Before she practised as a psychic medium, Helen was a successful PR executive. Upon the advice of her spirit guides, she was able to make this change. Helen suggests that everyone should connect with their own spirit guides to give direction to your life’s path.
A busy mum of two, Helen transformed her life’s outlook, staying grounded but believing that her spirit reaches beyond her roots. She knows the challenges life brings and taps into her psychic senses to let spirits guide her, inviting and urging others to do the same.
Helen began her journey with guides in 2001 after a spirit visitation from her Aunty. After this, she began to really connect with her inner and higher guidance.
Helen has relied on spirit guides to help her through many life decisions. After studying business and journalism, Helen realised the importance of communication. However, only later and likely due to her self-proclaimed naturally curious manner, did she realise how important spirit communication is, and how it would change her life.
Helen suggests that guiding spirits are present to be called on at various times, whether that be a transitional period such as becoming a parent or other challenges in life. She knows that every life has a purpose and urges others to realise they are here for a reason, and you will be guided towards this if you use those around you.
Everyone has at least one spirit guide, who is assigned to them for the entirety of this particular lifetime.
Instead of just one spirit guide, Helen posits that everyone has access to a spiritual support team, likened to a board of advisors in a business where each spiritual guide plays a different role. According to Helen, spirit guides do not possess a physical body and knowing they are present is not the same as sensing when someone is in the same room as you.
Their energy can be as close to us as we wish to invite it in.
Use the ‘psychic senses’
Helen believes that everyone has psychic senses in the same way that we have the physical ones of taste, sight, smell, etc., but in a metaphysical sense.
The way that spirit is going to communicate with us is not necessarily through our physical senses, but the metaphysical.
Do the hairs on the back of your arms often stand up? Helen suggests events like this are signals that there is a lot of energy around. When you get dizzy, she likens this to a spirit being present as energy moves in circles, making you feel as though the world is spinning.
There are so many clues that our body is giving us that someone non-physical is trying to get our attention.
Colours, animals, numbers are also symbolic and can be relaying messages from the spirits around us, says Helen. Most of the time we are not even paying attention to the clues that indicate that spirits are trying to grasp our attention, she continues.
Through our intuition we can sense, we can feel that the energy in the room shifts, Helen says.
She believes in not hiding your truth and following these hunches.
Intuition plays a big role in how one expands and challenges themselves. Helen believes that everyone has a path, but this is not necessarily set in stone. Instead, listen and follow the signs around you to do what will ultimately benefit you. This intuition, she says, will help you navigate through your life’s journey.
Life will present us signposts with choices of directions and our job is to figure out, by using out intuition, which one of those directions we want to go in.
To determine what has shaped your life, Helen suggests looking at things that have shaped your life experience, as they will help inform you about how you have gotten where you are, and importantly what you will do next.
Looking backwards is one of the best ways to realise what your signposts look like.
Helen warns against getting caught up in fear-based thinking, as despite its intention to keep you safe, it might make you retreat or hide from what is presented in front of you. Instead, she encourages us to follow our intuition despite this not always being easy. In doing so, she hopes, you will be guided on your journey by the signs around you that you might be missing.
Ask for a sign
Once you start looking for signs, Helen says, you will find them. Then, she believes, you will be able to see how much life is working for you. Don’t be so specific, Helen warns. For example, if you want to quit your job and ask for a yellow car to drive past as a sign, you might be waiting a while. Spirit guides can do a lot, she says, but “maybe not that.”
There is real magic in watching how the signs come to you, and what the signs are that come to us.
Helen suggests taking a step back and becoming an observer in your own life, so that you can notice what has shaped your life’s journey and start to see this “serendipitous, synchronistic life” that we are a part of.
Don’t spend too much time wondering what you purpose is, Helen urges. “Each and every moment is of purpose,” she claims, and “if there are millions of moments in a lifetime, you have already offered so much.”
Life purpose is a moot point because you don’t know what the purpose is until your life is almost is complete.
She ends the interview with an important message, reminding us to trust your intuition and its guidance.
You know more than you think you do, and when you trust yourself, your whole world can change.
Watch the full interview below or on our YouTube channel.
TWENTY-FIVE years after his best-selling series, Conversations with Godwas published, Neale Donald Walsch continues to inspire people and bring a new understanding of life and of God to everyone he meets. The 1995 best-selling book was written as a dialogue between Walsch and God, as Walsch asks questions and God provides answers. The series includes nine books, which have sold millions of copies and have now been translated into 22 languages. But few might be aware of the adversity that Walsch faced before his international success.
Nearing his 50th birthday, the year before Conversations with God skyrocketed to the New York Times Bestsellers list, Walsch found himself living on the street. A broken neck caused by a freak car accident and an insurance company that refused to settle with him led to Walsch becoming homeless. This unfortunate accident meant that Walsch was unable to work and spent his savings whilst waiting for the insurance company to negotiate. Consequently, Walsch was forced onto the street where he remained homeless for two weeks short of a year. Walsch survived due to the generosity of passers-by, who would donate spare change, enough to purchase some fast food for him to eat.
Finally, Walsch managed to secure a part-time job at a local radio station, having had some experience in broadcasting when he was younger. Now earning some money, Walsch found himself a small apartment to live in. It was at this point, that Walsch realised “what a vacuous experience life really was.”
He found himself back in the “rat race” – get up, go to work, come home, watch TV, save a little and repeat – and asked himself, “Is this all there really is to life?”
As he overcame his lowest point in life and faced the reality of working life once more, Walsch questioned the situation that he and so many others find themselves in.
“Is this the best I can do?” At fifty years old, Walsch was furious that he had worked from homelessness to only get to this point. He wanted more from life and it was at this moment that his life changed forever.
In the early hours of one morning, he wrote an angry letter to God. “What does it take to make life work?” and “What have I done to deserve a life full of continuing struggle?” were some of the questions he posed. It was while he was writing this letter that he heard a voice over his right shoulder. Clear, plain, but nondescript. “Neale, do you really want answers to all of these questions, or are you just venting?” Of course, he was venting but Walsch also sought answers. In his 50 years, he believed that he should know what was going on and wanted to be doing more with his life. What was it that he did not understand?
The voice had migrated into his head and Walsch began hearing thoughts that he had never had before. These thoughts came in response to the questions he had asked. The thoughts would encourage more questions, and Walsch continued writing, producing a journal-like collection of questions and answers.
All this time, he never expected anyone to see these very private and sacred notes. Yet, a year later, this collection of thoughts would become known as Conversations with God, selling millions of copies worldwide and would later develop into a successful series.
Walsch felt highly doubtful when he thought of developing the journal into a book, and with few expectations, he typed up his handwritten notes and sent it to five small publishers. Three weeks later, Hampton Roads Publishing called, seeking to publish the manuscript. The only uncertainty was the title. The publisher believed that Conversations with God was unappealing and would not attract the potential readers, yet Walsch was confident in the title – for this was how he had experienced it.
Within five weeks of its publication, the book was on the New York Times Bestsellers list. It stayed there for 137 weeks, it was a modern publishing phenomenon.
Few non-fiction books ever experience success for such a prolonged period, but Conversations with God proved highly successful.
Walsch does not believe he was the “Chosen One” nor does he believe he was the only one that God was speaking to. He believes that God is talking to everyone and states that “the question is not to whom God is talking, the question is who’s listening.” Walsch stated that in denial, people may label these thoughts as a great idea, an epiphany or women’s intuition, in fear of being marginalised or ridiculed by mentioning God. But Walsch had the courage to state that he had had a conversation with God – something that other people could also relate to.
The Five-Step Process to having conversations with God
Many people ask Walsch how a person can recognise and have these conversations intentionally. Walsch has developed a Five-Step Process to answer this popular question.
Step One – Possibility:
You have to recognise that there is such a thing called God. You have to admit that people can have conversations with God and accept that they are occurring right now and have always occurred. If you reject that notion, you will not have a conversation with God.
Step Two – Worthiness:
Acknowledge your worthiness. Both ancient and contemporary people – such as Moses or the Pope – have had these experiences and can easily be viewed as more ‘holy’ or ‘wise’ than we are. Yet, you must realise that God can and will talk to you. God will make itself available to everyone all the time.
Step Three – Willingness:
You must be willing to receive such communications and that must manifest itself in behaviours that demonstrate willingness. If you are not willing for God to talk with you directly, it will still happen, but you will not know it – or you will call it something else. God will never stop talking to you even if you are not willing to have God talk to you. You cannot stop the flow of wisdom, insight and awareness that comes to you from God, you can only ignore it.
Step Four – Doubtlessness:
Do not doubt the wisdom, insight and awareness that you have received. It is natural to doubt that you are having a real conversation with God or wonder if you are hearing the Words of God. When you are clear that the message you are receiving is coming from God, do not negate the power of the message by doubting it. You have to decide that you are going to make time and space available to have such an experience.
Step Five – Immediate Action:
Act on the information you have received and act fast. Do something about it before you change your mind or before your mind gets in there and changes you. There is no point in having a Conversation with God if you are not going to do something now with the information you have received.
Neale Donald Walsch’s inspirational journey from homelessness to international success highlights the value of searching for happiness and the power of listening to God. Though faced with adversity, Walsch managed to overcome these difficulties with courage and self-belief, to publish a successful series that articulated his journey with God.
If you enjoyed this article and would like to learn more about Neale’s journey to Conversations with God and his perspective on the world, you can watch Wellspring’s exclusive interview with him on our YouTube channel.
“In our study, meditation appeared to provide as much relief from some anxiety and depression symptoms as what other studies have found from antidepressants,” Goyal explains.
While meditation can be dated back to ancient Hindu and Buddhist traditions, this age-old practice is gaining traction from its ability to ease symptoms of depression and anxiety without the harmful side effects of prescription medication.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all that mindfulness performs as well as or better than medication,”Adrian Wells professor of psychopathology at Manchester University states.
Mindfulness meditation works by establishing concentration to observe inner thoughts, feelings and emotions while focusing attention on the present moment to not be reactive or overwhelmed by what’s happening around us.
The University of Oxford released a new study finding mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) to be as effective as antidepressants in preventing a relapse of depression, further enhancing the credibility of this ancient practice.
In the study participants were randomly allocated to either the MBCT group or antidepressant group. The rate of relapse in the mindfulness group was 44%, with the rate of relapse of those on antidepressants at 47%.
Nigel Reed, participant from the study explains how mindfulness based therapy gave him life long skills to deal with depressive thoughts and episodes.
“Rather than relying on the continuing use of antidepressants, mindfulness puts me in charge, allowing me to take control of my own future, to spot when I am at risk and to make the changes I need to stay well.”
Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, psychiatrist at the Centre for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders believes it makes sense to use meditation to treat disorders such as depression and anxiety.
“People with anxiety have a problem dealing with distracting thoughts that have too much power. They can’t distinguish between a problem-solving thought and a nagging worry that has no benefit.”
“If you have unproductive worries, you can train yourself to experience those thoughts completely differently. You might think ‘I’m late, I might lose my job if I don’t get there on time, and it will be a disaster!’
“Mindfulness teaches you to recognize, ‘Oh, there’s that thought again. I’ve been here before. But it’s just that, a thought, and not a part of my core self,’” Hoge explains.
While meditation can be dated back to 1500 BCE the benefits aren’t just an old wives’ tale as science and studies have repeatedly proven.
Meditation is known for changing the way the brain processes thoughts and emotions but new research by Sarah Lazar at Harvard University reveals it can also change the structure of the brain.
These significant findings explore the powerful outcomes that can result from using mindfulness meditation practices to alter the way the brain processes thoughts of anxiety and stress.
While there is no magic cure for depression or anxiety, meditation brings hopeful benefits for those not wanting to take medication long term, or those who suffer from the intolerable side effects of antidepressants.
Although many studies suggest the benefits of mindfulness for those with depression and anxiety, it is best to consult a professional to find the best treatment option for you.
After experiencing recurring pneumonia, Nestor’s doctor recommended he try a breathing class to help strengthen his lungs and calm his mind.
Nestor shares, “I’d been feeling these cracks for much of my life, and chances are you have, too: stuffy noses, snoring, some degree of wheezing, asthma, allergies, and the rest. I’d always thought they were a normal part of being human.”
Nestor was shocked to discover after his first breathing class ended, he was dripping with sweat. The following morning after a surprisingly restful sleep, he felt even better, and wondered what exactly had transpired to induce the intense reaction in his body.
Nestor wanted to learn more, so traveled the globe for answers behind the science of breathing. He first visited Greece and wrote on free diving, which led him to pour over even more research on the breath, and how it can influence longevity, weight loss and overall health.
From there, Nestor continued to travel and interview experts, conduct research and learn about ancient breathing practices such as Pranayama and Tummo.
Nestor discovered that information concerning the breath was found in unlikely places such as dental offices and ancient burial sites, rather than in the area of Pulmonology, which specialises in emphysema, cancer or lung collapse, mostly dealing with emergencies.
Scientists discovered, since the Industrial Age, the way we breathe has deteriorated, with 90% of us breathing incorrectly, exacerbating or resulting in a catalogue of chronic disease.
Nestor describes breathing practices as a lost art. Many of these techniques are not new discoveries, but methods which have been around for hundreds and thousands of years.
Researchers have found asthma, psoriasis, attention hyperactivity deficit disorder and anxiety could be reduced or eliminated by adjusting the way we breathe.
Nestor believed this work was “upending long-held beliefs in Western medical science.”
“Breathing in different patterns really can influence our body weight and overall health,” he says.
“Yes, how we breathe really does affect the size and function of our lungs. Yes, breathing allows us to hack into our own nervous system, control our immune response, and restore our health. Yes, changing how we breathe will help us to live longer.”
The Chinese Tao dating back to 400 BCE, the Hindus, and the Buddhists, all valued breathing as a method for healing, both to lengthen life and to reach higher consciousness.
Nestor explains that regardless of age, fitness level, weight or genetic predisposition, nothing will matter unless we are breathing properly.
To explore the nuances of nasal verses mouth breathing, Nestor plugs his nostrils with silicone for 10 days, only breathing through his mouth.
The results are frightening, and during the mouth-breathing portion of the experiment, Nestor experienced:
Increased blood pressure.
Lowered heart rate variability indicating his body was in a state of stress.
Decreased body temperature.
Decreased mental clarity.
Increased snoring by 4820%.
“Mouthbreathing, it turns out, changes the physical body and transforms airways, all for the worse,” Nestor says.
A 2010 study concluded, mouth-breathing throughout critical growth stages in children results in:
Increased inclination for clockwise rotation of the mandible.
Decrease in posterior facial height.
Irregular increase in anterior lower vertical face height.
Nestor explains that snoring isn’t normal, and that any amount of sleep apnoea comes with risks. “Dr. Christian Guillemunault, a sleep researcher at Stanford, found children who experience no apnea events at all-only heavy breathing and light snoring, or “increased respiratory effort”, could suffer from mood disorders, blood pressure derangements, learning disabilities, and more.”
Phase Two of the experiment sees Nestor switch pathways, only breathing through his nose.
“Inhaling from the nose has the opposite effect. It forces air against all those flabby tissues at the back of the throat, making the airways wider and breathing easier. After a while, these tissues and muscles get “toned” to stay in this opened and wide position. Nasal breathing begets more nasal breathing.”
During the nasal breathing portion of his experiment, Nestor reported:
Blood pressure 20 points lower than its highest point.
Increased heart rate variability.
4000% decrease in snoring from 10 days prior.
Sleep apnoea became non-existent.
How does nasal breathing have so many advantages?
The nose becomes a filter to particles in the air.
Adds moisture to the air, preventing dryness.
Warms up air to body temperature.
Adds resistance to the air stream, maintaining lung elasticity and increasing oxygen uptake.
While breathing is an unconscious act and a body function we rely on, its significance can easily be overlooked.
As Nestor states: “Everything you or I or any other breathing thing has ever put in its mouth, or in its nose, or soaked in through its skin, is hand-me-down space dust that’s been around for 13.8 billion years.”
“This wayward matter has been split apart by sunlight, spread throughout the universe, and come back together again.
“To breathe is to absorb ourselves in what surrounds us, to take in little bits of life, understand them, and give pieces of ourselves back out. Respiration is, at its core, reciprocation.”
A mattress set alight, with a boy left inside. The boss did not believe that the stable boy was too sick to work. So, he set his straw mattress alight to make the “lying” boy jump out of bed and get to work. The boy, in fact, was unwell and did not get out in time. His spirit is said to remain.
And then there is Harold, who for 40 years was kept in chains in the caretaker’s cottage. The disabled man was found curled up at the foot of his dead mother. He died soon after, at a home for the insane. The sounds of his chains can still be heard through the dark cold Junee nights.
Today, a maid in period clothing roams the balcony of the homestead, even after falling to her death more than 100 years ago. The stairs below are rumoured to be seen, stained in red by some who visit. What makes this story even more heart-breaking, is the fact she was pregnant at the time.
A black lace dress and ice-cold air. She’s waiting. Wandering along the hallways of the Victorianesque Monte Cristo, one must be careful not to disturb her. Known for her harsh mistreatment towards her employers, recluse Mrs Elizabeth Crawley, is known to still haunt the residence.
And then there’s Mr William Christopher Crawley who built the house in 1876 and continues to haunt the land.
Along with that, a caretaker was shot and killed within the walls of the home in 1961. A man who had seen Hitchcock’s “Psycho” three times, walked up to the homestead and fatally shot Jack Simpson. The words “Die Jack Die. Ha. Ha. Ha,” were written on the wall at the murder scene.
Homestead manager, Lawrence Ryan, says that even though Monte Cristo homestead might not have as many ghosts or spirits as other locations around Australia, however, they have more activity. That is what makes it stand out from the rest.
The site is built on top of a layer of quartz crystal, allowing spirits to regularly contact the physical world. It’s like the bat signal for ghosts.
North Queensland is home to a watering hole shrouded in mystery and connected to ominous deaths of young men. Seventeen men were held, submerged under the rushing waters of Devil’s Pool by an unknown force.
According to the Dreamtime Storey, a married woman, Oolana of Yidnji, fell in love with Dyga, a man from a passing tribe. Before Dyga and Oolana were able to flee, they were confronted by her husband at Devil’s Pool. She threw herself into the water calling for Dyga to follow. However, as she turned to him, Dyga vanished with his tribe.
The legend says that by plunging herself into the waters, Oolana shook the stream into action, causing the land around her to vibrate, with boulders flying into the creek, causing the water to plunge at distressing rates.
Oolana’s spirit remains in the waterhole, luring young men to their deaths. The heartbroken soul is still heard today, crying out to her lover.
The youngest to be swept under by the rapids was John Dominic English. In 1940, the eight-year-old went to the pool with his older brothers and sisters. As he could not swim, he sat on the rocks watching his siblings. However, after a few minutes, left unnoticed, Dominic’s brother was left in shock as Dominic was no longer on the rock but in the waters below.
Footsteps echo, chains rattle and figures of those who never made it out walk the dilapidated halls. Within these walls, patients were once restrained by chains, trapped in straitjackets, with some even forced to receive electro-shock treatment as medication was not yet available.
Those facing electro-shock treatments had company in that of Matron Sharpe, who, as described by nurses, would sit and bring comfort to them. However, nurses indicated that, while Matron Sharpe was not there in the flesh, the room would turn icy-cold. She can still be seen prowling the halls.
As very few patients walked out of the asylum alive, it’s believed they’re buried in unmarked graves dispersed throughout the land. Their spirits left wandering the grounds.
Tommy is said to tug on the clothes of visitors in the Bijou Theatre, previously said to be the kitchen area. He wasn’t only a patient but a kitchen hand, assisting in the transportation of deceased patients out of the hospital on the “meat wagon”, as it was colloquially known. He passed away in the area, contributing to the hauntings over the years.
Not only a kitchen, the Bijou Theatre was also the Reaction Hall, where patients would sit and play music, perform in plays or attend church services on Sundays. Women who visit the former hall have reported seeing the apparition of a young girl. The girl will often approach them in an attempt of desperate communication, but her words cannot be understood.
These sightings are not alone, unexplained figures are not an uncommon sight for visitors. With shadows consistently wondering the halls. And if these occurrences aren’t creepy enough, children’s laughter can be heard echoing throughout the distant halls and wings of the hospital at night.
The faceless, happy and polite spirit of Federick ‘Fred’ Carr appears often in the gaol. However, in 2000, the faceless spirit appeared, but this time, something came upon the face. A smile. Fred was hung in 1927, for the murder of his wife, Maude. Up until his death, Carr exclaimed his innocence.
Two more notorious spirits are said to appear in the goal; Governor William Baker Ashton’s footsteps can still be heard through the walls and The Hangman Ben Ellis is said to appear throughout the halls.
Forty-five executions took place within the walls of this gaol, including the only woman to ever be executed in South Australia.
In the town of Humpty Doo stands a house. The house, for over 20 years, is home to a spirit. This spirit would come to be known as one of Australia’s poltergeists. Those who lived at the property were subject to fits of rage. From shards of glass to spanners, several objects were hurled their way.
Just like a scene from a classic horror movie, three priests, two Catholics the other Greek Orthodox, wandered up to the ominous house to exercise the malevolent spirit. The spirit was not impressed with the display, throwing knives in their direction. Out of
nowhere, a pistol cartridge fell from mid-air. and if this wasn’t enough, one of the priests reported a crucifix was propelled across the room.
A haunted building, a paranoid owner and an eerie hotel room. No, this isn’t The Shining.
Throughout its many years providing for thirsty visitors and workers after a long day, the Kalamunda Hotel has experienced its fair share of spookiness. Not only home to tourists, the hotel is also believed to be home to dwellers of the supernatural kind. This led staff to contact a local clairvoyant, who confirmed their suspicions.
In another tragic tale involving a balcony, a young, pregnant teenage girl jumped from the hotel’s second floor, dying on impact. The hotels original owner, Paddy Connolly, who allegedly loved the ladies, was believed to be the unborn child’s father.
Along with this young spirit, a number of other ghosts appear to haunt the building.
An irritated handlebar moustached-man in his 60s, a beautiful woman in her 30s donned in a white collared, Victorian-era dress and a mischievous seven to eight-year-old girl who loves to happily wander the halls with her rag doll. And the vision of a man. Hanging in the dark distance.
To top it off, Room 24. Lights glow, visions appear, and guests left bewildered. According to one source, a suicide occurred in Room 24. Leaving the area occupied by some maleficent soul. The hall outside of the room is said to remain cold, even during the warmest of days.
Gallows, an execution yard and underground tunnels. To this day, the hangman awaits visitors. Longing for the 40,000 convicts that called this prison their home for 173 years.
The 1830s saw convicts frequent the prisons service chapel; however, this was anything but a sanctuary. Beneath the chapel’s floor, inhumane solitary confinement cells are located. These cells connected by tunnels that wound throughout to the underground gallows that saw Tasmania’s last hanging in 1946. Executions at the penitentiary saw 31 men and one woman meet their grim demise.
Even though the penitentiary was mostly demolished in the 1960s, the past and spirits of those long gone remain in salvaged parts of the building.
One of the spirits is believed to be that of Solomon Blay, the notorious hangman known to have executed more than 200 people. Beware of Blay, he does not take kindly to those who touch his noose or other equipment in the area. If one dares enter the area, they will be met with not only the hangman’s spirit but the smell of urine and blood that has stained the air.
Red eyes are seen in the darkness of one particular holding cell. Just a short walk from the gallows the cell where many awaited their deaths resides an evil entity. This entity does not take lightly to visitors, once throwing a man against the cells wall.
If one continues down the dark tunnel to the solitary confinement cell, they will hear the sounds of those long past; voices, unexplainable sounds. Women who visit the prison are often subject to harassing behaviour; with some experienced being kissed and groped by unknown forces.
If one dares to face the glowing red eyes and haunted tunnels of one of Tasmania’s most haunted penitentiary’s, tours are available.
Those who visit this 1860 cottage, experience the smell of burning flesh. The smell is believed to be from 17-year-old Florence Blundell, who burnt to death in 1892.
It was a Thursday night, home alone with her two-younger brothers. Her parents out, visiting neighbours. Her brothers slept, but as the clocked chimed 9.00 pm, an incident occurred which would haunt the house for years to come. Screams. Cries for help. They were confronted by Florence in the kitchen, with clothes alight. After many attempts to put the flames out, they ran to their neighbours for help. However, the injuries sustained by Florence were too much. Later passing.
Even though long gone, she appears to pass visitors regularly. Unlike most spirits discussed here, it is believed that Florence welcomes visitors. She is seen playing in the gardens near the cottage.
Those who visit also report that items will mysteriously move around inside. And for those visiting, wearing necklaces could summon Florence further, as at the time of the incident, she wore a necklace.
In 2010, a visitor who was inside the cottage saw an all back shadow who went from a seated position to walking across the room and stare out the window. The visitor sure didn’t stay for long after, bolting out of the cottage.
Spirituality is defined by an awareness of the soul, spirit or the essence of ‘you’ and whilst it can be aligned with religious beliefs, it doesn’t have to be. Where religion can provide an ethical framework, spirituality calls for deep connection to ‘self’ in order to foster qualities such as love, empathy and harmony.
What is the meaning of life?
Are we the result of an unlikely chemical reaction 13.8 billion years ago or is there some higher power? Ultimately, the question is how do we actually live a ‘good’ life?
As a race, we have pondered our existence for 2,500 years, since Plato and Aristotle concluded that all humans desired Eudaimonia (roughly translated as ‘happiness’). While this might seem obvious, how can we achieve this bliss? Ancient Greek philosophers believed Eudaimonia could be accomplished by pursuing higher knowledge and promoting the common good, thus achieving our reason for being.
Culturally, promoting the common good is often tied to religious practice where organised religion serves to provide an ethical framework to foster qualities such as selflessness, empathy, kindness and harmony. Of course, religion is not the only way to pursue these goals, which is important since younger generations are choosing spirituality over religion.
A current buzzword, Spirituality, can be defined by an awareness of the soul, spirit or one’s inner essence, which encapsulates a feeling that one is part of something larger than oneself. A spiritual journey often involves looking inwards to address inner divinity, whether as part of a religious faith or a personal journey. This path can shift conscious awareness, allowing for a more contented and enlightened state.
Recorded experiences of spiritual awakening detail a feeling of bliss, calm and euphoria; such awakenings are often triggered by trauma or turmoil. Senior lecturer in Psychology at Leeds Beckett University, Dr. Steve Taylor, began researching and collecting details of spiritual experiences and found that many awakenings occur at times of deep personal suffering and are characterised by a sudden feeling that everything is as it should be. Dr Taylor spoke to one such person, Emma, who had been hospitalised with severe depression. Plagued with suicidal thoughts, Emma hadn’t spoken to anyone for four days when she experienced a spiritual awakening after picking up a marble from her bedside table. She explains:
“I saw reality as simply this perfect one-ness. I felt suddenly removed from everything that was personal. Everything seemed just right. The marble seemed a reflection of the universe. All my problems and my suffering suddenly seemed meaningless, ridiculous, simply a misunderstanding of my true nature and everything around me. There was a feeling of acceptance and oneness. It was a moment of enlightenment.”
Another account reveals the experience of a middle aged man who was married with children when he began to realise he was attracted to men. His marriage ultimately broke down but he describes his spiritual awakening:
“It was our last family holiday before the break up. We were in Tunisia and went on an excursion down to the Sahara. We went on a camel ride across part of the desert and at the end of the day, I sat on a sand dune watching the sunset. There were quite a few people around but it was as if everyone else disappeared. Everything just ceased to be. I lost all sense of time. I lost myself. I had a feeling of being totally at one with nature, with a massive sense of peace. I was a part of the scene. There was no ‘me’ anymore. I was just sitting there watching the sun set over the desert, aware of the enormity of life, the power of nature, and I never wanted it to end.”
Although we can’t be guaranteed a spiritual experience like these, it is enlightening to realise that we have some power over how we view the world. Our thoughts and internal dialogue are key to our experience of life according to Buddhist practitioner, Sarah Napthali. Sarah quotes the Buddha: “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world.”(The Complete Buddhism for Mothers). You have the power to transform your world.
Some people claim that religion and finding God has been integral to changing their world. Depressed teenager Doug claims that lithium, counselling and anti-depressants did not work but finding God and Christianity saved him from suicide. University of Texas Astronomer, Don, was a self-proclaimed “fire-breathing atheist” until he found God after reading the book Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis (famous author ofThe Chronicles of Narnia).
Dr. Hugh Ross, the youngest ever director of observations at Vancouver’s Royal Astronomical Society, began to analyse a variety of religious texts for accuracy. He concluded that the Bible is more reliable than the laws of physics he had studied at university. And it’s not just Christianity, Los Angeles native, Kylie, explains how Judaism helped her to hone her moral values and find happiness after she became disillusioned with the materialistic world of the television industry.
If you have faith in religion, latest research (2015) by world-renowned and nonpartisan body, Pew Research Center, shows you are not alone: 31 per cent of the world population identify with the Christian faith, 24 per cent identify as Muslim, 16 per cent are unaffiliated with any religion and 15 per cent are Hindu. The remaining 14 per cent of the population practice smaller religions such as Buddhism, Folk Religions and Judaism.
Religious practice often focuses on external stimuli such as places of worship, scripture, ritual or Holy objects and involves an organised system of worship. World religions are often centred around the life and teachings of an individual such as Christ, Buddha, Moses or Krishna.
With reference to ancient religion, Adam Brady, an educator from The Chopra Centre, highlights the importance of the practical application of the founder’s teachings. He references the Japanese poet, Matsuo Basho, who says, “Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought.” This suggests that spirituality can provide another level to religious faith; religion and spirituality are not mutually exclusive.
However, the 2016 Australian Census revealed 30 per cent of Australians have no religious affiliation and this trend is accelerating; whilst those over 65 are mostly Christian, younger Australians aged 18 to 34 are more likely to have no religion.
Having no religion is not the same as being an atheist; an atheist does not believe in any gods but may have other beliefs. Aside from belief in a god, many people speculate on the possibility of a higher power or energy between us; some take this idea further and believe we all have a soul: an intense energy separate from the physical body, which will live on after we die.
In line with this New Age thinking, there are many different branches of non-traditional world religions, such as Spiritualism ,whose followers believe that living beings can interact with departed souls, usually through a medium. Acclaimed author of Journey of Soulsand Master Hypnotherapist,Dr Michael Newton, claims to have uncovered details about life in the spirit world after death on Earth through deep hypnosis sessions with 29 clients.
This may be a stretch for many, however being spiritual is simply loving all beings, including yourself; it’s about cultivating an ability to rise above one’s emotional state, to let go and to develop our essential loving nature.
Becoming more spiritual has its benefits. Research published in the Journal of Business Research has shown meditation and yoga reduces stress and improves academic performance. Professor of Medicine and Health Science at George Washington University, Dr Christina Puchalski, champions these benefits, claiming spirituality can “restore the heart and humanity to healthcare” and draws a distinction between true healing and “technical and disease oriented care”. She also argues that the caring connection between patient and doctor is integral to recovery and that, “spirituality is essential to all of medicine and healthcare”.
So, what now? If you are interested in developing spirituality, whether you are religious or not, practicing meditation is a great first step. It doesn’t have to take hours, and you don’t have to sit cross-legged on a carpet chanting, “Ohm”. Just 10 minutes of meditation daily can help us check in and reflect. You can find guided meditations on the Wellspring website. Silent contemplation is a luxury worth prioritising amongst the information overload of the 21st century; it’s a form of Self Love.
Increasing spirituality through meditation rouses a feeling of inner peace. Whether we believe that inner peace comes from a connection to God, oneself or some other energy, the effects of sustained practice are undeniable. While it may not provide all the answers to the meaning of life, it’s a great place to start.
Spirituality is a broad term and has different connotations for different people. The overarching principle is growing an awareness of oneself and one’s place in the world, expanding consciousness and ultimately promoting the common good. You can do that alone or as part of religious practice.
Philosopher Socrates famously said, “The unexamined life is not worth living”. Perhaps now is a good time to examine your own life, beliefs and spirituality.
Have you been hearing people ‘stress’ the benefits of meditation to you? Here’s why.
A growing amount of Australian parents are looking to meditation to alleviate stress, whilst research is praising its effects on the behaviour and educational performance of children.
Meditation helps with memory. Studies have shown that consistent meditation can slow the aging process of the brain.
For mums, multitasking is a way of life. Meditation aids focus by reducing worrying and restless thoughts.
Many Australian mums struggle with overwhelming stress and anxiety, regular meditation decreases the volume in the area of the brain that governs fear, anxiety and stress.
It makes you happier. A study done on Buddhist monks found that while they were meditating the part of their brain that controls happiness (the prefrontal cortex) was extra active.
Heart disease is the leading killer of Australian women and having high blood pressure during pregnancy can lead to a range of complications. There is increasing research that suggests meditation assists with lowering blood pressure.
HOW CAN MEDITATION BENEFIT CHILDREN?
Pre-school Aged Children: Meditation grows the place in the brain that affects self-regulation. It helps children manage their impulses. You can try and use meditation methods in your pre-school aged children before and after Time Out.
Primary Aged Children: Schools are increasingly trialling ‘short meditation breaks’ and some are even replacing detention with meditation. Over in the US, a Baltimore school has seen an increase in attendance and a reduction of suspensions after introducing mandatory meditation rather than detention for poorly behaved students.
High School aged children: Meditation can
increase student’s performance in school, help with mental health conditions which are increasingly prevalent among high-school aged
children such as ADHD, depression and anxiety.
Spiritual teacher, healer and medium, Oscar de Souza, shares why we need to acknowledge and nurture our emotions.
Experiencing emotions is our soul’s purpose, according to spiritual mentor and medium, Oscar de Souza. Honouring our emotions can also help us maintain positive relationships and manifest our desires.
We arrive here alone with nothing, and we leave alone with nothing, except the emotions we acquire, says Oscar de Souza, speaking from the Spirit Energy Centre on NSW’s Central Coast.
Acknowledging our emotions prevents us from offloading them onto others, especially our children and partners, and subsequently them rippling through society
Most excitingly, working with our emotions, rather than ignoring them, helps us manifest what we truly desire.
Despite the importance of valuing our emotions, Western society teaches us to disregard them, and worse, to feel ashamed for having them, which is not something we want to be infiltrating to our children.
The best way we can become attuned to our emotions is to observe ourselves, says Oscar. [Meditation is a great way to develop this skill.]
He says we need to be observant of the emotion that’s resonating within us, rather than being subjected to it controlling us, dominating us, and enticing us to act out.
Oscar’s been told by his guides, “Emotions are variable frequencies of energy operating simultaneously”, which is why some people can feel various emotions at the same time.
Oscar says, “The simplest form to expand the neurological system of the conscious brain to be able to harness, access and be attentive to the energy that resonates within us that’s constantly, forever fluctuating, is to first observe our mind, observe ourselves and not be puppets on a string.”
If we acknowledge our emotions, even understand why we feel that way, and to honour them, we are less likely to be puppeted by them and lash out at others. Unfortunately, those we love are often the first to be hit by our emotional releases.
“Instead of articulating what we’re feeling, we’re often being controlled by what they’re feeling”
Oscar explains a typical household scenario:
“The husband (or wife) comes home stressed. They’re going to be communicating on that level of emotion. We’re not usually observant and noticing these emotions inside. We don’t decide to calm them down or be attentive to them, so we don’t impose them on our children or each other (we don’t impose them consciously, we don’t even know they’re doing it).
“We get home, our own fuse is already at the end of its tether. Perhaps we’ve been treated badly at work, there’s traffic, bills, expenses, and then we have to clean, cook, wash up … it’s all putting you on edge.
“It’s then easy to turn around to your child and say, ‘Turn off that machine!’ or ‘Get off that computer!’
“Now, that child foremostly heard “Bang!”.
“Secondly, the words that were spoken.
“Months later our child speaks to us that way and we wonder why.
“We have just been puppeted by our emotions. We are all guilty of that.
“Everyone gets puppeted, and the problem is we indirectly, and even innocently, jab that pain and stress that we’re feeling onto the other person.
“So, it becomes a virus because that person jabs another person with it and it just swims through society.”
The more we understand our emotions, we’re less likely to be subjugated by them, and will be able to articulate in language by talking about them.
“People don’t want to say to their partner they’re feeling a bit insecure and feel like their energy is no longer connected to them,” Oscar says.
“Rather than asking questions based on this, such as ‘Do you want to do more things in life without me?’ we tend to brew, be fearful, and then start to fish … ‘What did you do today? Who were you with?’ or even go through their phone, which just makes people feel violated.
“Emotions people have shouldn’t control their dialect or behaviour, but moreso be a language to the brain to go this is what’s resonating, let’s attend to it.”
Oscar says it’s even worse for men as they have been conditioned to not feel or show their emotions, “don’t cry, suck it up”. “Poor men innocently have been trapped into a void that is not natural,” he says.
“And women, being intuitive, are hit with a brick wall when they try to broach this. They feel a storm inside, they feel fear, they feel confusion.
“The man’s like, I don’t know what you’re talking about, and it takes a while for them to process.”
Oscar says the consciousness of femininity and the consciousness of masculinity is the concept of Yin and Yang. We all have that in us, whether we are male or female.
Some are slightly off balance, some have more of either.
“Men need to start being more intuitive, talking about their emotions, listening to their inner self, not being just driven by the mind.”
“I can’t say that women now need to start applying the male consciousness because unfortunately 2000 years of male dominance, a patriarchal system, means women have already had to assimilate the masculine consciousness within themselves. But men are yet to assimilate the feminine consciousness within themselves.”
Not only can honouring our emotions be great in maintaining more harmonious relationships and averting the ‘virus’ of offloading onto others, they can help us manifest what we want in our lives.
The effect of our emotions was explored through the water experiments conducted by Japanese author and pseudoscientist, Masuru Emoto, whose work demonstrated how the sentiment of a word, which is energy, can affect the molecular structure of water. Keeping in mind we’re made up of about 78 per cent of water, words said to us can impact us strongly.
“If our thoughts (sentiments) on a piece of paper affects water, imagine we have that thought going over and over in our brain, ‘I’m not good enough, I’m not good enough. Life is shit. Life is shit,’” says Oscar.
People are not only putting that energy back into their whole water aspect and altering the energy there, they’re emitting it into the future, so naturally start to have those experiences; and it’s a vicious cycle.
When we realise the energy that resonates within us, the energy we’re emitting, the thoughts that carry it, we can stop causing that ripple effect.
Affirmations, prayer, spells, incantations, are effective when we feel the word, when we mean it and we say it with sentiment, says Oscar.
If we’re panicking on the inside and reading this word, then fear becomes the dominant emotion.
“The key is, when we do feel afraid, we comfort ourselves, ‘It’s ok, I’m afraid,’ that’s ok,” he says.
“Once we acknowledge it, we can move from there but when we’re fightingagainst it that it’s not going anywhere, so it helps to acknowledge the fear and where it came from. What experiences have led me to have this fear?
“When we know what caused this, ok it’s failed relationships that make us afraid of falling in love again, for example, it’s not so dominant in our psychology or our energy.”
Oscar advises writing down an affirmation in our own handwriting because our brain will absorb it much better.
We should then read it out aloud at least 20 times with no intention just to read it out so that the wording becomes familiar to the brain, so you know what you’re using.
And then our focus can be feeling each word.
For example, when someone says, “I love you,” it feels different when they really mean it. Quite often we want others to say it, but we rarely look in the mirror and say it to ourselves, it’s quite confrontational. And it’s the most important thing.
New York Time’s Best Selling author and Professor at Houston University, the amazing Brené Brown gives us her insight into navigating middle age – or should I say, the Midlife Unraveling.
In my late thirties, my intuition had tried to warn me about the possibility of a midlife struggle. I experienced internal rumblings about the meaning and purpose of my life. I was incredibly busy proving myself in all of my different roles (mother, professor, researcher, writer, friend, sister, daughter, wife), so much so that it was difficult for any emotion other than fear to grab my attention. However, I do remember flashes of wondering if I’d always be too afraid to let myself be truly seen and known.
“I was incredibly busy proving myself in all my different roles.”
But intuition is a heart thing, and until recently I had steamrolled over most of my heart’s caution signs with intellectualizing. In my head, I had always responded to the idea of “midlife angst” by scoffing and coming up with some politically and therapeutically correct way of saying that midlife whining is pathetic. The entire concept of the midlife crisis is bullshit. If you’re struggling at midlife it’s because you haven’t suffered or sacrificed enough. Quit pissing and moaning, work harder, and suck it up.
As it turns out, I was right about one thing – to call what happens at midlife “a crisis” is bullshit. A crisis is an intense, short-lived, acute, easily identifiable, and defining event that can be controlled and managed.
Midlife is not a crisis. Midlife is an unraveling.
By definition, you can’t control or manage an unraveling. You can’t cure the midlife unraveling with control any more than the acquisitions, accomplishments, and alpha-parenting of our thirties cured our deep longing for permission to slow down and be imperfect.
Midlife is when the universe gently places her hands upon your shoulders, pulls you close, and whispers in your ear: I’m not screwing around. All of this pretending and performing – these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt – has to go. Your armor is preventing you from growing into your gifts. I understand that you needed these protections when you were small. I understand that you believed your armor could help you secure all of the things you needed to feel worthy and lovable, but you’re still searching and you’re more lost than ever. Time is growing short. There are unexplored adventures ahead of you. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people think. You were born worthy of love and belonging. Courage and daring are coursing through your veins. You were made to live and love with your whole heart. It’s time to show up and be seen.
If you look at each midlife “event” as a random, stand-alone struggle, you might be lured into believing you’re only up against a small constellation of “crises.” The truth is that the midlife unraveling is a series of painful nudges strung together by low-grade anxiety and depression, quiet desperation, and an insidious loss of control. By low-grade, quiet, and insidious, I mean it’s enough to make you crazy, but seldom enough for people on the outside to validate the struggle or offer you help and respite. It’s the dangerous kind of suffering – the kind that allows you to pretend that everything is OK.
We go to work and unload the dishwasher and love our families and get our hair cut. Everything looks pretty normal on the outside. But on the inside we’re barely holding it together. We want to reach out, but judgment (the currency of the midlife realm) holds us back. It’s a terrible case of cognitive dissonance – the psychologically painful process of trying to hold two competing truths in a mind that was engineered to constantly reduce conflict and minimize dissension (e.g., I’m falling apart and need to slow down and ask for help. Only needy, flaky, unstable people fall apart and ask for help).
“Everything looks pretty normal on the outside. But on the inside we’re barely holding it together.”
It’s human nature and brain biology to do whatever it takes to resolve cognitive dissonance – lie, cheat, rationalize, justify, ignore. For most of us, this is where our expertise in managing perception bites us on the ass. We are torn between desperately wanting everyone to see our struggle so that we can stop pretending, and desperately doing whatever it takes to make sure no one ever sees anything except what we’ve edited and approved for posting.
What bubbles up from this internal turmoil is fantasy. We might glance over at a cheap motel while we’re driving down the highway and think, I’ll just check in and stay there until they come looking for me. Then they’ll know I’m losing my mind. Or maybe we’re standing in the kitchen unloading the dishwasher when we suddenly find ourselves holding up a glass and wondering, “Would my family take this struggle more seriously if I just started hurling all this shit through the window?”
Most of us opt out of these choices. We’d have to arrange to let the dog out and have the kids picked up before we checked into the lonely roadside motel. We’d spend hours cleaning up glass and apologizing for our “bad choices” to our temper tantrum-prone toddlers. It just wouldn’t be worth it, so most of us just push through until “losing it” is no longer a voluntary fantasy.
Midlife or Midlove
Many scholars have proposed that the struggle at midlife is about the fear that comes with our first true glimpse of mortality. Again, wishful thinking. Midlife is not about the fear of death. Midlife is death. Tearing down the walls that we spent our entire life building is death. Like it or not, at some point during midlife, you’re going down, and after that there are only two choices: staying down or enduring rebirth.
It’s a painful irony that the very things that may have kept us safe growing up ultimately get in the way of our becoming the parents, partners, and/or people that we want to be.
Maybe, like me, you are the perfect pleaser and performer, and now all of that perfection and rule following is suffocating. Or maybe you work hard to keep people at a safe distance and now the distance has turned into intolerable loneliness. There are also the folks who grew up taking care of everyone else because they had no choice. Their death is having to let go of the caretaking, and their rebirth is learning how to take care of themselves (and work through the pushback that always comes with setting new boundaries).
Whatever the issue, it seems as if we spend the first half of our lives shutting down feelings to stop the hurt, and the second half trying to open everything back up to heal the hurt.
Sometimes when the “tear the walls down and submit to death” thing overwhelms me, I find it easier to think about midlife as midlove. After two decades of research on shame, authenticity, and belonging, I’m convinced that loving ourselves is the most difficult and courageous thing we’ll ever do. Maybe we’ve been given a finite amount of time to find that self-love, and midlife is the halfway mark. It’s time to let go of the shame and fear and embrace love. Time to fish or cut bait. I don’t think midlife/midlove is on a schedule. I was forty-one when it hit, but I have friends and I’ve interviewed people who found themselves smack dab in the middle of the unraveling as early as their mid-thirties and as late as their fifties. The only firm timing for midlife/midlove is that it ends only when we physically die. This is not something you can treat then dismiss. The search for self-love and acceptance is like most of the new ailments that hit at midlife – it’s a chronic condition. It may start in midlife, but we have to deal with it for the rest of our lives.
And, just in case you think you can blow off the universe the way you did when you were in your twenties and she whispered, “Pay attention,” or when you were in your early thirties and she whispered, “Slow down,” I assure you that she’s much more dogged in midlife. When I tried to ignore her, she made herself very clear: “There are consequences for squandering your gifts. There are penalties for leaving big pieces of your life unlived. You’re halfway to dead. Get a move on.”
Once the shock of the universe’s visits wears off – and you get over thinking, Oh my God! I’d prefer a crisis! – there are several ways to respond:
I hear tell that there are actually people who pull the universe closer, embrace her wisdom, thank her for the opportunity to grow, and calmly walk into the unraveling. I try to spend limited time with these people, so I can’t tell you much about how this works.
Another option is to deny that any of this ever happened. Of course, denial is not so easy at this level – it is the universe that we’re talking about here. Pretending that midlife is not happening requires active denial, like putting your fingers in your ears and singing la-la-la-la-la. As sweet and childlike as that may sound, these folks are normally not so sweet and childlike.
“Pretending that midlife is not happening requires active denial, like putting your fingers in your ears”
After the ear-plugging and humming, the only way to maintain your denial of the midlife unraveling is to become even more perfect, more certain, and more judgmental. For these folks, allowing just one ounce of uncertainty or doubt or questioning to bubble up could cause rapid, involuntary unraveling. They can’t be wrong – their lives could spin out of control. They march through life, teeth and butt cheeks clenched, without flinching and, often, without feeling.
There’s also the numbing option. If there’s one thing that we’ve mastered by midlife, it’s how to take the edge off of feeling pain and discomfort. We are so good at numbing – eating, drinking, spending, planning, playing online, perfecting, staying really, really busy. If every midlifer who “only drinks a good glass of wine with dinner” stopped drinking, there wouldn’t be a vineyard left in business. Unfortunately, what makes midlife different from the other stages that we’ve managed to survive, is that the symptoms don’t improve over time. Choosing to numb the midlife unraveling is choosing to numb for the rest of your life.
Last, there’s the “no holds barred” resistance response. I liken it to existential cage fighting. You and the universe go into the ring and only one person comes out. This, of course, was my option.
When the universe came to me, I listened. And when she was done whispering, I pulled back, looked into her eyes, and spit in her face.
How dare she ask anything of me! I had worked and sacrificed and paid enough. I had spent my life saying “yes” when I wanted to scream, “Hell no! Do it yourself!” I had met every deadline, expectation, and request possible. I had earned every bit of my armor and I was enraged by the idea of giving it up.
I expected her to walk away like the dejected mother of an angry teenager, but she simply stood in front of me, wiping the spit off of her cheek.
We stared at each other for a minute, then I said, “I’m not afraid of you. I know what you’re asking and the answer is no. I’ve spent my entire life building these walls and digging these moats – do you really think a little whisper is going to intimidate me? Do I strike you as the unraveling type?”
I’m not ornery or rebellious by nature; it’s just that I spent thirty years trying to outrun and outsmart vulnerability and uncertainty. The fact that the almighty universe had descended and asked me to turn myself over to her custody didn’t mean a damn thing to me. I’m not the surrendering type.
She was quiet.
I didn’t back down. I was my own little emotional militia. I put on my most serious game face and said, “I know what you’re trying to do and it’s not going to work. I’m prepared. I’ve spent a decade researching and writing on shame and vulnerability and all of the hard shit that you throw around to scare people. I’m ready.”
She looked back at me with loving eyes, then said, “I’m sorry it has to be this way, but clearly this is how you want to do it. You leave me no choice.”
Her calmness was unsettling. I was afraid. She wasn’t backing down. So in this moment of sheer terror, I did the only thing I knew how to do when confronted with fear – I bullied her. I gave her a small shove and said, “Then bring it!”
Her loving eyes didn’t change one bit. She just looked at me and said, “I will.”
When the Universe Brings It
I put up the fight of my life, but I was totally outmatched. The universe knew exactly how to use vulnerability and uncertainty to bring down this perfectionistic shame researcher: a huge, unexpected wallop of professional failure, one devastating and public humiliation after the next, a showdown with God, strained connections with my family, anxiety so severe that I started having dizzy spells, depression, fear, and the thing that pissed me off the most – grace. No matter how hard or far I fell, grace was there to pick me up, dust me off, and shove me back in for some more.
It was an ugly street fight and, even though I got my ass kicked, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. There was a significant amount of pain and loss, but something amazing happened along the way – I discovered me. The real me. The messy, imperfect, brave, scared, creative, loving, compassionate, wholehearted me.
Maya Angelou writes, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” I’ve always honored the power of story. In fact, I believe so strongly in their power that I’ve dedicated my career to excavating untold stories and bringing them up to the light. In some miraculous way, I feel as if this midlife unraveling has taught me – in my head and my heart – how to be brave. I’m still not good at surrendering or “living in the question,” but I am getting better. I guess you could say I’ve graduated to “writhing in the question.” Not exactly Zen, but it is progress.
As far as my relationship with the universe . . . well, we’ve actually become very good friends. I even came to love and trust her when, in a quiet moment, I looked deeply into her eyes and realized that she, the universe, was me.
This article by Charanyaa Gopalakrishnan explores the concept of Mindful Parenting, which is being able to understand our emotions not allow them to trigger our responses to our children.
Our brain is triggered when it senses danger or a potential threat, therefore making us react instantly to what is going to happen. Unfortunately, it can be tricky for our brain to understand what is an actual ‘danger’ to what is just a situation. In simple terms, it fails to know how to respond instead of react.
Mindful Parenting is a topic that I found immensely interesting wanted to explore, and has now become an idea that I wish to share. This is not about being a ‘perfect parent’, but rather about consciously being present at the situation, absorbing it and not getting hijacked by our emotions. This can be complex to get into our system and put into practice, but it has an immense impact on our children and their ability to be mindful about their behaviour.
Mindfulness in parenting is how we manage our behaviour and emotions to let children learn how they can manage theirs.
It maybe a simple instance of seeing our child having breakfast and fearing there may be a big spill to clean. Instead of responding, a jolt shoots through us making our reaction unpleasant. Many of these reactions are a reflection of our own childhood experiences and consequently this stress response can be triggered easily. When the receptor of stress sparks off, we are unable to get clarity in thinking and we fail to pay attention. As a result, our problem solving ability diminishes thoroughly. ‘Flipping out’ as a reaction occurs in no time and we forget how our children comprehend that. We fail to know how scary we appear in their eyes. Seeing how an adult reacts in distress becomes a negative learning experience for them. We need to teach our children that one can pause, think and respond as an alternative to react.
It also gives you the ability to take a step back and look at a situation rather than being highly impulsive and most importantly to improve your relationship with your child.
Mindfulness in parenting is how we manage our behaviour and emotions to let children learn how they can manage theirs. As parents, we must be regulated before we try teaching our kids. Sadly, when we are overcome by stress or exhaustion, we can be emotionally unavailable to our child. However, if we are carried away by our emotions we can give another chance to ourselves to consciously make a different choice – being present. While there are good days and bad days, there are definitely negative elements of being upset or angry. Mindful parenting is paying close attention to what one feels as a parent and responding in accordance with that without any guilt of past situations. Simply, focusing on what is now. This helps hugely in being aware of one’s own feelings, being more responsive to the child’s needs, and becoming better at modulating one’s emotions. It also gives you the ability to take a step back and look at a situation rather than being highly impulsive and most importantly to improve your relationship with your child.
If we are carried away by our emotions we can give another chance to ourselves to consciously make a different choice – being present.
In times of stress or feeling overwhelmed it is difficult to be the best version of ourselves. Our children can be expected to know these triggers. In order to tackle this effectively, we must know what the ‘hot spots’ or emotional triggers are. We may be most vulnerable at a particular time of the day or be unavailable emotionally. These are the situations that we must familiarize ourselves with so as to make the best choice to change our behaviour accordingly.
As previously mentioned, these are a reflection of our own childhood experiences. Perhaps your child behaves in a way that is against your beliefs, like throwing a tantrum at a restaurant where you feel embarrassment. Maybe it is evoking a childhood memory of your own, such as excelling academically and causing you to ‘react’ when your child fails. Your child’s behaviour may evoke a trauma in your life, for example if you had nearly drowned in a pool you may get paranoid every time your child gets into the pool while learning to swim.
Being mindful can help us understand both our children and ourselves in a huge way.
To get control over our senses and emotions we must first identify what the situations are that may trigger those ‘hot spots’ in us that are responsible for the emotional outbursts. Parenting is not a ‘one size fit all’, however being mindful can help us understand both our children and ourselves in a huge way. Understanding our feelings when we conflict with our child, taking a step back before giving a response in anger and listening before disagreeing to the viewpoint of our children are the essential factors to keep in mind. There will be times when we cannot control ourselves and we react in a certain way, which we regret later. We can always apologize to our kids in such a case, after all we are still in the learning curve and parents make mistakes too.