‘Always say “yes” to the present moment. What could be more futile, more insane, than to create inner resistance to what already is? What could be more insane than to oppose life itself, which is now and always now? Surrender to what is. Say “yes” to life – and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.’
When I started saying ‘yes’, it was the spring of 1990 and I was really struggling. My husband and I had just moved to Kent and I’d quit my job in London due to the long commute. For a while I had to rely on my husband’s income to support us until I could get a local job. However, life didn’t turn out the way I planned. After years in a difficult marriage, I was finding it increasingly hard to cope, and we finally decided to separate. My husband moved to France and stopped paying his part of the mortgage, leaving me with no income and no way of paying the mortgage or any other bills. It was a very difficult situation to say the least.
I was under huge stress and felt panic-stricken most days, as I realized that I had to find a solution fast. I started to develop a huge fear of what final demand for payment was going to come through the letterbox next. The letters got worse and worse, with threats of legal action, repossession and so on. It was a desperate situation. Apart from writing to the various companies and asking for more time to pay, I was also urgently job hunting but with little success.
One day I felt totally hopeless, in floods of tears, and couldn’t see a way out. Sitting there on the floor in my living room, I spontaneously started to pray. Not any kind of religious prayer, but just my own. I explained to the Universe that I needed help, and asked for guidance and assistance. I couldn’t see any other way out, so this became a ritual. I would spend one or two hours (often longer) a day, lighting a candle, closing my eyes and praying. I couldn’t explain why I was doing this, as I had never really prayed before, but something spurred me on. Something made me take the time to pray. I was desperate, and my intuition told me to do this. In the middle of my chaotic situation, I started to get glimpses of peace and I would experience colours and vibrations as I sat there praying. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was connecting to my soul and to something much bigger than myself – to the Universe.
That was the start of me saying, ‘Yes’ to myself, my life, to the Universe and to my future. Before long little miracles started to happen. I got a job, the money started to flow and I began to rebuild my life, and I’ll tell you more about this part of my journey later in this book.
The big questions
As Socrates so famously said, ‘The unexamined life is not worth living.’ And once you start looking at any challenging area in your life, you’ll find that many questions arise, such as ‘How do I stop worrying?’ ‘How can I know that things will work out?’ ‘Why do I feel so alone?’ ‘How can I feel more love?’ ‘What is my purpose?’ or ‘Who am I?’ Those were the questions I was asking myself all those years ago and it is the same questions that many of my clients are asking today. This inquiry stage is a vital step on our journey towards more self-understanding and transformation. When we start a process of self-inquiry, it means we are ready to make changes, open ourselves up to new possibilities and new ideas, and we move away from excessive struggle. No matter what your age, this is a good place to be, because this is the starting point of something new. Don’t ever think that it is ‘too late’. Your life adventure is there for you!
The present situation
I like what Eckhart Tolle said, ‘Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at the moment.’ So often we rush from one thing to another, allowing one day to flow into the next, and never stop for a moment. When I teach my yoga classes, I create a space for everyone to stop and just be present in the moment; this is mindfulness in action and it is the same with a meditation practice; it provides a space to be still and to stop, breathe and relax. It is a great idea to schedule some of these moments into your day and week, and we’ll explore this more through the book.
A good place to start your journey towards inner peace is this exercise. It is a quick evaluation of where you are right now in your life and an opportunity to land in the present moment.
Reflection: The present situation
This exercise has three steps and will help you to become more aware of your present situation.
Have a pen and your journal ready. Take a moment right now and be still. Close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths. Ask yourself:
· Where am I now?
· Who am I now?
· What is going on in my life right now?
And then write down what comes to mind. Here follows how two of my clients answered:
Jane: ‘I am 43, married with two children and work as a solicitor. I enjoy my job, but suffer from feeling overwhelmed from time to time. I wish I could have more time with the children. I am a little confused about the future. I long to express myself more, maybe as a writer. Generally, I have a good life, with a good income and a nice home, but I suspect that there’s a lot more to life than what I am experiencing right now.’
Peter: ‘I am 60 and have just retired. I’ve been running a successful business for many years and just sold it. I am married with three grown-up boys. At the moment I feel very lost, as I’m used to being busy and now have nothing to do all day, and am unsure what to do or which direction to go.’
You have just put down on paper a little about your current thoughts and circumstances. Maybe this was the first time you have done this. This is a good starting point, and will give you some ideas and clarity about your present life. Let’s take it to the next step.
Again, just take a moment and close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths. Ask yourself:
· What are my feelings about my current situation?
Focus on your heart area, and ask yourself what you are feeling when you think about your current circumstances. There is no right or wrong here:
Jane: ‘I generally feel OK, but I can also feel sadness in my heart. I am not sure why.’
Peter: ‘It feels strange. Empty. I feel a little fearful. I am telling myself to pull myself together.’
Stay with this feeling for a moment. Try to relax into it. Feel the feeling. Ask yourself:
· What message does this feeling have?
· What does it want to tell me?
Write it down. Again, there are no right or wrong answers.
Jane: ‘I think it wants to tell me that I need to create more space in my life for enjoyment and relaxation. Maybe it’s telling me that I am rushing around too much and need to slow down.’
Peter: ‘Strange, because in the middle of this emptiness I can feel a seed of joy! I actually have some more time to myself now. What comes to mind is that I should take up painting and drawing again.’
I used this three-step process as part of my healing process to help me accept what was going on at the moment and realize that things would improve. I also realized that I hadn’t listened to my intuition for a very long time. That was a clear message for me at that point.
Stop and listen
It can be very useful to stop, breathe and listen inwards from time to time to find out where you are right now and just relax into the present moment – regardless of what you feel and what is going on in your life right now. Eckhart Tolle says that ‘feeling will get you closer to the truth of who you are than thinking’. By taking these moments of looking inwards and spending time in stillness, we get to know ourselves better, and this is also the way to self-acceptance and acceptance of the present. We stop wanting to run away from what is and thereby create more peace within ourselves.
To help you understand what acceptance means think of the ocean. Your thoughts, feelings and sensations are the waves of the ocean – coming and going. There are big strong waves and there are soft gentle waves; they are all water and all part of the ocean. At the deepest level of the ocean there is stillness. You are the ocean – all parts of it. You know that you have a vast stillness and peace within yourself, and that the waves are on the surface. You accept the waves as a part of you. None of the waves can harm or destroy you, as you have this deep peace within you. The ocean and the waves are inseparable.
The choices we make
Wherever you are in your life, you got there by making lots of different choices – some good and some not so good. Some were conscious and some unconscious. In my case, I made many different choices to get to where I was in 1990. For example, I had chosen to move abroad and thereby leave my home country, family and friends, get married, buy a house that needed a lot of work, change career, etc. Some of these choices seemed wonderful at the time, but others caused me grief and sadness. However, with awareness I started to make better choices. I learned to focus on what I really wanted and to listen to my intuition, instead of rushing into situations. However, when I look at the larger picture of my life, I realize that I was meant to make all these choices, and they have taken me to where and who I am today. I am grateful for that journey.
I believe that we are all responsible for our choices. It is easy to blame it on our individual circumstances, parents, partners, the economy, our health etc., but the fact is that somewhere along the line you made several different decisions that took you in a certain direction. Some people have difficulties accepting this, and I can understand that. It can feel very hard to accept that we are responsible for our current situation (I really struggled with this at first!). However, if you can accept where you are right now and relax a little, you can also change it and move on. You can make other choices.
Is it time for you to make other choices and take a different direction in life? Do you want a life that is a more accurate reflection of who you really are? If you are willing to step out of the comfort zone and make different choices, you may be on a journey of adventure and excitement (and some challenging bits too!). You may find new groups of people that are more on your wave length and you may have a dramatically increased sense of inner peace. You will know what it is like to live a life you love, and stop living a life according to other people’s views and opinions. You are ready to heal your life, move on and embrace a new future. You are ready to say ‘Yes!’ Once you start to heal, it will have a dramatic effect on yourself, other people and the planet because you are so much more powerful than you realise.
Reflection: 10 deep breaths
Use this simple exercise anytime you need to feel more present and peaceful.
Get into a comfortable position and make sure you won’t be disturbed. Close your eyes.
1. Place your hands on your abdomen around the navel area.
2. Take 10 deep breaths. Feel the abdomen move under your hands. As you breathe in, the abdomen gently expands. As you breathe out, it sinks back down. You can imagine a balloon inflating as you breathe in and deflating as you breathe out. Keep the breath steady and relaxed.
3. Then take a moment and notice how you feel.