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Gentle loving kindness

Image by Jill Wellington courtesy pexels

Reviving a lost art

I’ve been feeling quite overwhelmed lately. There has been so much going on in my life and I have felt pulled in so many directions at once. Distracted, and not fully present, I reversed my car into a lamp post and jarred to a stop. I drove carefully home and I finally pressed pause on the chaos. I sat down and for a few moments I tuned into my body and I asked myself what I needed. Never mind what everyone else who I was giving my energy to needed, what did I need? I was surprised when the answer came back as gentle loving kindness. I decided to explore that a little deeper and to really understand what it was I was craving. Closing my eyes, I focused on my breathing, and once I was still, I allowed my senses to explore the words.

Gentleness brought images to mind of soft pastel colours, the sounds of tinkling music, sunlight filtering though trees, a softness like downy feathers, and my shoulders released and relaxed.  Loving felt more like bright orange leaves in the autumn, dramatic tango music, blood red roses, feelings of intense heat from a roaring fire, and the pit of my stomach tingled with a frisson of excitement. Kindness was all greens and blues, with music that sounded like the ocean waves, springs of gently bubbling water flowing over rocks, the warmth one feels when snuggled under a duvet cover on a cold winter’s morning, and my body felt still. But when I strung those three words together as ‘gentle loving kindness’ I saw in my mind’s eye an endless comforting blackness with tinges of the softest pink, the music was meditative and peaceful, fields of yellow canola flowers stretched as far as my eyes could see, and my entire body softened and unfurled like the tender green shoots of a tree fern. I felt completely safe and nurtured. Such is the power of words. It’s been a long while since I’ve taken the time to engage with my senses and allow my body to tell me what it needs. I realised I have been so very busy taking care of everything and everyone else, that there wasn’t a drop of gentleness in my own existence, I wasn’t being loving towards my own body, and I was being very far from kind to myself. I had lost the art of living with gentle loving kindness.

Image by Shvets Production courtesy of pexels

How do we lose this art? We became overly busy. We became focussed on the doing part of life and we relinquish the space for simply being. In today’s fast paced world, people are moving at such a rapid rate, constantly chasing the next goal, the next opportunity, growing and reaching, striving, pushing, checking, balancing, following, or leading, judging, or ignoring… and seldom do we stop and simply be in the exact moment we are in with nothing else on our hearts other than to experience the beauty of the moment. Mental health issues are escalating, small children start school already beset by anxiety disorders, depression is rife and tensions are high. We are living out of resonance with our natural state, we have abandoned the principles of gentle loving kindness. It seems trite to say we are human beings and not human doings, but I feel there is definitely something there to be considered.

We push ourselves to the limit and if we find we are tired we drive ourselves even harder. We step over one another to get ahead, and we focus on goals and achievements rather than the journey and the joy. The divorce rate is shamefully high, and we appear to have lost the ability to love ourselves, never mind one another as we compete and divide and separate, needing more to be right than to be together. We have become too busy to show kindness to strangers or more importantly to ourselves. We drive ourselves harder and harder and we compensate when our bodies try to tell us something is wrong. We take medicines to subdue and hide symptoms that should never be ignored and we stop listening to our intuitive self. Under the relentless onslaught of demands we place on ourselves, eventually things begin to go wrong. Stress, injury, illness, and suffering become our reality and when we eventually crash our car into a pole, we cry out in despair, “Why did this happen to me?”

Image from pixabay courtesy pexels

Take an honest look at your life and ask yourself if you are living gently, lovingly, or kindly. Try to think back to if you have ever lived that way, or when last you did live your life by the principles of gentle loving kindness. When last did you truly prioritise your own wellbeing, the wellbeing of your family, friends, neighbours, and perhaps even total strangers. When last did you offer a helping hand to someone in need, or help an elderly lady cross a busy road. When was the last time you considered the environment, your carbon footprint? When last did you stop in your unending busyness to smell the air after a summers rain, or notice the nest filled with chirruping baby birds in the tree outside your home. When last did you notice that there are soft green leaves pushing through the cracks in the road, and thrill at the strength and determination of the plant trying to make its way to the sun. When was the last time you hugged your children, or lay on the grass and looked up at the clouds holding hands with your loved one? Have you ever looked around you at the massive skyscrapers reaching for the sky and marvelled at how, what began as an idea in someone’s mind, was slowly developed and coaxed to reality through the labours of many people. Do you take the time to appreciate architecture and the careful juxtaposition of the different elements with the surrounding buildings and landscapes so that they enhance one another and create beauty in spite of their unnatural existence?  Or have you been too busy driving yourself to achieve without taking any time to cultivate a balanced life.

Image by sora-shimazaki courtesy pexels
Tune into your senses

How about if tomorrow you wake a little earlier, just five minutes, and instead of reaching for your mobile devices and launching yourself into the onslaught of information, frantically scanning in case you might have missed something in the night, you just lie there with your eyes closed.

  • Feel the heavy warmth of the bed covers, the softness of the fabric of your pyjamas.
  • Feel the skin on your feet and say hello to your toes.
  • If you are lucky enough to have a partner then become aware of the soft rhythm of their breathing, or perhaps smile as they snore and grunt in their sleep.
  • Tune into the environment of your room and taste the air with your nose. The residue of yesterday’s perfume on the clothes you discarded at bedtime. The comforting smell of fabric softener on your linen and the accompany joy of knowing you’ve slept in freshly laundered sheets.
  • Let your ears tune into the surrounding world, the birds, perhaps the sound of the wind, passing traffic, maybe someone else is stirring in the home.
  • Then gently  and slowly stretch out your body. Breathing deeply, allowing the ripples of movement to spread from the bottom of your feet, right up through each muscle and limb to the top of your head. Raise your arms slowly above your head and stretch fully and luxuriously. 

Release your breath and then softly open your eyelids and allow your vision to swim into focus. Take a moment to notice the room you are in. Pause and remember the moment that photograph on your dresser was taken. Pull the memory to the fore and allow your heart to expand as it recalls the details, the excitement, the joy of the moment that was worthy of photographing. And then swing your legs over the side of the bed and sit up. Be amazed at how easily your body functions, or perhaps be grateful that you are still able to get up unaided. Those precious few minutes where you slowly engaged all of your senses, allowing yourself to emerge from the cocoon of sleep gently, lovingly, kindly, sets the tone for the day ahead. You can still live a full and busy life, but if you can mindfully begin to press pause in between moments, just long enough to engage your senses, and fully appreciate the moment by playing with the imagery in your mind, that simple act will begin to bring balance to your life. You will engage the incredible power of gentle loving kindness and your life will flourish as a result.

As always, I offer you my understanding of things. I encourage you at all times to question and decide for yourself what you want to accept and onboard. I am always interested to hear your opinions and I encourage feedback. However, it is essential to understand this vital truth as we journey together:

We don’t have to agree on a single thing to be kind to one another.

So, disagree with me by all means, own your different perspective, but please remain respectful of other’s beliefs and journeys.

Treat yourself with EMpathy and EMbolden yourself to dream. EMerge from your learned way of being, allowing yourself to celebrate life as you EMbrace your full potential. EMancipate yourself from your limitations, EMpowering yourself to live with greater clarity and joy!

Until next time, be kind to one another and honor yourself as the unique and incredibly special soul that you are.

© Copyright 2020 – Janice Melmed

A grandmother’s conundrum

The moment I first met my granddaughter

What role do I play?

I am a daughter, I have two daughters, one of my daughters just had a baby and now has her own daughter. We have no living grandmothers. My mother’s history is shrouded in mystery but it seems she was adopted at birth. She never knew her own mother, and the two ladies who adopted her had passed on long before I arrived. She too had no known grandmothers.

My father’s mother passed when I was three or four years old. I have two memories of her and neither are warm or fuzzy. I remember her banging her walking stick on the floor and glaring at me for putting my elbows on the dinner table. That stare was so intense it was terrifying. The other memory is of her playing cards with my dad and I think I committed the cardinal sin of burping. She made me drink so much fizzy bicarb I threw up in her sink. That led to a smacked bottom and being sent to bed in shame!

My own mother was mentally ill. She was a terrible mother. She was however, oddly enough, a warm and doting grandmother at least until my girls became teenagers. At that point she became more like the way she was with me growing up. She was a very difficult woman as a result of her tortured mind.

My mother-in-law didn’t take to me at all. Firstly, I wasn’t Jewish and that was unforgivable in her eyes. Even though I took steps to convert, I was always somehow ‘less than’ in her estimation. She was manipulative, dismissive, judgmental, and not at all supportive… until the granddaughters arrived. Then she wanted to be in our lives, focusing on the children, advising me on motherhood and instructing. I had no tolerance for her by that stage. Her particular brand of loving was gushing and doting. My daughters have very warm memories of her and being a grandmother appeared to give her huge cache within her social group. I experienced her as judgmental and felt she was constantly checking to see if I was making the grade. Over the years we worked our way round to a grudging acceptance of one another that in time, developed into a warm respect, ultimately deep affection, and even love, but it took a tremendous amount of work.

So now I am a grandmother. It is a role I have always dreamed of, however this is uncharted territory for me and I have limited resources to draw from to influence and guide me. I think the best course of action would be for me to draw a line under my dubious history and start fresh. Raw instinct and pure love drove my mothering and I certainly left no stone unturned in my efforts to ensure my girls knew that they were loved. I made many mistakes as I pushed and shoved my girls through life, controlling them too much and not giving them room to make their own mistakes. I never wanted them to be hurt and I taught them what I believed was the right way to live to get ahead. I did the very best I could with limited knowledge and understanding. In spite of how little I knew and having never felt love in my own life, I believe I raised two strong independent girls who became women with enormous hearts and an immense capacity to love. I know that I also caused them pain and heartache and I am not proud of all my parenting. At the time I knew nothing about conscious parenting or parenting philosophies that I have since discovered as my understanding of the human psyche has evolved. Rolling over to the next generation, I believe that I get to choose what to take forward from my own experience.

Some people perpetuate what they have always known, creating more of the same. Abused people are vulnerable to becoming abusers; children of addicts and mental health sufferers are susceptible to addiction, co-dependency, and a host of mental health issues of their own; or sometimes people work hard to create the complete opposite of their own childhood experience. Have you ever noticed how very buttoned up people often have children who prefer to colour outside of the lines? Strict disciplinarians often give rise to rebels or those who run outside of society’s restrictions. Another approach might be to take a balanced approach and acknowledge what worked for us growing up, discard, or better yet reframe what didn’t, and create an expanded, more meaningful experience for our little ones. This approach requires a mindful awareness and a well-balanced emotional mind. Often, we need to do quite a bit of work on ourselves to achieve that. For me, the most thrilling realization though, is that we do get to choose.

My primary aim with parenting was to ensure that my daughters knew that they were loved, something that was sadly missing from my own childhood. I didn’t consciously know that I was choosing this, I was far from mindful or aware, but everything in me instinctively rejected my own childhood experience where I was shamed for my very existence and made to feel guilty for my every action. I am satisfied that I have successfully changed the dynamic of so many previous generations of daughters on our maternal line who grew up unwanted and unloved. However, with my granddaughter, I feel drawn to a gentler approach.

Throughout my later years I have met so many really incredible women, who have great gifts to offer humanity. Yet many of them are held hostage to self-doubt and insecurity. They were all loved, for the most part they grew up in secure families, and yet they struggle to honour their own needs, or to identify with their inherent power. They find themselves terrified of standing out, of being different, of leading the way… they prioritize the needs of others over their own well-being. They have been taught how they should show up in life and they struggle to express themselves in a more authentic manner. This has led me to believe that feeling loved is only one part of the journey essential for development of one’s full potential.

So rather than imposing my will, choices, and desires on this little one, and teaching her how I think she should be in life, I would like to support and nurture her as she discovers who she truly is. I would like to learn from her how a free-spirited individual expresses themselves when they aren’t hammered into a mould of someone else’s determination. Loving my granddaughter in a manner that allows her to love herself first and foremost will, I believe, open the way for her to evolve into the fullest, most vibrant version of her infinite potential. That feels like a really honourable framework for our journey together.

I am a grandmother, and whilst my role may be an indirect one, a supporting role for her journey, it somehow feels like the most beautiful opportunity to embody grace in this lifetime.

As always, I offer you my understanding of things. I encourage you at all times to question and decide for yourself what you want to accept and onboard. I am always interested to hear your opinions and I encourage feedback. However, it is essential to understand this vital truth as we journey together:

We don’t have to agree on a single thing to be kind to one another.

So, disagree with me by all means, own your different perspective, but please remain respectful of other’s beliefs and journeys.

Treat yourself with EMpathy and EMbolden yourself to dream. EMerge from your learned way of being, allowing yourself to celebrate life as you EMbrace your full potential. EMancipate yourself from your limitations, EMpowering yourself to live with greater clarity and joy!

Until next time, be kind to one another and honor yourself as the unique and incredibly special soul that you are.

© Copyright 2020 – Janice Melmed

13. Living in balance

It’s a four-part affair

Thinking about starting to make some changes in your life? Needing to do some life assessment, some self-exploration? Looking for a more balanced reality? Don’t know where to start? There is some important information here that could help you with your self-enquiry. My personal belief is that we are spiritual beings living human lives through the medium of love. We come into this lifetime with a carefully prepared plan for our life, yet through the process of birth, and with the dense frequency of life on earth, we forgot that life plan the moment we were born. If you are not familiar or resonant with those concepts, leave them aside for now, but I invite you to read on because everything else is relevant to all people, everywhere, regardless of their personal beliefs.

We spend our early years learning how to become a human and then once we are grown, we begin the quest to develop spiritually and learn to embody our enlightened soul. In order to achieve this, we rely completely on our parents, family, teachers, communities, religious leaders and so forth, to teach us. We may well have been raised to become the best version of ourselves that our caregivers could imagine for us or could manage with their limited life experiences. This however, is sometimes not the ideal life for us and we may have been taught to become a completely different version of ourselves than that which we incarnated to experience. This leads to disharmony in our lives. Disharmony can show up in our lives as boredom, frustration, malcontent, feeling unsettled, anger, apathy, people pleasing, aggression, over-achievement, confusion, despair, body image distortions or even ill health. This isn’t a complete list by any means, but it serves to illustrate the point quite well.

A disharmonic life if left unchecked can generate some real problems. When a problem becomes big enough for you that change is inevitable, the process of self-examination begins. We start to search for clues as to why we are feeling unsettled or unhappy. Quite often though this search is not inwardly focused and many years are wasted as we decide it is our partners’ fault that we are unhappy and we jettison significant relationships, or we change jobs because… well that boss is a disaster! Perhaps we move homes thinking a new environment will make us happy, or we have more children, we rescue animals, we take up a new hobby, a new sport, anything that distracts us from our feelings of discontent. It is only when we stop expending our energies distracting ourselves, and we go quiet and turn our attention inwards, that we will find what we truly need to begin to make meaningful change in our lives. The answers we seek are inside of ourselves and no amount of changing the window dressing will give us what we seek if we are living a life out of balance with our purpose.

Something that many people lose sight of, or perhaps are never taught, is that life is a four-part affair. A balanced life experience encompasses physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects. It is essential for a balanced existence to encompass all four aspects. Let us take a closer look at those four aspects of self for more clarity.

  • The Physical aspect is the most commonly understood part of our lives. When we start to take stock of our physical reality, we might begin by examining how we eat, drink, rest, sleep, and exercise. We look at our environment, both living and working, and this is where we often resort to house swapping, new habit forming, diet and exercise distractions, or, if our health is challenged as a result of us living disharmoniously, we begin to move through the medical profession looking for answers that are not always forthcoming. Everything on this list is, of course, critically important to living a well-balanced life, but it is only one part of our story.
  • Emotional health and wellbeing governs a significant part of our life experience. In this aspect we may ask ourselves if we are balanced and healthy in our emotions. Do we repress how we feel because we have been taught that to express ourselves fully or truthfully is bad or undesirable. For example, “boys don’t cry”, “women have to submit to men”, “don’t argue, just do as you’re told”? “Let uncle John hug you”. Are we overly emotional because we feel afraid or unseen? Are our emotional responses appropriate for the circumstances we are facing, or are we inclined to react with rage at what we perceive as the slightest infraction of our rights? Do we burst into tears if questioned, or have a panic attack if someone calls us out in front of others? Emotional health is a critical component of our wellness and one that is so often distorted by childhood learning and painful life experiences. Fear-based living is one of the greatest distortions of the emotional aspect.
  • Mental health is one that gets a bad rap in most societies. Thank heavens that is changing as we become more enlightened. I am not referring to medical mental health issues here as I am not in the least qualified to talk about those and would never wish to disrespect anyone struggling with such challenges. For the purposes of this article, I am referring to living a balanced mental life in terms of what we allow ourselves to learn, and how we apply our learning to our life and circumstances. Are we allowing ourselves to think about our lives or are we simply feeling our way through each day in an emotional haze? Do we onboard new information and allow ourselves to make informed choices in life or do we simply do as we are told without thought or enquiry. Do we know how to apply critical thinking to our lives and situations? Do we accept a lack of learning as our lot in life or do we strive to expand our knowledge base? Are we aware of our intuition and do we harness it in our lives? Do we know why we think what we think, or do we blindly accept the current popular narratives, and follow the crowd?
  • Spiritual aspects of life are often abandoned during our formative years. Either we rebel against their strict teachings, or our caretakers fail to introduce us to spiritual learning. Living a spiritually balanced life does not necessarily translate as attendance at the religious institution of your understanding. Although that can be very spiritually nourishing, it is one aspect only. Living a spiritually balanced life is about honoring yourself and your journey. Meditating, yoga, walks in nature, listening to music, laughing, playing, being still with your soul. Seeking expansiveness and internal harmony. Tapping into that limitless potential you were born with. Personal boundaries fit in here as well. I worked in a rehab center and it was astounding how many alcoholic or drug addicted patients told me there was no god. They had abandoned their spiritual aspect and it had thrown their lives into disharmony and imbalance, yet they were all desperately seeking solace in a bottle of spirits… now that’s what I call irony!

A great analogy for the four aspects of self would be a printing press. As a little girl I would often go to the printing factory with my dad and sit watching in awe as the boards ran at high speed along the printing presses, creating Smartie boxes. As each colour was laid down, every colour you could think of was suddenly created. All those lovely colours on the finished boxes resulted from varying proportions of only four basic colours, CMYK or cyan (blue), magenta (red), yellow and black. At each pass of the machine a different colour plate is laid down on the paper.  The image with, for example, only the blue ink on it is indistinct and unclear. That same paper is run through the press again and the magenta ink is laid down. The image is definitely clearer, although still largely ghosted and poorly defined. The third pass lays down the yellow ink and the combination of these three colours brings the image more to life as many new colour combinations start to become apparent (yellow and blue give you green as an example). Then finally the black ink is laid down and suddenly you have absolute clarity. You know exactly what you are looking at in the finest detail possible. All four plates have to be present to get the best possible image. If however, one of the printing plates is slightly out of alignment then the resulting image will appear fuzzy and indistinct, not as clear at it could be… lacking absolute clarity.

The same is true for the human experience. Not having all four aspects of our life in balance will leave us with a fuzzy, unclear view of life. You might consider that if we only take care of our physical being and neglect our emotional, mental or spiritual selves we will not be getting the full picture. Our lives may never be fulfilling and complete. We may not have meaningful relationships, could end up neglecting our learning and mind expansion, and may live lives lacking in soulfulness, feeling unfulfilled and adrift.

If we were to live life relying solely on our emotions, allowing sadness or anger to rule our lives, as an example, without paying attention to our food, water intake or exercise, or we neglect our health, we again may never have a fulfilling life, may never learn the skills needed to change our lives and will feel spiritually abandoned.

Spending our days hanging out in the libraries of life indulging only our mental capacity without ever allowing ourselves to feel human connection or take care of our physicality and spiritual health may lead to us becoming one dimensional, boring, lonely, and unfulfilled in life.

Those who spend all of their life focused on their spiritual growth without a care for learning, health, or meaningful connection to others can become cut off from humanity as they struggle to connect to reality.

There are so many distortions of the human experience that are caused by imbalance in these four aspects. Too much of one and not enough of the other and any variation in between will affect your vibration, will cause you to lose resonance, and will result in you living with a distorted reality that could be far beneath your full potential.

Instead of looking at everyone else when trying to find answers for your life, turn your focus inward. There is much to be explored and much that you can do to bring your life back into balance. In truth nothing changes until you decide to change it. Without meaningful action you are simply having a discussion with yourself about the possibility of change. But don’t be disheartened, all you need is one first step and you are on your way. Hopefully this article will have given you some ideas of where you can look to begin assessing what may need attention in your life. Then you can begin moving towards a full and rewarding life that is in harmony with your soul.

Nothing is a problem, until it becomes a problem for you, and then change is inevitable.

As always, I offer you my understanding of things. I encourage you at all times to question and decide for yourself what you want to accept and onboard. I am always interested to hear your opinions and I encourage feedback. However, it is essential to understand this vital truth as we journey together:

We don’t have to agree on a single thing to be kind to one another.

So, disagree with me by all means, own your different perspective, but please remain respectful of other’s beliefs and journeys.

Treat yourself with EMpathy and EMbolden yourself to dream. EMerge from your learned way of being, allowing yourself to celebrate life as you EMbrace your full potential. EMancipate yourself from your limitations, EMpowering yourself to live with greater clarity and joy!

Until next time when I shall introduce you to self-examination: a time to get real with yourself, be kind to one another and honor yourself as the unique and incredibly special soul that you are.

© Copyright 2020 – Janice Melmed

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