Margaret presenting at the IEA conference in San Francisco.
Acceptance is about acknowledging and coming to terms with the reality of life. We can dislike situations and even ourselves, but we still must accept them. Finding ways to accept those things that are beyond our control to change, gives us freedom from having to fight against the realities we cannot change and the freedom to change what we can. Part of the wonder of life is that it’s unpredictable. Nothing is permanent, everything changes; and of course, a lot of things can happen that will transform who we are and have an impact on our life. As we cultivate the ability to truly accept whatever comes and embrace it we usually discover it is for our greater good, despite the struggle and suffering we have experienced along the way.
In ‘The 7 Laws of Spiritual Success’ Deepak Chopra dedicates one complete chapter to how we need to receive with open arms what happens to us, because if we fight and resist it, we are generating a lot of turbulence in our minds. He explains that we might want things to be different in the future, but in the present moment we need to accept things as they are. It helps us to
A common human tendency is to notice what is wrong, to criticise and complain when things don’t go our way or people don’t act the way we expect them to. We can get so caught up in this way of viewing the world that we fail to notice the beautiful and often subtle things we can be grateful for.
There is no substitute for beginning and ending the day with a prayer of gratitude (even if you don’t feel like it.) Neuroscience has shown that gratitude reduces stress and increases wellbeing in the part of the brain’s reward/pleasure centre. One practice is to keep a gratitude diary and record the things through the day that you can feel grateful for. It is interesting to observe that when you develop a grateful attitude to life, you attract more positive experiences.
There is also a spiritual practice called Awareness Examen. It builds on our tendency to look back over the day but instead of making our own judgements and analysis, we bring our awareness to whatever in the day is important for us to notice. It could be an event, a person, a mood or an insight.
In this reflective time we wait- we do not control this time- but allow the experience of the day to flow back to our awareness. We stay, patiently allowing our hearts to be touched. We listen for what the experience, and feelings connected to it, may be saying to us. Later we spontaneously respond to what we have heard, maybe with gratitude, with sorrow or with a cry for help..whatever is real to us. This takes about 10 – 15 mins. Practiced daily, this exercise begins to sharpen our awareness of a loving Presence in all the moments of our living.
If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is "thank you," it will be enough. ~Meister Eckhart
3. Patience and Waiting
It is not easy to wait patiently for the things we think we want or need. However, how we wait can enhance our spiritual growth.
We can have active waiting and passive waiting. Passive waiting is staying inactive while the thing you expect to happen shows up in your life, or not! It creates dissatisfaction with how you live your day-to-day life. Things like waiting for circumstances to change, the perfect partner, a promotion at work, financial stability or an overseas trip!
Passive waiting means we do not live in the present moment and can waste years thinking things will eventually change. We can stay stuck in unhelpful thinking patterns wanting life to be what we think it should be and missing out on what life is offering today. We keep focusing on what is not happening and become impatient and despondent, complaining and worrying a great deal. And it drains our energy.
Active waiting is fully engaging in the moment where opportunities and situations present themselves. It also incorporates Patience, which is the ability to wait without worry or complaint. It is related to the abilities to tolerate frustration and to delay gratification as we get on with our life. We discover that each day presents opportunities we may never have foreseen. Life can then become far richer than we thought possible. Passive waiting is defeatist and lazy and we end up feeling a victim of our circumstances. Active waiting is accepting that you may need to change direction, take time out from your usual life for some for self -reflection and nurture. It is an opportunity to drop pretences as to what the moment should look like and exerting no control over the moment. Most of all, it requires us to be fully “present”. Present means to wait without hiding, denying, living in a fantasy or anything else that takes you emotionally, physically, spiritually or mentally away from yourself and your current reality.
It is also important to cultivate a patient attitude when confronted with an uncomfortable or upsetting circumstance and allow time to pass before responding, making a decision, or taking action. This is another aspect of active waiting because reacting is not the same as responding. It takes more effort to wait for an appropriate response. Reacting immediately, or over – reacting, often brings with it remorse and regret. A manifestation of patience is being tolerant of and with others.
The definition of integrity is defined as a “concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations, and outcomes. In ethics, integrity is regarded as the honesty and truthfulness or accuracy of one’s actions.”
Integrity stems from the Latin word ‘integer’ which means whole and complete. So integrity requires an inner sense of ‘wholeness’ and consistency of character. When you are in integrity, people should be able to visibly see it through your actions, words, decisions, methods, and outcomes. When you are ‘whole’ and consistent, there is only one you. You bring that same you wherever you are, regardless of the circumstance.
Sometimes, our emotions get the best of us and we are unable to intentionally manage our behaviour and actions. Sometimes, we don’t give ourselves permission to be our true selves out of fear of what others may think or due to an inability to truly ‘integrate’ the various parts of ourselves into one, complete whole person.
So actively focusing on the development of your character by reading, attending workshops for personal and spiritual development, getting a coach or a spiritual director, and reflecting on your inner life will all contribute to discovering your authentic self and enhance your integrity.
Integrity is when you do what you said you will do and when your actions match your words. To be known as a person of integrity, when people know they can rely on you and trust what you say, is an important aspect of wellbeing. You can also feel good about yourself because you know your word can be trusted.
To forgive is to let go of the hurt, ill will, and resentments that accompany perceived injustices—real or imagined that you have toward other people, groups, or institutions. Buddhist teachings compare holding on to anger with picking up a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else. No matter what happens, you get burned. When you get caught up in resentment, you become attached to the source of it—giving it power over you as the intense emotions eat away at you like acid, and the thoughts that drive those emotions rent space in your head and steal your time and attention. Forgiving is not about approving or condoning what’s transpired, it’s about letting go of it. It’s helpful to keep in mind that forgiving oneself can be an important part of the process of learning to forgive others.
However, I must stress here that forgiveness is a process. Some hurts and betrayals cut so deeply that forgiveness can take a long time to reach. We can put enormous pressure on ourselves if we feel guilty that we can’t forgive immediately. So we hurt and feel guilty, which certainly doesn't help our sense of wellbeing! However, the intention that you will eventually experience forgiveness is a healthy attitude. Sometimes deep inner work has to take place in the process.
Forgiving yourself for your own past misdeeds is part of self-acceptance. Self-acceptance is being fundamentally okay with oneself without reservation. Understanding and accepting that something that is not you cannot be liberating. Then your true self can emerge. It is the sense that, as a human being, you are “good enough” exactly as you are, with all of your challenges and imperfections. It is the understanding and knowledge that nobody, including you, has to be perfect in order to belong in this world.
Humility is not self-deprecation. It is related to self acceptance. Humility is about recognizing and accepting one’s own place in the world . Spiritual health and wellbeing is enhanced by caring for others and by making connections with ourselves.
Sometimes being able to accept yourself is much more challenging if you are surrounded by people and a society that places harsh judgement on you for being who you are.
In the musical ‘Kinky Boots’for example, the beautiful message that is expressed is that being who you truly are is liberating. It also demonstrates how important it is that we are able to accept others who are different to ourselves and our way of life . And how damaging and soul destroying it can be to someone, who is different to what we think is ‘normal’, if we don’t accept them .
8. Caring for Others
Caring for others is an essential and obvious ingredient for spiritual wellbeing. Service is about making an intentional contribution to those around you. However, we also must guard against compulsive helping when it is more about our own need to feel needed than it is to help another. This type of helping can become manipulative and intrusive and may enable the person being helped to become dependent and stuck in unhealthy patterns of behaviour. The helper can also become exhausted and burnt out.
However, genuine care and service to others is usually associated with volunteering one’s time and energy to others and it brings its own rewards for our wellbeing.
“It is an absolute human certainty that no one can know his own beauty or perceive a sense of his own worth until it has been reflected back to him in the mirror of another loving, caring human being.”
― John Joseph Powell, The Secret of Staying in Love
Open – mindedness means being respectful and receptive to new and different possibilities. This includes being open to suggestions and ideas that you haven’t previously considered, and perspectives that may be significantly different from your own.
Being open minded allows you to let go control of your fixed thoughts so that you can experience new ideas. It may even challenge some of your beliefs systems that you have held onto for much of your life and now discover that they are no longer life giving for you. By holding onto those beliefs that still have meaning for us, and being able to let go of the ones that are limiting our growth, can be a healthy step towards our wellbeing.
Being closed minded limits our life and relationships. It creates a judgemental attitude in yourself and towards others. An open mind gives a greater sense of freedom by not needing to control the way another views the world.
It means believing that you are not all- knowing and whatever truth you find might always have more to it than you realize. This understanding creates an underlying sense of honesty that permeates the character of anyone who lives with an open mind.
This is a very important aspect of Spiritual Wellbeing.
The authentic mystical traditions tell us that there is an all-encompassing Presence, a divine consciousness, whose nature is joy, peace and a boundless creative energy and intelligence. This divine consciousness is constantly nourishing, sustaining and transforming all things, always. It keeps creating and recreating through a dance, or marriage of opposites. What we sometimes characterise as evil, can birth a new level of good. We have all experienced how difficult times have invited changes in ourselves and in our lives. Over time, we can look back and say it was the best thing that ever happened to us, although at the time it felt catastrophic! Destruction is a condition for new creation and the suffering we fear, can become the ground for a greater compassion and more open mindedness.
As we gradually recognise this interconnectedness of seeming opposites, we will experience a great joy and profound hope.
We come to know that even the worst horrors are part of a larger, richer, more sublime and mysterious alchemy. Even physical death is only a gateway into a deeper life.
Once we can understand and accept that there is a divine presence behind all the changing manifestations of life, we will experience hope. It cannot be shaken by any horrors or anguish; it cannot be defeated by the circumstances of human life or human history.
When we are able to surrender what happens to us into this greater wisdom, into the creative dance of the universe, we discover that we and the world “out there” are not separate entities, but flow together seamlessly in an unbreakable dynamism of self-giving love, which is the true nature of reality and the ground of everything.
So gratitude, patience and waiting, integrity, caring for others, being open minded and experiencing hope are some of the attributes in developing our sense of Spiritual Well being. They are by no means a finite list, but a good start.
There is a meaning and purpose in the suffering that life circumstances can bring you in the second half of life. It is to help you break open, not break down!!
It usually comes in one of three ways: the loss of a job, a relationship crisis or serious health issues. Sometimes, it may take all three to get your attention.
The first half of life is necessarily about building your career, possibly finding a partner, supporting a family and creating a life style. In this stage of life, the ego or the performing self is in control. It is sometimes called the False Self, which is not bad or wrong. It just isn’t all of who you are.
The second half of life invites you into a journey to become more conscious and emotionally mature. It is about discovering your authentic self, or the True Self, and living life with more awareness, freedom and joy.
The feeling of emptiness and restlessness you may experience can no longer be filled by the first half of life methods. It’s common to try to recapture the strength and certainty of the earlier years by working harder or using other distractions that used to keep you feeling functional and worthwhile. However, you come to realise that the feeling of emptiness and disorientation cannot be eased with more work, more success or more accolades. It is about discovering your authentic self and how to live from this place. Life will lead you there if you are open to it and recognise that if you are experiencing difficult times, this is the opportunity to break open and discover that a deeper, more meaningful life will unfold for you.
"The winters will drive you crazy until you learn to get out into them."
It is important to have a guide who understands this stage of life. Margaret can support and guide you through this phase with encouragement and insight into how this can eventually become a journey into a more abundant, satisfying life.
- The reason we come to a change in our mid-life
- What is the 'Performing' first stage of life
- Introduce the different forms of self
- The path to becoming more conscious and emotionally mature
- Dealing with emptiness and restlessness in the secind half of life
- Going beyond the delusion of working harder
- How to start discovering your authentic self
- Breaking open to a more conscious, authentic life
- The benefits of practising inner awareness
International Women’s Day was recognised a few weeks ago. It prompted me to think of the many women in my life who have been friends, mentors and soul mates.Read More