Retrospective Happiness

by Kristine Enger

It’s sweltering in Dubai now. Escaping the heat, my daughter, who’s home from university, decided to dig out a box of old home movies, which we’ve been watching lately with cups of tea, biscuits and rolled down blinds.

With three daughters, there seems to be an endless stream of birthday parties. I catch flickering images of myself offering an assortment of Barney cakes, princess cakes, cakes with numbers on them, organising musical chairs, standing guard at the bouncy castle, or pushing someone, now fully grown, on a swing.

The hairstyles, dresses, living rooms change but my face is always beaming. I look so happy, carefree and wrinkle free! Our family still intact, what did I know about life!

When we look back on things the way they were before, we inevitably measure the experience up against where we are now, and somehow draw the conclusion we were happier then. Can we only be happy in retrospect, looking back on events?

We might ask ourselves, “when is happiness really going to catch on for me, or” I had happiness before, even though I didn’t see it at the time.”

Does that indicate that we cannot be happy now, only realise it later that we should have been? Or does it mean that we have evolved and raised the bar of our own internal happiness barometer for where we are in this moment?

Does it take more now, or perhaps less?

We might argue we are just being sentimental looking back, in fact, if we look more closely, we recall there was a truckload of issues, waiting, disguised as high drama, parked just off the camera lens.

Mindfulness teaches us that happiness is an inside job.

Over time, we will indeed experience a feeling of happiness, sense a deeper level of contentment arise from deep within, as we become more mindful and expand our awareness of the present moment, and ourselves in it, through our daily practices.

More so when we decide to call a truce with the thinking mind.

Nevertheless, we cannot help but be mesmerised by looking at old photographs or footage of ourselves, as younger carefree beings.

They remind us of something precious, hidden, glorious even.

Hopeful and playful, innocent and free. Is that who we truly are?

 

The Void

by Kristine Enger

The fourth instalment in a series of blogs on “Starting Over” – read the others here, here and here.

Most life changes are seemingly brought upon us by external forces. Whether we initiated the changes or not, certain circumstances either became intolerable to us, or life itself decided to put us through the grinder. Either way, we are forced to act and, sometimes begrudgingly, redefine our lives.

As the idea of the new is taking hold in our awareness, but before it slowly starts to manifest, there is a period of being in what feels like a void, a holding pen, where there is nothing. We are literally staring into a blank future.

To fully inhabit the space of ‘nothing’, being in it and breathing it, is frightening at the best of times. This is the phase where all that was safe and familiar is becoming a distant dream, and the new has not yet materialised.

This phase is crucial to the creation process, although to most it feels so uncomfortable and unsettling that we do whatever we can to avoid being there.

“It’s not fair!” “What have I done to deserve this?” “How did I end up here!” “Am I depressed?” Yet, if we allow ourselves to accept that nothing new can be created from a crowded cluttered space, and that to cultivate the seed of the new, we need to weed and clear an empty patch.

To learn to accept and recognise when you are in the void is greatly helpful for the creation of the new. In fact, the more you accept and inhabit the void as a natural part of evolution, you see that the terrifying void was all along the portal through which the new can emerge.

Mindfulness and Thoughts

By Helen Williams and Kristine Enger

As you know, Mindful ME consultants focus on mindfulness as an approach to truly living with meaningful, authentic, present moment awareness.  This means learning to notice and practice awareness of our thoughts rather than being controlled or lost by them.

Recently Helen and Kristine sat down to chat about how this approach enhances wellbeing and changes our experience of fear and anxiety within our daily lives.

HELEN: I’ve noticed a sharp increase in people wanting to engage in conversations about mindfulness and particularly in relation to the way we experience our thoughts.  How have you experienced this in your work lately and why do you think we are noticing this growing awareness towards mindfulness?

KRISTINE: Yes – I’ve noticed it too – I’m having more and more conversations where people are becoming more aware of their thinking, which indicates an expansion of awareness. When our awareness expands, we start to see and experience life from a more elevated perspective, with more depth of feeling. The more aware we become, we also begin to notice how often we are stuck in unhelpful, repetitive thought patterns, which we then want to end, preferably immediately! That usually begins a conversation around non-judgement and self-acceptance.

HELEN:

Yes, I agree. So many people look for ways of dealing with their unhelpful, repetitive thinking patterns and discover that practicing mindfulness is a wonderful way of working with this in a loving and safe way. The difficult thoughts that we start to notice can sometimes be a bit daunting and it can be helpful to chat with an experienced practitioner about them.

KRISTINE:

Yes, having support while exploring our relationships with thoughts is so helpful – otherwise it can be easy to fall into self-shaming and anxiety around try to “get rid of them”. I usually gently help my clients see that thinking is beyond our control. Thinking will forever be the backdrop of our lives, constantly streaming through us. There is literally no escape from thought, because there is not supposed to be – and that is ok! Judging ourselves for the pesky thoughts that we might have, makes no sense. It is more helpful to remember that the majority of the thoughts we think in a single day are actually not true, and not become so attached to them.

HELEN:

Yes – I guess the question is then – what are thoughts and why do we have them?

KRISTINE:

Thoughts are just unrealised, completely neutral, potential. Not “good” or “bad”. When we give energy to them, over and over again, and they swirl around in our heads, trapped. As human beings we don’t understand how our thinking mind works. One teacher called thinking ‘the missing link’ between formless and form. It would be helpful for us as humans to redefine our relationship to thought as a creative, streaming, helpful force, at least be open to the possibility. Then, with clarity and space, we can choose our relationship with them. Again this is where talking with someone who understands this can really help – and why it is so important that this is done in a safe, honest and kind way.

Kristine and Helen are both mindfulness teachers and consultants, based in Dubai, who support individuals learning and applying mindfulness practice in their lives. You can book an individual session with Kristine or Helen by emailing info@mindfulme.me to learn more about your thinking mind or attend one of our workshops. Contact us for more info. 

The Other as a Mirror

By Isabel Galiardo
The only way to overcome the vicious cycles we create in our relationships is to understand that our partner is mirroring our shadow aspects. By this, I mean our blind spots, aspects of ourselves that we are not aware of, as they are avoided because they somehow create pain and contradict our self-image.
It is good to know that our relationships serve the purpose of healing the old wounds that we carry inside of ourselves. Our partner is not responsible for fixing, rescuing or saving us but he/she can contribute immensely to our growth. How? By giving us the opportunity to look at our own ‘reflection’ in the dynamics we create together. In order to experience our partner as a mirror, we need to shift from a codependent relationship to a mindful one.
We can use conflict as an opportunity to get to know ourselves better, to understand the disowned members of our internal family and welcome them. If I don’t accept my neediness it is likely that I will judge the other when he/she is dependent and vulnerable. If I have a strong need for pleasing people in order to feel loved and included I will get frustrated and let them down when their behaviour is not reciprocated.
Being in a conscious relationship requires paying attention and staying present. It is as if all of a sudden we become detectives of our own psyches. We follow the clues. We shift from autopilot to a mindful state. In order to do so, we can start by bringing our awareness to our bodies when we react to a comment, or to our partner’s behaviour. By acknowledging that a trigger can activate our wounds but most of the times are not the real cause of our painful emotion, we learn to stay in touch with whatever arises without immediately reacting. This choice implies the willingness to embark on a journey of self-inquiry that refers to oneself again and again rather than pointing our finger at the other. Instead of blaming the other person for our feelings, we own them. This allows us to express assertively rather than judgmentally and listen openly without having to go into defence mode.
‘’We want to be loved in a very particular way, one that soothes our emotional wounds from the past.’’ John Welwood

The Motion of Emotions

What you resist, persists. When you avoid and deny your pain and internal discomfort you are neglecting and abandoning yourself.
Self-care is not only about going on holidays or taking hot water baths. To take care of myself means that I’m in touch with the totality of who I am at any given time. I care, and therefore I listen to myself and I take responsibility for my wellbeing in any area of my life: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
We are wired to avoid pain. We can escape from it in multiple ways, from the most obvious- entering a new relationship, finding a new job or moving countries- to the more subtle ones like distracting ourselves with work, sex, food or alcohol.
When we consciously choose to sit with the pain and we endure the discomfort and the fear, keeping the presence and the connection with what is arising, we are fighting against our natural instinct of survival and reshaping our minds. When we train ourselves, through meditation and mindfulness to remain aware and fully present, without dissociating from the emotion or running away, the so-called ‘’negative’’ emotions become our allies, instead of toxic influences that poison our lives.
My emotions put me in motion. My anger, experienced mindfully helps me set proper boundaries. Today I am tired and cannot give you more. My sadness helps me grieve the many losses we encounter, losing a friend or a lover, a job, an opportunity. Healthy emotions are happening here and now, and they are energy expressing itself through ourselves.
That is why our awareness is so fundamental. We need to discern between the aliveness of the fresh, raw emotion related to the present time and serving a purpose, and the narrative I tell myself based on past experiences, which makes me get stuck in it. The narrative feeds the idea of inadequacy and separateness while the raw emotion is the messenger that tells me what is necessary and important in order to take care of myself. You choose!
Isabel works with individuals and couple’s in consciously expressing and exploring their emotions, stories, and here and now. To make an appointment with Isabel contact us. 

Know Where You Are

by Kristine Enger

A continuation in a series of posts “On Starting Over”

We cannot really go anywhere before we know where we are right now.

A lot of the time, we have no idea where we are. We feel lost.

Sometimes a period of not only introspection but also a very practical investigation is required. To adopt a Sherlock Holmes-like attitude to your current situation can be very helpful, and sometimes very revealing, surprising even.

Adopt the observer’s mind, as if you are establishing a neutral, independent survey of your life. Be methodical about it. Do you have all the facts? ‘Interview’ the people involved in the situation. This could be your children, a friend or colleague, a neighbour, your doctor, a financial advisor. Take extensive notes, make lists before you examine all the ‘evidence’. Take time to come and speak with a consultant who can help guide you through this observation in a safe and non-judgemental way – and in doing so help you do the same. This is a critical step and I find it very helpful for my clients to begin our conversations here.

Now, having gathered as many facts about the situation as possible, it is time for some introspection. We learn through contrast, so instead of being stuck in what you don’t want, what do you want?

What makes your heart sing? To be closer to family? A different career? A loving relationship?

This can bring about frustration, grief, despair and sorrow because where you are now may seem to be miles apart from where you want to be. In fact, the divide may seem too great and overwhelming.

The good news is that this is perfectly okay, and it is possible to traverse this divide.

In fact, just looking at your life in this way, you have already taken the first and most difficult step.

 

Kristine has lived in Dubai for more than 25 years and has started over many times in her life. Kristine knows particularly well what it entails to start over as an expat, far from home, without the safety net of family, friends and in certain situations social services to catch us. Kristine’s deeply grounded, practical, yet highly creative approach to life, makes her an excellent consultant to guide and inspire you if you find yourself going through the challenging time of starting over.

 

Reality or Fiction

by Isabel Galiardo
Things are certainly not what they seem. What we believe to be real is false and what we consider unreal actually contains the truth.
The character we call I, which we defend and protect, is just the self-image which we present ourselves to the world. This superficial self is neither authentic nor real. Its existence is based on the need to be accepted by others. It is the result of our conditioning, the sum of ideas we have about ourselves, the learned patterns and defense mechanisms that accompany us since childhood, offering a false sense of protection. It helped us in the past to survive and adapt to the environment with the limited resources we then had, but now only limits and impoverishes our existence.
Becoming an adult has nothing to do with time passing, but with our ability to become aware of our true being. It is not so much about what we do or have but who we are. It is about being, about existing, and for that, there are no recipes or formulas. To mature emotionally requires that we leave our lairs to let ourselves be touched and affected by others. We need to let go of our false idols, our infantile need of certainties, and to relate instead to existence in a dialogue of awareness and attentive listening. When we are true to our essence, we start living exposed to the unpredictable, instead of clinging to the illusion of being in control.
When we are authentic and true to ourselves we remain open and present to the dynamic and creative current of life.
” One must not always think so much about what one should do, but rather what one should be’’.
Meister Eckart
Isabel works with individuals and couples seeking to explore their relationships and themselves in an authentic way. Contact us to make an appointment to see Isabel or attend one of her workshops.  

On Starting Over

by Kristine Enger

On our life’s journey, at some point, the calling comes, and as if waking from a dream, we realise we must change our lives.  Weeks, months and years can have passed, until one day, we cannot stand the present situation any longer. We may not know what we want, but we know we don’t want this. Something we have put up with for a long time suddenly seems intolerable.

Or change can suddenly be brought upon us in the form of some event, where the rug can literally be pulled from under us, forcing us, kicking and screaming to reassess our lives and start over.

Either way, we know our life cannot go on the way it was, however much we resist it or put it off.

As we wake up to this new reality, it can be daunting, as the situation we find ourselves in can seem utterly hopeless with no apparent solution in sight. We feel stuck and frustrated.

It can take the same amount of time to extricate yourself from a situation that requires you to start over, as the time it took before you became lost in it. It is like you must retrace your steps, wound yourself right back to who and where you were initially, before you eventually emerge more mature, wise and strong, a redefined human being.

Starting over is an inner energetic process, that most commonly stems from our heart’s deepest desire and longing. However, this is a process that also involves a lot of deliberate, very different ‘doing’ however small and seemingly insignificant at first. The little choices we make throughout each day.

Being open to a period of ‘mucking about’ with different scenarios, tossing ideas around, slowly gathering momentum is all an important part of starting over. Becoming aware of the role our thinking plays in the creative process. Connecting with the fertile ground of stillness, whilst at the same time accepting the uncertainty, anxiety, chaos and sleepless nights that for us as human beings seem to be an integral part of starting over too, even with all the help and support in the world.

Starting over can be the start of a journey of the greatest discovery, as inherent in each seemingly unsolvable situation or tightly wound knot, there is also a solution. However entangled we become, we also hold the key to untangling it, to create something wonderful and new out of what seemed to be an impossible situation. It can feel as if the solution will only come to us when we are ready to see it.

 

Kristine has lived in Dubai for more than 25 years and has started over many times in her life. Kristine knows particularly well what it entails to start over as an expat, far from home, without the safety net of family, friends and in certain situations social services to catch us. Kristine’s deeply grounded, practical, yet highly creative approach to life, makes her an excellent coach to guide and inspire you if you find yourself going through the challenging time of starting over. Contact us here to book in a private session with Kristine.