Get on with your short life

There’s a huge amount being written at the moment about positivity.  And there seems to be a rising backlash against this.

The critique goes that it may well be possible to cultivate an attitude of acceptance.  It is indeed what it is.  Acceptance may take away the negative emotions but it does not change the situation for the better.

Certainly we can choose our mood and we can choose to be happy.  We can picture a future in which we are successful and feel very positive about ourselves.  Happily sitting and positively hoping for something to turn up may feel good but it is not going to create success.

Surely a dose of reality, a little suffering, acts as the motivation to take the necessary and possibly unpleasant steps to actually change things.

It is not possible to think yourself successful and people should ‘get real’.

I agree with the logic but not the conclusion.  A happy fool watching daytime TV dreaming of ‘making it big’ is not my idea of positivity.

My view of positivity says that accepting that ‘it is what it is’ takes away unnecessary suffering.  The issue still exists but we can stop the futility of worrying about it.  Thus in a calmer state we can seek to address the issue and if it is something we cannot change, we can move on.

My view of positivity says that if you accept that you are the cause of everything that happens to you, you become much calmer, more likely to make changes and are more agreeable to be with. If you choose your mood and choose happiness you are much more likely to engage positively with others.

If you have a positive goal you are much more likely to take action.  By putting images of future success in our timeline we are asking our unconscious mind to find ways to achieve the goal.

The key certainly is taking action. And I prefer to get on with my short life with a smile on my face rather than a grimace of pain.

You keep saying that one day things could
Be fabulous,
If only you had the right shoes, new
Clothes, the dream team doing your hair.
Why do you have to waste time on your
Waistline when you could be having
Dinner with me?
Will you really be the winner
If you’re thinner?
How can I make you see?

Get on with your short life,
Get on with this sweet precious time,
You know you’re only dreaming
So why don’t you wake up and get on
With your short life

You keep praying that some day things
Will be different
If you only had the right lips, killer hips,
A sun kissed permanent tan
But does it really matter if you’re fatter
Than everybody else on the screen
It’s more important to be truthful than just
Youthful on the cover of some magazine

Get on with your short life,
Get on with this sweet precious time,
You know you’re only dreaming
So why don’t you wake up and get on with
Your short life 

Brian Kennedy

Breathe

iPhoto Library

On Sunday morning I was quietly drinking coffee and doing those Sunday things, my wife was at the gym and the kids fast asleep (it still being a few minutes before noon).  Suddenly I was shocked when my youngest almost fell down the stairs and wobbled into the kitchen.

She was in great distress, very pale, sobbing, breathing very rapidly and incoherently trying to say something.

“I can’t breathe”  or was it “I can’t see” ?

After doing what all Dad’s would do – wishing Mum was there – I started asking her to calm down, but that had no impact.  So I started breathing very noticeably, a little faster than usual and very calmly asked her to copy me.  As she did I slowed it down gradually until she was more or less in control.

Now she could tell me that she had felt a bit odd on getting up, gone for a shower and then had felt light headed, lost her vision and started to fall over.  At this she had freaked out.  I’m no medic but I figured she’d fainted and just needed to calm down.

I asked her to visualise the outline of a square and put a bright dot in the left hand corner, the dot moved along each side with each in and out breath.  In…along the top, out…down the side, in…along the bottom, and so on.  With her I gradually slowed the dot and with it her breathing until she was very relaxed (in fact she was in a light trance).

Afterwards she said she felt very relaxed, if still a little light headed.

Whilst not exactly rocket science it does demonstrate how powerful our breathing is on our emotions.  By focussing on our breathing and slowing it down we naturally calm down and get more oxygen to help us think.  Worth remembering next time you are feeling a little stressed before that meeting or presentation.

Breathe, breathe in the air
Don’t be afraid to care
Leave but don’t leave me
Look around and chose your own ground
For long you live and high you fly
And smiles you’ll give and tears you’ll cry
And all you touch and all you see
Is all your life will ever be

Pink Floyd

PS – my wife, a trained first aider, has now told me what I should really do if anyone faints.  The breathing was good but I should have laid her down with legs up a little.

Perhaps vampires is a bit strong but…

I don’t want to worry you but we are surrounded by vampires.  They are sucking the very life out of you right now.  They are feeding on you and dragging you down.  If you don’t fight back you will become one of them.

I don’t mean the fictional blood sucking villains that have enjoyed such a renaissance of late.

These are real. they seem to be everywhere and often disguise their true intentions by posing as friends and colleagues who have your best interests at heart.  We all know the kind of person who, after a brief conversation, leaves you feeling emotionally drained and somehow ‘soiled’.  They are often easy to spot and so avoid.  But sometimes we have no choice but to interact with them.  And sometimes they seem like really nice people and then when you realise….it’s too late.

These emotional vampires lead fairly empty lives and so seek to feed on others’ emotions.  It works best for them if their victims are in a highly emotional state.  They seem to find it much easier to create a negative state such as a sense of unease, fear, tension than a positive state such as joy.   They come in a variety of forms but share a lot of common traits including believing that they are the most important person around, whose needs are the most important and by definition whose beliefs are correct.  They are always right, always know best and failure is never their fault.

It is easiest to avoid them but sometimes we all have to deal with them and as a wooden stake through the heart might be controversial these days there are other ways to protect yourself.

Remaining calm and measured is the equivalent of dangling a bulb of garlic round your neck.  By remaining calm and choosing our response rather than letting our animal brains hijack us into being emotional, we remove the very stuff they feed on.  Of course we all have negative emotions – even the highly trained Buddhist Monks recognise these emotions.  But we do not have to dwell on them, we can move on and choose another state.  Look for the positive in any situation and be accepting of the issues you are faced with. Feeling sadness or anger will not create a solution, but it will drain your energy and so make life harder.

Of course before we become vampire slayers we need to carefully reflect.  Are we infected ourselves ?  If so we have to work harder to create meaningful, positive goals and cultivate inner calm.  The good news is that if you recognise a tendency to be emotionally needy in yourself you can do something about it before you stop showing up in the mirror.

London’s oases of calm

London's  oases of calm

Warm, watery sunlight in Autumn must be some of the best weather in which to enjoy London. Warm enough to need no coat yet cool enough not to broil on the Tube. Tempers stay calm and attitudes sunny!

Having a spare hour I chose to walk between meetings from Covent Garden over to Moorgate. The noisy centre of arts and culture giving way to the financial district.

What was clear is that London is blessed with many parks and squares, oases of calm amidst the hustle and bustle.

Lincoln’s Inn Fields were enchanting, Postman’s Gardens in Aldgate a small yet densely planted unexpected treat. And finally Finsbury Square. A barren square of grass, still noisy with traffic but even so a magnet for office workers.

Proof, if it were needed, of how much we are drawn to green spaces and how much value we must place on even a little nature to calm our senses.  Even without a quiet, green space we can create such a place in our minds and return to it whenever we feel in need of relief from the demands of modern life.  Many are now learning the benefits of meditation, yoga and other techniques to calm their minds.  The results are invariably positive,  I am tempted to try a yoga class myself, but in the meantime a stroll does the trick and saves the Tube fare.