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

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

12. Changing your life

Are we defined by our circumstances?

From the moment we are born we are shaped and taught how we need to be in order to live our best life. It all starts with our loving parents who teach us everything they know and believe in to prepare us for life… as they understand it.

Whilst we are all born with the same inherent potential as a soul, we all incarnate with different life goals and purposes. We are subjected to different influences and living circumstances and thus we do not all start out with the same opportunities. We may not all get to experience an idealistic, loving, nurturing family growing up, often our start in life is governed instead by rather challenging circumstances. All of these factors help to explain the enormous diversity of the human experience. If we have different goals and desired outcomes and our formative influences and circumstances are different, how could we possibly all have the same outcome? I think we can agree that we do not. Let us explore this further to understand a little deeper since understanding is a key factor when desiring to make changes.

I will begin with conception since it seems the most logical place to start. The circumstances surrounding our conception can have a powerful influence over our start in life. As you read on, you may see that I have chosen to use fairly extreme examples to demonstrate my point. There are of course more variations of the life experience than could ever be documented successfully, and so in the interests of brevity, I have opted for more obvious examples. A child, for example, conceived as a result of a violent act has the odds stacked against them from the very start. That unwanted pregnancy may well result in a child who is rejected and put up for adoption. Or depending largely on the life experience and supports of the mother, she may be able to separate the horror of the conception act from the innocent child. She may attempt to neutralise the emotional charge from her violent experience, and or any guilt she may be feeling, by overcompensating with her love. Alternatively, the child might end up being unloved because they serve as a constant reminder of the violence and degradation surrounding the act of their unwelcome conception. Another child may be conceived by in vitro fertilisation. Distraught people who find they cannot conceive, embrace science and medicine to help them create a life. These children are born out of a powerful desire, and they are much wanted and cherished. This too can have a powerful knock-on effect on the child’s life, depending on the parent’s experience and how they relate to their child. Conception circumstances cannot be influenced by the child however it is clear to see that the shaping has begun.

The parent’s life experiences and history will exert a powerful influence over the child. Everything that helped to form the parent’s psyche may well be played out again in the child’s life, as a way to recreate the parent’s experience. Alternatively, the complete opposite could be true place based on a desire to ensure that their child has a different experience. Children who experienced abuse and violence, or who grew up with addicted or alcoholic parents often become abusers and addicts themselves, they repeat what they know. Alternatively, those parents who have overcome these obstacles may break the cycles of abuse and addiction. This too can have a knock-on effect for their children as they live fairly rigid, structured lives in support of their sobriety. Behaviour is tightly controlled and managed and many rules are in play to ensure a clean-living sober life. On the other end of this spectrum, you will find the children born with silver spoons in their mouths. Their every whim and desire are catered for almost before they express themselves and they want for nothing. They can be cherished to the point of entitlement and this too, has a powerful effect on their life experience as they never learn to strive and achieve for themselves. The stage is set and the conditioning inherent.

The community into which we are born exerts a powerful influence over our life’s experience. A child born into abject poverty with little to no resources available, in a community with little societal structure, will have a vastly different life experience than the child born into affluence. The child born into high society lives with clearly defined rules that are strictly adhered to and they have access to all and anything that they could possibly desire. Certain communities are focused on upliftment and growth, while others are more focused on survival and the individual, with little concern for the larger group dynamic. Some communities freely act out their anger and frustration and for children born into those circumstances, life can be incredibly challenging indeed. It is not difficult to see how all of this could influence a child’s life and also, how the child has no influence over their own conditioning.

Living in a deeply religious community will be a vastly different experience to life in a community/family without spiritual guidance. One is governed by predetermined rules with strong guidance and structure. That may lead to feelings of security and assuredness, unless the overseeing governing bodies tend toward punishment and shaming for transgressions, then the child may learn to feel less than, or perhaps fearful. A child who grows up with no religious or spiritual guidance is missing out on an important part of their upbringing. Freewheeling through life without accessing our spiritual side can have a devastating knock-on effect in later life. The child has no say in the religious choices of their family and may well be significantly shaped by the consequences of those choices.

The child then heads off to school where teachers exert their influence as well; not only in terms of learning and subject matter, but their beliefs and preferences about how their charges should behave, and what is and is not acceptable to them and to the school. Often because of the size of classes, teachers have to focus on the collective need of the class and may not be able to cater for the individual needs of a specific child. Some children, certainly in South Africa, and probably across the globe in poorer or more rural communities, attend schools where there are no toilet facilities or running water, let alone books and resources. They sit in class, fifty plus children to one harassed teacher. How can that experience be the same as the child in a private school, working on their laptop, twenty to a class with teacher assistants and access to remedial teaching and every support necessary to help them realise their potential. Not to mention fully stocked tuck shops as opposed to their poorer counterparts who maybe receive a sandwich courtesy of a feeding scheme that they often take home to share with their whole family as the only meal they will see in a day. The child has virtually no ability to influence their experience at school, and yet it will play a large role in shaping the child’s life.

The values and priorities of the family will have a massive impact on a child as well. I recall visiting India and being so touched by the poorest of the poor people I met there. Beggars sitting on the side of the road, hoping for a handout or some help from tourists and passers-by. Each of these mothers was cuddling, or massaging, or rocking their children. They were tactile and loving and you could see how much they cherished their little ones. They had little to nothing in material terms, but they were filled with love and the energy they radiated was peaceful and resigned. Conversely you have the big house on the hill where the children are raised by nannies and maids. Parents are off working, socialising, or travelling extensively, and these pampered children who have everything they could ever desire in material terms, are often lonely and grow up feeling unloved and not prioritised by their well-meaning, if absent parents. How can a child influence their home circumstances? They cannot.

I could continue, but I think the point is glaringly obvious. Our early influences in life (good or bad), over which we had absolutely no control, shaped who we were taught to be as adults. This has a direct influence over how we perceive ourselves and our inherent worth. These powerful influences can oftentimes direct our entire life. They either serve to cement us into a perpetual cycle of repeating what we have been taught, or they serve as the springboards from which we can propel ourselves into a different reality. Anyone feeling unhappy, frustrated, or lost in their life would do well to begin to review their earlier life experiences. It can be illuminating to realise that we may be living unconsciously, following what we were taught to believe and be, living out the expectations placed on us by others, even though in our hearts we do not really subscribe to those beliefs. This is often the beginning of our personal journey quest where we start to work out for ourselves what we genuinely believe in and want to create for our lives.

Infinite possibility is available to everyone. Accessing it begins with a desire to have a different experience. The wonderful thing about the free will that humans are blessed with, is that we do get to choose. There comes a point in life when we realise that we get to take responsibility for our own experiences. We get to choose to stay where we have been positioned or taught to be and keep having the same experience, or we get to choose a different way of being. All change comes with consequences and the change process can be challenging indeed, but one thing is certain, until we own our part in the creation of our future, we will not change. As long as we hold ourselves hostage to our formative influences we will remain where we are in life. However, if we really want to, we can redirect our lives and take ourselves to an experience that fills our hearts and souls with purpose, peace, and joy.

Once I reached that realisation in my own life, I was perfectly positioned to begin the change process. I was no longer under the influence of my mentally ill mother, and my beaten down father, who taught me that “people like us don’t/can’t/mustn’t…” or that “I had no right to expect anything more from life than what I was given”. “I was lucky to have anything given that I had no worth at all”. “I had no right to choose”. “I must always/should never…”. I am not certain whether that change process in my life will ever be entirely completed, but with every adjustment I make, more horizons open up to me and I keep learning and growing. I think the most important line I wrote in my book Weird Shit is this:

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 discuss life in balance, be kind to one another and honour yourself as the unique and incredibly special soul that you are.

© Copyright 2020 – Janice Melmed

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