Cross-legged with Zen

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While my mind is often filled with noise in the form of thoughts and feelings, silence is no longer threatening to me. When my mind calms down, I experience a soft sound that draws me into greater depth and meaning. I no longer perceive the voice of ‘God’ as harsh, annoying and judgemental, but kind, peaceful and loving.

An inner hunger

On a whim of inspiration, I booked myself into a Zen Buddhist retreat last weekend in Dublin. I knew little to nothing about it, but my inner being was hungry for something ‘more’. It consisted of hours of silent, sitting meditation interspersed with silent, walking meditation. My legs and back ached as I tried to find the ‘sweet spot’ in sitting. I tried a sort of knee sitting, cross-legged sitting and chair sitting. Continue reading

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Balanced dreams

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Upon near completion of a master’s degree in applied spirituality, I use the reflective process to expand on three factors that enable our dreams to become a reality.

Embracing the real

There are many examples we can use to highlight what it means to embrace the real. Can we think back recently on an incident that ruptured our relationships? For instance, we were with other people in everyday circumstances such as at home with family or out and about with friends. At this time, we may have had the best of intentions but accidentally forgot about the needs of another. We suddenly heard a complaint that took us by complete surprise. We tried to express our point of view but we did not see eye to eye. Perhaps we were not centred and reacted aggressively in the heat of the moment. As can happen, we reacted to the other person’s reaction and experienced a distance or disconnect. We may have said things that we regretted. Continue reading

Balanced energy

Balanced energy

Relax, oh little one,

we are the flowing magis,

engaged, purposeful,

and a whole lot more.

A characteristic of Jesuit spirituality called magis comes to mind for this month’s blog post. Magis is the Latin term for ‘more’ or ‘greater’ and it’s about responding to the needs of the more universal good so that others may connect with it too. It would be a mistake to think it’s about being busy people with busy lives, a focus on quantity, getting as many things done as possible. Often, as we know less is more. Continue reading

Balanced relationships

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I went to a play about bipolar called In Two Minds at Belltable Theatre in Limerick City on 12 January. Drawn from a true story, it focused on the relationship between a mother with bipolar and her daughter in a caring role, as they lived together for a chaotic 6 weeks. Although the short time period was fictional, everything actually happened at one point or another, for example, the mother’s high and overexcited episodes as well as her low and despairing ones were all very real. Writer, producer and actor Joanne Ryan, also the real-life daughter, realised that her story didn’t have to reflect everyone’s experience to be helpful. More important for her was that the play stimulated a conversation around mental health. Her work inspired me to focus on Balanced Relationships for this month’s blog post.

As mentioned in a previous post entitled Relationship difficulties, I have struggled a lot in this area as a result of my condition. At one point, a disagreement, an uncomfortable silence, or a raw tension tipped me over the edge towards insomnia, anxiety, and extreme moods. Over the course of my recovery, I became to realise that accepting the reality of interpersonal frustrations and smiling like the Buddha were good things to do. Regarding my relationship with mental health professionals, I showed up at their door with open hands in a state of desperation and humility. Some simply did their job and assisted me. Others were ‘helpers’ in the best sense of the word – they respected and treasured my vulnerability which made all the difference to my health and humanity. One helper said to me: “It was an honour and privilege to have collaborated with you”. Continue reading

Balanced mood

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From Old English ‘mod’ meaning frame of mind, mood is integrally related to our feelings and emotions, which as we know can be stirred up at a moment’s notice. My feelings were stirred up from a recent conversation with a psychotherapist. We were discussing being practitioners in the psycho-spiritual field: I told him that people can be overly-emotional at times, wallowing in their feelings, wallowing in their misery. “Can they not try a different approach?” From his experience, he said there was no such thing as being overly-emotional, that clients can express what they want to express and just let it out.

Our disagreement hit a nerve of mine and I pondered on our thoughts for some length. Another feeling was stirred up when a spiritual companion said it was good to get some distance from our feelings at times such as when we become sad over someone not replying to our emails: if we hold onto these feelings, then this sets us on a trajectory of desolation. “So, what is the truth in all of this?,” I thought. Here we are: me, the psychotherapist, and the spiritual companion with different opinions. Where can we look to for clarity and wisdom? Continue reading

Balanced lifestyle

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As I ponder this month’s topic on Balanced Lifestyle, I recall something important from my time learning how to drive on the roads of Dublin. Whenever I came to a STOP sign on the road, I put my foot on the brakes and repeated to myself: “S…T…O…P.” Then I continued driving on my merry way. In the same vein, this is what I need to do when I come to the STOP signs of my life. I need to respect myself enough to pause at junctures and to move forward with energy and vitality.

Burnout

These past few weeks have been challenging on my lifestyle as requests for more work have steadily increased. In fact, I was in demand for the first time in my life: to write a booklet on mental health for parishes and to write an article for the British Jesuits. I tried to make the most of a series of reflections on Ireland’s national radio which I had the privilege to present, and I kept to a rigorous 6-day schedule. Eventually, I found myself becoming fatigued and a slave to life – surely not a good sign. I came to a point where I felt like giving everything up. Continue reading

Balanced thinking

Balanced thinkiing

Lei Xue, a certified acupuncturist and herbalist, led a Chinese tea ceremony at Chester Beatty Library in Dublin yesterday, and I was one of the lucky ones to go along to it. She told us that when she invites her friends over for a tea ceremony, a space is created so it becomes like a meditation. The colourful clay pot and cups make for a lovely display along with flowers, and sugary foods accompany a sweet oolong tea.

Harmony

Lei also said that in order to discover the right tea, we first need to be aware of some things about ourselves such as the temperature of our hands and feet which can differ from person to person. When we are more aware of ourselves, we can figure out if it’s a green tea, pu’er tea or black tea that suits us. It is fascinating to ponder that you can seek harmony and balance through your tea. Indeed, it is also fascinating to ponder that you can seek harmony and balance through your thoughts. Continue reading