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Life... in 3 easy steps

Hmmm, well, if only life was that simple!

I don't know about you, but sometimes someone catches my eye and I think "wow, they have it sorted", but then reality kicks in and what looks like a life sorted is just a small snapshot of a moment in someone's life. Life is complex, life is challenging, life is traumatic, life presents us with a multitude of dilemmas that we have to navigate our way through to survive. But life is also a privilege, it's a joy and it is a gift.

As I say that, I'm mindful of the saying: "Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift, that's why it's called the present." Too often we live with the mistakes of the past; they pull us down and blind us to the person that we are in the present. We worry about what might become of us in the future, which stifles how we live our life in the here and now. As I say that, I'm mindful that I am guilty of that at times.

So, as I begin to contemplate life's meaning and attempt to explain it in three "easy" steps, I guess the best thing to do first is to ask myself the question: "who am I?". It's interesting when I ask others that question because people will say things like: "haven't got a clue"; "ask my other half, she would say..." or "I'm just me". I sometimes see people in my therapy room who have lived lives purely for the benefit of others. So keen are they to make someone else's life easy that they lose their sense of self in the process. So, the "who am I?" then challenges my thought processes on a number of different levels as I seek to discover myself physically, cognitively and spiritually.

As I reflect on my physical self: who do I see in the mirror? Do I see a confident physical body that has presence and is noticed, or am I shrinking internally and externally, keen not to be noticed? My body has a purpose and, bearing in mind its limitations, it's helpful to question what it can achieve and what influence can it have. Do I use it for good or do I abuse it and at what cost? Do I compare myself to someone else and, again, at what cost? I am unique and when I stop comparing myself to others I bask in that uniqueness, no-one else looks like me and that is both a wonderful revelation and also liberating... I really don't have to strive to look like you!

I find it interesting when people tell me that they are experiencing what is referred to as a "mid-life crisis", it seems no coincidence that they are often wrestling with thoughts around their values and beliefs. Many years ago I experienced that "mid-life crisis", although I was only in my early thirties at the time; proof that such a state can happen at any age. I was aware that from an early age I had grown up with the inherited values and beliefs of my parents, family, friends, teachers and significant others who had walked my journey with me thus far. Interestingly, some of those values and beliefs I had inherited, such as things like religion and sexuality for example, were values that I could truly own. However, some values around priorities for life and relationships were actually questionable and damaging, although I had not really been aware of the full impact of this. Having the opportunity to reflect and make changes certainly helped me to live in a more balanced way. Of course, life continues to throw up many more challenges so I can't honestly admit to a "happily ever after", if there is such a thing.

And what about the spiritual self; that deeper emotional self that is not easy to quantify? I wonder how the world impacts on your sense of being? Do you have an affinity with nature, with the arts, with science? An appreciation of these things over the years has certainly added a richness to my life that I often find difficult to articulate. What I do know is that a breathtaking sunset or a piece of classical music can stop me in my tracks and instil in me a deep sense of stillness and peace. Living mindfully in the moment enables me to be more aware of the impact of the world on me and of my impact on the world and on others. Conversely, difficult relationships and other challenging life events have the potential to cause dis-ease and spiritual turmoil, which can can impact on our ability to live in harmony with the world and others and compromise our capacity to live full and stable lives.

Of course, life is not easy and it seems that there is no magic formula for the perfect existence. But, for me, it seems that my life is governed by the power of three: 1. Knowing myself and having the confidence to say that this is me in all my humanity: the good and the not so good, but having the grace to forgive myself when I get things wrong. 2. Taking time to reflect on how I fit into the world and into relationships. Building mutually supportive relationships that enable us to be vulnerable and to articulate our loves, our fears, our opinions, our happiness and our discontent. 3. Exposing myself to the beauty of the world and creation, contributing to it in a way that does not seek to exploit or destroy but, rather, to preserve and enhance.

"If only"... I hear some say, but I truly believe that we have it within ourselves to create a more balanced existence. Sometimes we need the support of others to achieve this and, whilst not a substitute for those around us, therapy may well be an opportunity to step outside of our everyday lives, to take a broader view and to implement some changes that sustain us into the future.

I wish you well as you take the next steps on your journey!

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