Whoever it was, they inspired me to make some constant small changes on major areas of my life. It sounded like a neat way to tackle areas I had neglected for too long and which were suddenly out of synch.
They argued, for example, there was no point in being physically in the best shape of your life, if inside you were depressed. Similarly, you might have achieved Zen-like stillness in meditation and thought but if you were morbidly overweight, it will negatively affect your mind/mood.
I’ve tried to work everyday on these four key areas of wellbeing. Those areas are:
Examples of each could be – Physical (30 min walk), Emotional (Connecting with a friend), Mental (Creative writing) and Spiritual (Meditation).
By far, the one I’ve struggled with most (and neglected greatest) has been my spiritual wellbeing. I grew up Catholic in Ireland. Other religions were never considered and like the rest of my generation I eventually stopped going to Mass and became disillusioned with the way the Church was structured. The outdated principles, lack of engagement with young people, the ongoing paedophilia abuse and attempted cover-up, the massive accumulated riches. There was really nothing that chimed with me and I began looking to other sources for help to fill that void in my life.
Whilst I became disheartened with organised religion, I still felt strongly that there was something greater than me. I still had a belief in spirituality.
The last few years I’ve been exposed to Buddhist teaching through Thich Nhat Hanh, and Sogyal Rinpoche which really speaks to me. While I get the principle of THIS MOMENT IS ALL WE HAVE, living in that constant state of awareness is incredibly difficult for your everyday Joe or Jane.
There has been one moment in my life where I’ve felt that complete ‘bliss’ state of being in the moment. Logic might suggest it was during a skydive, bungee or any of the other daredevil activities I’ve taken on, which requires a presence of awareness for your very survival.
It was actually in Dublin on a lazy Saturday afternoon as I was walking up Grafton Street. I had been reading Eckhart Tolle’s book ‘The Power of Now‘, and had grasped many of his concepts on the surface level, but at that precise moment in time I was nursing a disgusting rum hangover and felt not only physically rotten, but the mental chatter in my head was very depressing.
“You got shit-faced again! You never learn. You said it was only going to be 2/3 drinks.”
“Was it worth the 100 euro you spent?”
“Is this feeling worth it? Now you’re going to spend the rest of the evening in bed. You won’t sleep well…”
It was a torrent of abuse inside my head that had lasted all afternoon since I had woken up, but then suddenly a thought from nowhere pierced through. Something I had read, planted weeks, maybe months before awakened in me. A deeper, detached part untied to that incessant noise.
Who is that voice in my head? I didn’t ask for this abuse!
I could almost take an internal step back and ‘watch the thinker‘ as Tolle describes. The part of my mind that was uncontrollable, deeply troubled and ultimately the source of my current pain.
I had the amazing revelation that I no longer needed to listen to ‘it’. It was not serving me. If ‘it’ was helping me, then I could listen, but it was making me feel lousy and I had given it permission. In that hungover state, it was like a snake on my shoulder, whispering ugly distorted lies and generally worming its way into my brain.
Catching it in this way suddenly starved the voice of its power. It no longer had a hold on me. It was like I was suddenly freed from a spell I had been under for all my life. I had a choice. I didn’t have to listen to it. A deeper sense of reality opened up, and the people and places around me suddenly came to life with more colour.
For the next few hours I experienced an amazing state of bliss, enjoying the present moment, walking around the streets of Dublin and seeing them as if for the first time even though I had walked them for a decade. Buildings looked fresh and colourful. The park was bursting with life. I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face and greeted people as I passed.
I could see others were locked in their own internal monologue and I began laughing at the folly of the entrapment. We were prisoners in our own head and didn’t realise we possessed the key to our own escape.
Eventually my state began to fade but the afterglow stayed with me for several days after. Ever since that moment four years ago, I’ve been trying to get back to that state.
It’s easy to be seduced by dreams of a brighter future, that things will improve. Or be chained to past events or beliefs that hold us back. There is nothing wrong with having goals but living in constant anticipation that things will get better, takes away the power of the present moment which can be a great source of joy. It’s all we ever have.
Being Present is still one of the biggest challenges I have. It is exciting to know, if the ancient teachers are to believed, that the source of happiness is already contained within you. For a time I experienced that incredible joy and peace. The gap of awareness opened to me all too briefly.
Incorporating that awareness into a 9-5 existence where targets, mindless tasks and drudgery need to be churned through so that month end bills need to be paid is a tough juggling act.
For that reason, I’ve began to incorporate meditation into my routine as a daily practice to feed my soul and help ease some of that needless mental suffering.
I guess the problem now is….finding the time! 🙂