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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

4 years later

It's been over 4 years since I started this blog... It’s hard to believe that so much time has passed. In many ways it feels like only yesterday that I was sitting on the couch here in my mam's place in Arklow, with my backpack waiting for me at the front door and a plane ticket to Australia folded neatly in my hand luggage. It was the 24th of April 2009. I was heading to Oz for the second time. Even though it wasn’t a first, it was a huge step; I’d just finished my therapy and I was only newly opening the door to the outside world, after months of isolation, cleansing, counselling, refuelling, writing and setting my self free from an addiction that had controlled me so intensely. As I sat on the couch that day, filled with new life and ready for adventure, I wondered what name to give the fresh new little writing place here in cyberspace. A Distance Beyond, came to mind. And it stuck.

At that point in time, this blog was like my springboard, I guess. I literally felt I was about to dive into an outside world with a changed perception of reality, and I didn’t have a clue what was waiting for me. I didn’t know if I was strong enough to cope with life, without resorting to old behaviour in order to stand strong in this world. I was putting myself to the test, well and truly. But I was following my feelings and they were taking me away from this particular place where the cleansing, clearing and re-creating of new ways had started to take place. In many ways I was still so frail and vulnerable. But I made a promise to myself, to cherish the lessons I'd learned throughout recovery. I'd taken a vow to never neglect myself and to ONLY look towards myself for the answers without seeking validation from the surrounding environment. I knew such an approach would keep me floating freely and in-tune with my inner guidance.

Looking back now, I can only say that I've had periods of time when I was diving deeply yet staying safely afloat, happy to just be with my own self. Balanced and open. On other occasions there was no depth and in my attempt to dive, I'd hit a wall and feel as if I'd been smacked in the face by life, with solidity all around me... no floating, no flying, no diving. Simply... stuck. There are no regrets though, for how certain choices came to plan out. There’s simply full acceptance of the different levels of awareness I practised, the different places and cultures I needed to experience, the different people I was destined to meet and the different lessons I needed to learn.

When passing through Australia, Thailand, India, Ireland, China, India and onwards to Ireland once again, I can only say that every part was equally amazing. My journey has been perfect and will continue to be. The perfection is found in the meaning behind those events. Purpose and meaning have always been brought to my way in the moment I'd choose to connect with the world here on this particular blog and NOT to isolate my moments of either immense joy or dazed confusion. (And the size of the world I'd connect with has never been determined by or limited to the amount of visitors that have hopped onto this blog ;).

When I came up with the name 'A Distance Beyond', I truly was setting the intention and creating space for that unknown and untouchable destination to come join me on this journey - even though it may not have always seemed to be so, on the surface level of life.

How grateful I am, that I've taken to creating in such a manner that the writing does the title justice.

From this week on however, I'm moving my writing to another place. Things have changed so much since I first created this diving board 4 years ago and now, for them to keep on moving and expanding, I'm almost (happily) forced to change places. The name will change to ‘best face forward’ and it’s a part of my new site (www.niamhkeoghan.com). I can only hope that this title too, just like A Distance Beyond, sets the intention for my writing to be a platform from which I can project my best face forward out into the world, no matter what the journey may bring. (I guess in this very instant I’m setting the intention for it to be just that!)

So, I’d like to thank all the visitors who have popped upon this blog over the past years. And I hope you continue to follow me from my new place. I’ll be sure to keep sharing my posts on Facebook too. Sending love and light always.  

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A day of gratitude

In the evening we sit, and reflect on the journey of just one day…

Everyday has the potential to start off on a high note. In the same sense, everyday has the potential to start off on a lower one. By being honest about how we find a balance between the bright and dark, we raise understanding for the process and this understanding increases our ability to move towards the light. It also brings home how we ourselves participate consciously in fuelling either shade of life, and thus that we ourselves have the personal choice to give fuel to the light, or fuel to the dark. 

Moving from dark to light is only real, if it’s experienced (as with all things in life). Otherwise it remains just a 
concept that’s never fully understood.

In just one day, I saw how going from dark to light was made possible by stepping out of the mind and moving towards other individuals. (Something I’ve experienced in the past, yet I needed to be reminded of its importance and its elevating effect.)

We open our eyes in the morning, we don’t really appreciating the new day and the sunlight, we feel the world is a dark place with heavy clouds in the mind. Our eyes are closed to our experiences and the ‘worries of the world’ weigh heavily on our stiff shoulders. It feels massively out of character, daunting, unfamiliar, and, at the same time, it feels so sluggish and draining. We can’t ever imagine to feel ‘normal’ again, to feel naturally on top of the world, invigorated with energy, focus, drive and a passion to do. In feeling and seeing our clouds, we’re aware of how powerful our bad thoughts are and how debilitating it can be to fuel them. In the same sense, we know how powerful our good thoughts are and how liberating and energizing they can be when we consciously source them. 

In a desperate attempt to save the day, with our clouded perception of the world, we secretly pray, hope, wish, repeat mantra’s and ask for guidance - from whatever force we believe to be present in our lives – so we can be led into our lighter and brighter frame of being once again.

Trying to simply BE at ease with those moments of pressure, stress and haziness, is the hardest thing. But the emotions that come as a result of this negativity, are necessary; the emotions hold a meaning… and their reason for existing are often to remind us to simply BREATHE through life, appreciate our very breath and let-go of what’s festering. Yet, so agitated the mind is and we push for peace instead of breathing in to peace. In that pushing, peace will never come. Then we ask ourselves: ‘How will this haze ever pass?’ All within the space of only minutes, since waking up to the literal light of day but the figurative darkness of the mind, we’ve become lethargic and low as a result. 

Then it’s time to ‘simply’ let-go of the push for peace, to relax into our present haze and trust that the wish, hope, prayer, mantra, or whatever guidance we’ve requested, will be answered.

In the process of letting it go, the daily routines unfold, chores and tasks are seen to; it’s time to open up to world around us (even if it’s not as bright, ‘perfect’, stimulating or inspiring as one would hope). The requests, prayers, wishes and hopes we’ve sent out into the universe can only be answered if we open up to the world around us; only then can we let the outside world in. Even if it’s painful to be honest, open and present in our daze, even if we feel we’re not worthy to be seen, to be spoken to, to be connected with, it’s the only way for our wishes to be granted. 

We ask for something so we must place ourselves in a state of receiving gracefully that which we’ve requested.

Feelings of self-loathe become irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Our worries and clouds never ever bring another soul to look down on us the way we ourselves, in our darkest hours, look down on ourselves. Opening up is the only way we can witness just how the world outside STILL will respond to us with kindness, support, love and help – even when we’re at a very low point, even if we’re not being kind, supportive, loving or helpful towards ourselves.

Stepping away from withdrawal in those moments of daze and CONNECTING is the key that turns the lock to the door we temporarily closed… be it the door to our heart, the door to our inner potential, the door to the outside opportunities and connections. When those doors are locked, we’re stuck. There’s no flow, there’s no movement. 

The negativity that has arisen isn’t shifting if we remain in our isolation. The secret of negativity’s presence is that it NEEDS to be let-go of, otherwise it festers, we feed it, we ‘nourish’ it, and we drag ourselves down in the process. Only by connecting with the world and the people in this world, can we actually let in all the goodness we’re in need of, all the goodness that reflects just how good we are. In that way, the negativity can clear and we learn we’re ‘not so bad’ afterall…

Step by step, the day unfolds and one connection leads to another and we’re given the opportunities to share our inner worlds with these understanding and loving souls. We move slowly from dark to light and our request and wishes are granted, in that very movement. We slowly come to witness that we, ourselves, aren’t JUST ‘not so bad’. Instead we, ourselves, are amazing. Just as amazing as the people are who we’ve opened up to, the people who support us, the people who never turn away, the people who don’t judge us in the same manner as we judge ourselves. 

Isn’t it amazing how we can find love for ourselves, on days when we can’t EVER imagine we’ll love ourselves again, not nearly as unconditionally as we do on our ‘naturally high flying days’…  

What a lesson, after simply one day of reflection.

I’ve truly learned how the power of connecting gets us into the flow of life. And it’s a wonderful life… to say the VERY least.   

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Step back to step forward

Being in Ireland again – something I was hardly able to foresee, think about or contemplate when I was walking the Camino – has gently eased (or subtly forced) me back into a slower pace of life. It’s been quite a shock to the system to suddenly not be moving so constantly. 

Physically, the walking itself as well as slowing down and stepping away from it, have done me the world of good. I notice how my stamina has increased, how much more grounded and strong I feel when I’m out walking (I’ve even started jogging again, after YEARS of thinking it was bad for me… The Camino experience has made me realize how good it feels to do strenuous exercise, pushing the physical boundaries a little). Mentally, slowing down, has been tough. I’ve had a few days when my head has been screaming at me to get moving again. There’s been panic when I’d realize a move isn’t literally happening at this very instant. Of course, frustration follows suit. Mental turmoil, if we can’t find our centre, will lead to emotional earthquakes and inner explosions…

Needless to say, as the hills I’ve walked, go up and down, I too have been taking that same course since stepping away from the Camino. 

I never realized when I was walking just how much was being mentally sparked-off. A certain old way of perceiving life: going, going, going… without daring to STOP and witness the journey. Literally, when I was walking, I recall having stretches of let’s say 20 or 30km where I experienced EXACTLY that! I’d be walking so intensely, the mind would be racing, the legs would be on auto-pilot, I’d be dealing with whatever ache or pain that would show up on the body, I’d be fixated on finding the yellow arrows (which would guide me to that days destination), I’d be concerned about eating enough and finding the next meal and often fail to actually STOP in my tracks. The faster the mind goes, the harder it is to slow it down. And my mind hardly stopped, throughout the whole experience – whether I was moving to the next place throughout the mornings and early afternoons or lying down and refuelling in the evenings and nights. The speedy took over… and many times I felt I was walking away from myself.

If we never manage to slow down the constantly racing thoughts, of course stress and pressure accumulates. And for me it triggered my old need to RACE through life without consciously taking space to breathe.

When walking any camino it’s necessary to have a certain amount of stress. But it’s positive stress we need; this is what activates us to do certain things. It’s probably better to call this an energy that awakens due to being inspired and passionate to do something. Without it we’d become passive and lack the drive to actually get up and going. A person can’t pursue something that pushes the boundaries (on whatever level) without having a certain amount of positive stress produced by a drive and passion to pursue (and hopefully succeed at) something that’s so challenging. However, when that energy shifts and is no longer sourced from a deeper space of inspiration, it becomes something sourced from a superficial place – a place that’s never satisfied, that’s clouded, blind and only wishing to achieve for the sake of face, regardless of what the feelings are telling us to do – then the stress becomes a negative form and a person starts losing themselves in what they’re doing.

There’s a fine line between positive focus and negative force. The first we can sustain, the latter we can’t. The first empowers, the latter drains. Positive focus enables us to enjoy what we’re doing. It permits us to feel our limits, to accept those limits and to be real about how we’re experiencing our experience. Negative force doesn’t care one way or the other; it will push the individual to do, achieve and reach whatever it’s aiming for, even if the eyes are closed to the surroundings and the body isn’t strengthening but only weakening as a result of the challenge.

Looking back, I can see how I had times of positive focus but also of negative force. And I know that was all part of the learning experience. I could hardly see any of this – at least not as clearly as I can see it now – when it was happening. Only by stepping away, I’ve come to see it as such. And I’m delighted I stopped when I did; I’m certain I gave power my positive side and NOT my negative side, by doing so.  

Now that I’m slowing down and the racing mind is changing its focus, I sometimes feel I’ve lost something, that I’m falling and there’s nothing to catch me. But I know this is just an illusion – of course as it always is. The mind will do its best in convincing us that where we presently are, is the wrong place and what we’re doing isn’t enough. This is only logical reaction, taking into consideration the extreme differences in reality that have been encountered; so close in space and time, yet worlds apart in experience.

So, I’ll sit through this strange period of transition. I let panic and frustration fly away. I breathe, I breathe and I breathe. I focus on where I want to head, trusting that it will work out in due time, in whatever way it’s meant.