Let Love be Your Leader

For anyone feeling anger, fear or despair from this week’s news…

My parents met at an anti-apartheid meeting … that my dad had organised.

I grew up on a diet of Pete Seeger songs and protest marches.

Writing letters of support to political prisoners and sponsoring children in third world countries was the norm in my childhood home.

Fighting against discrimination and injustice is woven into my DNA.

So, when the UK recently voted for Brexit, on the back of a fear-based campaign that incited a dramatic upsurge in racist attacks, I was both gutted and furious.

It felt like such a massive step backwards to me. And seeing the far right scuttling out from beneath their rock of shame feeling legitimised made me sick to my stomach.

I met my dad for lunch a couple of days after Brexit, expecting him to be similarly hopping with righteous anger.

But while I ranted and raved he just listened with a peaceful smile upon his face.

‘How could they do it?’ I asked him. ‘How could they fall for the lies and the fear?’

I was expecting him to start raging about other people’s stupidity but instead he put the focus back on me.

‘You need to come back to a place of Love,’ he told me. ‘Don’t let fear uproot you.’

He helped me to see how the people who voted for Brexit – and the politicians, press and media that encouraged them – weren’t the only ones coming from a place of fear.

I was too. And it wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t helpful. And it certainly wasn’t healthy.

A few days after our lunch I received a letter from my dad, in which he said this:

‘Well, you certainly reminded me of a (younger) me the other day – the anger, the righteous anger! – the disillusionment – despair. Been there. Many times. And it took me YEARS to get well. Yes, I’m saying, this is NOT a good way to be. The world is going to keep on giving us opportunities to reenact this anger / despair scenario and we can end up like a guy who keeps scratching at a wound – it NEVER gets better.’

And what do you know? The world gave me – and many other people – an opportunity to reenact this anger and despair this week.

But thankfully, the advice my dad gave me following Brexit had really sunk in, like some kind of Donald Trump inoculation.

So, when he won the presidential election I felt shocked and heartbroken and I cried for all the Americans who would be terrified at what had happened, but this time I didn’t get angry. This time I didn’t feel despair.

My dad finished his post-Brexit letter to me with a couple of quotes, which I’ve been clinging to like a life-raft this week.

img_20161111_083629

‘This too shall pass.’ It will – it always does. If you’ve been feeling anger or despair or fear at the election result, these feelings will pass. And I’ve found they fade a lot sooner if you focus on the second quote…

‘This, also, is for the good.’ I really struggled with this one when I first read it. How the *bleep* is any of this ‘for the good’? ! I think the point is, you have to find the good. Here’s what I’ve managed to find for the good this week…

:: It’s a massive call-to-action for all of us who believe in the power of Love over fear.

:: The time for simply talking or thinking or meditating about Love is over.

:: We need to make a concerted effort to counter the fear and division in the world through our actions, wherever we can.

:: We need to reach out to those who are discriminated against and show them we see them and we’re with them and we care.

:: We need to campaign for the issues we care about; make our voices heard.

:: We need to show up and rise up and speak up for Love.

:: And we need to do it with Love and grace not hate and fear. The kind of Love and grace that Obama showed when he invited Trump to the White House this week.

As Dr Martin Luther King Jr said: ‘Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.

As Jesus said: ‘Love your enemy.’

As Gandhi said: ‘An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.

So, don’t get drawn into the rhetoric of fear.

Unfollow or unfriend the people on your timelines who spout hate (I highly recommend this one, it’s made my life so much easier).

Don’t post about how much you’re terrified.

Don’t share things that will only incite anger or more fear.

Don’t believe that the majority of the population are racist or misogynist – they’re not.

And don’t blindly hate the people who are. Dig deeper for the real causes of their anger.

Feel compassion and understanding for those who felt so disillusioned and disenfranchised they ended up voting for Brexit or Trump.

Campaign for a more truthful and balanced and responsible press and media.

And above all, ask yourself what you can do to bring more Love to the world, every single day. 

I’m planning a major career change in the light of what’s happened and I’m working hard on being more loving in the smaller brushstrokes of my life too.

Don’t let a politician be your leader.

Let Love be your leader. Today, and all days.

Advertisements

End Your Year on a High by Counting Your Blessings & Learning Your Lessons

Holy baubles, it’s almost Christmas!

But before your world becomes a crazy whirl of Baileys-supping, turkey stuffing, party going and mistletoe smooching, take a moment – a quiet moment – for you.

The beginning of December is the perfect time to pause and take stock of the fading year.

The perfect time to count your blessings, learn your lessons and figure out what and who you’d definitely like to keep in the new year – and what and who you’d like to let go of with love.

To make things super simple for you, I’ve created a template below.

All you have to do is fill in the gaps.

Take some time when you know you won’t be interrupted, copy the template into a notebook, or copy and paste it on to your pc, and let the words flow.

The best thing about 2015 has been………………..

This year, I’m really proud of the way I………………..

The most important lesson I’ve learnt is that………………..

My greatest achievements have been………………..

I’m really grateful to have had the love and support of………………..

One way of behaving that hasn’t served me this year has been………………..

Next year, I shall replace this behaviour with………………..

A situation that hasn’t brought out the best in me this year is………………..

Next year, I shall change this for the better by………………..

I’m disappointed by the way my relationship with………………..has been this year.

Next year, I shall resolve this by………………..

If I had to pick one positive word to sum up 2015 it would be………………..

In 2016, I shall bring more love and joy to the world by………………..

And if I had to pick one inspirational word / statement / quote to have as my motto for 2016 it would be………………..

Here’s to ending the year with a heart full of hope and gratitude, blissfully baggage-free.

IMG_20141113_101821

 

For inspirational updates straight to your inbox click the FOLLOW button. 

Or follow me on Facebook here.


Feeling Ungrateful … The (Very) Secret Path to Happiness

Have you ever found yourself standing in front of the Self-Help section of a book store silently pleading: ‘Please, one of you, be the book for me – with detailed answers to all of my very unique and specific problems!’ 

I know I have. After the break-up of my marriage I took myself off to one of the largest book stores in London, with one of the largest Self-Help sections I’d ever seen and stood there scanning the shelves, praying I’d find a book with a title that went something like this:

How to Survive the Nuclear Fallout of a Marital Meltdown, Be a Kick-Ass Single Mum, Earn Enough Money to Keep a Roof Over Your Family’s Head, Get a New Book Deal, Oh and Look Like a Million Dollars … in 28 Days

Bizarrely, I didn’t find it.

But I did find a book that was all about the gift of gratitude and ‘RECOMMENDED BY OPRAH WINFREY’ so I bought that instead.

And I’ve been extolling the virtues of practising gratitude ever since.

But today I’d like to change it up a little as it’s dawned on me that there’s a real gift to be had in feeling ungrateful too.

No, really.

One of the mainstays of a gratitude practise is jotting down a list of things you’ve felt grateful for at the end of each day.

It really helps you see life in a more positive light.

But what if each night you were to ask yourself what you didn’t feel grateful for that day?

Not the things over which you have no control – like the train being late or the coffee being cold – but things directly connected to you.

The way you snapped at that shop assistant.

The fight you had with your partner.

The crappy day at the office job you’d vowed to leave three years ago.

The hurtful way a so-called friend spoke to you.

And what if you were to use the things on your ‘ungrateful list’ as signposts, showing you where there’s work to be done.

Where you need to say sorry – to others or yourself.

Where you need to make constructive changes.

Where you need to walk away, start over and release.

Think how freeing it would be to acknowledge the bad stuff and deal with it on a daily basis instead of stuffing it down into a resentment stew.

Example…

When I did this exercise last night here’s what I felt ungrateful for:

  • Deciding not to exercise and ending up feeling sluggish all day
  • Eating too much sugar and having a major energy slump late afternoon
  • Getting drawn into a conversation that left me feeling angry and frustrated
  • Snapping at a sales caller

I then sat for a while, reflecting on the lessons I needed to learn:

  • That my days always feel better when I exercise
  • Ditto when I eat healthily
  • That there are certain conversations I’m way better off not having
  • That sales callers are only doing their job (however annoying it might be when they call during Nashville!)

I finished by repeating this beautifully simple yet powerful mantra:

I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you.

This mantra originates from Hawaii and it’s a great way of letting go of any guilt or anger from the day.

I went to bed feeling happier and lighter … and grateful for the lessons I’d learned.

If you decide to try an ungrateful list I’d love to hear how you get on in the comments below.

For inspirational posts delivered straight to your inbox, click FOLLOW on the right.


Learning to Forgive … Over and Over and Over Again

I have a confession to make.

I don’t always practice what I preach.

Sometimes – OK, oftentimes, I find myself thinking or doing something and this snarky, know-it-all voice in my head (think cocky city banker) says, ‘But, Shiv, that’s not what you tell your coaching clients to do, that’s not what you write on your blog.’

I hate that snarky voice with a passion.

But I hate even more the fact that it’s always right.

About a month ago, I was coaching a client about the importance of forgiveness. And what I was saying – about forgiveness being the highest form of love and absolutely vital for our sanity – felt so true and so right. And yet…

And yet.

Recently, someone really, really peed me off.

And since then, I haven’t been able to let it go.

Every so often, I will think about what they did and it will spark a torrent of of self-righteous moaning in my head, all about how they’re so this and they’re so that and they’re so frickin’ the other.

And sometimes I even play out little scenarios in my mind, while I’m doing the dishes or walking along the street, where I imagine confronting this person, soap opera stylie, and launching into a ranty monologue full of pithy put-downs all about how I’m so right and they’re so wrong and yada, yada, yada.

But any sense of satisfaction this gives me is always short-lived.

It’s actually really draining not forgiving another person.

Or, as Buddhists and Alcoholics Anonymous like to say: ‘it’s like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.’

Yesterday, I travelled up to the Midlands with a friend.

We hadn’t seen each other for ages so I was l looking forward to our journey together almost as much as the wedding we were both attending.

We bought bucket-sized cups of tea and bags of pastries, got settled into our seats on the train and embarked on a marathon catch-up.

We caught up on each other’s good news, funny news and work news.

And then of course, we got to the not-so-good news about things that had peed us off recently.

Long story short, it turned out we both had people we needed to forgive.

Our train arrived in Coventry with hours to spare so we decided to go on an impromptu sight-seeing visit.

We ended up at Coventry Cathedral.

Coventry Cathedral, it turned out, was almost destroyed by the Nazis during the Coventry blitz of 1940. Only the tower, spire and outer wall of the 14th century building remain.

IMG_20150620_143534

The morning after the bombing, the decision was taken to preserve what was left of the cathedral, not as an act of defiance to the Nazis, but to embody Jesus’ key teaching – to love your enemy.

When the cathedral stonemason noticed that two of the charred roof beams had fallen in the shape of a cross they were placed on an altar of rubble with the words FATHER FORGIVE inscribed on the wall behind them.

IMG_20150620_143633

As my friend and I looked around the beautiful ruins I got shivers running up and down my spine.

Not even an hour before we’d been talking about how we wished it was easier to forgive and now here we were, standing in the middle of a vast shrine to forgiveness.

As I read about the work the cathedral continues to do for peace and reconciliation in war-torn parts of the world, I felt truly humbled.

It also made me think of the jaw-dropping bravery and dignity of the relatives of the victims of the recent shooting in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in South Carolina. And how, just a day after losing their loved ones in the most cruel and brutal way imaginable, they’d made a point of going to the courthouse to declare to the gunman that they forgave him.

When asked why relatives of the victims of the shooting had gone to court to declare their forgiveness, a pastor from the church replied simply ‘because we have to.’

Standing in the ruins of Coventry Cathedral I saw so clearly that he was right.

We have to forgive – no matter how hard it is.

We can only bring peace to this planet and to our hearts if we ‘love our enemy’ instead of rant and rave and moan about them.

If people can find it in their hearts to forgive bomb and gun attacks; if they can forgive the murder of their loved ones, then surely we can all forgive the smaller-scale annoyances in our day to day lives.

So, here I go again, searching inside of myself for the flickering light of forgiveness.

Letting go of my anger.

Understanding that I don’t know everything about the situation – it’s impossible to know everything about a situation.

Remembering that people usually do hurtful things because they’re hurting themselves.

And letting that knowledge lead me to feelings of compassion.

There’s no quick and easy route to forgiveness.

It’s a lesson we have to keep on learning and a choice we have to keep on making, every single day of our lives.

But when we do make that choice – when we see a prayer of forgiveness made from charred timber and a heap of rubble, when we hear the words ‘I forgive’ through a grieving mother’s sobs – that’s when we see the true loving potential of the human spirit.

That’s when we see the hope for a much happier world.

For inspirational posts straight to your inbox click the FOLLOW button on the right.

D2D-frontcover-finalawComing soon – Dare to Dream, the book