Stepping through the Magic Mirror Gate

Confronted by their true selves, most men run away screaming! (women too)

These words uttered by Engywook from the NeverEnding Story have been playing in my mind lately. In fact, whenever I feel that familiar discomfort with vulnerability in myself… and it happens often. These words are also reassuring to my clients: the brave souls who resonate with this universal fear as they intrepidly step into the unexplored space of self-discovery.

In the NeverEnding Story, Atreyu has to cross the Magic Mirror Gate by facing his true self.  Even with a luck dragon to ride, it is a terrifying prospect for him.  Sadly, without our own luck dragons to take us into our quest, we can feel utterly alone in our fears.  What is it about encountering the truth of ourselves that can indeed send us screaming and running – or in this world – eating, drinking, TV watching, facebooking and many other less scary distractions?

Could it be, as Angywook points out, that “kind people find out that they are cruel. Brave men discover that they are really cowards”.  Is it the fear that we won’t like what we find?  That we would rather not know? That we will be compelled to take ownership of our lives?

Perhaps one of the harshest obstacles to facing our true selves is the immobilising fear that we won’t be able to bear what we find. That we will be powerlessly vulnerable.

And the truth is, we will be vulnerable. And vulnerability isn’t comfortable, nor is it always easy.  It can be abrasive in its rawness, painfully searing in its honesty, and deeply incisive in its intensity.  It is the honesty to face the parts of ourselves we can’t stand.  It’s the honesty to face our uncomfortable and unpleasant past experiences.  It’s the truthful intensity of fully and deeply feeling.  It’s also the honesty that we do have the power to harness our lives.  The honesty of our own awe.  And that is terrifying.  And it takes bold courage to go there.

Vulnerability is worthy of running and screaming.  It’s terrifying in its nakedness. But it’s also liberating, exhilarating, expanding and gives us access to a far deeper peace than evading the Magic Mirror Gate ever can.  It illuminates parts of ourselves we may never have recognised, parts that we may be really surprised by. Parts that may delight and uplift us to soaring heights.  But it’s not comfortable.  It’s daunting and intimidating.

And it is always life enhancing.

Walking through the Magic Mirror Gate changes us.  We can only completely accept ourselves by facing our true selves head on.  And that honesty and self-acceptance is beautifully transformative.  The vulnerability paradox is that when we courageously do face our real deep vulnerability, we are freed to experience more vulnerability as we become more at ease with our authentic self.  And the grips of terror loosen.  And we start to choose vulnerability over avoidance.  We become stronger and softer in our vulnerability …. in all of its life enhancing forms.  And we discover life in a way we never had before.

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Imagication

The sacred weaving of magic, mystery and imagination into the reality of our lives. It’s in this cusp, this intriguing threshold, where magical experiences are thread into what we thought we knew to be true and solid. It’s within this mysterious awareness that we become spellbound and are conjured into another world – a space where our minds aren’t reined in by logic, reality, or our history; where we aren’t bound by our fears, limiting beliefs and what we think is rational. When we courageously step into this enchanting place we are transformed by it. When we dare to look beyond the safe edge, our lived reality is changed forever.  And our lives become entwined in imagication ….

An untold Love Story

Roses are red

Violets are blue

My life was imperfect   

Until I met you…

 

Today I’m going to tell you a love story. But it’s not your well known Once upon a time…. girl meets dashingly hot boy on tinder; boy and girl fall madly in love with each other, they buy a house and move to Sandton where they live happily ever after…kind of story!

Today I’m going to tell you an untold love story.

This is the love story that Hollywood, fairy-tales, face book and twitter have forgotten about…. It’s different to the love story that we have grown up believing in.

This is a very powerful love story.

It’s the love story that we tell ourselves about ourselves. In fact you could call it the “selfie” love story!  And tragically, it’s quite often a very unloving story. And quite often this story is based on the myth that it’s selfish and vain to love ourselves fully. That someone who really loves themselves is arrogant and self-righteous. The real truth of the matter is in fact quite the opposite of this. By truly and authentically loving ourselves, we create space for those around us to do the same for themselves. This notion is beautifully captured by Marianne Williamson, in a quote made famous by Nelson Mandela:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

 

In working with coaching clients, one of the things that has really struck me is how many of us (and myself included at a stage) walk around thinking that we aren’t good enough, that we need to be perfect; that we aren’t acceptable just as we are; that we need to improve ourselves to be more loveable. We hope that someone else will love us, and affirm us in the way that we struggle to do for ourselves. But although it isn’t always as straight forward as simply deciding to love ourselves, we can all choose the selfie love story: to recognise that true love isn’t conditional – that we can’t be picky about what parts of ourselves we love. This means fully acknowledging all parts of ourselves as unique and loveable. Real love is unconditional, and what this means for ourselves is learning to love the parts of ourselves that we don’t think are loveable: our shameful emotions; our wobbly and bouncy bits. It means loving ourselves exactly as we are right now. And accepting those parts of ourselves that we often want to hide. In doing this we open ourselves up to the world, to opportunities and to really being able to love others and be loved. And ironically, once we can accept the things about ourselves that we think are hard to love, they become easier to change.

What is the love story that you tell yourself? Do you have one?

I invite you to notice the stories you tell yourself continually about yourself. Ask yourself whether it’s the kind of story you would want to be told by your lover, or your best friend; or one that you would want to tell your lover. If you find that your story is not very loving… choose to tell your selfie story in a kind, loving and accepting way. One way that you can begin is to complete the first line of your selfie love story – I love myself enough to…….

And then decide on your first step to make your love story come true….This may mean taking some time out of your hectic schedule for yourself (time that you may feel you don’t deserve); it may mean treating yourself to some pampering; or doing something that makes you feel alive, like the dance class you haven’t had time for. It could also mean choosing more carefully who you spend your time with.

It may seem quite foreign at first, but as you begin to practise this, and as you authentically start to tell the selfie love story, you will notice magic happening in your life!

 So I’ll end with this new selfie rhyme:

Roses are red

Violets are blue

I knew that I was perfect

When I loved myself too

Some imperfect thoughts on perfection

“Perfect body, perfectly toned, perfect answer, the perfect man for you, a perfect fit, a perfect idea, a perfect child, picture perfect, the perfect couple, a perfect job …” it makes me perfectly sick!

It was in the midst of all these messages of perfection that an imperfect idea came to me…. How can anything perfect be limited?

The strict and tightly ruled lines of perfection: “the perfect body must be slim, young, fit and tanned” place it squarely into a small tight box … and trying to squeeze into that little box that’s so much smaller than us, is so uncomfortable and just unpleasant. How about instead of giving up on perfection and reconciling ourselves to living outside of the perfect box, we indeed do choose perfection….but a big, holistic, complete version of perfection. Perfection that has rolls and wobbly bits, and wrinkles and spots and tired parts, but it’s totally unique. It carries its own perfect story.

How about we call that perfection, and make it limitless?

Philosophies of running

Musings of a pragmatic philosopher/passionate amateur jogger!

On my early morning, delightfully summery jog today, I was struck by the realisation that running really carries volumes of life philosophies. 

These simple truths for a run, hold true too in the long run of life:

  1. Get up early.  Most runners will recognise that the slog of getting up on a cold dark morning is directly proportional to the blissful serotonin rush post run.  And it’s humanly impossible to feel stressed after a fun – try it! In life, sometimes things that look like sacrifices (like giving up a warm bed) are actually gifts to ourselves (an energetic, happy and healthy start to the day).
  2. Honour your unique place.  Comparing myself to the pace setters ahead and the plodders just behind will take me out of my uniquely comfortable pace.  In my life, there will always be those, who in my thoughts are just getting it all right, and there will always be those, who are just a bit behind me.  But it’s just my own judgement. Accepting where I am, means I can enjoy my own journey through life, without feeling either inadequate or arrogant and disrespectful.
  3. Be energised by those around you. Running with a friend, is one of the warmest (both physically and emotionally!) human experiences.  Often it’s the chats and laughter shared with my fellow runners that gets me through my low energy moments, and makes for a really fun run.  Appreciate those on your life journey, and choose to run with those who energise you.
  4. Recognise time for solitude.   Just as fun as it is to run with friends, there are also good times to run on your own.  Some of my most spiritually uplifting moments have been in the calm of a solo run where I am totally open to, and engulfed by, the experience of a magnificent sunset or a delicate bird singing on a branch as I jog past.  In life, it’s the time on our own, open to the magnificent glory of this world, that we can really tap into the divinity that we are part of.
  5. Appreciation multiplies itself.  I sometimes find myself forgetting that I am actually running as a sense of pure appreciation carries me through a route.  Running takes you closer to beautiful places, and recognising that enhances the experience.  So too in life, reminding ourselves of the small, yet ever present blessings, emphasises our experience, and ability to be fully present in the moment.
  6. Always let yourself be guided by your dreams.  The reason I am running today, is because of a dream to run my first marathon.  It seemed a near impossible idea at the time, which was part of the allure.  By consistently running, taking each day for what it offered, my dream is about to become a reality.  In life, dreams only seem overwhelming when they are far away.  But we can’t get closer to them, and realise them, without having them in the first place.
  7. Slow down.  With running, you can only get fitter, faster, stronger if you rest enough.  Allowing yourself to slow down is part of the training.  Respecting our body’s needs is a necessity.  Resting, taking time out, sleeping enough all too often seem like luxuries in today’s driven society, but its as important for performance as the working time/training is.
  8. Be Inspired.  My reason for joining a running club, was because of the encouragement and inspiration of a fit, sociable and very inspiring 70-odd year old runner, who was clearly as passionate about life as about his running.  Choose to focus on those inspiring and energising individuals who cross your path, or run alongside you, in life.
  9.  Just enjoy it! Many of us runners have some sort of goal in mind (be it to manage our cholesterol, run a fun run, lose weight, or just run comrades!).  However, the reason we keep at it is simple – for the love of running.  Love the journey of life, and appreciate the little steps along the way, and the goal will become less important, and ironically more achievable.

–          Judith Matthis

Inspiring books… some thoughts

Books are inspiring.  They are magic carpets to new worlds and galaxies of possibilities.  They are also an abundant source of inspiration and inspired thinking.

These three books introduce very inspiring people and ideas, in very different worlds:

1. Viktor Frankl.  Man’s search for meaning. 

Written by a psychologist and holocaust survivor, this book gives context to his theory of Positivism within the most trying of human experiences – the Holocaust.

This book starkly contrasts the prisoners suffering  under atrocious conditions with the seemingly indifferent captors, torturing the prisoners.

There is however light and hope in the book , and its in the strength of the human spirit, despite the situation.  Frankl’s observation was that those who had something of great significance and meaning to hold onto in their lives were more able to physically survive the horrors than those who didn’t have meaning to hold onto.

He describes this “meaning” as firstly, a deep belief in and love for another person, and the hope that they would be reunited.
Secondly, it was a sense of meaning in their lives – a belief that their lives had purpose which they could eventually return to.

It was this meaning which carried them through the torture.

Is this significant still today?
Is love and a purpose significant in everyday  “normal” life?

Perhaps we can be so lucky as to learn from the observations without experiencing the horror ourselves.   

Love, relationships and a sense of purpose in the world.   
For me, this book is a timeless reminder of what is profoundly important to us.

2.  Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  The Future is in Forgiveness.

A book by a South African icon, about the country’s way of dealing with the horrors of the past. The Ärch” was intricately involved in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), and his book not only gives an interesting overview of the process, but (like book 1) also presents the reflections of a man, who through his suffering, has come to some timeless conclusions about humanity.

The book describes the TRC process, as well as giving context to the horrors of Apartheid through some atrocious examples of actual TRC cases.
Like book number 1, it is often very harrowing and distressing to read.   The conclusions he draws, as hinted at by the title, are that forgiveness is as much about the forgiven as the forgiving.  Yet through his own personal narrative and implications throyughout the book he shows how difficult real forgiveness truly is.

As a white, privileged South African, growing up and educated during the Apartheid era, and therefore falling into the “perpetrator” camp, the book had an impact on me in an intense way.   This involved shame, deep shame, remembering the complexities of this country and our identities intricately wound up (and wounded) in all of this, and relief and grattitude for where we are now…. but this is a topic for another blog!

Like the first book, the conclusions and ideas about how to live a fulfilling and peaceful – and I would go as far as saying moving toward a joyful – life have come out of brutal, harsh atrocities and suffering.

Forgiveness is about releasing oneself from pain.  It is therefore liberating and healing in itself.

Do we have to suffer to find meaning in life?
Do we have to suffer to find joy?
Does sufferering necessarily lead to a deeper experience in life?

The next book does not involve ANY intense physical suffering or human depravity (thank goodness!).  It is about passion and inspiration…

3. ELif Shafak. The Forty Rules of Love

A “whirling dervish” literally whirls into Rumi’s life and creates internal – and external – changes that will take his poetry to a new level of depth and beauty.