Here’s the thing about being a conscious cluster of chemical reactions in a 3D reality… we truly are boundless. Every being is limitless in potential. Boundaries and limits are an illusion: on an atomic level, everything is interconnected.
Without boundaries, a boundless universe becomes an infinite mist of stardust. For structures, stars and space to be held together, boundaries are necessary.
And, as humans, we are alchemists. Using hands to craft the boundless imagination into reality.
Being boundless beings, we need boundaries.
Boundaries are the structures that shape our lives.
Every aspect of our life can be affected by the boundaries that are, or are not, set.
So set boundaries. And know that the boundaries, lines & limitations that that are present are illusions – constructs that can be influenced by the energy of thoughts and the crafting of hands.
Recognising the signs of anxiety and stopping it in its tracks
Anxiety can seem like a condition that’s solely of the mind, but this isn’t the whole truth. Anxiety is a fight or flight response of the body that affects every system – from digestive to nervous. It’s all interconnected.
Some of the symptoms may surprise you…
Shortness of breath
“Pins and needles” sensation
Frequently needing a bathroom
Muscle aches and tension
Sense of dread
Did any of these catch you off guard?
Where are you breathing from right now? Your upper chest or low belly?
Taking moments every day to pause and take “yoga breaths” can stop anxiety in its tracks.
When you shift your breathing into your belly, you activate your parasympathetic nervous system. This tells your body, “it’s okay to relax, there isn’t any danger present” and allows you to enter a state of “rest and digest”.
When the sympathetic nervous system is activated, the body is basically gearing up to face danger and diverting energy to respond to it.
Imagine you’re a caveman, and you notice you are being stalked by a leopard… what changes would you experience in your body? Your heart rate and blood pressure would increase, muscles tense and prepare for action, digestion become slow, and your blood flow would be diverted to important stress response organs… all in the midst of the great escape.
Did any of those symptoms resonate with you?
The “fight or flight” response helped us survive for thousands of years. But in the modern world, the “dangerous leopards” lurking in the shadows are bills, health issues, family problems and other day to day stressors.
Becoming aware of the science behind anxiety can be extremely liberating for those who suffer from it. Pinpointing signs and symptoms as they arise can help you to consciously shift into a restorative state.
Take a deep breath, feel the air move through your body, and know that you are loved.
The same fire that cooks food and comforts with warmth can torch the hand that holds it.
Awareness is a gift that human consciousness has blessed us with. This gift has the capacity to bring fulfilment and ecstasy, but it equally has the same ability to bring pain and suffering.
The Ego, for the most part, has a bad reputation. It is usually thought of as negative and associated with narcissism and poor behaviour. While these may be side effects of the ego, its purpose is more profound.
It is the vehicle to awareness and understanding. It is the lens through which we explore this reality, our self and the world around us. The ego serves a valuable purpose and plays a vital role in personal development and spiritual wellbeing.
Consciousness remains one of the greatest unexplained mysteries. The functions of the mind, pleasant and not, have been explored through science for hundreds of years; and through spirituality for thousands. Ancient texts speak of the wild mind and its capacity for both enlightenment and suffering.
Uncovering and dissecting the ego is a process, and not always a graceful one. Exploring the “negative” facets of the ego (sometimes known as our shadow self) will help us understand our true identity. This introspection can help us overcome the boundaries that bind us to suffering.
It is through awareness that we know despair – and it is through awareness that we shed light on the dark spaces that exist within.
“Dark” Aspects Of The Ego Brought To Light
The emotional state a person naturally strays toward during challenging moments.
This can be considered a person’s “emotional home” because it is the space that one spends the most time in.
In emotionally challenging moments do you become stoic? Anxious? Angry?
Noticing what emotions naturally arise when faced with difficulty brings forth insight, making us aware of the patterns that our mind has subconsciously created. Realising these patterns helps us recognise that we are the observer of our thoughts and emotions, not the thoughts and emotions themselves.
An action a person takes that could potentially harm something meaningful in their personal life.
Self sabotage is caused by subconscious limiting beliefs about our self. These are often feelings of being inadequate or unworthy, which propel us to take actions that confirm these beliefs as true. The ultimate truth is that these beliefs are stories that we have told ourself, about our self.
Do you find yourself searching for a ‘negative truth’ when things seem “too good to be true”?
We don‘t know what limiting beliefs we have about ourself until we become aware of them surfacing in real time. This awareness sheds light on the stories we have created about our self, and how these stories came to be formed. This understanding helps us to redefine our beliefs and instil uplifting affirmations.
To remove ourselves mentally from our present reality and retreat to a place that distracts and brings comfort.
Escapism is often used as a means to avoid fear, trauma, pain, discomfort or responsibility. It shows up in subtle and harmless forms like daydreaming, video games or sci-fi books. It can even disguise itself in sneaky “productive” behaviours like fixations on work or fitness. (Workaholics and gym-rats beware!) More obvious examples are substance abuse and addiction.
Do you have an unexplainable feeling of guilt lurking in the air during your leisure time?
Healthier expressions of escapism encourage creative thinking. More difficult manifestations can help us work through the traumas we may hold, giving our ‘self’ a safe space to explore and heal.
Honesty, kindness and patience towards the self lets light into the closed off spaces within that seek recognition and healing.
When one consciously redirects thought or conversation to avoid a topic that brings up personal discomfort.
Have you ever found yourself trying to dodge conversation when somebody genuinely asks “how are you”?
Deflection is a mechanism that we use as a means of avoidance. Sometimes we are aware of when we use deflective tendencies, other times we do it unknowingly.
Taking note of moments where we find ourselves deflecting gives us insight into the truth of how we are feeling. Becoming aware of these tender areas helps us to provide them with the attention, patience and love that they require.
A bizarrethought or impulse that appears “out of the blue” and seems out of character.
Intrusive thoughts can be unpleasant or frightening, but they are a completely natural occurrence in most people. This phenomenon can be experienced constantly throughout the day, but often goes completely unnoticed unless the thoughts become particularly disturbing and distressing.
Do your thoughts ever frighten you?
The wild spontaneity of intrusive thoughts are the result of our imagination. Recognising an intrusive thought is an opportunity for playfulness. The same spontaneity that brings about intrusive thoughts also gives birth to learning, imagination and creativity. These wild thoughts can help remind us that we are the witness of the thoughts, not the thoughts themselves.
When the judgements and opinions we form about others reflect our ideas about our self or our past.
Projection is a challenging behaviour to recognise. Our judgements are based on biases that have been created on a subconscious level. Our opinions are coloured by our beliefs and personal life experience. Therefore, anything we observe is viewed through the lens of ‘self’. This viewpoint is innocent and natural, as it is through personal perspective that we grow and experience the world around us. However, it can be disruptive when we outwardly project our pains and fears onto others.
Do you ever find yourself making judgements based from personal insecurities?
Projection is what happens when we become aware of our personal insecurities through observing our interactions with others. This expands our capacity for compassion, helping us to create authentic relationships with others. Taking notice of projection in the present moment is an opportunity to bring forth honesty and sincerity.
To become fixated and “stew” in negative or worrying thoughts.
Rumination is when we get stuck in thoughts and feelings of anxiousness or melancholy. Negative thoughts accumulate like the water in a stream. The build up of worries will transform a stream into a river, etching its path deeper into the landscape of our minds and making it ever more challenging to escape from.
Do you ever stumble into a negative thought, then find yourself falling down a seemingly endless rabbit hole?
Rumination can be an opportunity for observation, introspection and compassion. Mindful contemplation can help us heal buried wounds and transcend negative patterns of thought. Reaching an observational state of mind can give us the space to explore new avenues and discover unseen paths.
Weighted thoughts and emotions can feel like a long night with no sun on the horizon, full of darkness and uncertainty…
Existence can be overwhelming. The contents of our life and the heaviness surrounding the unknown can feel too much to bear at times, but there may be a solution SO simple, it’s almost unbelievable.
The effects of this therapy are so profound that it is frequently used in palliative care. Dying patients who are struggling to come to terms with ‘the end of life’ are sometimes offered this therapy to manage pain, anxiety, restlessness and insomnia.
Everything about this human life is complex. We’ve barely begun to understand even the most fundamental concepts that affect us every day, like gravity, consciousness and death. Pondering the bigger picture as it is, helps us to release our desire to change the unchangeable and embrace the nature (and humbling) natural laws of impermanence.
Sometimes, all we need is to reconnect with the simple truth of the present moment: that against all odds, this planet exists, and we exist to perceive it all.
While releasing fear around the unknown may be an uncomfortable process, it is a gratifying one. As we lay to rest the ideas we hold that bound us to ‘attachment’ of what is in the now, we release our anxiousness surrounding situations and circumstances we cannot change.
Next time life starts to weigh heavy, turn to the night sky… a little starlight may be all you need.
I found the cottage through a quick Google search.
The owners had given me a discount because “the property had not been maintained in a few months”. I didn’t understand what that meant, but the price was right – I packed my car and found myself there the next day.
The cottage was in the middle of the woods. My GPS could only take me so far before I had to rely on written instructions like “when you see the red ribbon tied to the tree at the fork in the road, take the left”.
Isolation was what I was searching for, but I had no idea I would be this secluded. The cottage was hidden behind a scene of thick trees and waist high grass, deep in the middle of the Ontario woods.
As I used my sleeve to clear my way through the cobwebs that formed over the front door, I understood why I was given a discount. The counters were littered with ants and other insects, and the beds were covered in spiders – mostly dead.
It was the perfect setting for a horror movie.
Regardless, the space was gorgeous. I was captivated by the smell of fresh pinewood and the vibrancy of the deep greens that illuminated through all the windows.
Exploring further I saw something that shocked me: the toilet was little more than a wooden plank with a hole in it, balanced over two stumps, twenty feet behind the cottage. It was at that moment that the gravity of my decision had hit me. I was not prepared to shit in the forest at 3am.
As the sun began to leave that evening, my peace of mind went with it. The once big and beautiful windows that lit up the entire cottage grew dark. I couldn’t see a thing outside – and having no curtains in the space made it so that if I had any source of light on inside, anybody could see me.
That’s when the panic set in.
I realised that I was completely isolated in the middle of the woods. The only person who knew my exact location was the old man from the internet who I had rented the place from. Oh, and the cottage had many doors, none of which had locks and opened with a brief shove.
All I had to protect myself was a 20 pound iron dumbbell and a dull kitchen knife I had found.
What if a bear smells my food and comes pushing through the door?
I lay frozen in bed with my senses on high alert, aware of every inch of skin on my body, knowing that I was surrounded by spiders.
Hours passed. I gripped my phone. It was the one thing that gave me any sense of security and connection...
Even then, I was afraid to use it in case the light from its screen alerted some stranger to my presence. And, my reception was horrid: if I did need to call for help, it would have been far too late before anybody could reach me.
I had become a feral animal: eyes wide and ears peeled for the slightest pin drop. Every muscle in my body was tense and prepared for flight or fight. The only thoughts that passed through my mind from time to time were “I can’t do this for another night“. Bears, strangers, wolves, spiders… I was terrified of all these things. Until, suddenly, I realised something that changed my perspective for good:
“The only danger I can be sure of is the fear in my own mind”.
This idea brought with it a feeling of calm, and many questions, such as: “what do ‘security’ and ‘protection’ even mean?
This question stirred in my mind until the sun came up, and with it arose these realisations:
“Security is not defined by lock and bolt, and ‘protection’ is not defined by armour and weapons”.
In my eyes, it is knowing that if a storm hits, I will survive. And if the walls do crumble, I have the foundation and support I need to rebuild something stronger.
Realising this was liberating on every level. It helped me to understand that I have the ability to define the circumstances in my own life, and that mindfully choosing my own definitions could be freeing and empowering.
Often, letting things break down, be it: limiting beliefs, concepts, or our relationships with ourselves – is essential for processing in life. Just as a break down of muscle tissue is required for growth, destruction strengthens mental, emotional and spiritual fitness through the same break and build cycle.
This experience opened me up to believe that whilst destruction is perceived as damaging, it is essential for all growth and development. It is the force that gives birth to stars and sustains life itself.
“What is chaos to the fly is normal to the spider.”
In moments where you feel secluded under a blanket of darkness, I ask you to ponder on this thought:
How can I redefine the situations and circumstances in my life that cause me suffering?
Have you ever had an obscure or disturbing thought come into your mind completely out of the blue? Maybe you see somebody bending over to pick something up and you get an urge to knock them over, or somebody hands you something precious and you feel suddenly compelled to chuck it across the room.
If these kind of thoughts (or even more bizarre ones) are a regular occurrence for you, I have some good news: this is completely normal!
They are called “intrusive thoughts” and they do not reflect your true feelings or desires. Having these thoughts does not make you a bad person! This phenomenon is an automatic byproduct of your imagination. The positive aspects of the human imagination are well known – creativity, innovation and much more – but what is not often talked about are the downsides, namely: anxiety, intrusive thoughts and paranoia, to name but a few.
There are well-known techniques that can help with anxiety and the negative thought patterns that can be associated with intrusive thoughts, one of them being mindfulness. This is the practice of making a conscious effort to connect with the present moment. When we actively practice doing this, we naturally let go of the thoughts in our mind and refocus on the Now.
One mindful exercise you can try today is simply focussing your mind on your breath. Any time your mind begins to wander, gently and without judgment, bring your attention back to your breathing. This will bring the mind to a state of ease.
Imagination is one of the greatest gifts we have been given as humans. The wildness of our thoughts accompany us on our journey through life from start to finish. Let it be an uplifting reminder that fear, as well as faith, rely upon us believing in something that we cannot see.
If you are experiencing overwhelming negative thoughts or are struggling with your mental health, please do not hesitate to reach out and talk to someone. Whether it be a loved one or a medical professional, being honest and open is essential for our wellbeing.
You can chat to your doctor about different therapies available, as well as taking advantage of resources that can be found in books and online.
You don’t have to struggle alone. You are unconditionally loved.
The Buddha once told a story of a man who lived many moons ago. After days of travelling on foot through bushes and swamps he reached a massive bed of water. Just within his sight he could see an island, which gave him promise of comfort and safety.
The man knew his only option was to find a way across.
He spent hours collecting broken branches and long strands of grass, then began to build a raft that could keep him afloat.
The man wearily climbed on and began paddling away from shore. Some time later, he arrived on the island, and was free to continue on his journey.
The Buddha posed the following question to this followers:
What should the man now do with the raft?
This teaching is in fact about Buddhist practice and the road to enlightenment but it is applicable to many different situations in life.
It would have been impossible to cross the water without building the raft, but to drag it across land just because he needed it once would hold the man back on his journey.
This parable demonstrates to us how certain things in life: people, projects or actions, may be essential for us at one time, but in order to move on and grow, we must let go. There is no point in beating yourself up for the time and effort you may have expended in the past through relationships, work or otherwise. Instead be aware of how these factors helped you reach where you are now. Equally, we must not cling to comforts that have helped us in the past if they will not help us to succeed in our future goals.
“Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.” – Dalai Lama
If you are suffering from depression, anxiety or any mental health issues, you are not alone. You are divinely supported, even when the ground feels fragile. I am sending you unconditional love.
It can be hard to feel supported while battling heavy emotions and dark thoughts. Our mind can leave us feeling completely separate from the world around us; like a dark fog lurking with no sunshine in sight.
If you are experiencing challenges with your mental health, what you’ll find in this ‘self help guide to happy’ can put your mind at ease:
Cognitive behavioural therapy is an increasingly common counselling technique used by practitioners across the world. It views the mind as a space where negative or anxious thoughts can amplify and develop. By using a structured exercises to work through real-life situations, it can help us to retrain our mind and our perception of events. It has proven to be as effective as medication in treating anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders. It is important that you reach out to a trained professional if you are seeking one-to-one therapy, but there are also plenty of CBT exercises and short-courses (free and paid) that you can access online.
Meditation has been practised in many different forms for thousands of years. Recently, mindfulness meditation, which originated in Buddhism, has been emerging as a highly effective technique for relieving stress and helping to treat mental illness. Some professionals claim that it can also help with physical illness and pain. Mindfulness works by retraining the mind to focus on a particular object or activity, usually the breath, which allows us to step back from and observe the thought processes that unconsciously govern our lives. Over time, we can develop our awareness so that we can be fully present in each moment and free ourselves from negative patterns of thought.
There is medical evidence to suggest that tuning into classical music has a huge range of health benefits. A study held at Oxford University showed that people who listened to classical music after a stressful task had significantly lower blood pressure compared to those who listened to other genres. Studies have also shown that relaxing classical music lowers cortisol levels (the stress hormone). For anxiety, it has been shown that classical music can be more effective than commonly used sedative medications. Don’t be intimidated by classical music if it isn’t something that you’re used to – there are plenty of playlists available on YouTube, iTunes or Spotify. One relaxing melody you could start with is “Raindrop” by Chopin.
Studies in recent years are suggesting that there is a constant communication between your gut bacteria (microbiome) and your brain. It has been shown that people with severe mental illnesses have an altogether different microbiome than healthy people. Some studies have suggested that ingesting certain probiotics (live organisms) alter electrical activity in the brain, resulting in positive mental health benefits. The foods that you eat influence the balance of bacteria in your gut – several studies have shown that, for example, eating a plant-based diet can positively affect your microbiome. This is due to the live enzymes in the fresh foods that supports our good gut bacteria. Although not enough studies have been done uncover the relationship between our mental health and gut bacteria, the evidence from existing studies is very promising.
Our brain has a unique self-care system that takes place while we slumber. Essentially, our spinal fluid swirls around the spaces in our brain, clearing out all the “junk” that has been collected throughout waking hours. This process reduces inflammation and has undeniable restorative effects on our memory, mental health and physical wellbeing. Research suggests that we need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. If you aren’t prioritising your sleep, this is simple change that you can make that will drastically improve your mental health.
There is a tale of a ring that was said to change the state of any man. It could make the saddest man happy and the richest man sad. A struggling beggar had spent his life searching for this ring to bring him peace of mind. Eventually he prevailed. On finding the ring, he discovered no sorcery or enchantment, only a simple engraving that read “this too shall pass”.
Everything in life is temporary, the good and the bad.
Whilst we cannot change what we see; we have the ability to change how we see.
We cannot control what is happening on the outside, but with some patience and practice, what is within control, is our mind.
Life is a journey full of sunshine and storms, and the weather outside is something we cannot control. When you feel caught up in the downpours of life, know that it is within yourself to weather the storm.
Kindness, patience and love can steady the waters of the most turbulent mind.
Impermanence is a blessing, for without it we would not have life itself.
Vulnerability is bravery. Trusting in your ability to honour and love the darkest parts of you will create space for light to shine through.
Being emotional, sensitive or anxious is a blessing. “Heavy” emotions are windows into self awareness and understanding, which can allow us to nurture the deepest aspects of ourselves.
Exploring your emotions rather than taking them at face value will unveil strength you didn’t know you had; there is always more than meets the eye. Emotions like anger and frustration are opportunities to understand your Self. If you explore these “negative” emotions long enough you will discover that at the very centre is unconditional love.
It takes integrity to observe, understand and love yourself without judgement.
I used to be an atheist. In fact, I would have proudly told you I was an “antitheist” – I didn’t believe in God, and I was positively glad He didn’t exist. My world of deduction and logic simply left no space for a bearded man in the sky pulling the strings. The universe didn’t owe me a God, and I didn’t want one either, thank you very much.
Looking at the world this way is like an unfinished book. A few chapters in, I felt I already had all the information that I needed. I was utterly convinced by the scientific method and the elegant way it could deconstruct life’s big questions. So I stopped reading, and put the book down. Anytime my curiosity resurfaced, I would refer back to what I had learnt in Chapter 1 and re-convince myself of how right I really was.
This world and its inhabitants owe an indescribable debt to science. I personally owe it my family’s livelihood, my future career, and probably even my life in some way. Its power and beauty are often put down by artists and religious zealots alike. The scientific method – observation, hypothesis, experimentation – is the most powerful tool we have to understand the world around us. However, we must be careful not to overstretch its limits. Not all questions are susceptible to logical induction or deduction. In fact, it can be mathematically proven that there are some hypotheses that cannot be proved, despite being correct. The idea that all questions – physical and metaphysical – can be solved by the scientific method is scientifically unfounded. Furthermore, it is often said that questions about the universe that cannot be tested through scientific enquiry, such as “why are we here”, are simply meaningless. I used to believe this. There need not be an answer to these questions, so why bother asking them?
The truth is, we all believe in abstract concepts, no matter how pragmatic we claim to be. Take love for example. The feeling we get when we wake up next to the person we love, and we watch them blink as the sunlight hits their face. The look in a mother’s eyes when she sees her child for the first time. The pain we feel when our heart is broken: the emptiness, the loneliness, the physical ache in our bellies. These can all probably be explained by fluctuations in serotonin, dopamine, adrenaline etc., but I have yet to find someone who can look me in the eyes and say that they believe that this is it and there is nothing else, however silly they might feel about it.
Love underlies our reality. It exists in a different plane altogether. Like parallel vectors that never cross paths; both nonetheless real. This may sound farfetched, but it’s really no more extravagant than the latest scientific theories about 4-dimensional space-time or the multiverse. These underlying planes are where God may or may not be. Just because we cannot see or detect His presence, we can entertain the possibility that God may exist by listening to our instincts telling us that this might be the case. When discussing spirituality in the book “Letters to My Son”, Kent Nerburn illustrates this perfectly: “only a fool refuses to walk in the sunlight because he cannot see the shape of the sun”.
Every known society or civilisation of human beings has had an idea of God: Ra, Yahweh, Mithras, Osiris, Allah, and countless others. This does not prove the existence of a God, but it demonstrates the feeling that we all have that there might be some meaning to it all, or some purpose for our miraculously improbable existence. Some say that this is a childish response to not being able to answer questions. In some ways, this is true. Why does it rain? Why does the harvest fail? These problems that used to belong to religion have now been claimed by science. However, to dismiss this as ignorance is to dismiss that childish sense of wonder altogether, that has been so carefully and deliberately beaten out of us by ourselves and others as we “grow up”. We leave our dreams about the world aside, and we learn to eat the facts.
Nothing of what I have said proves the existence of God, and certainly no God in particular. I only mean to suggest that we should not dismiss our true feelings on these matters too readily.
Imagine you wake up, over the rainbow in Oz, and you set out to find the Wizard. As you wander the strange landscape, you meet other wanderers. Some tell you they know the way. They all try to lead you in different directions, convinced theirs is the right way and everyone else’s is wrong. Some paths appeal to you, others do not. Some people gently invite you to find your way with them. Others say the Wizard doesn’t exist at all and you’re wasting your time. Imagine that, after years of wandering, struggle, and doubt you get there in the end, you pull back the curtain, and it’s been a runny-nosed old hustler all along.