Your inner fire.

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“You can’t take the sky from me.” – Joss Whedon

I spent the first week of 2017 with a horrible virus that left me house bound and feeling very sorry for myself. If you are anything like me, you struggle to think clearly or positively when you aren’t well. It colours everything with a horrible shade of blue. You have little clarity or perspective. So you have to be aware of that and remind yourself that your negative view point when you feel like that is coming from the over shadowing illness and not your own mind. And it is important to remind yourself you will be thinking more like yourself again when you are feeling back to normal and back to health.

I had been so looking forward to spending that week contemplating my plans and dreams for the year, allowing myself to ease into the year slowly, to do things I like doing and generally feel like I was getting a head start on myself. But that never happened. So last week was my first week of 2017, that’s how I was treating it anyway. Yes I still felt a little behind, and have sorely neglected social media as well as other commitments I should have worked on. But I didn’t want to start the year the way I ended the last one, in a rush. This whirlwind will creep up on you if you aren’t careful and you will be so caught up in the race, the rush, that you won’t even realise it. In times like that, when I get too caught up, too busy, I lose all insight, I am flustered and probably dampening my creativity, it is not a good place to be. Being busy has become something to strive for in our hectic modern world. It is the true entrepreneurs, the real innovative thinkers that have realised that being busy doesn’t necessarily mean being more productive, and most definitely does not mean being happier . They have learnt to harness their own pattern, their own balance and find what works for them, often being more productive in a lot less time.

So to put a positive spin on my poor start to the year, it was in some ways the best way to start a new year. A slap in the face reminder to not ever take my health for granted. Physical, and mental, health. And to shine a light on how precious it is to be healthy 95% of the time. It has also led me to my main focus for the year, my year of ultimate health. I call it so, as I would say I am pretty healthy already. I take care of myself, eat well, I like to exercise, I try to sleep well and meditate. However, I have a lot of space for improvement, and have possibly become somewhat complacent with my health and fitness. And I realise how much it can impact every area of your life, every area of you. I want to be strong. I want to feel strong. I do not agree with diets, they are quick fix, short term, solutions, but I do believe in changing or adjusting habits and your lifestyle, for life. I am only a week in, but so far I have introduced what will hopefully become my new habits, I won’t bore you with the details, but I am feeling motivated and excited about my new challenges.

I actually love January, I know a lot of people don’t, but I really do feel like it is a clean slate, a fresh start, to think about what worked and what didn’t work the previous year, and to try and re-align what your priorities are, what you want, who you are, who you would like to be, what you would like to do. It is a good time to think about what is important to you and put that first. Make it a priority if you can. Don’t let that light go out. If you have a light on at all, you are one of the lucky ones, and the world can’t afford to lose you.

In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being.We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit. – Albert Schweitzer

One thing I can personally reflect on from last year was that I realised I may in fact be a “people pleaser”. I think a lot of people are, whether they are aware of it or not. I hate the thought of someone not liking me, I don’t like to let people down, and I generally aim to impress. This realisation hit me in a big way, and it has definitely started to change how I think and how I make decisions. If I am doing something mainly to please someone else, I have to question why do it in the first place. I am not talking about helping others, that, in my head, is completely separate and I will always try to make time for that. But doing something, and straying down a tangent because you think it is what someone else wants you to do, doesn’t tend to serve you. So this year, I also aim to care a little less what other’s think. To not be side tracked by what someone else may see for my future. And instead to focus on where my own ideas, dreams, and priorities lie.

In order to have the strength of mind to stay true to you and what it is you want to do, you have to work on keeping your cup filled up. Keep your self filled up. Make time and head space to do the things that keep you physically and mentally strong. Sleep enough. Eat enough, of the right stuff. Exercise. Spend time outside. Spend time with people that lift you up. With people you love. Make time for doing what you love. Make space in your life for it. Only when you have this, can you help fill others up. Love yourself first and your world, and the world of those around you, will open up.

All of this, to me, comes down to getting to know yourself. Building an awareness of your mind, your body, and your heart. Only by trying to understand yourself, and spending time doing so, can you then understand what you really want. And what you need in order to keep your fire ablaze. I think I am some sort of weird introverted extrovert, (apparently most people are a combination of the two and it is very rare to be completely introverted or extroverted, most people have sides of both – this amazing TED talk talks about the importance of introverts) because I know now that I need quite a lot of time by myself, but I also need time with other people. I get energy both ways. It is a delicate balance. I thrive off meeting new people. And, to be honest, at times can be quite comfortable being the centre of attention, or the one keeping the dance floor busy at a subdued wedding. But if I have been running from place to place and taking on more work than I can manage, and have had no time to process it all, and be alone, I will be useless around people, I will have nothing to offer. However, if I have had time to do all the things I know feed me, I will try and give what I have away, I will try and share my energy, I love to make people laugh, or inspire them or show them the light if they are at that time struggling to see it. Which brings me to how much I also need those close to me. Only they really get to seem me when I do feel weak, and burnt out, and incredibly vulnerable. When I have lost all direction and am not myself. They help pick me up and I hope I can do the same for them whenever they may need it.

“Your spirit does not shine when the sun shines and your life is comfortable. It shines when darkness swallows you and you cannot breathe for the strangle of fear. That’s when what was invisible becomes undeniable.”  – Toni Sorenson

When I started to feel a bit better again last week, and a bit more myself, I decided in order to help guide and remind me of my ‘year of ultimate health’, I would do a new illustration which tried to encapsulate what that meant to me. I started with one that was similar to the photo below, a very restorative, meditative, pose. Which I do value, a lot. However, when I started the drawing, something didn’t feel right, it wasn’t working. Which is why I went on with the illustration at the start of this post, which started to make more sense as I was creating it, it felt right. When I am in a good routine of doing yoga every day, I try to do a ‘difficult’ pose, a challenging pose, within my practice, doing so makes me feel strong. There are a lot of yoga poses that are only possible with physical and mental strength, not only to get into the pose, but also the strength to dedicate your mind and body to practicing it, to give yourself time to practice it, day in day out, and to realise that there is no rush, no one to compete with, but that it will happen, if you give a little every day, every week, you will get there. And this, makes me feel strong, confident, and ready to take on challenges outside of my yoga mat as well as on it. So this is my symbolic illustration for the year. Not to mention the burning ‘sun’ in the background, (I call it the sun, but this is a metaphor as I would never attempt to capture something as vast and powerful as the sun itself in an illustration) this is my fire, this is your fire, this is the thing inside you that you need to work on keeping lit. If you let it go out you will have an even longer struggle to get it lit again.

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I encourage you to get to know yourself, get to know where your priorities lie, and from there take action on what you want, what you need, from this year. This is a good time to do it before things start to get too fast, too busy, and you have lost any sight or direction for yourself. And if that leads you to decide to work on letting yourself shine, working on being the best version of you, and trying to stay with that fire every single day, and help others to find and follow their fire, then that, in my opinion, is an honourable, and positive start to the year.

“The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it”  – C.C.Scott

A belated Happy New Year everyone, from a rejuvenated Holly.

If you liked this blog post you may like these similar ones: Awake and Motivation

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

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Notes on Meditation 2.

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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!

 

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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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Hello May.

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rom my Instagram.

May is here.

Definitely one of my favourite months of the year, usually anyway. But let’s say it will be again, because it is always best to try and start of the month (or 6 days into the month…) on a positive note!

So, happy May everyone! I have NO idea where the rest of this year has evaporated to so far, but that’s ok, because today is a new day, and a new start. So here’s to embracing change, embracing the speed at which life races by, and letting go to the pressure of feeling like you aren’t in control of that. Here is to trying to not resist anything, and to being open and with a love filled heart to everything, and everyone, that comes into your life. Because I am fast believing that is the best way to be, but it takes practice for sure.

April was a good month for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed the three workshops I did, thank you so much to everyone that came to them! It really was so wonderful to meet so many lovely new people, and of course be amongst creative people. I am pretty sure all the workshops went well and everyone that came enjoyed themselves, so I will definitely try and do some more later in the year. I also continued with my plan, alongside the fashion illustration workshops, to do as many new fashion drawings as I could. I learnt a lot from this, and the whole process, almost re-learning what works best for me, and what materials I like etc… Needless to say I didn’t do as many as I wanted to… and am still trying to finish a few of them, and working on a few that I have enlarged from small sketches to A2 size drawings… I hope to round it all up soon and post them online when I have the time, oh time!

Anyway, here’s to new beginnings! May they be bright and adventure filled for you all!

Holly

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Notes on Meditation.

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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