Ring of Fire

By Kristine Enger

On a recent trip to Bali, Indonesia with my daughter we felt the earth move, literally, in the form of several earthquakes. My daughter, a geography student, found it quite fascinating and I, after quake no 3, not so. It was deeply unsettling and frightening to me.

Our lives were never in any danger, and I intuitively knew that. I, therefore, allowed myself to sink deeply into the experience of what was happening in the moment.

Indonesia is located on the Ring of Fire, a major horseshoe-shaped seismically active area in the basin of the Pacific Ocean, where most of the earth’s earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur. Due to the unpredictable nature of earthquakes, there is no warning, they can suddenly occur at any time.  First, you hear the deep (terrifying!) rumbling sound, then the swaying and shaking starts, and after about 10-15 seconds of what feels like an eternity, it’s over.

I quickly discovered I was afraid of what might happen next, and not so much the actual event itself. I was afraid to hear that sound and kept listening for it. Skittish and jumpy, yet at the same time trusting, and knowing full well it was my thinking mind playing tricks. I needed to take great care to allow space for these anxious feelings, and when I did, they subsided.

When we teach in mindfulness how we are hardwired for flight, fight or freeze, it was interesting to experience this first hand. In one split second – you can scan a scene, notice the placements of objects and people, look for ways out, feeling the adrenaline pumping, and at the same time realising you are completely powerless to what is happening. You are simply fully in it. Then afterwards, you become obsessed with analysing your experience, finding meaning and trying to explain why this happened. Checking websites, speaking to the locals, exchanging information with fellow travellers.

The metaphor of how this mirrors life itself crystallized, all whilst finding yourself in a location that can only be described as being in paradise. Life becomes accentuated, everything is deeply felt, your senses heightened. Profound compassion is felt for the plight of the people on the neighbouring island of Lombok, which experienced the most loss of lives and damage. Every cell in your body is felt, as you have been so deeply shaken. The colours, the textures and beauty of it all is seen in a profound, more appreciative way. The love is ever present, spontaneity rules the day, and life continues to happen.

Sometimes our lives are rocked beyond belief, and we feel powerless. However, there seems to be a natural order to it all. It will shake for a while, as adjustments are being made.

Then, the tectonic plates settle, and somehow a new order is restored as peace once more returns.

Love & Heartbreak

by Helen Williams

During the month of November, this Mindful ME workshop will be focusing on relationships – all kinds of relationships, not just couples, from a Mindfulness perspective.  This means looking at how we ‘see’ relating, how we have learned to believe, experience, know and live within the context of relating both to ourselves and others.

After a lifetime of working in this field, I know that this means we will be talking about LOVE!  How we have experienced, and how we yearn to experience, connection with another.  It is commonly a very difficult field of inquiry, fraught with tension, and difficult, uncomfortable emotions and lots and lots of vigorous defence!

Not one of us will escape this heart opening, heart stopping, roller-coaster of emotional experience as we search for warm and loving connected awareness.  Each of us will discover that opening to love immediately equates to fearing the loss of love and for many, experiencing this loss slams the door tightly shut on our hearts.  Opening again requires the mammoth task of healing the break soundly enough to be able to negotiate again the fear that being loved may once more bring painful dislocation.  Sound familiar?

Exploring this terrain with a new focus, in a safe environment with adequate support can help us find ourselves both opening deeper within and exploring farther beyond our previous comfort zones.

Come and join with us as we explore the heights and griefs of conscious, loving connections, and discover the growth and richness that undefended love can bring.

Learn more about our upcoming Conscious Relationships workshop in November here.

Book your spot on the workshop by contacting us here. 

Learn more about Helen’s work with relationships by meeting her in her bio. 

 

artwork: Ivan Guaderrama

A Beginner’s Mind

By Kirsty Heaton

Escaping the summer heat in Dubai – I have swapped sandals and sand for walking boots and rolling countryside in the UK. Our summer holidays wouldn’t be complete without a day trip to Castle Howard for a picnic in the grounds, followed by walks through the estate and woodlands. I have been coming here for as long as I can remember, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world!

From the moment we turn the corner into the parking I feel a sense of nostalgia, I still have the familiar flutter in my tummy as I did as a child, impending adventure and curiosity, excitement and amazement at the stunning beauty that surrounds us. Yes, our picnics may have changed and I no longer head to the playgrounds to swing and slide as I did as a little girl, the excitement is just the same…but different.

Our first adventure is into the woods, away from the hustle and bustle of the playgrounds. The trees are hundreds of years old and the silence you experience here is intoxicating. Walking through this woodland is healing for the soul, it’s as if nature gives us a giant hug, soothing and calming our nerves. I notice how we tend to whisper to each other in the woods; as if anything loud would disturb the sacred silence.

As we emerge from the woods, the views are breathtaking…I am always overwhelmed as I stand and take it all in. I feel a deep sense of gratitude and take a moment to stand and just breathe it all in…hoping I can keep this picture in my mind forever.

A stroll through the rose garden brings back memories of collecting rose petals with my Grandma to make “rose perfume” I smile to myself, my heart warmed by these memories as I relay the stories to my own daughter. 

Our day comes to an end with homemade ice creams and cups of tea, enjoyed in the castle courtyard. Our legs are tired but our hearts are warmed by the memories both old and new.

As my Mindfulness journey continues, I am so grateful that I am able to experience these special traditions and so many other moments on a much deeper level. When we make the choice to see everything with a Beginners Mind, the world opens up and even an Englishman’s castle, visited yearly for over 30 years can become a place of wonder all over again. 

 

Beautiful photos by Kirsty Heaton

If you would like to set up an appointment to learn more about a Beginner’s Mind and Mindfulness practice with Kirsty please contact us here

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?

 

It takes a Village to Raise a Relationship

by Helen Williams 

There is a wonderful quote from Esther Perel, a Belgian psychotherapist and author which is particularly pertinent to those of us living as expats.

Esther Perel said “Today we turn to one person to provide what an entire village once did: a sense of grounding, meaning, and continuity.  At the same time we expect our committed relationships to be romantic as well as emotionally and sexually fulfilling.  Is it any wonder that so many relationships crumble under the weight of it all?’”

In many ways, this quote sums up a lot of the couples work that I encounter – this turning to one person for all of our wants, our needs, our wishes, our hopes, our dreams and our life.  This notion that one person could, can and ought to supply all our emotional needs is what so often leads to ‘good’ relationships crumbling.  I often have the sense that many couples would flourish more smoothly if they were planted in or near their familiar roots – that is, surrounded by their extended families, friendship groups, and other familiar people who have known them over time.

This, of course, would bring accountability for connectedness, for personal boundaries and our own expectations for predictable behaviours.  It is when we lose this familiar base of personal accountability that the test of our own unpredictable behaviour arrives.  If nobody knows us, then we have no one watching to help us keep a check on our reactions and behaviours.

For many young expats, this journey of self-accountability can just be passed on to our new partner and by believing that they are responsible for all our wants, hopes and needs we can then blame them for our relationship failure.

It takes a village to raise a relationship too! I believe it’s really important to feed, nourish and nurture varieties of relationships, not just our couple relationship.  There is great strength in diversity and different age groups and in the recognition of others watching our world with us.

Finding Home

by Kristine Enger

Some people say,” yes, I belong here, in this world, in this life, in this job and I am comfortable with that. I am content, I feel at home”.

For most of us, it’s not so simple. In fact, we may feel we were born in the wrong country, into the wrong family and that life, in general, is quite confusing. Ironically, the more we start to ponder and search for where we truly belong, the less we feel we belong anywhere at all.

We start to question people around us. The ones who have lived on the same street all their lives, done the same things they’ve always done, not really gone anywhere. Surely, they must feel they belong, otherwise, why are they still there?

“But have they really lived?”, we ask, “or have they understood something we have not?” – as we restlessly traipse around the world, looking for that magical place where we can feel that sense of belonging, that deep sense of “yes, I feel at home here.”.

At some point on our travels, we could be fortunate enough to end up in a place and feel a sense of home, even though it is, for us, a strange country with an entirely different culture. It is like we know intuitively, “this place holds the key to something”.

For a while, it may mean that we will orbit around a mindset and culture that feel alien, and not be part of mainstream society. Not integrated and not belonging.

It can feel as if we have stripped everything in our lives away, layer by layer – country, city, family, home, language – all to clear the space to reconnect to a distant memory of something we only sporadically have caught glimpses of, something elusive, enticing, true, real. Home?

With all distractions gone, can we fully be with ourselves? Can we stand to sit, perfectly still, observing our breathing, our thoughts, our feelings, without running away?

Can we embrace life in this way, with confidence, not knowing what is going to happen next? Have faith in the moment and show a willingness to accept the hand we have been dealt?

So that one fine day, when someone asks, “where do you call home?” we can say:

“This is my home, where I am right now. I am deeply rooted in my life, I am with my life, I am observing my life and I accept all I know and see. I may not like all of it, but I accept that for now, this is what is. So yes, I am home, and I belong here – now”.

The New is Coming

The fifth instalment in a series of blogs on “Starting Over” – read the others here: On Starting Over  , Know Where You Are  , A Seed is Born  , The Void

 
When we are in a phase in our lives where nothing much seems to be happening, frustrated that the seeds of our deepest desires we so carefully cultivated, or the vision we gingerly held, have taken their time to manifest in our reality, it is easy to miss the first signs of the new.

In fact, we may not recognise the fragile seedling of the new at all, and trample all over it. The new is extremely resilient, and cannot be stopped, so when we do start to notice that changes are occurring, we most often either feel like “this is not what I asked for”, or” this is too much”.

When we create something new, it is rare that what we asked for shows up fully formed in its expression, the way we had visualised it. When the new starts to emerge, we may not even recognise it at all.

Other times, the new seemingly comes all at once and can feel extremely overwhelming. We soon forget that this is indeed what we had held in mind.

Trust that what has been presented to you is what you can handle. Or be patient and trust that the little seedling will indeed turn into the most exquisite flower, given time.

It is about recognising the signs for what they are, not become disillusioned when the new does not present in the way you had envisaged. Therein lies the mystery, the challenge, the trust, so that we as human beings can grow alongside the new, become an active contributor to the continued creation process, as opposed to sabotaging it.

We can see the creation of the new as exquisite, as holy even. Through our choices, acting on our thoughts, we give life to the continued unfolding of creation to show up in our reality. Over time a stronger sense that life is happening through us and not to us may naturally unfold.

 

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.

 

How to “Let Go”

By Helen Williams
For as long as I can remember I have said that if I ever found the time to write a book it would be called, Learning How to Let go. This has been a troubling question for me as it has for many people I have spoken with over the years. It’s always so easy to say, ‘just let it go’, to anything that we find painful, confusing, fearful and anxiety creating. However, is letting go really going to bring us the fulfilment and freedom we are seeking? I’ve completely changed my mind about this book title nowadays. I’m experiencing it quite differently instead.
Here are some good questions to ponder.
  • Is the demand to let go really serving us, or is it just another diversion, a way of ‘getting over’ something?
  • Does ‘letting go” actually bury something even deeper?
At our recent Mindful Living workshop our conversation formed around these questions and we asked each other what we really wanted to let go of. The answers were shared willingly and agreed upon by all as common to each one of us.
Grudges, people, the past, judgements, expectations, grievances, pain, rigidity, needing validation, feeling stuck, replaying old stories, fears, the future, obsessive and negative thoughts, clutter, difficult and uncomfortable emotions…….and on and on.
What if we were to see letting go as just adding to our shadow self, the inner storehouse of all we have disowned and cannot or do not want to understand within ourselves? Robert Augustus Masters calls this our unilluminated conditioning.
Rather than letting go of all the hurts, pains and grievances we hold within us, what if we were to illuminate them with the light of understanding? To cultivate intimacy with all that we are – all our wounds and pains. To see them as little children asking to be held, to be known and wanted and welcomed home, not banished into the other room, or into the forest forever like characters in a fairytale.
We spoke about learning to turn towards ourselves, to the lost, frightened and hurt parts of ourselves that we’ve been trying to let go of and to discover what could be our experience if we instead made a space for them, offered sanctuary to them and allowed them to release themselves from us when they are ready to. How uncomfortable would that be!
The wonderful psychologist, Susan David, says this: “Discomfort is the price of admission into a real life.”
There is a difference between pain and suffering she tells us. Pain is inevitable – suffering is optional. We can end our suffering by entering the pain – by being attentive to our bodies and cultivating a strong sense of what’s happening beneath the surface, by seeing our emotions as data and learning to read them for understanding.
So what does it feel like then, to realise that within the notion of letting go there lies an invitation within it? To turn towards and offer sanctuary to the parts of ourselves that are longing for us to hold them. Come and learn about this at our next Mindful Living workshop on Sunday 11 March. We will focus on Meeting and Understanding our Feelings. We’d love to see you there.

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.

A Seed is Born

By Kristine Enger

A third instalment in a series of blogs on “Starting Over” – read the others here and here.

Deep inside an underground vault, on the remote Norwegian island of Svalbard, halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole in the Arctic Ocean, lies the Global Seed bank.

This secure vault is temperature controlled and built to withstand threats from natural or manmade disasters to preserve the world’s crops and plants. To secure life for future generations.

Deep within the process of starting over, lies the seed of the new. Through the contrast of what you don’t want, you’ve learnt what you do want. The seed of an idea of what could be, comes to life.

The seed of the new is the most precious commodity. To safeguard the environment for the seed to sprout and grow becomes the most important task and requires determination and focus.

Ground it deeply by grounding your own energy. Walk bare feet in the park. Spend as much time as you can outside, whether forest or desert.

Hydrate the seed by hydrating yourself. Drink plenty of water and be in or near water as much as you can.

Protect it by holding the idea of the new close to your heart. You know deep down what it takes to shelter it and keep it safe.

Be patient and take your time before you broadcast your plans to the world. Wait for the new to slowly, tenderly start manifesting in your life before you do so.

Surrender and create the space for the seed to sprout and grow. Like any seed, it knows exactly what to do. It may take some time.

Enlist the help of a coach, who is neutral and who can support you and keep track of your progress, however small. Friends and family can be supportive and believe they have your very best intentions at heart, but during this fragile creation process, people who know you well, will in most cases have an opinion about where you’re headed and dilute the energy of the new.

During certain times in our lives, it feels as if we’re walking around in our own Arctic wilderness, feeling fragile and beaten. The seed of the new is always within us, just waiting for us to become aware of its existence and through our intent and love bring it into this world.

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. Contact us here to make an appointment to see Kristine.