WE ARE ALL CONNECTED.

EU ILLY - 02 - 100 dpi - holly sharpeWords are not my forte  so sadly I cannot express as well as others can my complex feelings on the news today, but I felt the need to attempt to do so too strongly not to try. There are a whole host of reasons why I voted to stay in the EU, which I will not go in to entirely. I hope that in the days, weeks, to come I will be able to be more positive about the whole thing and figure out how we can attempt to get out of this mess.

The whole scenario, for me, has highlighted that this world is becoming too driven by greed, power, and money. And at times appears to have forgotten the power of love and the necessity for human connections, for remaining connected, as individuals and as countries, across the entire world. I believe that people are generally good, inherently so. Yet in many cases this has been clouded over by unhealthy distractions, and has led people to think that the purpose of life is to make money, and to somehow imprint their power on others, and on the world. The media for one has done a stellar job at brainwashing the masses into believing that somehow people that were less fortunate than us to be born in a country in a far worse state that ours are something to be scared of? And to abandon them. To make them feel like they are somehow less than us.

We are all human. And we are only human. And too many people have lost touch of what is at their core, their human spirit. We have so much power in our hands, with the right weapon, or vehicle, one can take another human’s life with such ease. Equally, we are so capable, of such wondrous and special things. Yet we are fragile and easily led astray, and too quick to turn our back, to seek revenge and to play to our egos and to the egos of those in power. NEVER believe that just because someone is in a position of greater ‘power’ than you, in a position to enforce laws, shun the less fortunate, to make a decision that will take the lives of many, to neglect their human spirit in exchange for wealth and power, never believe that that makes them more worthy, more intelligent or ‘right’. We, everyone, all ages, all races, need to question those in power, and speak up.
Headspace, and physical space, in my opinion should be a priority in everyone’s life. Take time out, by yourself, to allow your thoughts to drift, and be unobstructed by pressures and opinions that are not necessarily your own.

Gratitude.

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“Very few people on the planet have the opportunity to even follow their dreams at all. Most people live in poverty, or in communities where the repercussions for behaving how they want are a lot worse than people just talking shit. If doing what you want is an option for you, you should do it, because you’re one of the few lucky people who can. And even if you fail, you will be in a better position than if you’d never tried. Every horrible thing that has ever happened to me has added integrity to my art and improved my understanding of the human race.”

The above was said by Grimes, apparently. I love these words so much, and I love them even more knowing that she said them. I also love her. Have been a big fan of hers for a while, and then I got to see her live earlier this year in Glasgow, and now I am slightly obsessed. She is so amazing. She exudes energy, creativity, and complete and utter individuality. But anyway, she is right. If there is even a small, tiny strand of hope, window of opportunity or thread of chance that you can do what you want to do, you have to grab it with both hands and chase it until you can do so no more. I think the majority of people that aren’t happy, are unhappy because either they don’t know what they truly want, or they aren’t trying to get it, and have decided that it is not possible before they have even tried, which is insane when you think about it, and also because they cannot see how lucky they are with everything that they already have.

I put the above photo on my Instagram earlier, and not that that can sum up how I was feeling today. But I was feeling insanely thankful, and a tad overwhelmed, which happens to me a lot actually. Through a few things I have done over the past year, and things people very close to me have done, I have not had to tread far to witness first hand how unfortunate some people are, how fragile their lives are, how much they got the opposite of a head start in life. It makes my heart bleed, and break, and want to envelope them in all the love in the world. I want to take all their pain away, and stop all the pain that I know is still to come for them. But I know I can’t. I can try, and there are some things I can try and do within my power to help them. But I can’t live their life for them. And if I didn’t feel grateful for so much in my life before, which I did, I now feel even more so. I feel so blessed, so lucky, so fortunate. Rather than feeling some sense of guilt or sadness that for some reason I have been more fortunate in some ways than them, I see it as a chance to be even more grateful, and instead to take advantage of my situation. And to me that means spreading my own positive energy as far and wide as I possibly can. Whether that be through my work, or by each and every time I come in to contact with any other person. Which is not always easy to do, I have my bad days as well. But rather than dwell on those, I try to cherish the good days, the good moments, and hold on to them as long as I can, and to let them radiate to anyone I can connect with.

And until I figure out how to take their pain away, that is all I can do. That, and encourage everyone else to be more compassionate, to think before you judge someone, because you literally do not know what burdens they carry, you do not know what they have been through, you can only try to imagine, but until you have walked a day in their shoes, be kind, be more accepting, and the world will do the same for you.

To come back to the point of ‘The best things in life aren’t things’. The best things I know I have been given are by people. I have been brought up with stability, with a family around me, and with that, so much support, and I know how rare and splendid a thing to have had that is. And through many ways, that has given me love, so much love, and I know that has made me capable of feeling and understanding love, as well as understanding how important it is for everyone to have. So if you are dwelling on the money you feel like you don’t have, or the materials things that you crave for so much, take a step back and look at the people in your life, the love that is hopefully there all around you, and that you can give back to others. Showing someone you care, giving them your time, is more valuable than anything you could every buy them.

– Holly

x

Good will prevail.

 

In light of the awful things that are happening/ have happened in Paris, and indeed all around the world, all the time, we must not give up hope. In my opinion violence is never the answer or solution to combat anything. So if you are feeling hopeless, please think that there IS something you can do, by cultivating HOPE and LOVE and spreading it to EVERYONE in your life, all the time, in this way, you can help. If you think this is silly, just try imagining if everyone you knew did this, to everyone they knew, all the time. I am not saying that the world would change over night, but there would inevitably be a positive impact.This may only be a small step, but if you do nothing else, at least do this. It is something we can all do, and demonstrates that we are not giving up, or giving in, but taking action in the right direction. And maybe from there more solutions will become apparent. The world does not need more anger, greed, jealousy or violence, it needs love, compassion, and HOPE.

Holly

x

Notes on Meditation 2.

beautiful 1

I would like to start out by making clear that the following is simply an accumulation of my own thoughts and interpretations on what I have learnt so far, following on from my earlier post about meditation. I am calling this notes of mediation to continue with my previous post, however what I will talk about will also be about buddhism, and mindfulness etc, but all three are interlinked and basically stem from the same ideas.

Also want to say that this may all come out in a slightly jumbled way (as usual), as my thoughts tumble around my head, of which there are so many, and I don’t always know which ones to bring to the forefront. What I do know however, is the more I learn about Buddhism and related topics, the more I find the teachings so fascinating, and at the same time so simple, yet daunting in their profound meaning. For example, the saying that everything is a state of mind is in one way so obvious to me, so simple when you think about it, everything is only ever how you perceive it to be, two people could have witnessed or experienced the exact same thing, and yet they will both interpret it entirely differently.

I mentioned in my first post that there are many benefits to meditation. And whilst meditation is something you generally sit down/ lie down and do, mindfulness, in my words, is how you apply that to your everyday life. In theory, if we begin to develop a greater awareness of our mind, our being, our body, each and every living thing, and living moment, we will start to be able to notice a lot more. You cannot fix something if 1. You do not know what is wrong with it, and 2. You do not understand how it works. So if you begin to be mindful of your thoughts, feelings, actions, words etc you are better equipped to see when something is about to be thrown off balance and through practice, ie mindfulness, you can start to understand how your own body and mind works and therefore try to break down bad habits of non virtuous states – for example anger, neediness, jealousy, depression, guilt. And instead start to cultivate virtuous states such as love, compassion and cherishing.

So, I think what I want to focus more on in this post is in fact mindfulness. Developing an awareness of the present moment. An awareness of your thoughts, feelings, your body, everything. If you think about it, it makes sense that this is pretty much now proven to have dramatically positive effects on your whole being. If you are watching, and listening, you are more likely to notice and be able to stop it before you get angry, or start to self pity, or self loathing. The point I would like to make, which I made in a similar way in my first post, is that if you notice that actually you weren’t very nice to that person today, or you really shouldn’t have said that thing, or lost your temper the way you did, instead of beating yourself up about it, and wallowing in it, and therefore continuing on the downward spiral, and therefore continuing to attract bad future karma into your life, try to let it go and simply notice that you would not like to act like that/ talk like that again. Otherwise if you beat yourself up about it, you are creating guilt, a non virtuous state which creates self loathing. Buddhism/mindulness is about showing love and compassion towards others, but it actually all starts with showing love and compassion towards yourself.

For so many reasons you must try and show yourself love, and compassion. Not in a self involved or obsessed vain way, but in a way that means you do not talk down to yourself, do not have this inner dialogue where you are constantly putting yourself down and being hard on yourself for all the things you haven’t yet done, or all the things you haven’t yet achieved, or all the things you wish you were/ weren’t. Put quite simply, if you do not love yourself, who else will? The more you radiate a positive glow, a contentedness in yourself and your state, the more you will attract positive things and positive people into your life. If you are constantly wallowing in self pity and self doubt, even if those around you love your dearly, it becomes hard for them to always show it, and it can be draining to be around people like this. It is a matter of slowly trying to change your mindset, focusing on the good, following the ‘light’ and not getting bogged down with trying to be someone else or something else.

At nearly, if not all, of the meditation classes I have been to so far, the teacher starts of by saying that virtually everyone in the whole world wants the same thing. And this alone should bring us closer and realise how connected we all are. And this ‘thing’, is that everyone wants to be happy. It is just that people have different beliefs, or understandings as to how to go about that, or how to get that. A lovely thought that came up in a teaching was this idea of developing a realisation that it’s ok to find joy from food, shopping, sex, alchohol etc but knowing that it will never bring about permanent joy. These states of lust, or excitement or adrenaline, or sudden joy, they are not true happiness. The way they define it in Buddhism, in my interpretation, is that if you had endless amounts of any of the things I mentioned above, would you keep on being happy? Yes it can be fun to go out and dance, and drink with your friends, but if you did it ALL the time, would you be happy? Or how about that chocolate cake or pizza that you love so much, would you be happy if you ate endless amounts of it? What they instead say is that true happiness does not come from any external factor. True happiness is already within you in the form of deep inner peace, like a vast expanse of blue sky. But unfortunately that sky tends to get clouded over with grey clouds a lot of the time, but the blue sky is always there behind it….

Which leads on to my next point… the ultimate aim of meditation is to reach ‘enlightenment’, and be in this blissful state of happiness/ inner peace, all the time. And something a teacher said recently made so much sense to me, he said that instead of thinking of enlightenment or ‘nirvana’ as this unreachable/ inconceivable place that we need to work for years to get to, or travel miles to get to, instead, think of those little slices of peace and joy throughout your daily life – noticing these is basically practicing mindfulness. Try to notice the fresh air you breathe in when you go outside, the cool breeze on your skin, the sun as it shines through the clouds, the colours in the flowers, the blossom on the trees, the clouds and their amazing formations, the smile from someone you love, the words you shared with a friend, the water you drank this morning, the water on your skin in the shower, the feeling of being wrapped up in bed at the end of a long day.. I could go on, but these small things, these lovely warm feelings of peace and contentment, try and start to pay more attention to them, try to notice them throughout your day, and nurture them, cultivate them, give them attention and they will grow and grow and grow until there is only peaceful / peace – filled moments – THIS is nirvana. It is not some magical land in a parallel universe, the roots of it are already within us, we just need to help them grow and come to the surface.

“Joy has to do with seeing how big, how completely unobstructed, and how precious things are. Resenting what happens to you and complaining about your life are like refusing to smell the wild roses when you go for a walk, or like being so blind that you don’t see a huge black raven when it lands in the tree that you’re sitting under. We can get so caught up in our own personal pain or worries that we don’t notice that the wind has come up or that somebody has put flowers on the dining room table or that when we walked out in the morning, the flags weren’t up, and that when we came back, they were flying. Resentment, bitterness, and holding a grudge prevent us from seeing and hearing and tasting and delighting”

– Pema Chodron from the book, ‘The Wisdom of No Escape’ … which I have been reading and re-reading and will for sure be writing about within more blog posts in the future. It is an easy to read gold mine of wonderful Buddhist teachings!

 

smell the roses

Unfortunately there is a pattern by which most people in modern day society go about their lives, we are constantly trying hard to either make the things happen that we want, or avoid the things that we don’t want to happen. We are constantly going about (in a rushed and often hap hazard way) our days and lives trying to ‘fix’ everything, saying things like ‘when I have more money I’ll do this and that… and then I’ll be happy’, or when I have a new job I’ll be happy, or a new partner, or when I loose weight or when I get this or buy that. We continually place our happiness on external things, or on other people. We must realise that these things, or people will never fix us, it doesn’t matter where you go, or what you have, or who you are with, if you are not happy and content, and peaceful within yourself, you will never be happy. You may feel temporary joy or excitement, but it will fade again and you will keep looking for the next thing, for more money, for a better body, or a better boyfriend or job or car or bla bla bla… Placing this pressure on a thing or person is referred to in Buddhism as attachment, or ‘grasping’. And I think it just takes practice to take yourself out of your own head and realise that the answer does not lie in something outside of yourself. You already have everything you need to be happy. Think about that. Enjoy the right now, this moment, and be grateful for it all. Try not to lean on someone else or something else for security or happiness. We all do it, but the more you do it, the more you stray from a deep inner connection, a peace with yourself and your world, as it is now, right now.

There is no yesterday, no tomorrow, there is only ever today, here, now, right now. That is all we ever have. Tuesday does not exist. Tomorrow never comes.

-Holly
twitter: @hollysharpe
http://www.hollysharpe.com

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Notes on Meditation.

Elsewhere 72 dpi
Elsewhere’ – 2014 – Holly Sharpe

Notes on Meditation.

I have mentioned the fact that I am interested in meditation, and Buddhism here and there along the journey of my blog a few times.

And I have thought a lot about writing an entry (/a few entries) dedicated to it, but I haven’t quite felt ready to put that into action thus far. Then I received a lovely email from someone asking if I would. So, this seems to be a sign to finally motivate me into doing so.

I suppose part of the reason that I haven’t already, is that I am no expert, and I am still learning about it myself, and along with that, to me it feels like quite a huge topic that perhaps it was quite a daunting subject to tackle. Hence, I have titled this ‘notes on meditation’, as that is all it is, and this way I will probably do more entries in the future as my ‘notes’ on it grow and flourish and I will hopefully have new knowledge to share on the subject.

As much as I think it is a grand and complex topic, at the same time, it is possibly the most simple thing in the world. I have read many books on either mediation, or I suppose ‘self help’ and overall they appear to be saying similar things, just dressed up in different ways. Then, at the start of this year I read – “10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head. Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works –A True Story” – by Dan Harris – and I think reading this, along with one of my new year’s resolutions to meditate and learn more about Buddhism, propelled me into taking it more seriously, or less seriously depending on which way you want to look at it – I feel like there is a great quote that sums up this idea of not taking it all too seriously, but I can’t remember what it is and can’t seem to find it online either… maybe it will come back to me!

I suppose the reason this book in particular laid it out so clearly and in a practical way for me was for a couple of main reasons 1. He talked about, analysed and in some instances was able to meet the authors of a lot of the books I have also read on similar topics. 2. The conclusion, in my eyes, of his journey and research etc, was to find a way to put all this advice and talk of enlightenment into a practical format that one could apply to their daily life, and start to see progress and improvement straight away. And the gist is = meditate everyday, but start with something super small and achievable, (James Clear talks a lot about building, and keeping habits, and how starting small, means you are A LOT more likely to maintain the new habit, than if you start with something too ambitious, so start smaller and build up to that…) so, meditate for 5 minutes a day for example. Fit it into your routine like after breakfast, or before dinner or something. Even taking these 5 minutes out – set a timer so you are not distracted – to focus on being in the moment, and meditate can have a huge impact. Which may seem bizarre and unlikely, but try it for yourself and see what you think.

“Meditate. Live purely. Be quiet. Do your work with mastery. Like the moon, come out from behind the clouds! Shine.” (Buddha)

So, HOW to meditate is probably what you are now wondering? Or maybe you are still wondering WHY you should meditate, so I will probably come back to the why, as there are a great number of compelling reasons.

Meditation definitely is gaining a new lease of life as far as I can see in the world, the media, etc. It is no longer stereotyped as something hippies do with their legs crossed sitting in a circle… or maybe it still is, but I am hoping you will try and shed that image and trust me when I say it is so much more than that, and is certainly not restricted to any type of person, or place. I am sure everyone will have a different way of explaining what meditation is, and how to do it, but I will try my best to explain my way.

A common misunderstanding is that when you meditate you are trying to completely clear your mind and have no thoughts at all. As human beings, this is virtually impossible. So do not beat yourself up if your mind is never silent, as this is not the goal or the point. Instead, sit in a comfortable position, preferably with your back upright against the back of the chair, nice and straight – but not strained – and with your feet grounded on the floor. I usually just keep my hands in my lap one on top of the other, but this is just a preference, what ever is comfortable. Then either close your eyes or soften your gaze (I think most people find it easier to just close their eyes as this lessens the chance of distractions, but equally your goal is not to fall asleep, so if your eyes are closed, just be aware of the temptation to doze off…). Then simply start to focus on your breath. Don’t try to alter or change your breath, just become aware of it, draw your attention to your breath. A couple of techniques to help do so are to feel, notice, and focus on, the sensation of the cool air on your nostrils as you breathe in through your nose, and again the slightly warmer air as you breathe out again. Keep doing this, and when ever you notice your thoughts go astray – which they will- simply bring your attention back to your breath. Again, try not to have an internal argument with yourself or be hard on yourself when this happens, just try to let go of the thought as soon as you notice, and don’t attach to it. Almost like you are watching it pass by from a distance. And that is all it is, learning to develop an awareness. Most of the time your mind is having numerous thoughts and going awol, but very seldom do we stop and listen, and pay attention to notice what is happening in our heads.

Another technique for the meditation where you are focusing on your breath is to visualize white smoke as you breathe in, and black smoke as you breathe out. Again, whenever you notice that your mind and thoughts have become distracted, just bring them back to focusing on your breath. I would recommend setting a timer at the start, and doing this for 5 minutes. Aim to do it every day, but if you don’t manage it for a while, do not be hard on yourself, as again that is not the point at all, just start again once you realise you want to keep doing it. Then, maybe after some time you can build up to 10, 15, 20 minutes.

Even better, if you can find somewhere near you that does meditation classes – probably more common that you might think – such as a Buddhism centre, then try and go to a class there. To go somewhere specifically to meditate, and also hear teachings on meditation, and do so amongst a room full of people, is actually quite a profound experience. And in the classes I go to, I think we often meditate for at least 40 minutes! And I have never been able to do it for that long myself, it feels quite amazing, and can have a very relaxing effect, and helps restore clarity in your mind. A couple of times I have almost felt in a sort of super relaxed trance afterwards – which I was told is partly because the breathing meditation can be quite powerful and is releasing ‘deep pockets of stress’!

Ok, so that turned out longer that I was planning. I don’t want to bombard you with too much information, so I will leave the rest of my ‘why’ till another day, in another post and leave you to think about this one, and hopefully go away and put it into action for now.

Thanks again for reading, and I hope you enjoyed this.

Holly
twitter: @hollysharpe

website: http://www.hollysharpe.com

Change the world by changing yourself.

Hope

“Be the change you wish to see in the world” – Mahatma Gandhi

I’ve been thinking a lot about change recently. And about compassion. Not quite related I guess. Which is to say: I’ve been thinking (or over-thinking) a lot recently. Not much new there really.

I feel like as time goes on, and life seems to throw bigger decisions at you, sometimes it is so hard to know what is the right direction. What is the “right” way to be. What is the “right’ thing to do. I don’t think there is ever one answer to any of these questions. And one thing I think which is useful to remember, (re my post about comparing yourself) is that we are all so different. Each and every person is unique. That’s 7 billion complete and utter individuals living on this planet (don’t get me started on what is beyond this planet, as that is a little too mind blowing). If I’m honest, that fact alone completely over shadows any worries or concerns I had in my own little world. And instead I find myself in awe of this overwhelming miracle which is actually a fact.

With a decent dose of my usual tangents, I will try to get back to what I think my overall point is… For quite a few years now I have taken it upon myself to learn more about yoga, Buddhism, and meditation. I have a whole array of thoughts on them all, which I will for the most part leave aside for another day, in another post/s. But what I do want to say, is that when you feel in doubt, when you are confused and questioning whether you are in the right job, or at the right place in your life or whatever it is you are (constantly) questioning. One thing you can be sure of, in my opinion, is to work on bettering yourself. Now that of course means something different to everyone. However there are probably a few core things which most would surely agree on, such as trying to be a good person, trying to treat others without judgment and without criticism. Trying to be healthier, to treat you body and mind with the respect and love it so deserves, and encouraging others to do the same.

They are just a couple of things which I think most people would feel happier if they tried to improve on them, and for most people there is always some room for improvement within those areas. And I think that once you are focusing on these things, in time the rest will start to fall into place, because your whole outlook will be more positive and with more clarity. I want to try and make my point with a ‘story’ or whatever you would like to call it, which one of my wonderful yoga teachers, Laura, recently shared with us. It was written by an Unknown Monk, in 1100 AD and reflects that we can only change ourselves –

“When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family. Now, as an old man, I realise the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realise that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.”

This really said something to me, because I think it is so true. This ‘ripple effect’ of passing good intentions and good energy, but by starting with yourself, makes so much sense to me, and is a lot easier to feel like perhaps you could in fact help change something, rather than feeling helpless and overwhelmed by the state of the world if you start thinking about changing the entire world yourself.

And just to round this up, perhaps on a slightly too cheesy note for some, here are some words which perhaps a lot of you already know, but it’s a nice one to remember:

Promise yourself

To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.
To talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person you meet.
To make all your friends feel that there is something worthwhile in them.
To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.
To think only of the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.
To forget the mistakes of the past, and press on to the greater achievements of
the future.
To wear a cheerful expression at all times and give a smile to every living
creature you meet.
To give so much time to improving yourself that you have no time to criticize others.
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy
to permit the presence of trouble.
To think well of yourself and to proclaim this fact to the world, not in loud
words, but in great deeds.
To live in the faith that the whole world is on your side, so long as you are true
to the best that is in you.

The Optimist Creed

By Christian D. Larson 1912

Hope you enjoyed my post, thanks again for taking the time to read it!
– Holly

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