it does it sooner than later so I can get on with it, “essential living skills” will be needed. These include gardening, arts and crafts, hands-on therapies, interpersonal skills, musical instruments etc. Anything that can be used without plugging it into walls, or people, for that matter. Anything that enables you to simply sit, breathe and smile. And as a side-effect we will likely be developing other senses, understanding premonitions, and probably even enable us to communicate at distance without hand-held devices.

Noticing how quickly we destroy this magic planet by eradicating anything it has on offer and then suffocating it with the end result, I wonder how many planets in our solar system and beyond have been populated and destroyed accordingly. Once we have exploited this planet to its fullest extend, we either carry on on another planet, or we simply survive as “life force” and begin yet another cycle of evolution, also likely on another planet, as simple single cell organisms.

Unless we learn form our mistakes and begin to work and live with the world around us instead simply just on it, this process will never change for eternity. And I am fully aware that this is a process that may take a long time, maybe even more than eternity, but it begins with awareness, the preparedness for whatever is to come and the readiness to act on the essential stuff that we really need.

Happiness can not be man made. It has to come from within yourself.

Love
Anna